When customers at Indigo Books in Johns Island, S.C., ask for a good beach read, Mary Alice Monroe’s “A Lowcountry Wedding” is an obvious choice. Monroe lives nearby, and her book is set along the South Carolina coast.
“It’s a surefire hit,” says Indigo owner Linda Malcolm, who also recommends Louise Penny’s upcoming “A Great Reckoning” and John Sandford’s “Extreme Prey.”
With summer approaching, bookstores are offering local favorites and national hits, faraway adventures and stories quite close to home.
▪ At Books & Books in Coral Gables, Fla., store owner Mitchell Kaplan recommends John Dufresne’s latest Wylie Coyote detective caper, “I Don’t Like Where This is Going,” calling it a “hilariously inventive and funny whodunit.” Kaplan also likes the latest novels from James Grippando, James W. Hall, and Brad Meltzer, and puts in a word for Florida’s Carl Hiaasen, whose books “we read anytime of the year.”
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▪ Barnes & Noble, where outlets range from Gulfport, Miss., to the heart of Manhattan, provided a list of reads featured at stores around the country. Suggestions include Richard Russo’s “Everybody’s Fool,” his sequel to the acclaimed “Nobody’s Fool,” and Louise Erdrich’s “LaRose,” along with novels that actually take place on a beach, among them Dorothea Benton Frank’s “All Summer Long” and Nancy Thayer’s “The Island House.”
“Everyone has their version of the beach whether they are going to the lake, the park or dreaming of the beach so ‘beach reading’ is more a place of mind than literal from our perspective,” explains spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating.
▪ At Forever Books in St. Joseph, Mich., where you can see Lake Michigan just by stepping out the back door, store owner Robin Allen cites the best-selling “The Second Life of Nick Mason,” by crime writer and Michigan native Steve Hamilton and Mary Kubica’s popular “Don’t You Cry,” a thriller set in a Michigan harbor town more than a little like St. Joseph. She also likes Jessica Brockmole’s “At the Edge of Summer,” noting that “anything with the word ‘summer’ in the title does really well.”
▪ On Cape Cod in Massachusetts, manager Val Arroyo of the Brewster Book Store says that she likes to recommend the historical fiction of Sally Cabot Gunning, whose “The Widow’s War” is set in colonial Cape Cod. Elin Hilderbrand is another perennial best-seller and her upcoming novel, “Here’s to Us,” takes place on the nearby island of Nantucket. Arroyo also has hopes for Yaa Gyasi’s “Homegoing,” which begins in Ghana in the 18th century and continues into the present.
“It’s just so beautifully written, and it’s by a first-time author,” she said.
▪ Some stores take you right to the water, but don’t quite lead you in. At Small World Books, on the Venice boardwalk in California, store owner Mary Goodfader says that customers are as likely to be poets as beachgoers. The current top seller is a classic indoor read, Don DeLillo’s chilly “Zero K.”
“We don’t really have anything designated beach reads,” she says. “People don’t come in for that. They get their ‘Moby Dick’ or Charles Dickens instead. Not since ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ did we have a summer beach read.”