Beach Reading – Fiction that’s Fun and Some Light Learning, Too


If you’re searching for a book or two for your beach bag, here are a few titles that are being widely discussed as page-turners for this summer.

The first is “Great Circle” by Maggie Shipstead – Ron Charles, who writes about books for the Washington Post and considers all things literary in an excellent newsletter, calls this the “perfect summer novel” and his top recommendations for 2021 – that’s enough for me. The author’s two previous books (“Seating Arrangements” and “Astonish Me”) are very well-regarded and this novel is poised to catapult her to new heights. “Great Circle” dives into the world of women pilots in WW1 and a feat of parallel storytelling also tells the story of a contemporary Hollywood ingenue who takes on the role of the first fictional heroine.

Here is the NYTimes review and here is Ron Charles’ in the Washington Post.

The next is “The Plot” by the author of a book that was adapted as HBO’s popular “The Undoing” – Jean Hanff Korelitz winds a tale about a writing professor whose unlikeliest student unravels a remarkable plot, one so compelling that the teacher – upon learning that the student has unexpectedly died – decides to steal the idea and write it as his own.

Here is NPR’s Maureen Corrigan’s review in the Washington Post and here is the NYTimes review.

Clint Smith is a poet and staff write from The Atlantic, and his new book is an instant best-seller. “How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America” offers a travelogue of notable US monuments and landmarks, at which Smith recounts the history from these sites and how they impacted our collective memory. It’s been a year since the murder of George Floyd and Smith’s compelling journey is a practical unpacking that can lead to a healing understanding.

Here is the NYTimes’ review. And here is Smith on the “Fresh Air” podcast with Teri Gross.

For non-fiction fans who can’t get enough of pandemic learnings – Lawrence Wright is your man. Wright writes for The New Yorker and had spent the year before the pandemic writing a thriller about … you guessed it, a pathogen that ruins life as we know it. He has his reporter hat on for this book, which is called “The Plague Year: America in the Time of Covid”.

Here’s what the NYTimes had to say about it; and the Washington Post has a transcript here of an interview with Wright and veteran reporter, David Ignatius.


Jen Gunther has a new book about Menopause – which you can find here.

Jon Wertheim has a book about sports in the summer of 1984, “Glory Days: The Summer of 1984 and the 90 Days That Changed Sports and Culture Forever” and here’s a podcast with the author.

Here is the Washington Post’s list of 20 Books to Read this Summer if you’re hungry for more!

And, here is the NYTimes version of a Summer list with 24 titles.

And here is Literary Affairs preview of upcoming books of note

Happy Reading!