Escape into Intrigue: Unconventional Beach Reads

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Beach reads can almost be considered a genre of its own: simple, easy-reading fare perused while listening to crashing waves or perhaps as you lounge about poolside. Who knows how or when it was decided that we could not read anything particularly smart or exciting on the beach? Although the association of “simple” with “vacation” may seem natural, how about a different type of escapism altogether? A foray into an evocative, stylish mystery or crime fiction piece can be quite appropriate when you’re vacationing, as you privately peer into the shadowy worlds of the underbelly. Besides, what’s cooler than an engrossing tale of sociopaths, private-eyes, ne’er do wells, and all manner of castaways on the road to redemption? These stories, with their particular brand of excitement, just might kick up a cooling breeze- via the quickly turning pages.

I’ve put together a list of recommendations that are decidedly different from the traditional sports memoirs or romance novels that will be all over beach reads this summer. Instead, why not take a little trip from your trip with these noir-oriented titles, as well as some classics and science fiction offerings.

The Long Goodbye – Raymond Chandler

Perhaps the most popular of the Philip Marlowe character mysteries, in this book the classic private eye deals with a down and out war veteran and his insatiable wife in early ‘50s Los Angeles. The wife winds up dead, and our detective dives into a mystery involving double lives, corruption, war intelligence and a host of shady characters. The nimble narrative and tight prose might have you cutting your swim short just so you can get back to it.

Catch 22- Joseph Heller

This comi-tragic masterpiece deals with the enigmatic condition that is war. Stick with it through the necessary middle- there is a payoff for reading and absorbing this book, which epitomizes American literature at its very finest.

On the Road- Jack Kerouac

This classic is included here just in case you are looking for vacation reading that says “wanderlust”. Obvious, sure- but why NOT read it -perhaps for the second or third time- while you’re ‘On The Road”? And if you’re not, who better with to take a vicarious trip than Kerouac? His exclusive appreciation of America, and speedy beatnik prose is about as stylized a read as you’ll find.

Dog Days, Volume I- Gene Gregorits

Peppered with wry humor, unselfconscious wit and an unhealthy dose of misogyny, alcoholism, and drug abuse, this fictionalized (I wonder?) account of the author’s ill-fated romance with a seemingly shallow hipster girl and the tragic murder of his beloved cat by a pit-bull is one of the most, if not THEE most, entertaining, yet simultaneously deeply resonant pieces of fiction in recent history. A profoundly compelling book, with a voice that is strangely familiar, yet unlike any other.

Fahrenheit 451 -Ray Bradbury

In this classic piece of dystopian, thought provoking, and continually relevant sci-fi, Bradbury chronicles a time when firemen create fires-to burn books. One of them decides to keep one, and he winds up among the hunted as he travels down a perilous road of self discovery.

Jolie Blon’s Blouse- James Lee Baker

The “Faulkner of crime fiction” is at his best in this title from his Dave Robicheaux series. Here, the seasoned New Iberia, LA police detective is on the case of brutally murdered young woman, though the popular suspect doesn’t jibe with Dave’s well-honed instincts. In his search for the real killer, Dave must battle his own addictions, an ambitious local hustler, a trailer park mafioso, and a former plantation overseer named Legion Guidry who is nothing short of evil incarnate and possibly immortal. As always, Burke’s dialog and local color are dead-on, and his gorgeous imagery reads like a prose poem to the bayou. Delve into the sticky underbelly of the swamps and parishes and local cultures of Louisiana from the safety of your own summer hideaway.

Bio: This is a guest post by Jason Thomas. He is an author and Brand Manager for He enjoys writing about entertainment and techie topics.

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  1. I would say that On the Road is a wonderful beach read! There has to be something magical about lounging in exactly one place while reading about a great American adventure.

  2. I still need to read Catch-22. It’s been on my to-read list for years and years!
    Jack Kerouac is so fun… I read his stuff as escapeism sometimes.

  3. Agree about “On the Road” – love “Dharma Bums,” too!

  4. Catch-22 is one of the funniest and most thought provoking books I have read.

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