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Beach Reads: Suggestions from Beach Towns
By Lynn Carey
Contra Costa Times
Article Launched: 06/15/2008 12:00:47 AM PDT

Three things are imperative for a perfect summer: sunscreen, a comfy chair and a good book. The good book is the tricky part, because there are so many to choose from! We decided to ask the folks who work in bookstores near great bodies of water to discover what the hottest books are for the hot weather. Some of the answers were predictable.

"Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
 is still popular, as is "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert.

But the following titles are also rushing out of the bookstores, and some may surprise you.

Kona Stories, Hawaii, HI

Shark Dialogues
by Kiana Davenport  

The plot in brief: A domineering grandmother recounts the history of her epic Hawaiian family.

The critics say: "A giant, image-fevered, luxuriantly wordy saga of a Hawaiian family." — Kirkus

Laguna Beach Books, Laguna Beach, CA
Hunting and Gathering
by Anna Gavalda

The plot in brief: Parisian misfits band together to form their own family.

The critics say: "Gavalda's comically implausible and comfortably predictable novel of misfits is a Gallic charmer anchored by breezy and poignant storytelling." — Publishers Weekly

Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA
When You Are Engulfed in Flames
by David Sedaris

Brief synopsis: Wildly entertaining essays by the witty memoirist.

The critics say: "David Sedaris (has the) ability to transform the mortification of everyday life into wildly entertaining art." — The Christian Science Monitor

No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories
by Miranda July

Brief synopsis: Media "It" girl July crafts characters on a quest to be loved and accepted.

The critics say: "These stories are incredibly charming, beautifully written, frequently laugh-out-loud funny, and even, a dozen or so times, profound." — Dave Eggers, author of "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius"

The Yiddish Policemen's Union
by Michael Chabon

The plot in brief: Noir fantastical imagining of an Alaska where the Jews were relocated after World War II.

The critics say: "The pure reach and music and weight of Chabon's imagination are extraordinary, born of brilliant ambition you don't even notice because it is so deeply entertaining." — Washington Post

Gallery Bookshop & Bookwinkle's Children's Books, Mendocino, CA
The best beach book of the summer has yet to be published, says store owner Christie Olson Day. She says it'll be:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, which comes out July 29.

"Everyone will be reading it," Olson Day says. Coincidentally, the Contra Costa Times is holding a publication day event with the author on July 29. Stay tuned for details.

In the meantime, these books are selling fast:
In the Woods
by Tana French

The plot in brief: An Irish murder thriller, with a surprising climax.

The critics say: "The characters "... are vividly developed in this intelligent and beautifully written first novel." — Booklist

Gatsby's Girl
by Caroline Preston

The plot in brief: A creative imagining of F. Scott Fitzgerald's real-life muse.

The critics say: "An evocative and lively tale." — Booklist

Griffin Bay Bookstore, Friday Harbor, WA
The Gathering
by Anne Enright

The plot in brief: An Irish family gathers together when one of the sons dies; a sister protects his secret.

The critics say: "A melancholic love and rage bubbles just beneath the surface of this Dublin clan, and Enright explores it unflinchingly." — Publishers Weekly

Out Stealing Horses: A Novel
by Per Petterson

The plot in brief: A remote cabin in Norway, an old man, a jogged memory.

The critics say: "Petterson's spare and deliberate prose has astonishing force "..." — The New Yorker
Maine Coast Bookshop and Café, Damariscotta, ME
What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception
by Scott McClellan

Brief synopsis: Former press secretary of President George W. Bush tells all.

The critics say: "The former press secretary of President Bush (No. 43 version) empties out his notebooks, and all of Washington will be holding its breath." — Seattle Times

Careless in Red
by Elizabeth George

The plot in brief: Inspector Lynley returns, helping solve a murder on the Cornish Coast.

The critics say: "Vintage George: thick (623 pages), smart suspense with nary a hint of slickness." — Entertainment Weekly

Nantucket Bookworks, Nantucket, MA
Award-winning author Geraldine Brooks (Year of Wonders) lives in nearby Martha's Vineyard, so it's no wonder her latest is popular in this neck of the woods.

People of the Book
by Geraldine Brooks

The plot in brief: Romance and mystery surround a treasured historical book.

The critics say: "Her gift for storytelling, happily, is timeless." — Publishers Weekly

by Colum McCann

The plot in brief: Loosely based on the life of the Polish Gypsy poet Papusza, who lived in the 20th century.

The critics say: "Beautifully conceived, wonderfully told, the story is proof of an indomitable spirit." — Washington Post

Books & Books, Miami Beach, FL
A Fraction of the Whole
by Steve Toltz

The plot in brief: Father (brilliant, dysfunctional) and son (judgmental, forgiving) on a rollicking, imaginative journey.

The critics say: "Rollicking "... laugh-out-loud funny." — Entertainment Weekly

Mr. Pip
by Lloyd Jones

The plot in brief: Civil war on an island in the 1990s, only remaining white person, a teacher, reads Dickens to the natives.

The critics say: "One of the best books of the year! Storytelling, imagination, courage, beauty, memories and sudden violence are the main elements of this extraordinary book.—" Isabel Allende, author of "The House of the Spirits" 

About the author

Author Interview

Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction
by David Sheff

Brief synopsis: A father's perspective of watching his perfect child spiral downward with his meth addiction.

The critics say: —... moving, timely, and sobering. It's also startlingly beautiful." — Sir Richard Branson, chairman, Virgin Group




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