Fill my brain with mindless stories!
August 21, 2009 9:42 AM   Subscribe

7 days poolside... I need books! Tell me what to buy!

We're off to an all-inclusive in Cabo next month, and my plan is rest and relaxation. I'm going all-out tourist and am planning to spend my days tipsy and by the pool, reading and lounging about. Trouble is, I need books!

When I read, I read for mindless escapism -- I don't want to have to think. Funny is good, but not necessary. Previous authors I've enjoyed and exhausted include everything from Janet Evanovich, Marian Keyes, Iris Johansen, Carl Hiaasen, and even John Grisham, for what it is (or isn't) worth. The geek in me is currently working through Douglas Coupland's books, but I'm finding them hit-and-miss (loved JPod and Microserfs, the rest I'm kinda meh about so far). I also like biographies of funny people/comedians, although I've probably read most of who I'd be interested in.

I'm guess I'm usually drawn to the lighter mystery or drama type books, or even a legal thriller. I *do not* like fantasy or sci-fi; I prefer things that are at least vaguely plausible in my mind. I'm definitely not a girly-girl, so I'm not sure about the whole shopoholic series, but I might give it a go for lack of better options. Like I said -- I don't plan on thinking all that much :)

So, awesome people of the metafilter universe, what else should I add to my reading library? Bonus points if it's readily available in paperback at Chapters (the Canadian equivalent of a Barnes&Noble).
posted by cgg to Media & Arts (37 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I just finished reading Shutter Island (being made into a movie by Scorsese). Total page turner, you'll read it in a day, easily.
Since I finished it last week, two of my coworkers have already read it. Neither could put it down.

I think it'll totally fit what you're looking for.
posted by smitt at 9:46 AM on August 21, 2009

I hate to get all literary on you, but please do yourself a favor and read "A Confederacy of Dunces".
Yes, it won the Pulitzer Prize, but is one of the few laugh out loud books that I know, love and read at least once every few years.
It's a great view of 1960's New Orleans and all the crazy characters in the French Quarter.
posted by willmize at 9:48 AM on August 21, 2009

Seconding A Confederacy of Dunces.

I recently read Paul Auster's The Brooklyn Follies and really enjoyed it. It's not a frivolous book (and definitely not fantasy), and it has some nicely fleshed-out characters, some light philosophy, and it's a quick read.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:55 AM on August 21, 2009

The Steig Larsson books I found to be great beach reads. Jeffrey Deaver is mostly good for this, though occasionally a little too predictable. I am rather fond of Beverly Connor lately.

Susan Hill. Elizabeth George. Louise Welsh. William Deverell.

Do you like historical mysteries? Ariana Franklin, some Laurie King, Susanne Alleyn.
More current ones? Minette Walters, Carol O'Connell (read her books in order). I think Tana French's books, especially the first one. 'In the Woods', are fantastic mysteries, though they're somewhat less light. They're not heavy, just less light.

(You'll see I suggest the same books a lot.)

The Jasper Fforde books are very amusing. If you like literature, read the Thursday Next ones. If you prefer mystery, read the Nursery Crime ones.
posted by jeather at 9:57 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Movie-hype aside, The Time Traveler's Wife is a fantastic read. I've been suggesting it to almost everyone I know.
posted by mrsshotglass at 10:02 AM on August 21, 2009

Be warned that Jasper Fforde is very stylized and not for all tastes. Try before you buy.
posted by josher71 at 10:10 AM on August 21, 2009

If you like Janet Evanovich, I think you'd like the Spellman books by Lisa Lutz.

Seconding Jasper Fforde!
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:10 AM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

I read City of Thieves, by David Benioff, poolside recently.
posted by mikepop at 10:32 AM on August 21, 2009

Have you read David Sedaris?
posted by cestmoi15 at 10:34 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

My current "go-to" author of the year is James Rollins. Some reviewer described his stuff as a cross between Clive Cussler and Dan Brown. I've read nearly all of his books and none took me longer than three days (b'c they're good reading).
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 10:35 AM on August 21, 2009

How about some Georgette Heyer? Don't be put off by the romance designation, her books are funny and smart with very engaging heroines. Absolutely perfect poolside reading. Some of my favorites are Arabella, The Grand Sophy and Bath Tangle.
posted by peacheater at 10:37 AM on August 21, 2009

Lots of suggestions from NPR listeners:

NPR's list of 100 Best Beach Books

I have read 70 of those books, and most of them are ones that I have loved.
posted by CathyG at 10:39 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Caroline Graham has a bunch of lighter mysteries in the Inspector Barnaby series (which were turned into Midsomer Murders on ITV).

I've been breezing my way through MC Beaton's Hamish Macbeth series. Again, lighter mysteries you don't have to think too much about.

Every year, I reread Fletch, usually on the beach or poolside. The book is nothing like the movie.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:43 AM on August 21, 2009

If upper-class 20's and 30's Britain is a milieu that appeals to you, you might like Dorothy Sayer's Peter Whimsy mysteries. Of course, in that case you might also want to go for some P.G. Wodehouse.
posted by yarrow at 10:48 AM on August 21, 2009

Movie-hype aside, The Time Traveler's Wife is a fantastic read. I've been suggesting it to almost everyone I know.

But be warned, it may not fit the mood you're looking for (avoiding more detail so as not to spoil it).
posted by entropic at 10:49 AM on August 21, 2009

I'm currently in the middle of two series the might fit the bill. The Her Royal Spyness Mysteries are about Lady Georgie (36th from the throne) in London in 1930. She's broke, outspoken, and trying to make her own way in the world whether her extended family like it or not. She solves mysteries and has tea with the Queen and drinks cocktails; it's sort of like Jeeves and Wooster where the heroine is half Jeeves and half Wooster and she keeps encountering dead bodies.

The second series is The Lady Julia Grey Mysteries. Lady Julia is a Victorian widow who has to work with the dashing, mysterious, and somewhat mercurial Nicholas Brisbane to solve her husband's murder. She discovers she rather likes being useful and slightly eccentric while finding clues and carrying out a sizzling but restrained flirtation with Brisbane.

I'm two books out of three in both series and enjoying them very much. They're not super brilliant mysteries (I'm generally figuring out the culprit) but they're sneaky enough and aren't too fluffy or mindless at all. They both have nice historical detail and smart, fun heroines, so you might want to consider them.
posted by mostlymartha at 10:56 AM on August 21, 2009

I second the Georgette Heyer books, I have only read the mysteries, and they are quite good. Caroline Graham is a good suggestion too. Peter Robinson writes good mysteries.

I am reading the Twilight books, after a lot of people (both men and women) read them, and said they were worth it. They are not great literature but would fit your need perfectly. They are light and easy and interesting. Also, Alice Hoffman is good. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie was my favorite summer book so far.
posted by chocolatetiara at 10:56 AM on August 21, 2009

Upon thread perusal, I strongly second Georgette Hayer and the Peter Whimsy books. Love!
posted by mostlymartha at 10:57 AM on August 21, 2009

Mysteries with strong female characters: anything by Linda Barnes, Dana Stabenow, Nevada Barr, Sara Paretsky, Lisa Scottoline, just to name a few. All have several books out, available in paperback.
posted by mareli at 11:04 AM on August 21, 2009

Seconding Dennis Lehane. Loved everything but Shutter Island (recommended above). Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem was good too.
posted by backwards guitar at 11:08 AM on August 21, 2009

Martha Grimes, Elizabeth George
posted by mareli at 11:08 AM on August 21, 2009

I've just torn through the first 9 books of the Sookie Stackhouse series (the books the HBO show True Blood is based on) by Charlaine Harris. I haven't been much of a book series reader (since The Babysitter's Club and Sweet Valley High in grade school), but these have been fun and engaging and (IMO) not stupid.
posted by penchant at 11:27 AM on August 21, 2009

I like Robert Crais's Elvis Cole series, and am working my way through the Harlan Coben Myron Bolitar books currently. I love Lehane (although he is a bit darker) and Michael Connolly as well.

For what it's worth, tried to get through A Confederacy of Dunces and just couldn't do it.
posted by genefinder at 11:33 AM on August 21, 2009

You mentioned biographies of funny people, so I figured an auto-biography would work, too. I really enjoyed Bruce Campbell's If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor.

I'm a fan of his, though, so I am probably a bit biased, but I thought he was pretty hilarious.
posted by Grither at 11:34 AM on August 21, 2009

Cgg, you mentioned Carl Hiaasen ... you would most likely also enjoy a Tim Dorsey book.

/although, IMO, both of those authors run contrary to your quote "I prefer things that are at least vaguely plausible in my mind".
posted by Dave. at 12:06 PM on August 21, 2009

I'm partial to Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, particularly Gaudy Night. Charlotte Carter is an underrated mystery writer who penned a series of novels set in Harlem and Paris that feature a saxophonist-turned-gumshoe that are light and kind of girly without insulting your intelligence.

Alice Hoffman's books are always fun. There is a "magical realism" element, should that not be your thing...

The recent Red Leather Diary -- the real-life tale of a woman who finds a diary from a tenant in her apartment from the 1940s -- is enjoyable as well.
posted by pxe2000 at 12:58 PM on August 21, 2009

Jen Lancaster has four fantastic books out, and Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson is wonderful.

Seconding Steig Larsson, Jeffery Deaver [The Stone Monkey is my favorite], Jasper Fforde, Charlaine Harris, and The Time Traveler's Wife.

chocolatetiara mentioned the Twilight books, but I prefer Stephanie Meyer's other book, The Host.
posted by alynnk at 1:03 PM on August 21, 2009

I love Ian Rankin's "Rebus" novels. They're vaguely noir-ish, set in Edinburgh. John Rebus is the hardcore, bad-at-office-politics brilliant detective (think a little bit House-ish), and in the later books his partner Siobhan Clarke starts to take on a pretty significant role too. He even has a gangster nemesis - "Big Ger" Cafferty.

I'm making myself want to re-read them now. :)
posted by purlgurly at 1:47 PM on August 21, 2009

Oh, and I know that most Chapters locations tend to have most of the "Rebus" mysteries in stock at any given time. The first is "Knots and Crosses".
posted by purlgurly at 1:50 PM on August 21, 2009

Ooh, a question about light, funny, novels. Did someone mention P.G. Wodehouse already? Yes? Well, carry on then...
posted by yaymukund at 1:56 PM on August 21, 2009

If you like Carl Hiaasen, you'll likely enjoy both Elmore Leonard's Get Shorty and earlier stuff, and Christopher Moore's books like Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff.

I just had a vacation that included about 48 hours in airplanes—I also tore through David Sedaris's Naked and Dress Your Family In Denim and Corduroy, Kobo Abe's Woman In The Dunes and Pope Joan by Emmanuel Rhoides (translated by Lawrence Durrell). Pope Joan's a pretty rollicking religious satire, and I'd recommend it heartily. I also read Why Read the Classics by Italo Calvino, which may only be interesting if you've already read most of the books he talks about. Oh, and Agatha Christie—pretty much any one of the Poirot books is good beach reading; that many of the murders take place on exotic beaches helps. It's kind of mystery-lite, for people who enjoy flamboyant characters more than they enjoy puzzling out whodunit. I also read some Joseph Wambaugh, which was lovely and stupid, based on Hollywood detectives, and Persepolis, a comic book memoir by Mariane Satrapi (actually, I read the second part, which came out not too long ago, but is now one volume) about growing up in Iran. I'd actually recommend graphic novels, particularly ones like Lone Wolf and Cub, because they're gripping stories but the serial nature of the medium tends to make them really quick reads.
posted by klangklangston at 2:06 PM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions -- they look awesome! I'm so looking forward to this vacation, and y'all just helped make it that much better!
posted by cgg at 2:14 PM on August 21, 2009

Just a few more:

The Spenser series of mystery/detective novels by Robert B Parker
The Elvis Cole series by Robert Crais
Both of the above use a lot of humor in their storytelling style.

Here's one that I've recently really enjoyed.... the Reacher series by Lee Child.
posted by Draccy at 3:47 PM on August 21, 2009

My GF is tearing through the Reacher books too — they're about 5 times as well-written as you expect genre tough-guy stuff to be, and Reacher himself is apparently pretty crush-worthy.
posted by nicwolff at 5:01 PM on August 21, 2009

Poolside reading? Valley of the Dolls!
posted by emd3737 at 6:45 PM on August 21, 2009

If you like Carl Hiaasen, I second the Spellman books by Lisa Lutz. They are nuts.
posted by gt2 at 8:14 PM on August 21, 2009

Draccy and nicwolff beat me to it--I've recently discovered the brilliance that is Lee Child and his Jack Reacher series. Rather violent, tough-guy detective fiction with a bent towards military/political espionage. And Jack Reacher is a great character; tough and smart and self-depricating.
posted by zardoz at 11:27 PM on August 21, 2009

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