Bethany was born in Southern California under inauspicious circumstances but quickly garnered acclaim for herself with a widely lauded performance as Baby Jesus in her church’s nativity play. Over two decades later, she can be found selling books, buying books, reading books, and trying to prevent her 1-year-old border collie mix, Violet, from eating her books.
Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
Part of me suspects that this book was not written down but alchemically distilled from the summer of 1928 by the great necromancer Ray Bradbury. It follows 12-year-old Douglas Spaulding (loosely based on a younger Bradbury) through one summer in sleepy Green Town, Illinois, where the imagination of childhood weaves magic and wonder out of the simple and the everyday. Be transported to a time and place where enchanted sneakers let a boy run as fast as antelopes; where the stains on old rugs depict stories about the neighbors; where witches use dark magic to injure their opponents for the presidency of the Honeysuckle Ladies Lodge; where a Happiness Machine makes people weep; and where, despite the presence of death, loss, and other forms of change, summer can be “caught and stoppered” in bottles of dandelion wine.
Summer Moonshine by P.G. Wodehouse
Really, anything by the late great P.G. Wodehouse is perfect for a lazy day, but Summer Moonshine is extra summery so I’m running with it. Though lacking Wodehouse’s most famous creation, the butler Jeeves, it more than compensates with a sparkling cast of other characters, as well as the witty dialogue, love triangles, ill-conceived engagements, mistaken identities, plot twists, and general hilarity that was his trademark. Summer Moonshine follows the trials of Sir Buckstone Abbott as he tries to sell Walsingford Hall, an effort complicated not just by the fact that it is the ugliest country house in England. The only potential buyer is a princess engaged to a fortune hunter who is also engaged to Abbott’s daughter Jane, who is being courted by the princess’ stepson, all of whom are simultaneously boarding at Walsingford. Without giving away too much, I can also promise that it will contain phrases like “right ho,” “chap,” and “old horse.”
Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
This book may have been penned in 1782, but it’s still the ultimate beach read. Dangerous Liaisons has it all: seduction, betrayal, infidelity, revenge. Swordfights. Smallpox. Ruined reputations. Best of all, the plot is advanced entirely through letters, which is how the beautiful, bored, utterly dissolute pre-Revolutionary French aristocracy communicated their wicked schemes before texting was invented. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this one.
Watch Your Mouth by Daniel Handler
Before (and since) he blessed the world with the delightfully dark Series of Unfortunate Events under the name Lemony Snicket, Daniel Handler wrote decidedly not-for-children (but equally amazing/horrifying) books, including my personal favorite Watch Your Mouth. Scandalous, absurd, and uproariously funny, it is has been described as an “incest-comedy gothic Jewish porn opera novel.” The first part, an opera in book form (complete with stage directions), boasts all of an opera’s requisite sex and violence as protagonist Joseph experiences an “erotically scarring” summer living at his college girlfriend’s parents’ house while the two work as counselors at a Jewish day camp. Equally fun is the second part, a twelve-step recovery program (enter the golem).
War of the Whales: A True Story by Joshua Horwitz
This book is, sadly, not about whales taking over the earth and enslaving the human species. But it is the next best thing—a riveting, thoroughly researched work of nonfiction blending marine mammal science, environmental politics, and military history. On March 15, 2000, 17 whales washed up on various islands of the Bahamas in one of the largest multispecies whale strandings ever recorded. Ken Balcolmb, a marine biologist who had been surveying the Bahamas whale population for decades, suspected the U.S. Navy’s involvement when he spotted Navy destroyers nearby where they had no publicly stated reason to be. A former naval researcher himself, he teamed up with a bold environmental lawyer to uncover a top-secret underwater sonar program disturbing the world’s already sound-polluted oceans and endangering its most intelligent life forms.