My Top 10 Beach Reads.

By: Jen Shoop

Life is all about balance.

So, I thought I should yin the yang of last week’s post on 10 books that will change your life by sharing 10 fluffy lovelies for ya.

The Fashion Magpie Top 10 Beach Reads The Fashion Magpie Beach Reads

I should preface this list by stating, clearly, that I am an unabashedly voracious reader of pop chick lit, for a few reasons:

a) sometimes you need a break from the heavy heavy (especially when you are hugely pregnant and finding it hard to focus on anything) and need something quick and easy to get back into the swing of things;

b) some of the smartest, best-read people I know are omnivorous consumers of all things contemporary culture, from the high-brow to the low-brow.  They ingest what’s going on in the world around them in order to better understand that world.  My brother, for example, is a professor of literature and, in general, one of the brightest crayons in the box.  But despite his cerebrality, and the the fact that he lives in the ivory tower of academia, he will spend hours watching pop music videos (think Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande) and indulging in “strictly B grade” movies like John Wick.  He is an active participant in contemporary culture, and can better position his analysis and his work (not to mention, better relate to his students!) with this lens.

c) related to the above, pop culture often presents itself as a convenient canvas for dissecting and interpreting broader cultural trends and norms, as it does so well in the case of The Bachelor.  For example, to re-quote my brilliant friend K., on why The Bachelor is so fascinating to erudite feminists: “It’s cathartic to be able to recognize obvious sexism and point at it and rally against it.  Day to day sexism can be more complicated and frustrating and nuanced.”

d)  returning to my first point: we all deserve mental vacations.

And, with that, 10 delightfully indulgent beach reads for you:

Pick 1: The Royal We

I tore through this like a bat out of hell (?).  The story of a sassy American girl who matriculates to college in the UK, where she happens to wind up in the same dorm as–and fall in love with–the heir apparent to the British throne.  Lots of raciness and adventure ensues.  For anyone as obsessed with royalty as I am, this book will enchant and delight the hell out of you.

The Fashion Magpie The Royal We Heather Cocks Jessica Morgan

Pick 2: The Couple Next Door

I enjoyed this even more than The Girl on the Train, though SO many people likened the two to one another.  (And so many people before that likened The Girl on the Train to Gone Girl.)  If you like psychological thrillers, you’d do yourself a favor by ordering all three, all of which are insanely fun page-turners.  I think I read The Couple Next Door in two nights–it’s an edge-of-your-seat lark about a couple whose baby goes missing while the two are next door at a dinner party (tsssk tsssk) and the twisty-turny plot that follows.  All three of these books would make excellent fodder for a feminist-lensed book club–they each present problematic and, frankly, fascinating depictions of modern motherhood, wifehood, and womanhood.

The Fashion Magpie The Couple next Door Shari LaPena

Pick 3: The Primates of Park Avenue

I’ve heard from many sources who know what it’s actually like to raise children in NYC that this book is absurdly over-the-top–all about the Upper East Side mommy culture–but I, for one, could not put it down.  There are some biting moments of satire that make you think a lot about our shared cultural conventions for modern motherhood.

The Fashion Magpie Primates of Park Avenue

Pick 4: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

I laughed out loud for a very long–borderline inappropriate–amount of time on a plane while reading this.  My neighbors must have hated me.  This book made me fall in love with Mindy Kaling and converted me into a die-hard “Mindy Project” fan.  It also made me revisit “The Office” with a new appreciation for Kelly Kapoor.  Her second book, Why Not Me, is also a delight.

The Fashion Magpie Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me Mindy Kaling

Pick 5: Eligible

This book had me at its subtitle: “a modern re-telling of Pride and Prejudice.”  Um, I’m in.  While I took issue with Sittenfeld’s writing of Elizabeth Bennett (she missed the mark — just didn’t quite nail Elizabeth’s smart, opinionated, but sensitive self), this flew by in a few afternoons.

The Fashion Magpie Eligible Curtis Sittenfeld

Pick 6: How to Party with an Infant

How appropriate, eh?!  This book had a strange texture–it reads easily (very quickly) and has a funny, snarky tone to it, but there are some more thoughtful elements to it.  I read it in one gulp.

The Fashion Magpie How to Party with An Infant Kaui Hart Hemmings

Pick 7: What Remains

OK, so this memoir by Carol Radziwell should not technically be on this list, because it’s in fact very sad and surprisingly well-written for being the brainchild of a Bravo Real Housewife.  (Is that horrible of me to say?)  All about the illness and death of her husband (a Radziwell–and thus relative to the Kennedy tribe), and the twin tragedy of the deaths of JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bissett (Radziwell’s dear friend), I found this book impossible to put down.  And not so heavy that it tore my heart out of my chest.  (Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking, on the other hand…)  Plus, there’s something celeb-stalking-esque about it given that it gives us all an insider’s look at the Kennedy royalty.

The Fashion Magpie What Remains Carole Radziwell

Pick 8: Bossypants

Honestly, I should have listed this puppy first.  Tina Fey is HYSTERICAL, and this memoir will make you laugh so hard you cry.  I especially loved her self-deprecating comments on her awkwardness as a pre-teen.  I can totally relate.  (P.S. Tina went to UVA, like me, and has some lovely and hilarious reflections on her experience there.  This is the second time this week I’ve had occasion to feature a badass fellow Wahoo.  All the feels for my alma mater.)

The Fashion Magpie Tina Fey Bossypants

Pick 9: #GirlBoss

From bossypants to girl boss–are you sensing there’s a theme across a lot of these books?  So many of them are fertile territory for analyzing women and their representations in modern culture.   This memoir from the founder of the (now bankrupt/defunct!) online clothing store NastyGal was a quick read, equal parts inspiring and eye-squint-inducing.  (There’s something very brash and off-putting about the author–which, writ large, I kind of like.  She is a tough cookie, an opinionated broad.  I dig.  Also, I recently shared some thoughts on the WSJ’s coverage of the demise of this business–share your thoughts!)

The Fashion Magpie Girlboss Sophia Amoruso

Pick 10: The Hopefuls

This one was delightful purely owing to the fact that I am a native Washingtonian and found some of the characterizations of the young political set extremely amusing.  Do you know how many self-important early-20-somethings parade around boasting about “working on The Hill” every day while frequenting the same boring bars?  Reads like silk.

The Fashion Magpie The Hopefuls Jennifer Close

Next on my beach read list:

+Sarah Sadler’s Southernmost;

+Anna Goldfarb’s Clearly, I Didn’t Think This Through: The Story of One Tall Girl’s Impulsive, Ill-Conceived, and Borderline Irresponsible Life Decisions (must read it after coming across a hilarious article she wrote on what not to buy at Trader Joe’s for Man Repeller, as I mentioned here);

+Liane Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot (a sweet girlfriend just gifted me a copy out of the blue when I told her I needed something light to read — thank you, Katie!)…and I’m currently reading her Little Big Lies, too!  It’s going by in a flash.

What would you add to this list?!

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

12 thoughts on “My Top 10 Beach Reads.

  1. Ooh the Couple Next Door sounds right up my alley, thanks!! You must add I Was Told There Would Be Cake by Sloane Crosley to this year’s beach reads. I read it while living in NYC and guffawed loudly and unapologetically, while reading it on the train, many times 😀

  2. I’m late to this party, but I have to chime in…
    If you want a good, modern, sexy retelling of Pride and Prejudice (and a totally lightweight read), you have to read “The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy” by Sara Angellini.

  3. This is such a great post. I feel exactly the same way about the importance of having some low-brow to balance out the high-brow.

    I loved Eligible and liked The Hopefuls, and am looking forward to digging in to some of the others you recommended! I also read What Remains sevvvveral years ago (in the early aughts, way before Carole became a RHONY) and remember really liking it as well.

    A few others I’ve recently read & enjoyed: Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford, The Clasp by Sloane Crosley (though it took me until about halfway through to really start enjoying it), and The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan.

    1. OO! These are awesome picks and I’ve added these to my list as well! Thanks for sharing these, MK!

  4. love, love, love the royal we. heather and jessica are also behind http://www.gofugyourself.com, which showcases the same smart writing and humor, and for me is a daily stop. they’re able to cover fashion with a healthy dose of snark, but it never feels malicious, if that makes sense. they also sprinkle in recaps of a handful of tv shows that are relevant to the collective interests of their readership, and routinely hold very entertaining/informative ‘afternoon chat’ posts on a number of topics.

    anywho, not much a commenter, but thought i’d share.

    1. Thanks, Jenna! I will need to make their site a part of my daily blog sweep given how much I enjoyed their novel…thanks for sharing. Let me know what else you love to read! xx

      1. Congratulations on your new bundle of joy! Looking forward to reading along as you navigate motherhood – am confident you’ll be sharing lots of fantastic, relatable insight, as is your wont.

        For some lighter reads to keep you entertained through those nighttime feedings (is that a thing?), could I suggest the following? These are all over the map, but hey, perhaps they’ll be new to you:

        1. Kate Morton’s novels – super atmospheric, gothic mysteries set in Australia and England. Her books often open in the present day, but shift between past and present as the story unfolds. Her writing envelops you. I like them all, but the House at Riverton and the Lake House are two particular favorites.

        2. Tana French’s thrillers about the Dublin Murder Squad – love these! Tore through all six in under three weeks. Much more satisfying to me than all of the Gone Girl-derivatives that flood the shelves these days. (Bonus points if you read her dialogue in a lilting brogue, as I do.) (Not out loud.)

        3. Michelle Cooper’s Montmaray Journals, starting with a Brief History of Montmaray. If you like Books With People Having Romantic And Other Problems During Wartime (a favorite genre of mine), these are particularly delightful.

        (3.a. – if you want to combine detective novels with Romantical Problems between World Wars, try Charles Todd’s Ian Rutledge series. I’m working my way through them and very much enjoying it!)

        4. Meg Wolitzer’s The Wife. A book with razor-sharp insights (on marriage, relationships, aging) that punch you in the gut.

        Best wishes, Jen!

        1. WHAT! Jenna, these are awesome. I literally added all of them to my Amazon book wishlist immediately. Cannot wait to dive into these. Thank you SO much. Love your write-ups, too. xoxo

  5. Mindy Kaling’s book was one of the most entertaining reads I have had in a while. I, too, was laughing out loud in public, while I was getting a pedicure in the silent nail salon, so not appropriate lol. One book that you have actually mentioned in the past that I would definitely put on this list is Nora Ephron’s “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” it is quite possibly one of the most witty and hilarious books I’ve ever read. Thanks for sharing this list, I’m definitely pinning it for when I need a new book! (I just started Persuasion after purchasing it from your last list, I can’t wait to get into it, I adore Jane Austen!)

    1. Woohoo! Let me know what you think of Persuasion! And I TOTALLY agree on Nora Ephron (all of her books actually!) — they should have been on this list!! I’ll need to keep that tucked away for a future post on additional good reads for a lighter mindset 🙂

Previous Article

Next Article