Summer in Maine is a cold IPA on the back deck of In’finiti. It’s dreamy drives home from Crescent Beach. It’s blue sky views from the top of Bradbury State Park that make you feel infinite.
Most importantly for this nerd, Summer is reading beach-appropriate books. You know, it’s tossing aside the dense copy of Ulysses you keep starting, only to stop because you have no friggin’ idea what’s going on, and picking up that book that toes the line between literature and entertainment. A book where if you dig deep, you can have your mind blown, but if don’t, well, you’ll catch one hell of a story. This is a list of those kind of books.
The paperback novel is a summer mainstay. It’s a friend you can take to the beach or the park throughout the hot summer months, and pick up where you left off. Here are three novels guaranteed to be good company this summer.
1. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Yeah, that’s right, Gatsby. If you missed this classic in high school, it’s high time you toss a copy in your beach bag next to a cold six-pack of Baxter Stowaway IPA. This book has been reinvigorated by the Baz Luhrmann film currently in theaters. Forget how your English teacher ruined the novel for you when you were seventeen with all that American Dream mumbo jumbo. This masterpiece is adored for a reason.
2. East of Eden, John Steinbeck
I’m a hundred pages into this novel, and it’s given me new respect for Steinbeck. Of Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath are great books in their own respects, but I never found them particularly well-written. Eden, however, shows Steinbeck at the top of his writing game. The fully-realized characters are what make this book sizzle. Wait until you meet Cathy Ames — she’s one of the most evil characters I’ve encountered in American Literature. This one’s currently my summer read.
3. A Land More Kind Than Home, Wiley Cash
I’m going new school in my third pick for you guys — it was published in January of this year. I just finished this North Carolina based novel a few weeks ago, and the ending has haunted me since. The book is a solid read about a family dealing with religious fanaticism and its effects on their lives. The story has a creepy villain, a solid mystery at its core, and blazing shootout scene. All great elements for a summer read!
Short Story Collections
I have no idea why short stories aren’t more popular in the ADD world we live in, but I think they’re great summer reading. In one beach sitting, you can ingest an entire world, complete with an ending. These short story collections kick a ton of ass.
1. This is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz
Here are some stories about guys making some shitty decisions and losing someone they care about. In true Diaz fashion, the stories are written with Pulitzer prowess. The stories are about the many types of love that exist and how humans are often doomed to mess up the good things they possess.
2. Olive Kittiredge, Elizabeth Strout
Strout won the Pulitzer Prize for this collection of stories that takes place in the great state of Maine. (Yeah, Maine!) The stories dig into the life of Olive Kitteredge and her family. The writing is superb, and the stories endlessly entertaining. Olive is a woman with many layers and they’re all brought to life in this book. The book takes many surprising turns with each story.
3. Burning Bright, Ron Rash
This book will clear out your sinuses. It will leave third degree burns. In this collection, Rash weaves compelling stories of Appalachia. His characters are desperate and human. The writing is raw and quick. Think of the best American storytellers — Hemingway, Steinbeck, McCarthy — that’s the literary crew Ron Rash belongs to.
I’ve got my paperback copy of East of Eden ready to go with me on summer adventures. Get your hands on a copy of your summer reading selection, and let the story move you as the sun works your pasty skin to a solid tan.