This Summer's Best Beach Books

The Want: A trusty paperback that's highbrow—and salacious. It can't have been made into a blockbuster, shouldn't be on every towel, and should have modern-day resonance for dinner-table chat. Bonus points for a love story that's a page-turner.

The Get: The Locusts Have No King (Steerforth Press, $14), by Dawn Powell. After decades of obscurity, Powell's many charms have recently awakened readers. The 1948 tale of a scholar's roller-coaster affair with a married society type is an anguished love story, a reversal-of-fortune parable, and a blistering satire that rings true today—cynical columnists, silly socialites, sinister nighthawks, all in one gorgeous Deco package.


A summer read in every genre

The Summer Hook-up: One Day, by David Nicholls (Hodder & Stoughton). Will-they-or-won't-they gets a new twist at the hands of this witty British writer, whose novel checks in on platonic friends on the day they hook up—and on that same day every year thereafter.

The Sexy Classic: The Garden Of Eden, by Ernest Hemingway (Scribner). Bone up on the canon with Papa's least-known novel: No macho theatrics, just a sexy and volatile threesome in the French countryside.

The Business Potboiler: Indecent Exposure, by David McClintick (Harper Paperbacks). In one of the first (1982) high-finance page-turners, McClintick follows one forged check that began a power struggle at Columbia Pictures. Crime, glamour—and every word is true.

The Sports Bio: A Sense Of Where You Are, by John McPhee (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). The perfect antidote to LeBron hoopla is this 1965 bio of the modest, brainy basketballer Bill Bradley, when he was a Princeton senior—as filtered through McPhee's crisp, vivid writing.

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