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Need a beach read? 16 great choices

A glittering expanse of spare time awaits with a cool drink at one elbow and a stack of good reads at the other. Our suggestions for the books, ncluding romance, adventure, mystery, memoir, biography, and poetry.

(Clockwise from upper left:) “Believe Me” by Eddie Izzard; “Autumn,” by Karl Ove Knausgaard; “So Much Things to Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley,” by Roger Steffens and Linton Kwesi Johnson; “Hannibal,” by Patrick N. Hunt; Zinzi Clemmons, author of “What We Lose”; “The Light in Summer,” by Mary McNear.
(Clockwise from upper left:) “Believe Me” by Eddie Izzard; “Autumn,” by Karl Ove Knausgaard; “So Much Things to Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley,” by Roger Steffens and Linton Kwesi Johnson; “Hannibal,” by Patrick N. Hunt; Zinzi Clemmons, author of “What We Lose”; “The Light in Summer,” by Mary McNear.Read moreCourtesy of the publishers, except for picture of Zinzi Clemmons, by Nina Subin.

Here comes summer, y'all. Maybe you're planning a sunlit, glittering expanse of spare time, cool drink at one elbow, a stack of good reads at the other. Will they be tales of romance, adventure, mystery? Or memoirs, biographies, poetry? Below are books of the summer in all those directions.


Shadow Man by Alan Drew (Random House, May). The author, an associate professor of English at Villanova University, bases this novel loosely on the story of Richard Ramirez, the "Night Stalker" who terrorized Southern California in the summer of 1985. Killer, detective, love story.

Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor (Harper, May). Sycamore, Ariz., is a small town with loss and mystery at its heart. A visitor stumbles upon clues that dredge up the old memories and hurts.

The Chalk Artist by Allegra Goodman (Dial Press, June). A tale of a teacher, a student who draws in chalk, and this question for our time: Can love and art equal the power of the virtual world?

Modern Gods by Nick Laird (Viking, June). This talented Irish novelist weaves a wide-ranging, globetrotting novel in which two sisters contend with issues of identity, politics, and belief.

Flashmob by Christopher Farnsworth (HarperCollins, June). Gifted, brain-hacking fixer John Smith is on the trail of a criminal mastermind. He's invented an internet weapon that can dispatch instant killer mobs who specialize in celebrities. Yikes.

The Light in Summer: A Butternut Lake Novel by Mary McNear (HarperCollins, June). Butternut Lake is a little lake town in the northern Midwest. Lives and loves are at crossroads, and it's summer.

Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin (Bloomsbury, June). Marcus loses his mother and goes to live with an aunt on an island off the South Carolina coast. He watches over sea-turtle eggs soon to hatch. But then, at a rundown cottage, he makes a new friend.

What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons (Viking, July). Raised in Philly by a South African mother and an American father, the author writes about a Pennsy-raised young woman of mixed heritage, trying to learn where she's from and who she is.

How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry (Pamela Dornan/Viking, August). A romance for readers everywhere. Emilia struggles to keep her deceased father's bookstore alive, resisting pressure from developers and trying to stay loyal to her customers. And then …

Things That Happened Before the Earthquake by Chiara Barzini (Doubleday, August). So you're a daughter in an Italian family, and Dad moves all of you from Italy to Los Angeles – in 1992, just after the Rodney King riots and a couple of years before the Earthquake of 1994. See what happens?


Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens by Eddie Izzard (Blue Rider, June). Izzard is one of the funniest people alive, a talented actor, a sharp cross-dresser, an experienced marathon runner, and a great writer. You will have to read this if only to find out what a jazz chicken is.

So Much Things to Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley by Roger Steffens and Linton Kwesi Johnson (Norton, July). A compulsively readable, exquisitely researched account of the reggae legend, told by family, friends, and admirers. Lively up yourself!

Hannibal by Patrick N. Hunt (Simon & Schuster, July). One of the greatest, strangest lives of all time. This guy led his elephants over the Alps, defeated the Roman army, and then … did not go and take Rome. A tragic genius, and a great story if ever there was one.

Autumn by Karl Ove Knausgaard (Random House, August). Yes, this guy writes a ton. His massive, multivolume autobiography My Struggle is regarded as variously notorious or brilliant. But what a sweet, surprising, short collection of essays this is! Lie on the beach, sun beating down, and read about the season to come.


New Collected Poems, by Marianne Moore (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, June). A beloved American great of the 20th century, this Bryn Mawr grad writes quirky, razor-sharp, witty poems about (a lot of oddball) animals, baseball, marriage, and poetry itself ("imaginary gardens with real toads in them"). A boon companion, for summer and anytime.

Thousand Star Hotel by Bao Phi (Coffee House Press, July). This Vietnamese American prize-winning slam-poetry star goes up against racism, police brutality, and poverty.

Want more of the Shore? Pick up a copy of our 2017 Shore Guide, packed with the sights, sounds, and tastes of summer.