7 classic beach reads to take away with you this summer

Published on August 18, 2020 by Andrew

Whatever your plans are for the summer, it’s quite possible that they’ve changed once already this year. They might still be in flux.

Whether you’re heading to a European beach, a Cornish campsite, or your own back garden, you’ll want a good book to help you escape.

Here are seven classic beach reads perfect for a summer holiday, wherever you’re spending it.

1. Jaws, by Peter Benchley

The ultimate beach-read thriller, this bestseller spawned the classic Steven Spielberg film.

If you’re contemplating a seaside paddle this summer, dare to read this tale of a great white shark terrorising holidaymakers in the Long Island town of Amity.

When a dismembered body is found washed up on shore, local police chief Martin Brody’s first instinct is to shut the beach. But at the height of the holiday season, the town’s Mayor has other ideas.

Battling local politics, as well as the apex predator, Brody sets out to track and kill the creature.

2. Joyland, by Stephen King

There are many Stephen King books great for a beach read but coming in at just under 300 pages, Joyland might be the most portable.

Written for the Hard Case Crime imprint, this coming-of-age mystery centres around a beachside amusement park in North Carolina during the summer of 1973.

College student Devin arrives in town and is soon caught up in the recognisable Stephen King territory of murders, ghosts, and second sight.

It reads like a novella, fast-paced and plot-driven it’s perfect for the beach. But it also has the emotion, tenderness, and nostalgia associated with other shorter King works, such as The Body, filmed as the classic, Stand by Me.

3. The Girls, by Emma Cline

The Girls is a retelling of the Manson-cult and the murder of Sharon Tate. It’s a story recently retold by Quentin Tarantino in his film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Here, we see it through the eyes of the women wrapped up in it.

Cline evokes the sights and sounds of the sixties as we follow 14-year-old Evie Boyd.

Through chance meetings with girls living on a nearby ranch, Evie spends the summer of 1969 drawn ever further into a cult whose inhabitants are devoted to a man named Russell.

4. Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid

British Pakistani novelist Mohsin Hamid is arguably best known for his second novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist. It was an international bestseller and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Hamid’s fourth novel was also Booker-shortlisted and made its way into Barack Obama’s top ten books of 2017.

The book follows Nadia and Saeed, young lovers who meet in a city at war. Determined to leave their motherland behind, they begin to hear rumours of strange black doors hidden through the war-torn city. But where do they lead?

A tale of migration, exile, and hope in the face of adversity, Exit West is an exceptional novel. Moving and powerful, fast-paced, and immediate. 

5. Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth, by Andrew Smith

Rereleased last year to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Moondust is the story of man’s journey into space. And back again.

Twelve men have walked on the moon. Three had died by the time Smith embarked on his journey to meet them. Realising that one day none would remain alive, this remarkable book becomes their testament. Their story in their own words.

Through interviews, Smith sets out to answer some key questions: What drives a man to want to walk on the moon? What does it take to make that dream a reality? And in what ways might it leave someone forever changed?

Belonging to the same tradition as Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, this book is a poignant, compassionate, and occasionally funny insight into the ordinary lives of those who accomplish extraordinary feats.

6. The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga

The White Tiger of the novel is Balram Halwai, a young boy from a poor Indian village who dreams of escaping his cage of poverty.

He begins by taking a job as a chauffeur for a wealthy family. Eventually, he heads to the bustling city of Bangalore where big business coexists alongside extreme destitution and hardship.

When Balram learns that China’s president will soon be visiting the city, he sets out to write the premier a letter.

Over seven nights Balram describes the story of his life. His journey takes him from servant philosopher to entrepreneur, and finally to murderer.

7. Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe

Achebe’s debut novel, Things Falls Apart was first published in 1958.

It tells of the dangerous pride and inevitable downfall of Okonowo, a great warrior, and one of the most powerful men in his Nigerian clan.

Determined to always demonstrate the strength his father lacked, and steadfast in his belief in the traditional ways of his village, Okonowo is destined for violence and a fall.

Achebe’s writing is spare but not sparse. And it is even-handed, whether describing the brutal aspects of the clan’s traditionalism, or the threat represented by new arrivals in the second half of the novel.

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