I’ve already been to the beach twice this year. It hasn’t been strictly hot enough to do so yet, but that hasn’t stopped me. There’s something about the ritual that’s so exciting. Wake up a little earlier on a weekend day, get a bag together with your beach gear: beach towel, sunscreen, and shades. Maybe grab your cooler and be sure to get some beer before you head out. And just before you leave, oh wait, grab a book.
Once you’re there, a beach day isn’t much different in operation from a day on the couch. And in the beating sun, with a beer in the sand, the best way to pass the time is with a scintillating beach read. You want books at the beach to be like ripe fruit — juicy, light enough, somehow filling, and leaving you wanting more. And still, you don’t want to sacrifice quality. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Be sure to grab one of these books before you get out the door for your beach day.
Charles Yu’s second novel is experimental, hilarious, biting, incisive, epic, and tensely felt. God, this is a good book, and it is such a weird book. The setting, in theory, takes place in Chinatown, but the novel itself is so conceptual that it really does take place where you create it in your head. Yu takes the structure of a screenplay fit for Law & Order and turns it into a delightful, engaging, and even heart-breaking read. An easy choice to bring with you on your beach day.
Stephanie Danler’s 2016 novel is another easy choice that you may just finish on your beach day, depending on how early you show up. Sweetbitter captures the romance of moving to New York City and making it work, and the drama that comes along with that. Loosely autobiographical, Danler’s novel takes you into the kitchen and into the world of fine dining in 21st-century New York.
Have I mentioned Sally Rooney on every booklist I’ve done here at The Manual? It sure is possible! Conversations With Friends is Rooney’s first novel about two young Irish women, an affair, a fallout, being a student, and being alive in a world under capital. And if that’s not enough, a much-anticipated Hulu series of the novel is coming in 2022, and Rooney’s new novel debuts this fall.
Tina Das finds herself at a personal and professional crossroads and decides the best way to break out of this rut is to in fact attend her cousin’s Delhi wedding. That means chit-chat and catch-ups with every single member of her family in this transitional time. A nightmare for Tina, but a fun read for you in the summer sun.
Ashley Ford’s 2021 memoir is one of the most lauded releases of the year. Different from the other page-turners here, Ford’s journey is heart-wrenching and often too tough to consider. But after a year like this one, and in the times we try to navigate through, Ford’s story is necessary and important, and completely captivatingly told from start to finish.
If you’re looking for an afternoon read unlike anything else you’ve ever read, David Shapiro’s Supremacist from Tyrant Books absolutely rules. This book is not about any kind of supremacist, but instead about a young man obsessed with Supreme clothing. He’s on a self-imposed mission, with a friend, to visit every Supreme store in the world. Crack open a beer with the sound of the waves crashing while you read this one.
If you’re more in the mood for some light science fiction, Hank Green’s first contact novel was a bestseller for a reason. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing follows April May as she comes across what turns out to be an alien towering outside of a Chipotle in midtown Manhattan. She films the being, which she believes to be some sort of art project, and uploads it to YouTube, only to learn by the morning that these beings are popping up all over the world. From there, April has to live with viral internet fame, political doubters, and an entirely new and uncertain world.
Paul Beatty is a brilliant novelist, and his first book, The White Boy Shuffle, is probably his funniest. The plot follows Gunnar Kaufmann as he comes of age as a poet, star basketball recruit, and demagogue. Dark, funny, and incisive, Beatty’s 1996 debut is a perfect book for your day at the beach.
There’s nothing wrong with bringing a classic either. Phillip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus is a quicker read and more easily digestible than some of his longer works, even if it’s just as crushing and emotional. Catch up on the canon a little bit with this timeless choice.
If you’re looking for something fast-paced and wild, look no further. Sayaka Murata’s novel, translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori, is totally strange and totally delectable. I’d try to tell you more about it, but you need to read it to believe, and it won’t take longer to read than your day at the beach.
Another one of this year’s biggest releases, The Vanishing Half isn’t just a beautiful book to bring along, it’s well worth the hype. It follows the adult lives of the twin Vignes sisters as they return back to their home community after running away as teens. Their lives, their priorities, and their whole world have changed, but their bond as sisters and as family persists. You won’t be able to put this one down.
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