Most of my friends know how much I love to read, so I often get asked for a suggestion from someone going on vacation or who needs a distraction from real life. I decided after my last request that perhaps now would be a good time to make a list of my top favorite books in various genres.
In my mind beach reads should be quick to read, fiction, and perhaps have a touch of romance. And, if it’s funny, all the better. If you prefer something a little deeper when on the beach, keep reading and hopefully I’ll get to something more your style. There are a lot of words in this post so just scroll to your favorite genre so you’re not bored by the time you get there.
Fun, Quick Read Fiction
A White House Chef Mystery series by Julie Hyzy always tops the list of fun beach reads for me. It’s a cozy mystery series of nine books about White House Assistant Chef Olivia (Ollie) Paras, starting with State of the Onion. Ollie is forever getting herself into some sort of pickle that could very likely threaten her life. Each book is fun, fast-paced, funny, has a not-too-scary mystery, a bit of romance, and is filled with interesting tidbits about the White House kitchen, including a few recipes (none of which I’ve tried). As for a blush factor, they are relatively clean books. Mind you, it’s been years since I read this series, but other than unmarried couples sleeping together, there is nothing offensive and no descriptive sex scenes.
Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus by Joyce Magnin – Harriet is 72 and has begrudgingly agreed to move from Pennsylvania to California to live with her son and daughter-in-law, who believe she’s too old to live alone. (I’m not sure I agree with them in that regard, but I digress.) Though she agrees to the move, she’s going to do it her way . . . by bus. Not the Greyhound bus, but local public transportation buses. This story chronicles the interesting, quirky, memorable, and harrowing events she encounters along the way. It’s a delightful story, somewhat light in nature and content, but very much a fun read. And it’s so clean you can loan it to your conservative grandmother when you’re done.
Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar – This was the first Tessa Afshar book I read, and I am hooked! Pearl in the Sand is a fictional account of the harlot, Rahab, who hid the Hebrew spies in Jericho. Granted, while it’s based on historical facts, it is a fictional book but the storyline is very plausible. From the book of Joshua, we know Rahab was a prostitute who went on to help save the Hebrew spies and thus won her ticket out of Jericho alive, along with her family. She goes on to marry one of the Israelite leaders, Salmone (or Salmon as he is referred to in many Bible versions.) From there, Rahab ends up in the lineage of Christ. What I loved most was watching the love between Salmone and Rahab develop and seeing how God’s grace and forgiveness are evident even in the Old Testament.
A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus – This is written for Middle Schoolers but every adult I know who has read it has loved it. Set in England during WWII, it tells the story of three children whose grandmother (and guardian) has just died. The children have no remaining family, so the grandmother’s solicitor comes up with a plan to help them find a new one. During WWII many children in London were evacuated to the countryside to protect them from harm. The solicitor comes up with the plan of having the siblings join the local evacuees in hopes they will land in a home with parents who will want to adopt these orphans. Things don’t go as they desired and their time in the country isn’t nearly as idyllic as they’d hoped. There are, of course, some sad parts in A Place to Hang the Moon, but overall, I found it delightful and funny.
The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin – This novel is also set in WWII. To get away from the demanding uncle she lives with, Grace Bennett decides to move to the place she’s always dreamed of living – London. She and her friend, Viv landed in London in August of 1939. Without a reference letter from her uncle, for whom Grace last worked, getting work would be difficult. Her mother’s friend, Mrs. Weatherford, offers to house Grace and Viv and arranges a job for Grace at a bookstore. Grace was never much of a reader and was so busy at the bookstore every day that she didn’t have time to read. The Count of Monte Cristo was gifted to Grace by a charming customer, igniting her passion for reading. When air raids hit the city, Grace would read to the Londoners in the shelter with her to help pass the time and ease the fear. The Last Bookshop in London will leave you inspired by Grace’s tenacity.
The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott – Tess is underpaid and overworked as a servant for a demanding mistress in France. She decides to leave and goes to the dock to look for work from people leaving for America on the Titanic. She can’t believe her good fortune when she is hired as a dressmaker for Lady Lucile Duff Gordon. When disaster strikes Tess is one of the last people off the Titanic. She was rescued and taken to New York with the other survivors. But as time goes on, rumors start to spread about Lady Gordon and her behavior during the rescue. Tess must decide if she’s going to stand behind her employer, who is accused of saving herself at the expense of others or risk changing her life forever by telling the truth. It’s an interesting story and many of the characters were actual passengers on that fateful night.
Memoirs and Biographies
The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun by Paul Hattaway and Brother Yun – Truly one of the most powerful and convicting stories I’ve ever read. Brother Yun became a Christian in China at a young age. His devotion to God is amazing despite multiple times in prison, horrible torture, and constant persecution.
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom – The Hiding Place is a classic book that should be read by everyone. Corrie Ten Boom and her family hid Jews in their apartment above their watch shop during WWII. Eventually, they were caught and sent to Nazi death camps. Corrie’s story is both inspiring and captivating.
Just Plain Funny
Stuff Christians Like by Jon Acuff – Hysterically funny and a spot-on portrayal of Christians (not derogatory, just funny). Everyone I’ve recommended it to has loved it.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson – If you haven’t read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, you owe it to yourself to get a copy. It is one of the funniest and most touching books I’ve ever read. As the story goes, the Herdman kids are the worst kids ever. They lie, hit, steal, and even smoke cigars and there are five of them! When they find out refreshments are served at church during Christmas pageant rehearsals, they decide that church would be a great place to spend their time. And sure enough, the Herdmans add their unique dynamic to the story of Jesus’ birth. Read it as a family or read it alone. You’ll be glad you did.
It was very hard for me to narrow down my list to just ten books because there are SO MANY GREAT BOOKS!
Look for more great books by some of my favorite authors:
Susan May Warren
I even had a hard time narrowing down my favorite authors. There are so many, which is what creates the problem of so many great books!
I hope this helps you pick out a book or two for your next vacation – or weekend at home.
Cover photo credit to Craig Cameron on Unsplash