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Books, Etc. with Lynn Carey: Summer Reads

Lynn gives her top three "beach reads" for the summer.

OK, I’ll admit it. Despite being the person who chooses literary selections for the Times Book Club and writes about literary stuff for this blog, there are times when I just want to dive into a book that might not be considered all that fancy. In other words, the perfect beach read. This is not to say that Anna Karenina isn’t a great beach read for some people, but it just isn’t for me. To give an example: Last summer, my favorite beach read was One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell (now in paperback!). Wonderfully juicy, great characters, a little sex, a little romance, and a couple of characters who were quite nasty. Yum!

This summer I’ve made a pile of books that might satisfy my craving for lighter reading. I’m not undiscerning: The books still have to pass my 25-page test, so it has to keep my attention for that long, and I have to give a damn about what happens in the end. It also has to have great characters.

The following have passed my test this summer:

→ The Pretend Wife by Bridget Asher. I wasn’t crazy about Asher’s last book, My Husband’s Sweethearts, even though I read it to the end. As a result, I had serious doubts about this one and it had a slow start. I also wasn’t sure if I liked the main character, who was approached by a college boyfriend who needed her to pretend to be his wife in front of his dying mother, despite the fact that she was already married. This one ended up surprising me in the end. I like that.

→ The Romantics by Galt Niederhoffer. Niederhoffer is the author of A Taxonomy of Barnacles which was a big buzz book but I wasn’t a fan. This one I really, really liked. It’s about all these WASPy Yale graduates who were best friends in college, but now – 10 years later – their relationships (and marriages to each other) are a little strained, and it all comes busting out at the wedding of one of them. And here is one of the reasons I liked this book (aside from everyone getting snippy with one another); the bride is REALLY wealthy, and lives on an island in Maine. For some reason I’ve always been enamored of Maine as a location, even though I’ve never been there. And, the mother of the bride is one of literature’s more hideous characters. Niederhoffer is someone who really gets into her characters and all their personality traits and foibles. Plus, she has a great first name.

→ South Broad by Pat Conroy. This comes out Aug. 11, and it is great. This is Conroy’s first novel in 14 years, and when I read this one, I realized how much I’ve missed him. South Broad may be my favorite of all his books. This one is about childhood friends coming together again as adults to solve a mystery. Every single one of these characters is so fully fleshed-out and delightful, you will not want this book to end; the main character, Leopold, could be one of my all time favorites. Nobody does South Carolina like Conroy. I sure hope he’s working on another, and I hope it doesn’t take 14 years. 

For 12 years, Lynn Carey has run the Times Book Club, which now appears in the Contra Costa Times and Oakland Tribune newspapers. For the past 17 years, she's lived in Lafayette with her husband, Lamorinda Sun columnist Mike Zampa, and their two teenagers.