The 19th Wife: A Novel by David Ebershoff. I really enjoyed this story. The book details the origin of the Church of Latter Day Saints, plural marriage and the abolishment of plural marriage by the church and the role of Ann Eliza Young. There are two stories, one playing out in the 18 hundreds and a contemporary story. Even more timely with Mitt Romney as the Rep. presidential candidate.” Another contributor writes: “A riveting novel based on the real life ‘19th wife’ of Brigham Young and her break from her husband and her faith. It goes back and forth with a contemporary polygamist in Utah and it is hard to put down.”
Angle of Repose (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics) by Wallace Stegner. One of our contributors reminded me of this gem, saying “I'm not sure why a book set mostly in mining towns in the West during 1880s appealed to me, but it did. It is the best book I've read!” Crossing to Safety, also by Stegner, has appeared on our list previously, one of my all-time favorites, and I think a good "beach classic."
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. “A quick read, but a very intense story about the 2nd world war. Told from the point of view of death.”
The Broad Highway by Jeffrey Farnol. So old it’s FREE (on Kindle, at least - it's pre-copyright). This book was a runaway bestseller in its day. It was written in the early 20th century but takes place in regency England (early 1800s). A young gentleman finds he has not, as he'd expected, been left money by a wealthy relative. He embarks on a walking tour through England, seeking to make his way in the world. This despite his being a gentleman and a scholar (a breed not really meant for work back then). He has entertaining, implausible adventure after entertaining implausible adventure. Love and kissing and duels and fights galore. Themes of honor and great old fashioned stuff. And did I mention it’s free?
The Gravedigger's Daughter (P.S.) by Joyce Carol Oates. “Almost anything by JCO is outstanding, this novel included. Great story-- vivid imagery.” (Ed: I agree about Joyce Carol Oates. I’ve previously mentioned We Were the Mulvaneys as a great beach read. And her others, too. I don’t know why, but I feel like she gets short shrift.)
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel by Jamie Ford. “This book is a bit of a sleeper -- it takes a while to grab ahold of your imagination and draw you in, but then it does and the characters become very vivid and well-known. It's a WWII story set in contemporary Seattle that bounces back in time to when Japanese were interned in camps during the war. It's a love story, at its base, but also one of family bonds, expectations and how humans relate to each other. It's compelling.”
The Imperfectionists: A Novel by Tom Rachman. “A very interesting array of characters, through whose eyes you experience the beginning and end of an American newspaper published in Rome, Italy. The story covers about 20-30 years.”
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: A Novel by Helen Simonson. A top pick in 2010 is still popular. “A great love story, fun, easy read.”
The Paris Wife: A Novel by Paula McClain. Everyone loves this! “It's a great read about Hemingway and his first wife Hadley Richardson, before and as he becomes famous. Packed with love affairs, hard-living and betrayal, it is perfect for the beach.”
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy. A contributor sent this in as one of her all-time favorites. It’s one of mine, too.
The Razor's Edge by Somerset Maugham. From Amazon: “Larry Darrell is a young American in search of the absolute. The progress of his spiritual odyssey involves him with some of Maugham's most brilliant characters - his fiancée Isabel whose choice between love and wealth have lifelong repercussions, and Elliott Templeton, her uncle, a classic expatriate American snob. Maugham himself wanders in and out of the story, to observe his characters struggling with their fates.”
Room by Emma Donoghue. Another top pick from last year with staying power. “Amazing. Story about a little boy whose first years are spent locked in an 11x11 room. Not as creepy or disturbing as it sounds. Great character development."
Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. “Easy, interesting read for the beach.” (Ed: Great read, but SAD. And devolves into a bad romance, as I think I said when we reviewed it before. BUT … I read it in about 48 hours. So … good beachitude).
The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar. Another book that was on a previous list: “Set in India about a wealthy woman and her downtrodden servant and their parallel and crossecting lives. I liked the idea of two completely different Indias running side by side - and of course that age old idea that money doesn't buy you happiness.”
Still Alice by Lisa Genova. “This book is a beautifully written, harrowing tale of a brilliant Harvard professor's descent into early onset Alzheimer's. It is a heartbreaking to read but if you know anyone suffering from this brutal disease, it explores the disease from inside the victim's head.”
The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon. Top pick last year (or maybe it was nearly a top pick – can’t recall). “Wow. This one is sad but worth the emotional investment. Great character development.”
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shiver. “Just read it. Then we'll talk about it. Get ready to examine yourself, judge the characters and, maybe, be haunted by this story.”
Wicked by Gregory McGuire. We really only got Dorothy's side of the story in the Wizard of Oz.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. "Who knew one could feel sympathy towards Oliver Cromwell? If you love the Tudor age and no detail is too much, this is the book for you. The writing style bugged friends of mine, I think they found it pompous, but it didn't bother me. I loved the book and enjoyed the different twist on an old and well-known storyline.” [Ed: this is the book that drove me crazy with the uncertain use of “he.”]"