When it comes to reading in This Modern Life, I consider planes and beaches to be holy places. Because of this, I've never been sure why people use these last bastions of limited distraction and Internet-lessness to eschew lit for garbage. With that in mind, Shelf-Help (our monthly in-book lit guide) presents your personally beach-tested summer reading list of books--some new, some not--to read on the sand this summer, pastel covers featuring slender ladies and poodles not included.
This collection of short fiction has sentences so shockingly good (and sometimes just shocking) that you'll be forced to read them aloud to whoever is sitting next to you. I had this with me on the beach in Miami and was reading one of its many insane lines to my boyfriend ("At breakfast, my kid practices his ABCs and barfs into his cereal bowl just before Q," should be considered tame) when a friend walked up in the middle of it and was like, "Um...what are you doing?" Answer: having a great time. MR
I've been reading Tao Lin since college, and I feel like I can assign memories of reading so much of his fiction to my summers in New York. I brought his latest, Taipei, with me on a trip to L.A. and partially read it while waiting for a (surprise, surprise) late interview subject in Santa Monica. It hops around geographically, and his particular brand of social malaise travels with ease. MR
This novel, which begins on the day a couple splits, is about a person sifting through the confusion of heartbreak. I read it at the Jersey Shore while sunning on the deck at a friend's vacation house with her grandparents (both of whom suggested I switch to historical fiction about Marie Curie when my eyes went fuzzy with tears). It may not be light, but the sun will put you in a comfortingly warm zone while reading it. MR
I'm always marginally bored at the beach, which is why a few days in Mustique, while blissful, had me dreaming of vacationing elsewhere. Enter Bruce Chatwin, a chronic wanderer whose account of his trip into the wilds of Patagonia is a classic in the travel writing genre. This book was so intoxicating that at the earliest opportunity, I went to Patagonia myself. ASHLEY BAKER
Here we have another love story that might leave your cheeks mascara-streaked on the beach. (Side note: Why are you wearing mascara at the beach?) The sentences in this book are so emotionally rhythmic that even when he's writing about moules-frites your heart will ache a little. I read this one at a resort in St. Martin, its distance from Paris diminished by Baldwin's visceral prose. MR
While the words "experimental literature" and "beach reading" generally don't go hand in hand, it's easy to get lost (in a good way) inside the undulating, crashing soliloquies and micro-imagery that make up Woolf's most complex novel, as I did last summer, for hours, while visiting family in Cape Cod. Because nothing goes better with sunshine, saltwater, and lobster rolls than getting your mind blown. MELISSA GIANNINI