Dwell Picks: Beach Reads for Your Next Summer Outing

Dwell Picks: Beach Reads for Your Next Summer Outing

Our team’s selects for armchair travel—or should we say beach chair?

Welcome to Beach Week, a celebration of the best place on earth.

Your summer reading list might not need any new additions (speaking directly to myself and my five recently-purchased books on my bedside table), but hey... maybe it does! Especially when team Dwell has some stellar suggestions for the perfect paperbacks for your next day trip to the beach, picnic in the park, or mid-flight pick-me-up. Scroll on to find your next must-read.  

William Hanley, Editor in Chief:

"I'm a terrible surfer. But I love surfing. And I'm in awe of people who are good at it. I've resolved to keep trying this season. I'll probably also return to Barbarian Days by William Finnegan, which I've read a few times since it won a Pulitzer back in 2016. At first, I dismissed it as Boomer nostalgia—and complicit in the mythology of surfing as the province of well-traveled white dudes at the exclusion of all others—but I quickly got hooked on the sweep of the book. You will probably find me with it on my beach towel somewhere in the Rockaways one of these summer Fridays while appreciating the sometimes impossibly serene skills of others."

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life
Barbarian Days is William Finnegan's memoir of an obsession, a complex enchantment. Surfing only looks like a sport. To initiates, it is something else: a beautiful addiction, a demanding course of study, a morally dangerous pastime, a way of life.

Kate Dries, Executive Editor:

"I'm normally a fiction-only person, but I tore through Tina Brown's The Palace Papers while intermittently staring at the water over Memorial Day weekend. She is deliciously juicy and does not pull punches towards a single member of the extended British Royal family, so this is really the perfect read for gawkers of that whole mess, not unadulterated fans of it."

The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor—the Truth and the Turmoil
“Never again” became Queen Elizabeth II’s mantra shortly after Princess Diana’s tragic death. More specif­ically, there could never be “another Diana”—a mem­ber of the family whose global popularity upstaged, outshone, and posed an existential threat to the Brit­ish monarchy.

Jack Balderrama Morley, Managing Editor:

"This recommendation comes with the caveat that I'm not a huge beach person, but I do love a languorous summer afternoon of reading and letting the world drift by. Jonny Appleseed, a debut novel by Joshua Whitehead, is perfect for that kind of thing. With a dreamy looseness, it tells the story of a young Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer person's journey away from home and back again. Various houses and apartments reflect the protagonist's shifting circumstances, and a recurring theme is the question of what it means to be physically rooted in a place. The book's short, funny passages are easy to enjoy in between dips in the water or pauses to watch the fireflies start to flicker across the sky."

Jonny Appleseed
"You're gonna need a rock and a whole lotta medicine" is a mantra that Jonny Appleseed, a young Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer, repeats to himself in this vivid and utterly compelling novel.

Megan Reynolds, Guides Editor:

"The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox is the sort of book I wish I could read for the first time over and over again—a fantasy novel written for those who don't consider themselves fantasy-lovers, but are still willing to get swept away into a plot that considers whether or not both fairies and Hell are real. (Spoiler. They are!) The best part about this book, aside from plot, pacing, and all the rest, is its sheer size. There's nothing quite like a big honking doorstopper of a book for summer's interminably long days."

The Absolute Book
Taryn Cornick believes that the past--her sister's violent death, and her own ill-conceived revenge—is behind her, and she can get on with her life. She has written a successful book about the things that threaten libraries: insects, damp, light, fire, carelessness and uncaring . . . but not all of...

Sam Daly, Shop Editor:

"I have toted this to a few pool excursions so far this spring. The incredibly short stories (I’m talking a page or two) are snackable and just as remarkable as Lahiri’s longer works."

Exuberance and dread, attachment and estrangement: in this novel, Jhumpa Lahiri stretches her themes to the limit. In the arc of one year, an unnamed narrator in an unnamed city, in the middle of her life’s journey, realizes that she’s lost her way.

Alex Casto, Associate Visuals Editor:

"Given our current political landscape, Barbara Kruger's work is just as relevant today as it was at the 1989 Women's March on Washington. I recently acquired a copy of this title, and look forward to immersing myself in her practice."

Remote Control: Power, Cultures, and the World of Appearances
In these essays and reviews, written over the last decade, Barbara Kruger addresses that power with intelligence and wit, in the hope of engaging both our criticality and our dreams of affirmation.

"Werner Herzog is one of my favorite filmmakers, so this title is definitely on my list. In this first novel, he details his friendship with Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier who was isolated on an island, unaware that World War II had ended, for twenty-nine years."

The Twilight World
The great filmmaker Werner Herzog, in his first novel, tells the incredible story of Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier who defended a small island in the Philippines for twenty-nine years after the end of World War II. In 1997, Werner Herzog was in Tokyo to direct an opera.

"In this rather fantastic memoir about adolescence, heritage, and identity, Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast fame describes her experience growing up between Eugene, Oregon and Seoul, South Korea."

Crying in H Mart: A Memoir
From the indie rockstar of Japanese Breakfast fame, and author of the viral 2018 New Yorker essay that shares the title of this book, an unflinching, powerful memoir about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity.

Maris Newbury, Affiliate Account Manager:

"As a mom-to-be my reading selection is mainly pregnancy/childcare focused. If you know of anyone who is expecting, these are great gifts! If you are expecting yourself—highly recommend."

Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, From Birth to Preschool
With Expecting Better, award-winning economist Emily Oster spotted a need in the pregnancy market for advice that gave women the information they needed to make the best decision for their own pregnancies.

The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother
The first 40 days after the birth of a child offer an essential and fleeting period of rest and recovery for the new mother.

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Related Reading:

Dwell Picks: What We’re Bringing With Us to the Beach This Summer


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