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July 17, 2009

NPR’s best beach reads- my votes

Have your seen NPR’s best summer books contest? I usually don’t play along with things like this, but when it comes to a list of 100 books, I can’t resist.

This was ridiculously hard and quite shockingly emotional. I was practically choking back tears as I read through this long list of books at work. What is happening to me?? but there are so many memories associated with books, aren’t there? Old favorites you read 10, 15 years ago and still remember how much you miss them. They are like old friends in a way. Or those more recent that were so beautiful, they still sting a bit when you think of them.

I suppose that makes me a bit of a book romantic. But the books you read, they’re like a map of your life in some ways. Growing up in my family, you always had a book you were reading. It wasn’t like oh, are you reading something? It was, what are you reading right now? Not, did you bring a book? But, where’s your book? Yours. It’s like part of your identity while it’s on your nightstand.

My votes in no particular order
(My criteria for best beach read was more best vacation read. Most absorbing, all encompassing stories that are best read when you have hours and hours of free time, a cool drink and a spot in the sun)

east of eden
the harry potter series
the joy luck club
the poisonwood bible
pride & prejudice
the red tent
the time travelers wife
the bonfire of the vanities
the world according to garp (or any John Irving book)
the yiddish policemen’s union (i loved kavalier and clay too, but this one somehow was better)

Others I wanted to vote for but seemed more like just really good books:

empire falls
heart of darkness
the corrections
the sun also rises
the wind up bird chronicles
the unbearable lightness of being
the pillars of the earth
bridget jones (this being more a true beach read… hilariously endearing and all of that)

A few that were missing

eat pray love (UM, WHAT?? how did this not make the top 100 summer reads?)
infinite jest
the god of small things
my life in france (I know I’m reading it right now, but it’s soooo good)
jitterbug perfume
forever amber (borderline historical romance, but a total epic nonetheless. 100+ 5 star reviews on Amazon. If you like historical fiction, you will LOVE this book. Like, loooooove.)
on the road

and like a bazillion more that I can’t think of at this very moment. It’s so hard to choose. I’m regretting a few of my decisions already.


  1. Simply Mel said on July 21, 2009

    Books are a special 'life-line' wouldn't you say? They provide us the opportunity to escape to so many different worlds, be different people, and teach us different lessons. Our minds become sponges that soak up every special word!

    As I read through your list, I kept saying, "Oh yes! Love that one! Forgot about this one! Must read this again!"

    Thank you for sending me back down memory lane and suggesting a few more 'paths' I can't wait to explore.

  2. PDX Bride said on July 21, 2009

    I might have to go with your list two . . . the first two books on the top of your picture are two of my favorite books ever!!

  3. Kristen said on July 21, 2009

    I love your choices – these are some of my favorite books too! Thanks for putting up this list. I'm a fellow Angeleno who's been reading your blog for a little while, and I love it. I think it's so inspiring (I especially loved your wedding posts because I am planning my own LA wedding now).

    And my family and extended family is exactly the same with books. At the holidays there is always a room that you can escape to and read with others that have had too much activity and craziness, and then there is a line up to borrow books when you are done with them!

  4. Redframe said on July 21, 2009

    Amazon owes you commission, you've totally sold me on Forever Amber!

  5. Johanna said on July 21, 2009

    Awesome, I needed a new reading list. I've only read a couple of these. Thank you!

  6. Julia (Color Me Green) said on July 21, 2009

    thanks i just added like half these books to my library request list.

  7. kristine said on July 21, 2009

    Great list! They are a lot of the same books I would have voted for. And, yes, I totally agree that My Life in France and Eat, Pray, Love are must-reads!

  8. The Freckled Citizen said on July 21, 2009

    Our bookshelves are remarkably similar. I can feel your panic on this list, though – "eeeek! what eternal fave did I leave out?"

    A great place to find new reads based on those eternal faves is – takes a while to rate all your favorite books, but pretty easy from there on out.

  9. Melinda said on July 21, 2009

    I just saw a preview for The Time Traveller's Wife, I wonder should I read the book or see the movie first?

  10. Hi.d said on July 21, 2009

    are you on goodreads? I thought it was silly at first but its fun if you love books and a great way to find new books – I love a lot of the books one your list!

  11. Kendra said on July 21, 2009

    I am reading the Accidental Masterpiece: On the art of life and vice versa. (I totally recommend it if you are interested in art and culture!) In the chapter called "the art of making art without lifting a finger" he discusses a friend's library as a cultivated self portrait. I love that idea. I definitely feel that way about my own library.

    Love your list! I need to borrow East of Eden. John Steinbeck is on my summer reading list for sure :)

    I would also add (and am shocked they aren't on the list) anything by David Sedaris, I was told there would be Cake by Sloan Crosley, Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl. And second On the Road. How is that not on there? I feel like any book about travel and wandering is perfect summer reading. Probably why I voted for Huckleberry Finn! I seem to be missing my southern roots because I also voted for To Kill a Mockingbird. :)

  12. m.cee said on July 21, 2009

    Great post! I like how you define what you consider a best beach read – because good books don't necessarily make good beach reads.

  13. StephSchneider said on July 21, 2009

    For a great summer beach read, I recommend They Did It With Love by Kate Morgenroth, it is so good!

  14. Lauren said on July 22, 2009

    ooooh, you have such lovely taste in literature.

  15. Joanna Goddard said on July 22, 2009

    wonderful picks! i'm reading The Memory Keeper's Daughter right now, and i love it. also your wedding dress was SOOOOO gorgeous. i have been swooning over it all morning. just wanted to say :) joannaxo

  16. Sprouted Kitchen said on July 22, 2009

    I needed this post so bad! I need to buy some books, and you have given me a great place to start. I trust your taste ;)

  17. beautifuliving said on July 22, 2009

    I have a young son so reading books are not easy but I was ecstatic when I finally made time to read Eat. Pray. Love this summer. I don’t know, it was good and I liked it but I didn’t get the hoopla over it. Would I recommend it, sure… would I call it a must read on a list of 100 books, nah.

    I feel out of the loop in my inability to relate to the frenzy this book created. I guess it’s more proof that I must be weird.

  18. lovelymorning said on July 23, 2009

    All – Yay! Isn't it fun sharing books. I just love them. I'll take any recs you all have.

    Mel – yes. they most certainly. I'm glad you found a few to try.

    Kristen- Hi! happy wedding planning. It's so fun, isn't it?

    Redframe – you are going to love it. Seriously

    Melinda _ DEFINITELY READ IT FIRST. There is no way they are going to be able to convey the beauty of the story in a 2 hour movie.

    Kendy – love your recs too. Duh. David Sedaris anything, yes. And aren't you so protective over what you put on your main shelf? I am. Is that bad and superficial?

    Joanna – Loved The Memory Keeper's Daughter! you are so nice. Can't wait to see your wedding pics too!!!

    beautifulliving – some stories just resonate more (or less) with different people. Right?

  19. sk said on July 23, 2009

    Thanks for clueing me in to that list! Fun. I agree– Eat Pray Love should have made it at least in the running– that book engaged me in a big way.

    I had to vote for Gone with the Wind, because when I was in high school I remember reading it while on summer vacation with my grandparents. I started it one afternoon and could. not. put. it. down. I stayed up all night and finished it around 7 AM the next morning!

  20. glauren5 said on July 23, 2009

    I am currently reading the Poisonwood Bible right now. I haven't really gotten "into" it yet.

  21. Reyna said on July 23, 2009

    Yes, I love your blog. Yes, it is possible that I love it even more knowing that you love all these amazing books.

  22. mandiegirl said on July 24, 2009

    I am going to bookmark this post forever and use it as a reference. :) Thanks so much for sharing!

  23. linnea paulina said on July 25, 2009

    I loved reading your list of books. I also love anything by John Irving. The Cider House Rules is my favorite. Hope you're having a lovely weekend.

  24. Teresa said on July 30, 2009

    I love The Poisonwood Bible and World According to Garp. I'm dying to read Time Traveler's Wife before I see the film!

  25. courtney said on July 30, 2009

    I highly recommend the time traveler's wife. I read it years ago and it is still one of my all time faves.

    Happy reading!

  26. the sassy kathy said on July 30, 2009

    i'm slugging thru infinite jest now. sooo longggg. haha. but AWESOME. obviously.

    however, not the easiest to balance on your stomach in a bikini. it definitely leaves unattractive red marks from the 1000+ pages :)

  27. Claire said on August 5, 2009

    I lurve My Life in France.

  28. CL said on August 22, 2009

    So fun! I wasn't aware that NPR had these lists on their site– though I guess, now that I think about it– I'm not surprised. Thanks for tuning me into it! Reading is my passion (that sounds weird) and am now trying to make my living that way… and LOVING every minute of it. Thanks for the great post!

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