Whether you’re making room amid the beach umbrellas and coolers in the SUV for that giant canvas L.L. Bean bag of library hardcovers or downloading titles into your Kindle or Nook, you still need to start with a list of good books for your vacation reading. Recommendations can come from friends, relatives, any of a number of “Best of” reading lists, from Entertainment Weekly or Amazon.com. Check out the Edgar nominations for titles if you’re a mystery fan. ¶ And taking only Stuart Woods or Harlan Coben thrillers is a bit like dining exclusively on cheese puffs and marshmallows. Don’t forget to pack a little more varied fare to keep you going. Here’s a good mix to get you started.
Gone Girl: A Novel
by Gillian Flynn
This brilliantly constructed thriller, with a jolt of a twist midway through, is the tale of young marrieds Amy and Nick, forced to leave Manhattan to move back to his hometown of North Carthage, Mo., after he loses his job. When Amy disappears on their fifth wedding anniversary, fingers of suspicion point directly at Nick. This riveting page-turner requires you to spend some time in extremely unpleasant company.
Fear in the Sunlight
by Nicola Upson
This absorbing mystery is Upson’s fourth starring real-life mystery writer Josephine Tey. It links murders in 1936 in the unique resort village of Portmeirion, Wales, with murders on the Hollywood set of “Rear Window” in 1954. Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “Young and Innocent” was based on Tey’s novel “A Shilling for Candles,” and Upson brilliantly makes that connection the basis of this vivid, psychologically complex tale made all the more sinister by the presence of Hitchcock and his wife, Alma Reville.
His Majesty’s Hope: A Maggie Hope Mystery
by Susan Elia
Maggie now is an elite member of the Special Operations Executive on assignment in Berlin in this latest World War II thriller from a Nardin graduate.
by Tana French
A woman is found clinging to life, her husband and two children murdered in a half-finished, abandoned seaside housing development in what may be the Dublin author’s best psychological thriller yet.
This outstanding debut novel, from an author named one of Entertainment Weekly’s “13 to Watch in 2013,” is a beautifully plotted legal thriller about a grieving single mother investigating, through blog posts, texts and Facebook posts, the death of her only child, 15-year-old Amelia, whose fatal fall from the roof of her pricey private school may not have been a suicide after all.
City of Saints
by Andrew Hunt
Now a resident of Waterloo, Ont., Hunt grew up in Salt Lake City and paints a vivid portrait of the “city of saints” in the 1930s, the tension between Mormon and non-Mormon, as straight-arrow sheriff’s deputy Art Oveson investigates the brutal murder of a doctor’s wife and stumbles into a cesspool of corruption and blackmail. (An afterword notes that the book was inspired by the notorious 1930 murder of a Salt Lake City socialite.)
The Last Policeman: A Novel
by Ben H. Winters
A young detective sets out to prove that what looks like just another suicide – an insurance actuary found hanged in a bathroom stall at a McDonald’s – was actually a murder. This intriguing, well-crafted first installment of a trilogy is set in a creepy pre-apocalyptic world, six months before a massive asteroid is due to hit the earth. Winter’s previous novel, “Bedbugs,” was hailed in Vanity Fair as “a diabolical tale of paranoia.”
by Camilla Läckberg
Dubbed the “rock star of Nordic noir” in one review, and apparently outselling Stieg Larsson in their native Sweden, Läckberg juggles multiple perspectives in this fine mystery of a car crash that leads to a serial killer, set against the backdrop of a Swedish town rocked by the filming of a crude reality TV series.
by Jess Walter
This lovely, engrossing entertainment – which was on numerous “Best Book of 2012” lists – spans decades and continents, from 1962 Italy, to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to community theater in present-day Seattle. Walter, a National Book Award finalist, weaves his magic of gawky Italian innkeeper Pasquale Tursi (eking out a living at a crumbling pensione dubbed “the Adequate View”) falling for a gorgeous American starlet fleeing the lavish set of “Cleopatra” and the antics of stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
by Ben Fountain
This elegantly written, hilarious and heartbreaking novel, of the “welcome home” accorded heroes of the Iraq War at a Dallas Cowboys game, was dubbed “the ‘Catch 22’ of the Iraq War” by Karl Marlantes. Nineteen-year-old Billy Lynn and other members of Bravo company, whose firefight with Iraqi insurgents at the battle of Al-Ansakar Canal was filmed by an embedded Fox News crew, are brought home for a victory tour to drum up support for the war. Every phrase is perfect; the effect is a devastating portrait of the country.
Silver: Return to Treasure Island
by Andrew Motion
A former poet laureate offers fine entertainment, as Jim Hawkins’ son joins forces with Long John Silver’s daughter in this thrilling, faithful sequel to the Robert Louis Stevenson classic.
The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
North Korea is not anyone’s idea of a vacation destination, but this extraordinary page-turner, winner of this year’s Pulitzer for fiction, takes you there in riveting, heartbreaking detail.
by Cheryl Strayed
Admire the descriptions of the Pacific Coast Trail and marvel at the author’s chutzpah at the same time. Strayed (a name she created for herself) bares her soul in this spellbinding account of her hastily considered plan at age 26 to hike the difficult trail alone while dealing with the emotional aftermath of her mother’s death, her own divorce and a period of heroin use. She braved hazards that included snow, bears, rattlesnakes, dehydration, a “Monster” backpack and hiking boots that pinched her toes.
by George Howe Colt
The second-oldest of four baby boomer brothers weaves an exploration of his complicated relationship with his siblings, from childhood to middle age, with fascinating chapters about famous brothers including responsible Edwin Booth and spoiled younger brother John Wilkes, battling cornflake entrepreneurs John Harvey and W.K. Kellogg, Theo and Vincent Van Gogh, the Marx brothers and John and Henry Thoreau. Marvelous snippets about other brothers are woven throughout: a violent quarrel between Samuel Taylor Coleridge, his mother’s favorite, and brother Frank over some toasted cheese, for one.
The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death
by Jill Lepore
This amusing, informative and very different history of the United States traces the evolution of ideas about life itself, with much to say about who we are now, through changing attitudes about children, sex, gender roles, work, marriage, children’s books, baby food, old age and death. The launching point is Milton Bradley’s original idea in 1860 for the board game “The Checkered Game of Life.”
Young Adult titles
Divergent (and sequel Insurgent, with “Allegiant” coming in October)
by Veronica Roth
This standout among dystopian novels will surely appeal to fans of Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games” trilogy. (The movie will star Shailene Woodley, Kate Winslet and Ashley Judd.)
Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein
The winner of the Edgar for best Young Adult mystery is a heartbreaking tale of friendship set during World War II, written as a puzzle.
The Fault in Our Stars
by John Greene
Any baby boomer who wept over “Love Story” should check out this far superior novel of young love between two teens who meet at a cancer patient support group. Green is one of today’s outstanding writers of fiction for Young Adults.
Jean Westmoore is The News’ children’s book reviewer.