From the Editor

From the Editor: Summer Beach Reads

Susan Burns on great books—and beer.

By Susan Burns May 29, 2018 Published in the June 2018 issue of Sarasota Magazine

Image: Shutterstock

Some pairs of words just make me happy to be alive. Cold beer and good book have that effect on me. Once in a while these word couplings come together on the same day and I’m transported.

During a Bahamas vacation a few years ago, I started reading Cormac McCarthy’s bleak post-apocalyptic novel, The Road, while sitting on a porch overlooking flaming red bougainvillea, coconut palms and that famous turquoise water. Within seconds, that beautiful tropical setting had vanished. I was cold and desperate, walking with a father and son in an endless gray landscape, despairing for humanity and hoping the father and son could survive in this new hellish world where everything that makes life worth living was gone. When I turned the last page and looked up, I remember feeling startled that the sun was shining and colors had miraculously appeared. It took me a while to adjust and rejoin the corporeal world. Thankfully, an ice-cold beer was nearby.

You’ll find both great beer and books in this issue, and what better time to indulge in these pleasures than summer? This summer, I’m going for lighter reads than Cormac McCarthy novels. I’m stockpiling Donna Leon’s crime mysteries set in Venice that feature the shrewd, decent, handsome, but also quite human Commissario Guido Brunetti. Leon has written 28 of them, so I have 23 left to go, which makes me ecstatic since I know I can keep Brunetti in my life all summer long.

Since we’re a town of bookworms, I asked our editors and a few writers for their best summertime reading suggestions, and they jotted down old favorites and current reads that are guaranteed to carry you away, whether you’re lying under an umbrella by the backyard pool, propped up in bed on a lazy afternoon or jam-packed on a plane on your way to a vacation.

Happy reading!

Editors’ and Writers’ Summer Book Picks:

“I’m rereading 92 in the Shade by Thomas McGuane, my favorite Florida book. It captures Key West frozen in time in the 1970s.” —Tim Dorsey, occasional Sarasota Magazine contributor and author of the Serge Storms series

Michael Connelly is one of the very few crime writers I read. I’m currently reading his newest, Two Kinds of Truth. He knows his territory and is a fine suspense writer to boot. Next up is Ron Chernow’s new one about [President Ulysses S.] Grant, which I presume I will like as much as I liked the author’s biography of Alexander Hamilton.” —John Jakes, author of the North and South trilogy

“For summer beach reading, give me a British mystery any day: P.D. James and Ruth Rendell, of course, but also Susan Hill, Peter Robinson, even Simon Brett for his light and fun takes on crime and punishment. But my very favorite is actually an Irish writer, Tana French, and her first novel, In the Woods, is a stunner. It won the Edgar Award for Best New Novel. Tip: Read her books in sequence.”—Ilene Denton, senior editor

“I just read The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn. It’s in the vein of Girl on the Train, with an unreliable female narrator, in this case an agoraphobic who gets too involved in watching her neighbors’ lives. She’s also a fan of Hitchcock and other classic thriller movies, so she’s definitely in the right frame of mind to become convinced she’s witnessed a murder...but has she? I’m also a fan of British mysteries; I have on reserve at the library Elizabeth George’s latest, The Punishment She Deserves, one of her series featuring the high-born inspector Thomas Lynley and the working-class Detective Barbara Havers. I’ve read all the Lynleys so far.”—Kay Kipling, executive editor

“Joan Didion is best known for her journalism and memoirs, but my favorite book of hers is the 1970 novel Play it as it Lays, a slim, vicious book that’s perfect for poolside consumption. (My copy still has sweat stains from when I read it in a single 24-hour rush one summer.) Pair it with Renata Adler’s similarly economical and ruthless 1976 novel Speedboat for a doubleheader that’s as blistering and intense as an August afternoon on Siesta Key.”—Cooper Levey-Baker, associate editor

“I sped through Meg Wolitzer’s newest, The Female Persuasion, in a weekend. The book is told from the perspective of Greer, a recent college grad who’s trying to figure out her place in the world and is mentored by a Gloria Steinem-esque feminist icon, who herself is trying to figure out how to stay relevant in modern times. Woven into the narrative are the complex topics of relationships, power and gender equality, all written in Wolitzer’s smart, straightforward prose. People called it ‘equal parts cotton candy and red meat.’ I totally agree.”–Megan McDonald, digital editor

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