By Lisa Swander for LT Swimwear
Before I had children, I thought summer meant more time for reading. “Beach Reads” is an entire section at Barnes and Noble, after all. A woman reclining in a deck chair, immersed in a novel while her children splash blissfully nearby, seemed to my twenty-something mind the consummate image of any true vacation.
Then I had kids and learned those were lies.
For moms, summer means an endless loop of water supervision, snack requests, and refereeing grouchy siblings. If we’re lucky, we can sneak in a page or two before someone needs a Band-Aid, bug spray, or help opening another Capri Sun—and someone ALWAYS needs help opening another Capri Sun.
This is the real reason why the beach read section exists. It can be a thriller or a romantic comedy, drama or nonfiction, but what makes a book a beach read is that it is hard to put down and easy to pick back up. Even with constant interruptions, a beach read keeps us coming back to our heroes until their work is done.
I see you, reader moms. If your longest stretch of reading time is however long it takes your children to eat, here are four titles you can dip in and out of like a refreshing, adults-only swim.
Hello, Molly! A Memoir
Like her best SNL characters, Mary Katherine Gallagher and Sally O’Malley, Molly Shannon’s memoir is frank, hilarious, and weird. It’s also heartbreaking. Shannon survived a car accident at age four that killed her mother, baby sister, and cousin—with her dad at the wheel. Much of the book details her complicated relationship with her father, who was funny and permissive but also frequently drunk and crushingly codependent.
If that sounds like the last thing you’d want to read on a sunny day, don’t be fooled. She narrates the ups and downs of her free-range childhood and her long break into show business with almost super-human optimism. It’s clear from the beginning Molly Shannon was meant to be a star, but you will enjoy every page of watching her get there.
Kamila Knows Best
Kamila Hussein loves throwing parties (especially when they involve Bollywood movies), matchmaking, and generally being fabulous. She’s also a CPA who longs to be taken more seriously in the patriarchal world of accounting. When the matchmaking blows up and she catches feels for a lifelong friend, the older and not-quite-related-to-her Rohan, she has to decide who the real Kamila is under all the fab.
If your Jane Austen radar is pinging, you’re correct. Kamila Knows Best is another Emma retelling, more in the vein of Clueless than the BBC. And it is delightful.
Rohan makes a charming Mr. Knightley, and Kamila is just as loveable as every other incarnation of Emma you know. The update to her story as a career woman, and a woman of color at that, is a welcome one. This is a fast, satisfying, and funny read for Jane Austen fangirls and newbies alike.
In the trailer for the 2004 film Troy, the Trojan War is framed as having been fought not for land, power, or an obsessive need to be immortalized in the oral tradition, but for love. It was all over “the passion for one woman,” the narrator intones, as we watch Helen of Troy and Paris make googly eyes at one another and Menelaus gnash his teeth with jealous rage. Love! Sometimes you buy flowers, sometimes you beseige a city.
If you’ve ever wondered what the woman who OWNED the face that launched a thousand ships had to say about this whole business, Elektra is for you. Told from the perspective of three royal women, Clytemnestra, Elektra, and Cassandra, it ferries us through the more intimate side of Greek legend—not on the battlefield, but at home.
As in her novel Ariadne, Jennifer Saint brings the fantastical violence and downright ridiculousness of Greek mythology to earth with well-rounded characters and rich prose. The result is high drama that would be as much at home in Downtown Abbey as it would Game of Thrones. Mothering and female power are central (even when they meet tragic ends), and they bring a freshness to this ancient story that CGI battle scenes can’t quite touch.
Literary agent Nora Stephens knows books. Especially romance books. And so she knows she’s living in one—but not as the heroine. She’s the woman you don’t root for. The uptight, high-powered girlfriend in the city, the one the men leave behind for small-town sweethearts. When her sister books a rural getaway for the two of them, however, she finds another displaced city dweller—an editor acquaintance named Charlie—and her story begins to change.
If you think you’ve read every great romantic comedy there is, pick up this one more. Book Lovers is delightfully self-aware, flipping all the rom-com tropes on their heads with playful appreciation. Emily Henry’s quick, clever prose is truly laugh-out-loud funny, and the romantic tension between Charlie and Nora is worth every hard-earned second of mom reading.
Read more from Lisa at her website, LisaSwander.com
Tell us what you think? Have you read these yet? Have a MUST READ that's too good not to share? Comment below.