6 Books to Read at the “Beach”

May 17, 2022

It’s almost officially summer, and Sara is ready for the beach. She’s been dreaming of sand between her toes, hot temperatures, walking along the shore line, and – most of all – reading in the sunshine with sunglasses and an enormous black hat. One must be very glamorous while at the beach, she says.

Brittany, meanwhile, has been dreading the return of the heat. She is… not a summer girl. That said, she’s still pretty cool with beaches (she did go to high school in Florida!) She’s been known to hunt for pretty shells and rush out to catch the glow of the sunset on more than one occasion. But she really really loves them at night, when the moon shines on the water, the temperatures drop, and all the tourists are gone.

You can’t really read on the beach at night, but Sara still convinced Brittany to help her write a list of books to read at the “beach”… we’re just going to be using the word “beach” lightly, as Brittany will be reading in the air conditioning, thank you very much. 

Sara’s Recommendations:

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow – This book is so good that it kind of made me angry. It’s a slim little novella that I read in one sitting, complete with Arthur Rackham illustrations that have been… creatively re-arranged. It’s been described as the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale getting a Spider-verse treatment, and that’s pretty accurate – there are multiple realities with different Sleeping Beauties in them, all layered on top of each other. In the hands of another author, this book could have been a disaster, but Harrow did her homework. She references the Grimms, Perrault, Disney, dubious Norse connections, medieval French manuscripts, and more, and she actually gets them right (I was, like, poised to be insufferable, but she gave me nothing to complain about.) The book also engages thoughtfully, and often hilariously, with the “dying girl” motif, in a way that never made me cringe. Above all, it’s a wonderfully feminist read that champions choice and solidarity between women. All while being a really fun, funny read. 

(I loved this book so much that I made Brittany read it immediately (she obviously loved it too) AND we talked about it in our May book club. Did you know Carterhaugh has a monthly book club? We do! Find out all about it by clicking here and then JOIN US by clicking here! Next up is Winter Rose in honor of the late Patricia McKillip on June 16th.)

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade – I haven’t read a ton in the romance genre yet, but if I can find more books like this, I will be a complete addict. In a nutshell: the star of a lightly-veiled Game of Thrones TV show starts writing fan fiction when the show goes off the rails. When he defends a cosplayer dressed as the female lead in his show from vicious fatphobia on Twitter, they decide to meet in real life, and he realizes that she’s actually his anonymous best friend from the fan fiction forum they write on together. Hijinks ensue. Seriously, how could you not want to read this? The characters are nuanced, loveable, and believable, and the entire thing is just ridiculously charming while engaging with challenging topics like fatphobia and invisible disability. But the reason I had to include it here is because the entire story is embedded in the world of fan fiction and fan culture, which is SUPER FOLKLORE-Y.  Bonus: it’s all set in California, which automatically feels summery to me.

Moonlight and Vines by Charles de Lint – I love a good short story collection, and this was the first de Lint book that I ever read. It’s one of his Newford books, of which there are many, but I loved dipping into this world and seeing little glimpses of different characters’ magic-touched lives. Some of them appear (or star) in other books, some I don’t think I’ve ever met again, but I didn’t know any of that when I first read it – I was just completely enchanted by these magical slice-of-life stories that stood beautifully, sometimes hauntingly, on their own. There’s a computer program that becomes a woman, girls who are also crows, a graveyard haunted by memories and maybe ghosts, fairies living among mortals, and so much more. It won The World Fantasy Award, 100% deserved, and it’s the perfect book to pick up and put down and dream about and pick up again on a summer afternoon.  

Book I’m Looking Forward To Reading: The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – I loved (LOVED, I TELL YOU) Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic, and now she has a book about debutantes, telekinesis, and witches? Here for it.

Brittany’s Recommendations:

St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised By Wolves: Stories by Karen Russell – I’m not sure exactly what it is about this book that reminds me of summer. It’s something about the Florida setting that most of the stories have and capture so well, something about the pure fun bizarreness of alligator wrestling, and something about the fact that my favorite story in the collection, “Haunting Olivia” (which you can actually read for free at The New Yorker by clicking here), involves two boys swimming around with haunted goggles looking for the ghost of their sister who was drawn out into the ocean while riding a giant crab sled. Yep, you read that right. And, what’s more, it’s one of the most beautiful stories I know. It’s an odd book, I’m not going to lie, but superbly crafted and just weird enough for those long summer days when everything feels just the slightest bit strange. 

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl – This book is PEAK Southern Gothic in YA form, and it delights me in so many ways. It’s all ruined plantation houses, sweltering heat, curses, the past coming back, and secrets. It also has a pretty unique take on witches. Honestly this book is more south than summer, but I don’t care, it’s still the perfect book to get totally absorbed in during the summer months… just don’t read the sequels, I really didn’t love where they ultimately took the story. This first one though? *chef’s kiss* There’s a movie version of this too, which I honestly kinda loved (the costumes are SO GOOD), but be warned that it makes some pretty significant changes from the book!

Indexing by Seanan McGuire – When I think of summer, I often think of books that are just fun, and Seaman McGuire’s Indexing totally fits the bill. It’s all about an agency that’s tasked with protecting the world from fairy-tale narratives gone wild, basically. The best part: you know how cops call numbered codes to each other? Well, the agents of the ATI Management Bureau do this too… but they use the numbers from the folklore ATU index! Well, it’s here referred to as the AT index, as it used to be called, but still. So, for example, someone investigating a series of unexplainable cases featuring people falling into enchanted sleeps might suspect they have a 410 on their hands. It makes me kinda giddy with joy.

Book I’m Looking Forward To Reading: The Shadow in the Glass by JJA Harwood – A Victorian retelling of “Cinderella” that’s literally billed as “The Extraordinary Gothic Fairy Tale Debut of 2021”? Sign me up immediately, how did I not know about this book earlier?!

What books are you looking forward to sinking your teeth into this summer? Let us know in the comments!

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