Shop Thoughts: Summer Beach Reads


It’s raining—again—as I type this, but my calendar tells me we have reached beach reading season.

Beach reading, however, is also a state of mind, so whether you actually have sand beneath you or you find yourself once again set up inside next to the window, a wet fog of moisture seeping through the screen, here are some books to pass the time.

“Beach read” means different things to different people but let’s start with one that checks a lot of standard beach reading boxes. Little Monsters by Adrienne Brodeur is a new novel set over the course of one summer on Cape Cod, with a family of characters navigating complicated relationships, long-standing secrets, competing ambitions, mental health crises, and a big blowout birthday party to wrap it all up. It’s a sophisticated page-turner with both heart and brains and the descriptions of Cape Cod are a real standout.

Other novels that fit this bill are Summer Stage by Meg Mitchell Moore—about a summer theater production and the drama that ensues, set on Block Island (be sure not to miss Adrienne Brodeur and Meg Mitchell Moore together at an event the Book Shop is hosting on Sunday, August 13, as part of our Taproom Series at Coastal Mass Brewing, 95 Rantoul St, Beverly) and Elin Hilderbrand’s latest.

If lying on your towel, laughing so hard your neighbors will want to know what you’re reading is more your style, then pick up The Rachel Incident by Caroline O’Donoghue, just hitting shelves this week.  Oh, to be young again.  Rachel works in a bookstore in Cork, Ireland, where she meets James, who becomes her roommate and, soon, lifelong best friend. When Rachel develops a crush on her English professor, James helps her devise a plan to get them together. But things don’t go at all as they expect.  The summer that ensues is full of unrequited love and secrets—it’s like Sally Rooney, if Sally Rooney had a bit more hilarity.  If you’re looking for other humorous reads, check out The Celebrants by Steven Rowley, like a modern The Big Chill, or Quietly Hostile, a new essay collection by Samantha Irby.

For suspense readers, The Symphony of Secrets by Brendan Slocumb is a satisfying mystery, in which a powerful organization tries to bury the truth behind a long-lost symphony written by one of America’s most famous composers.  We travel back to 1920s Manhattan to get the real story behind how Frederick Delaney came to write this storied symphony, while in present day a music professor, tasked with authenticating the newly discovered piece, uncovers the clues and cracks the code to find out what really happened—and how he can right the wrongs of history.  I enjoyed being in this world for 400 pages; it’s clear that when it comes to classical music, Slocumb knows his stuff.

More can’t-put-down mysteries recently released include The Golden Spoon by Jessa Maxwell, recommended particularly if you regularly binge the Great British Bake-Off, Rogue Justice by Stacey Abrams, the second book in her series starring Supreme Court clerk Avery Keene, Small Mercies by Dennis Lehane, Zero Days by Ruth Ware, and Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton.

I loved H is for Hawk by Helen McDonald enormously, but the author’s grappling with grief is not necessarily something I would personally pack in my beach bag.  

George by Frieda Hughes has the birds, the gorgeous nature writing, and the healing nature of animal-human relationships, but with slightly less debilitating sadness. Hughes, the daughter of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, adopts an injured magpie, a delightful, intelligent, playful creature she names George.  The story is filled out with Hughes’s drawings and poems, as well as her journey of self-discovery through her pets, gardening, and the restoration of an old house in Wales.

For other riveting nonfiction narratives this summer, The Wager by David Grann is a good bet, as well as The Art Thief by Michael Finkel.

king of the beach, the big chill, birnam wood, george, symphony of secrets, avery keene, meg mitchell moore, cape cod, helen mcdonald, michael finkel, david grann, jessa maxwell, dennis lehane, steven rowley, frederick delaney, brendan slocumb