Apply sunblock. Get a hat. Grab the last pair of sunglasses you have yet to lose (you’ll lose these too). Pick out a towel that will actually fit on a lounge chair, okay get two. Now, choose from one of these books carefully curated by some of our favorite DC folks especially designed for poolside reading. PLEASE WEAR SUNBLOCK.
Svetlana Legetic – BYT
Disclaimer: all picks below are available in paperback, because hardcovers are what beach nightmares are made of
Pierre LeMaitre is the #1 thriller author I have been forcing people to read this year. Results have been mixed: people love the books, people tell me that I am sick for loving the books, but no matter what, people can’t stop reading them. LeMaitre comes from a classic literary background and the trilogy, which centers around a diminutive Paris detective Camille Verhoeven and the women around him was, from what I understand, intended as an exercise in form and structure. The first one (and you HAVE TO read them all in order, and you CAN’T read any descriptions of other ones even before you finish the previous one) is about a series of murders inspired by famous mystery novels, the second one is a play on a cat and mouse model, and the third one falls into the unreliable witness more. Anything more would be unfair to share, but the twists in all of them come fast and strong, and you will need a stomach of steel for some of the crimes you’ll encounter.
There must be something in Scandinavian water that results in some serious crime writing genius. And yet, even with the massive influx of new Nordic noir authors, Kepler stands head and shoulders above the (very strong) competition. Maybe it is because Kepler is not one mystery writing brain, but two – a married couple Alexander and Alexandra Ahndoril who churn out some of the most visceral, punch gut crimes since… well, since I read Pierre LeMaitre. Their take-no-prisoners approach to storytelling includes almost every taboo you could think of (incest-check, patricide-check, child torture-check, and that’s just them getting started), backstories that could be free standing novels of their own, and a very meticulous understanding of the procedural, in the capable hands of their tough-but-fair detective Joona Lina. Fair warning: there is no light at the end of this tunnel.
Karin Slaughter has been writing great female driven thrillers for way longer than it has been fashionable and her latest is no exception. Set in Georgia (where Slaughter has lived her whole life, and it shows), this story of two sisters (as opposite as can be, natch) who have to come together to resolve two seemingly unconnected tragedies that struck their family decades apart feels both chilling and warm in all the right places and keeps you on the edge of your seat just as well as any super trendy British import would. Bonus: out in mass market paperback right now – a breeze to fit into your beach bag, and there’s PLENTY more where this came from.
DC Public Library
Steven Rowley’s new book Lily and the Octopus is about the profound but often under-emphasized psychological importance of the relationship between people and their beloved pets. The author’s screenwriting experience keeps the book moving, the writing is truthful and at-times hilarious, and it made me consider and appreciate how much love and meaning pets give to their owners.
This year I’m saving CRUSH: Writers Reflect on Love, Longing, and the lasting Power of Their First Celebrity Crush for my beach read. A range of voices from Roxane Gay to James Franco examine their first celebrity crushes as placeholders of young desire. It’s arranged by theme but is one of those books someone can open to any page and find something to enjoy. A great “beach week book club” book for sparking conversation about our own teen histories.
Upshur Street Books
In a world where ANYTHING is possible Phillips’ characters approach and deal with the wackiest of scenarios. What if you lived in a city comprised entirely of your own doppelganger (scary)? What if you suddenly and without warning had the ability to see through everyone and straight to their organs (sounds great!). This dark but delightful book will get you through a day of poolside lounging and will carry you straight into the night.
You know the story, girl moves to New York. Girl gets a job as a server at a restaurant. Girl falls in love with two men all while learning about the fine art of food with the occasional cocaine use that accompanies any coming-of-age story in The City, that also revolves around mmmmm food. Tess is an unforgettable character in an unforgettable city.
This may or may not be about being a member of Charles’ Manson’s cult and that’s all the info. one needs really.
If you enjoyed Fargo the TV show then chances are you’ll enjoy this book as Noah Hawley is THE writer of said show. No spoiler alerts needed: If this book is anything like the show it will be amazing and I will fall in love with every single character. Also aliens maybe?
As a kid, all I did was read stories about edgy adults, and now that I’m an adult I find myself seeking out stories about melancholy children. Remember those endless summers in your awkward pubescent years? This One Summer is a coming-of-age story about two girls at their family’s lake house as they figure out themselves and each other. It’s part of what has apparently become my favorite genre, “books about kids for adults”—not that it’s particularly mature in content, but it makes you contextualize your childhood in a way that you never could’ve when you were the actual age of the characters in the comic.
This is one of the biggest comics of the last couple years, but it’s perfect juicy poolside reading: plot twists, major character deaths, sex, romance, and a bunch of ancient gods reincarnated as pop star analogues—Rihanna, St. Vincent, Prince, and Bowie, just to name a few. The dialogue is super bantery and British, and the hyper-digital art style makes you wish this was a Netflix series already. There are three volumes of WicDiv out so far, and the first is only $9.99 so you owe it to yourselves to check it out.
In case you missed the memo, ARCHIE IS SEXY NOW. Archie Comics reinvented their entire line of corner store digest mainstays for a new generation, written by superhero comix legend Mark Waid and drawn by some of the industry’s hottest artists (at drawing beefcake teens), led by Saga co-creator Fiona Staples. It’s classic high school drama that’s way more modern than you’d expect. The only question: is he too gorg for his own good?!
Lumberjanes is by far the biggest all-ages comic happening right now… but a ton of the people reading it are in their 20s. It’s an adventure comic about five badass girls at summer camp (“for Hardcore Lady Types”) fightin’ monsters and solvin’ mysteries, all the while dropping feminist icon references with a riot grrl soundtrack. Plus queer romance! It gets a little supernatural but at its heart it’s all about friendship.
Before he made it as a *mainstream cartoonist*, Brandon Graham paid his rent drawing porn comics for a living—Multiple Warheads was originally one of his porn stories, a series about an organ smuggler named Sexica who sews a wolf’s penis onto his boyfriend Nikolai so he turns into a wolf when they do the dirty (as you do). Eventually Graham wanted to see what the characters in a porno do after they’re done having sex, going about the rest of their lives, road tripping across alt-future Russia and getting into shenanigans along the way. It’s a goofy nonlinear comic full of heart, where the overarching story isn’t as important as the little character moments full of puns, butts, and food. Graham’s manga and graffiti influences shine through in this book, on top of his gorgeous clean lines and flat pastel colors. Multiple Warheads isn’t for everyone, but did we mention when Nikolai sleeps, he dreams the wolf’s memories?
Jake Shapiro manages Fantom Comics in Dupont Circle. You can follow him at @jake_shapiro.