Required (Beach) Reading: Summer 2018

My children go back to school in less than a month. (Much less.) I am confused by this, because I distinctly remember school starting in September when I was a wee one, but apparently either the days are shorter or the vacations are more abundant, or we’re just sending kids to school for (much) more of the year, because August 15th it is.

Which means we have just a little over two weeks left of for-real summer. And since this summer has been less-than-restful so far, I’ve decided to do my best to make these last few weeks as fun and peaceful (and SIMPLE, please) as possible. My mom is coming out, which is nice, and means that a pedicure is probably in my future. And my daughter’s birthday is soon, so a rainbow cake will be made (or at least attempted).

But mostly, what I want to do with these last few summer days is read books. By the pool, in the sand, while hiding in my car during gymnastics classes (who was the genius who decided that nowadays parents must physically watch all of their children’s after school activities?? Didn’t parents used to…drop kids off for these things? And then go do their things – such as read books while hiding in their cars – while their children were safe and otherwise occupied? Just wondering).

Here are the best books I’ve read lately. Please oh please oh please tell me yours (nothing that requires excessive amounts of thought, please – page-turners are the name of the game here).

How To Murder Your Life, by Cat Marnell. I had no idea who Cat Marnell was before I bought this book, but apparently she was a semi-famous New York City party girl and editor at Lucky (RIP) and XO Jane, and her story of her (insane) addictions and lifestyle is…insane. And addictive. It’s so trashy, and so freaking good.

Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan. This story about the highest echelons of Chinese society and how they react when one of their golden boys brings home an ABC (American-Born Chinese) is beach reading at its finest: funny, ridiculous, dishy, and totally escapist.

The Way Of Zen, by Alan Watts. Even if Zen theory sounds like a bit much for a summer read, seriously: give this a try. Alan Watts (whose talks on everything from death to happiness are absolute must-listens) has this way of sifting through weighty concepts and explaining them in a way that feels accessible, even exciting. I return to this book all the time and read a few pages here and a few pages there. It’s one of those things you should just own, in case you need it.

Heartburn, by Nora Ephron. A few months ago a good friend of mine sent this to me unprompted, saying that the writing reminded her of mine, which was obviously the best compliment ever (I don’t believe it, but will happily take it). It’s a comedy. About divorce. It’s great, and you will find yourself needing to read full paragraphs out loud to anyone who happens to be sitting nearby.

Bachelor Nation, by Amy Kaufman. I am so embarrassed that I a) bought and b) loved this, but there you go. It’s more or less the real version of Unreal: behind-the-scenes gossip written by a former producer for the show, and it’s a quick, fun read for anyone who’s even a little bit of a fan. This is a really good one to listen to on Audible, by the way, because it obviously requires very little in the way of brain cells or serious contemplation.

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. When YA books are good, they are really good. I put off reading this one forever because it sounded too depressing for words (kids and cancer: good times), but it was beautiful, and completely unputdownable, and strangely…hopeful.

So…tell me yours? I’m out of books, and there is a lounge chair calling my name.


  • Heather

    The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian – Gone Girl-esque thriller that is very silly at times, but overall it’s well written and the perfect pool book.
    Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng – not a traditional “beach read,” but I couldn’t put it down.

  • kB

    The Idiot by Elif Batuman was the best book I read all year. She has the kind of voice that I wish could narrate everything in my life – super calm, perceptive, quiet but also razor sharp and funny. (Also damn if that isn’t some accurate Harvard undergrad nostalgia, which I’m guessing you too would appreciate). Anyway, amazing and perfect book.

  • Hannah

    I just finished The Perfect Couple by Elin Hildebrand and loved it. It was a great murder-mystery, small town style book that was perfect for the beach or lazing by the pool

    And I second Little Fires Everywhere, it was amazing!

  • CorisaWalk

    Educated, The Immortalists and The Wife Between Us have been my top 3 so far.

    • jordanreid

      my friend just texted me recommending educated!

      • Chelsea Keller

        Educated is fantastic. Best book I’ve read this year. Look into Lab Girl from a few years ago. I read several books a week, and that one still sticks with me, but it’s not for everyone.

  • Katie

    Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine! It will, no exaggeration, change your life. An incredible, uplifting, ultimately hopeful book about the human experience. I won’t say anything more for fear of ruining it, but Reese Witherspoon has bought the rights for this book and honestly, the girl has immaculate taste in books. So far this is the best book of 2018 so far, of the 30+ books I’ve read.

  • Allison

    The Fault in Our Stars is so heartbreaking! The movie is even more emotional.

  • Sasha

    I have 4 words for you, Jordan “Nora Ephron on audiotape”- perfect for listening to when driving. I loved both Heartburn (not Heartbreak) and I feel bad about my neck, both of which were read by Meryl Streep. Loved Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life a few years ago. Also, I checked all those out, including audiobooks, electronically from my public library (using overdrive app) so they cost me zero dollars.

  • Alice

    Yes! Need some recommendations for holiday.
    I loved ‘Ready player one’ (I’ve been told not to watch the film though, still will), Homegoing and The tattooist of auschwitz (spoiler- not so cheery). Also, anything by Liane moriarty.
    I’m off to download some book samples x

  • Nicole

    Not a book recommendation, but for a rainbow cake I did essentially this recently and it was awesome! I used gel dyes (something like that) for intense colors. Frosted it with white and the bright colors were such a fun surprise under the light icing!

    • jordanreid

      omg that looks SO MUCH EASIER than baking each layer separately!!!
      I’ve been having trouble getting intense, saturated colors – so gel coloring is the answer to that??

      • Nicole

        Yup! The gel coloring makes it really saturated. I think I got it at Michaels. And the mixed layers were hella easier than what, like 7 separate layers?!

  • Live from Hamburg

    I agree on Eleanor Oliphant.
    And I add “Love and other consolation prizes” by Jamie Ford (also “The Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet” by the same author).

  • Erin

    Have you read The Primates of Park Avenue? A fun read about the UES moms and
    (what I believe to be) an accurate portrayal of how unfortunate events, like miscarriages, brings just about any group of women together.

  • Jenn

    I really loved Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I reread it at least once a year, it is raw and shocking and sad and beautiful and hopeful. I just talked myself into reading it again soon!

    I highly recommend the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Wnspear. There are 14 or 15 books now, so lots to get lost in. Maisie is a former war nurse/current private investigator in post-WWI England. I love mysteries but there’s a lot more depth to these books than just solving crime. Only one book is less than amazing. They can be a little quiet though, they aren’t flashy crime novels.

  • I just finished An American Marriage, which is that rare mix of simultaneously beach-read-worthy and thought-provoking about race, marriage, class, and criminal justice. I’m currently reading The Life Lucy Knew which is proving to be chick-lit all the way; almost feels vapid after An American Marriage but I’m too into it to stop, which I guess is an endorsement in itself!

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