Thank you so much to the many Magpies who shared their favorite “NOBRs” (north-of-beach-reads, pronounced NOBERs) in response to my plea last week. My tsundoku pile overflows! Below, I’m sharing some of the books at the top of my list, organized by general category.
Beach Reads + NOBRs.
These are books you can safely pack for vacation, lounging at the pool, etc. I know we’ve had this conversation more times than countable, but I’m in a headspace where I’m no longer going to apologize, caveat, or trivialize this category of reading. It serves meaningful purpose in my life: joy and diversion from my midnight anxieties.
I’ve read a few of these already, and am currently reading The Lion’s Den, which (thus far) is a fun social suspense type novel. (Book cover: “Sex, betrayal, and intrigue: A dream vacation on a luxurious yacht turns deadly in this pulse-pounding beach read “chock full of delicious characters who flaunt their sins . . . like the latest Birkin bag.”) I know Sittenfeld’s Romantic Comedy was disappointing for many of you but I personally think it’s worth throwing into the mix — it did hook me and I finished it quickly. I shared some early thoughts on it here. I absolutely loved Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow and think it actually transcends this category into more of a “high fiction” space, but it reads very easily, and would make a good vacation companion. I wrote a full review of it here. Finally, Pineapple Street was a bit…tepid (?) for me, but some of the class commentary was really interesting, and there was more substance than met the eye.
I’m most excited to dig into Maggie Shipstead’s novel (have heard her name a lot but never read her — this book’s drescription: “The irresistible story of a summer New England wedding weekend gone awry—a deliciously biting satirical glimpse into the lives of the well-bred and ill-behaved”) after multiple Magpie upvotes, and I’m also keen on trying Emily Henry, whose work also garnered a lot of Magpie love. I’ll be starting with Happy Place (“A couple who broke up months ago pretend to still be together for their annual weeklong vacation with their best friends in this glittering and wise new novel”), but she’s written a few.
Not seen above, but special call out for the just-released (as in, just a few days ago) Bad Summer People by Emma Rosenblum. I haven’t heard many first-hand reviews since it’s so new but early press seems positive, and the description sounds delightful: “A whip-smart, propulsive debut about infidelity, backstabbing, and murderous intrigue, set against an exclusive summer haven on Fire Island.
This roiling beach community satire serves up wicked, clever fun that is White Lotus sharp.” [Ed. note, added 6/28/2023: A Magpie reader has chimed in to say this book is skip-worthy.]
Non-Fiction, Essay, and Academic.
I’ve read part of Gretel Ehrlich’s lyrical Solace of Open Spaces before and it astounded me. Drawn from a series of journal entries, these essays paint the geography, people, and traditions of the American West with crispness, poignancy, and power. Ehrlich traveled to Wyoming in 1975 to film a series of documentaries and “found she couldn’t leave.” This set of essays capture “the planet of Wyoming.” This region is fascinating to me because my brother lived in Montana for several years, and we spent a good chunk of our childhood in Colorado.
I’ve also read large portions of Natalia Ginzburg’s The Little Virtues, but want to read it in its entiry. Her writing is sparse and deeply moving, and has elsewhere been well-captured as “the wisdom of a survivor.” In her most famous essay from the collection, she writes:
“As far as the education of children is concerned, I think they should be taught not the little virtues but the great ones. Not thrift but generosity and an indifference to money; not caution but courage and a contempt for danger; not shrewdness but frankness and a love of truth; not tact but a love of one’s neighbor and self-denial; not a desire for success but a desire to be and to know.”
I just ordered a hard copy of Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. Tharp is a renowned choreographer and I absolutely love to read about the creative processes of artists in other mediums (outside of writing). The book jacket description: “All it takes to make creativity a part of your life is the willingness to make it a habit. It is the product of preparation and effort, and is within reach of everyone.” Wow! I already feel a kindred spirit. Another great book along these lines that I’ve written about far too much already is Frances Palmer’s Life in the Studio. Ostensibly a coffee table book, Palmer shares some gorgeous and stirring insights about creativity, process, and art.
Finally, so many of you have recommended Katherine Graham’s autobiography, “the captivating inside story of the woman who helmed the Washington Post during one of the most turbulent periods in the history of American media.” She is deeply intriguing to me. I know a little bit about her because I was born and raised in D.C. and attended an exhibit on her in NYC before we moved, and I find her position as the female heiress to the Post in a time when very few women were in publishing/paper/media fascinating.
Oh! And if you’ve not read Enchantment, you might find it a lovely “re-centering.” One review described it as “Gentle inspiration for those who feel exhausted or helpless… May shows how paying deliberate attention to what’s around us can surprise us with insights and reveal new connections that deepen our appreciation for the world.” Yes!
I know no other way to categorize these, but here we have novels that require a bit more study and care. I’m interested in The Sun Walks Down, which Ann Patchett raved about. Description: “The Sun Walks Down, tells the many-voiced, many-sided story of a boy lost in colonial Australia. In September 1883, a small town in the South Australian outback huddles under strange, vivid sunsets. Six-year-old Denny Wallace has gone missing during a dust storm, and the entire community is caught up in the search for him. As they scour the desert and mountains for the lost child, the residents of Fairly—newlyweds, farmers, mothers, Indigenous trackers, cameleers, children, artists, schoolteachers, widows, maids, policemen—confront their relationships, both with one another and with the landscape they inhabit.”
I also keep encountering Barbara Kingsolver’s latest, Demon Copperhead, but I just find myself put off by it every time I glance its way? I can’t explain it. I know she has a huge following and a lot of respect. Maybe one day…
A short handful of items I wanted to mention this morning:
+The Internet is going crazy over this fitness dress from Lululemon. The material is soft and comfortable (non-constricting) like all of the pieces in the Align family, but the main selling point: the shorts beneath can be pulled down so you don’t need to take the entire dress off when using the facilities. Brilliant!
+Speaking of Lulu, this $22 Target tank is the spitting image of the Align tank.
+THE “It” sunglasses of summer. Can I pull off the oval shape?
+HVN always does the cutest prints. I have a cherry print shirtdress of theirs from years ago that I absolutely treasure. This sweet sundress style caught my eye — currently on sale!
+Love the pattern on these outdoor pillows.
+My friend Francesca just launched a new collection of handbags for her brand, FRP Collection. As you know, I adore these bags and find them to be exquisitely made and far better quality than the price! Love this mini blue style.
+Lusting after all the dresses from Emporio Sireneuse.
+Boys’ everyday shorts, 50% off. Good time to stock up. Such great colors!
+FUN earrings from Mignonne Gavigan.
+This cover up makes me feel like I’m on a vacation in Santorini.
P.S. Some of my favorite beach reads from a few years ago — I actually wrote this post six years ago!
P.P.S. Beach and swim finds!
P.P.P.S. Imprints of a new suburban lifestyle.