Each summer, despite budget-sinking gas prices and climate change, every even remotely literate website trots out its picks for the “top beach reads” of the season.
But you know what?
Not everyone gets to the beach, people.
Let’s be real: When you’re a thousand miles away, gas is $4 a gallon and your bank account’s dry, chances are you just aren’t going to be lining up for a sunburn and a mojito along the white sands of Florida.
That said, those of us sticky, landlocked masses here in Kansas like our beach reads, too. We like to get lost in some summer fun, even if we don’t go to an oasis fancier than our own back yard between June and August.
So, we introduce to you deck reads.
They’re just like beach reads except a bit more realistic for most of us cruising down Massachusetts Street this summer.
Grab a drink, a bottle of unexpired sunscreen (seriously, check those dates) and dust off your lawn chairs, because you’ll love the reading suggestions our local experts gave us.
Carl Hiaasen’s catalog
The titles are numerous, and most are literally beachy thanks to the writer’s tendency to both harpoon and hail on his home state.
“He is a mystery writer from Florida, so a lot of his books take place in Florida,” says Shannon Jones, manager at The Dusty Bookshelf, 708 Mass. “They just have a sense of humor and a lightness about them that’s really great that might be perfect warm climate reading.”
Titles from Hiaasen include “Star Island,” “Stormy Weather,” “Sick Puppy,” “Native Tongue,” “Tourist Season” and “Skinny Dip.”
“Worth Dying For” by Lee Child
If you want a lawnchair page-turner worth the unintended sunburn, Lee Child is where it’s at.
“It’s (one of) those Jack Reacher novels that are always pretty exciting and you can’t put them down,” says Heidi Raak, owner of The Raven Bookstore, 8 E. Seventh St.
There are 15 Jack Reacher novels in print with a 16th, “The Affair,” coming out in September. If you play your summer right, you could read all 15 and be ready on the newest book’s drop date.
“Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson
This swashbuckling classic has everything you need to go from land-locked to sea-loving, thanks to larger-than-life characters like Long John Silver.
“We thought that would be really fun to read as you can occasionally glance up at the horizon and envision a pirate ship and pirate treasure as you’re reading,” says Jones, who adds that this book really reaches across age groups and sexes.
“Florida Roadkill,” by Tim Dorsey
This is the first in a series of Dorsey novels that follow a vigilante serial killer through the wilds (and weirds) of Florida. Carmela Feigenbaum, assistant manager of Half Price Books, 1519 W. 23rd St., says fans of both Carl Hiaasen and Jeff Lindsay’s “Dexter” series (or the T.V. show of the same name) will love Dorsey’s tales.
“The main character is a serial killer, who, I think he just gets in these situations because he knows all these ridiculous people and ends up associating with all these different people,” she says. “I think this would be a good companion to (Carl Hiaasen). Funny mysteries that take place in Florida.”
“The Wave” by Susan Casey
It may be nonfiction, but that doesn’t mean it’s not riveting. Casey, the editor-in-chief of O Magazine, treats readers to not only an inside look at professional surfing but also the science behind giant waves and why they’re getting bigger.
“It’s supposed to be really a fascinating look,” Raak says. “She talks all about the crazy stuff that they do — those surfers are nuts.
“Assassination Vacation” and “The Partly Cloudy Patriot” by Sarah Vowell
Vowell is a history buff as well as a very funny woman, two qualities that make for some of the most interesting writing on history out there. Feigenbaum says that while the paperbacks are perfect deck reading, if you’re traveling you should go for the audiobook versions. Vowell has appeared on NPR’s “This American Life” and has the sort of perfect delivery to make you laugh out loud while driving.
“In terms of content, I think she does a fantastic job of telling these personal stories that she then fits into a larger narrative of American history and makes you see that in a different way and maybe look at where you stand in it and understand things better,” she says.
“Room” by Emma Donoghue
A boy named Jack and his mother, “Ma” do normal things in a very unusual space: the 11x11 room in which Jack has lived his whole life. Mother and son are confined to the room, with their only connection to the outside being a nighttime visitor called “Old Nick.” Raak admits that if she’d read the book jacket alone, she probably wouldn’t have read the book, but she says it is compelling and page-turning despite the bleakness of the plot.
“It sounds really strange, but you can’t stop reading,” Raak says. “You want to find out what happens.”
- “Jaws” by Peter Benchley
- “The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott,” by Kelly O’Connor McNees
- “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake,” by Aimee Bender
- “The Lies of Locke Lamora,” by Scott Lynch
- “Red Leather Diary,” by Lily Koppel
- “Dandelion Wine,” by Ray Bradbury
- “The Center of Everything,” by Laura Moriarty