If I'm Not Baking, I'm Reading. Beach Reads Edition.

I do not trust these people. New York is kind of unbearable (to some degree) in the sticky, summery, smelly heat, and anyone that claims to enjoy the city in August is probably lying. Or they are delusional. Summer in the city is less crowded for a reason: the perfume of rotting garbage, 185 degree subway platforms, the prevalence of second-hand sweat (i.e. being sideswiped by sweaty human being), etc…

If I had my druthers, I would be plopped in the middle of a beach for the entirety of August. I would spend hours under an umbrella on the sand with an unending stack of books and chilled Lambrusco at the ready. Until this suddenly happens (i.e. I win the lottery), I will make do by plotting a few long beach weekend escapes (couch surfing). And I am already combing the bookstores for my next bounty.

As mentioned in my earlier post, I wish I had the wherewithal to start an official Baked Book Club, but until that happens I hope this list serves as a guidepost. And as previously mentioned, feel free to send me your book suggestions in the comments section. I am always looking for new reads. Hope everyone is having a great and delightful summer.

Matt’s Summer Beach Reads – 2013


Okay, maybe The Orphan Master’s Son is not technically a beach read. It’s not exactly “light reading” (it won the Pulitzer, etc..), but it is mesmerizing. Easily, one of my favorite books of the past few years. Author Adam Johnson paints an insane landscape of the lives of a few North Koreans (timely), and he does it effortlessly…and with an undercurrent of dark humor. Expect to be taken into a world of Japanese kidnappings and side trips to Texas (the chapters in Texas are worth the price of the book alone). I don’t want to give too much away, but Mr. Johnson plays with narration devices in such a way that are reminiscent of a Tarantino film. They are unexpected and propelling, and they don’t feel cheap. Please read this. You won’t be disappointed and it will make you feel smarter.


I first read about Wool here. Long story short, author Hugh Howey self-published Wool, garnered over 5,000 positive Amazon reviews, and made over 1 million dollars all without the help of an agent, a publisher, or friends in the industry. (Simon & Schuster eventually published the book, and movie rights have been sold…of course). This is a quintessential beach read for fans of The Hunger Games (yes, I might have read The Hunger Games). It is a dystopian tale, told extremely well and from a unique perspective. True, the first half of the book zips along while the second half lags, but all and all it makes for some fun beach reading.


I haven’t read this one yet. I’m quite literally saving Joyland for the beach umbrella scenario. But it’s Stephen King (I’m a fan). And it’s about carny workers, creepy amusements, and nostalgia. Perfect. One friend said it reminded her a little bit of King’s earlier novella, The Body, which became the movie Stand By Me. Can’t wait to read.


I am not even sure how this ended up in my pile, but I am glad it did. It is the only nonfiction book on this list, and it is well worth your (beach) time. The Girls of Atomic City is a fascinating tale of the actual women who worked on the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (often without fully understanding what was going on). Atomic history buffs (myself included) will be fascinated by a subject that has never really been explored until now, while the rest of you will enjoy the well told story of nine remarkable ladies.

shining girls

This is the kind of book written for summers. It is the kind of book you will read well into the wee hours while scooping ice cream directly from the pint carton. The plot involves time travel and a serial killer. And, it gets complicated. But The Shining Girls (no relation to King’s book) does an admirable job of juggling a lot of plot and you might even classify it as a “page turner”. A word of warning: do not read alone in your windy beach shack unless you want to freak yourself out.


I picked up Ghostman because I have always had a thing for Atlantic City crime exploits. I am suggesting it here because it is the fun equivalent of reading Us Weekly’s Best Bodies edition – entirely easy and ridiculous, and entirely forgettable. In other words the perfect summer read. It is the kind of book you might read while sipping on that margarita or drinking a few beers. The plot concerns a few heists gone wrong and the aftermath of the clean up. It is well-told, slick, and fast-paced. Guilty pleasure indeed. I am told it is like the Jack Reacher novels, but I have never read them.