Brooklyn Boro

A shark, a shipwreck and the trials of menopause: Fourth of July beach reads

Authors from the 2019 Brooklyn Book Festival gave us their top picks.

July 3, 2019 Lore Croghan
The Fourth of July is upon us. What will you take to the beach to read? Eagle composite photo by Lore Croghan

Whether you’re hitting the sands of Coney Island Beach this Fourth of July, jetting off to distant shores or simply sitting out on your fire escape, you’ll need a book bag full of beach reads.

Because Brooklynites are a smart bunch, we’re recommending page-turners that pack a literary punch and will keep your attention in the sizzling sun. This batch has been hand-picked by authors who are participating in this September’s Brooklyn Book Festival — because who knows books like an author?

‘Shark Drunk’ by Morten Strøksnes

Recommended by Ryan Chapman

Image courtesy of Vintage Books
Image courtesy of Vintage Books

If you’re like me, frying your brain on a white sand beach makes you very suggestible. Coronas at 11 a.m.? Sure. Buried up to your face by sadistic nieces and nephews? Why not. This same spirit imbues Norwegian journalist Morten Strøksnes’s “Shark Drunk,” whose subtitle says it all: “The Art of Catching a Large Shark from a Tiny Rubber Dinghy in a Big Ocean.” Imagine Don Quixote as Captain Ahab and you have a sense of the ambition and absurdity of Strøksnes’s mission. — Ryan Chapman

Chapman is a Sri Lankan-American novelist from Minneapolis. His first novel, “Riots I Have Known,” was published in May. He lives in upstate New York.

‘Run the Storm’ by George Michelsen Foy

Recommended by Nicholas Mancusi 

Eagle photo by Sara Bosworth

This is a riveting non-fiction account of the doomed SS El Faro, which went down in a 2015 hurricane along with all 33 souls aboard. Based largely on the black box recording taken from the bridge, Foy pays fitting tribute to the bravery shown by the mariners in their attempt to save the ship. Knowing the conclusion in advance, and Foy’s respect for those lost, elevates this book to epic tragedy. — Nicholas Mancusi 

Mancusi lives in Brooklyn. His debut novel is “A Philosophy of Ruin.”


‘Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls,’ by T Kira Madden

Recommended by Kristen Arnett

Image courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing
Image courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing

The book I’d recommend as a great beach read this Fourth of July is T Kira Madden’s “Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls.” This memoir is not only Florida-based (Madden grew up in Boca Raton), but also just full of heat and stickiness and humidity and heart. Even the cover makes you think of the beach, covered with glitter, the colors like a tropical sunset: Aqua and coral and shell-pink. It’s a beautifully told story that you’ll wanna devour in one sitting — perfect for a holiday read. — Kristen Arnett 

Arnett‘s debut novel is “Mostly Dead Things.”

‘Flash Count Diary’ by Darcey Steinke

Recommended by Helen Phillips

Image courtesy of Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Image courtesy of Farrar, Straus & Giroux

This is the ideal beach read in its nuanced celebration of the human body in all its stages (and also there are lots of whales). — Helen Phillips 

Phillips is an associate professor at Brooklyn College and the author of five books. Her most recent novel is called “The Need.”

‘Team of Rivals’ by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Recommended by Patrice Nganang

Image courtesy of Simon and Schuster
Image courtesy of Simon and Schuster

I see myself coming back again and again to that book, because it made a lost time become so vivid, and presented the complexity of running what was then a smaller United States.— Patrice Nganang

Nganang, who was born in Cameroon, teaches comparative literature at Stony Brook University. His fifth novel, “When The Plums Are Ripe,” will be published in August.

‘The Parker Inheritance’ by Varian Johnson

Recommended by Grace Lin 

Image via VarianJohnson.com
Image via VarianJohnson.com

I proudly read middle-grade books as I think they are some of the finest literature available these days, and the book I’d recommend is “The Parker Inheritance” by Varian Johnson. It’s an exciting, puzzle-mystery in the spirit of “The Westing Game” by Ellen Raskin but with the heart of “This Crazy Summer” by Rita Williams-Garcia (two other books I’d highly recommend). To win a fortune, two smart African-American kids have to figure out a series of puzzles as well as expose the dark secrets of the Jim Crow South. It’s a fun read but also one that enlightens. Plus, since it takes place in the hot South it feels even more real when you read it in the hot sun! — Grace Lin

Lin is a children’s book writer and illustrator. She is the author of “A Big Mooncake for Little Star.”

‘The Last Last-Day-of-Summer’ by Lamar Giles

Recommended by Booki Vivat 

Image via LamarGiles.com
Image via LamarGiles.com

When the Alston boys accidentally freeze time on the last day of summer, they have to work together to try and save their town. “The Last Last-Day-of-Summer” is wildly clever and full of summertime fun — not to mention a bunch of imaginative, quirky characters like my personal favorites, the Second Guessers and these giant platypus-like monsters called Time Sucks. This is the perfect book for any kid who is itching for a great adventure. Besides, who hasn’t secretly wished they could make summer last forever? — Booki Vivat

Vivat, a children’s book author and illustrator whose parents are Thai, grew up in Southern California. She now lives in Brooklyn. She is the author of “Frazzled #3: Minor Incidents and Absolute Uncertainties.”

‘Delayed Rays of a Star’ by Amanda Lee Koe*

Recommended by Binnie Kirshenbaum

Image courtesy of Doubleday and Nan A. Talese
Image courtesy of Doubleday and Nan A. Talese

Amanda Lee Koe’s “Delayed Rays of a Star” is a highly literary historical novel (think ‘Wolf Hall’) that traverses the earlier half of the 20th century through the eyes of three extraordinary women: Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong, and Leni Riefenstahl. This insightful and fascinating study of the ravages of fascism and racism is, somewhat paradoxically, a page-turner.” — Binnie Kirshenbaum

Kirshenbaum is the author of six novels and a story collection. Her newest novel is “Rabbits for Food.”

* “Delayed Rays of a Star” doesn’t come out until Tuesday, July 9, making it the perfect post-vacation palette-cleanser.

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter


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