August 07, 2009

100 Best Beach Books According to Volvo Drivers?

Just to prove that I'm totally out of touch with all things trendy, I have a confession: I listen to National Public Radio (NPR) in the car. It's the only radio station I have programmed. Lame, I know. (Go ahead and laugh, I'll just sit in the corner and wait).

Anyway, if you're still here, and you love to read, I just wanted to tell you about the NPR poll where listeners voted on their favorite beach books.

Yes, I know Summer is almost over - I already told you I'm out of touch. Sixteen thousand people cast 136,000 votes for their favorite books. (Maybe that's how Al Franken won his Senate seat - these folks stuffed the ballot box).

I've highlighted all the books I've read from the list in blue. I have no idea how many I read at an actual beach.

I may have forgotten a few - I'm old. Don't laugh, it'll happen to you, too. One day, you'll realize that you have THREE copies of the same book on different shelves in your house.

Of course, this repeat buying thing is made worse by publishers who routinely put different covers on the SAME book.

I don't think I own any of the books in the list anymore;
I have very few books in my home now. When I agreed to marry The Mister, I had an Alexander Hamilton Going to Missouri or Bust Sale (where nothing was over $10 - not even my sectional sofa). After the sale, I had a "FreeSale" - and got rid of all but 150 pounds of stuff that I FedExed to MO before we flew to our new life. The only books I packed were things that could not be replaced.

Here's the list:

1. The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
4. Bridget Jones's Diary, by Helen Fielding
5. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
6. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells
7. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
8. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
9. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg
10. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver

11. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
12. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
13. The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan
14. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
15. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
16. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
17. Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
18. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
19. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
20. Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen

21. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
22. The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver
23. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith
24. The World According to Garp, by John Irving
25. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
26. The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy
27. Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
28. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
29. The Accidental Tourist, by Anne Tyler
30. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer

31. A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
32. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
33. The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant
34. Beach Music, by Pat Conroy
35. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
36. Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier
37. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
38. Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry
39. The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough
40. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon

41. Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
42. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
43. Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice
44. Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier
45. Empire Falls, by Richard Russo
46. Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes
47. The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
48. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, by Tom Robbins
49. I Know This Much Is True, by Wally Lamb
50. Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie

51. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
52. The Stand, by Stephen King
53. She's Come Undone, by Wally Lamb
54. Dune, by Frank Herbert
55. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows - currently reading (I'm enjoying it immensely)
56. Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
57. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
58. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
59. The Godfather, by Mario Puzo
60. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith

61. Animal Dreams, by Barbara Kingsolver
62. Jaws, by Peter Benchley
63. Good in Bed, by Jennifer Weiner
64. Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner
65. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
66. The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway
67. The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand
68. Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut
69. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
70. The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler

71. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
72. The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy
73. Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns
74. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
74. Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe [tie]
76. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte
77. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
78. The Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher
79. Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver
80. Eye of the Needle, by Ken Follett

81. Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck
81. The Pilot's Wife, by Anita Shreve [tie]
83. All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy
84. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson - to be read
85. The Little Prince, by Antoine De Saint-Exupery
86. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
87. One for the Money, by Janet Evanovich
88. Shogun, by James Clavell
89. Dracula, by Bram Stoker
90. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera

91. Presumed Innocent, by Scott Turow
92. Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger
93. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
94. Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris
95. Summer Sisters, by Judy Blume
96. The Shining, by Stephen King
97. How Stella Got Her Groove Back, by Terry McMillan
98. Lamb, by Christopher Moore
99. Sick Puppy, by Carl Hiaasen
100. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

When I saw how few books I put in blue, I began to feel like a slacker. I'm 52 years old, and I probably starting reading more adult "chapter books" after my Nancy Drew phase was complete, so let's say, when I was 12 years old. So, in 40 years, I've read only 42 of these books. I am a disgrace to all the politically correct, witty, bleeding heart NPR listeners...the shame is almost more than I can bear.

So, to atone for my sins (and to suck up to my NPR brethren), I will attempt to read ten five more books from the list this year, and I'll listen to a marathon of This American Life on NPR - you just have to listen to one of Sarah Vowell's nasally readings on that program; she's a trip! (you can listen for free, ya know). And after you listen, go out and buy or borrow her 'Assassination Vacation'. If you like American history and visiting out of the way monuments, and laughing, this book is for you. For all you parents of young kids out there, Sarah Vowell was the voice of Violet in The Incredibles.

Now that I've totally blown my cover and announced on the Internets that I am a card-carrying NPR listener, do you think I should approach The Mister about the possibility of us buying a Volvo so I'll better fit in with the NPR crowd? First thing, I'd make sure to affix a Darwin fish emblem on the back bumper, so other like-minded drivers know I am one of them.

What books do you recommend that I read next? How many have YOU read?

Update: As soon as I clicked 'Publish Post', the page that displays had a big 'ole ad for The Economist, a left-leaning magazine regularly hawked on NPR...Big Brother IS watching (or at least providing instantaneous content-based advertising). Scary stuff, that.


  1. Great post today. I'll need to look at the list a little closer when I don't have a 4-yr. old and 1-yr. old tugging at me demanding breakfast....darn that feeding them! LOL!

    One book I do recommend and just pulled out again to read is "The Once and Future King" by T.H. White. Very witty story of King Arthur and Merlin. Very enjoyable read!

    Happy Reading!

    ~ Jennifer

  2. You are doing a whole heck of a lot better than me. I read a ton but havent read too many on that list, maybe 20 if that many! I need to get busy with some more on that list!

  3. Wow that is a great list to start with. I've read a number of them on there.

    James Patterson is a wonderful writer, his womans murder club series is really good, and 2 of his new ones are the Swimsuit and Sail both excellent.

    I'm reviewing a bunch so I try to go thru at least 5 a month ;) Check out Sunday I'll have a giveaway for one up :)

  4. Okay...I don't know you (I came over from imbeingheldhostage because of your wicked awesome name), The Time Travelers Wife. Holy crap it's good. Not that you should take advice from weird, total strangers or anything.

  5. What a list!!! I've read 72 of these so far and now I might just have to try and finish the other 28 this year. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society was one of my favorite books last year. This year my favorites so far have been Year Of Wonders and anything by author Celia Rivenbark.

  6. Oh I forgot, Tag, You're It. The instructions to this weekly game are posted on my blog. I hope you'll come out and play!

  7. I love so many of the books on this list ... but I just don't see many of them as being beach reads (re: brainless reads). If you've never read it, you must read Catch 22. And I just read "The Red Tent" -- pretty good actually. I was putting it off for years! "Ender's Game" is also fantastic...and I used to be a huge Tom Robbins fan in college. And "Water for Elephants" is another one I just finished ... quite good. And I just discovered Christopher Moore so I bet Lamb is worth it!

  8. What a fun list! I've only read 32 of these, so you're 10 up on me. Do the ones sitting on my bookshelf, forlornly unread, count? I'm going to dig out Ender's Game right now -- if your kids have read some classics that you haven't, you know you're a slacker:o


Thanks for stopping by. I love your comments...I get all warm inside just reading them!