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Arts + Culture

7 Books You Won’t Be Embarrassed to Read on the Beach

The best summer reads are light, fast-paced and full of romance. But they should also meet certain, uh, literary standards (no offense, Fifty Shades of Grey). Here are seven page-turners that fit the bill.

See recent posts by Siobhan Reid

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The Girls by Emma Cline

It’s 1967 and 14-year old Evie Boyd is drifting through her final summer in Northern California before being shipped off to boarding school. Her parents are divorced, the boy she likes doesn’t like her back, and she’s been dumped by her only friend. So when a seductive member of a Manson-like cult invites her to a solstice party, Evie accepts, desperate to be seen and loved and "to be told what's good about [her]." At the ranch, she meets a slew of other young women and Russell, the group's charismatic leader. It’s only a matter of time before Evie gets embroiled in the soon-to-be-infamous cult’s murderous schemes. Razor-sharp, deeply psychological and as thrilling as they come, Emma Cline’s debut novel is so good we devoured it in a single sitting. It's no wonder the film rights have already been scooped up by hotshot Hollywood producer Scott Rudin.

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Sweet Bitter by Stephanie Danler

Twenty-two-year-old Tess arrives in New York City in the heat wave of 2006. Young, hopeful and eager to make something of herself, she applies for a “backwaiter” job at a hip downtown Manhattan restaurant, where she learns about everything from how to distinguish varieties of oysters to the appellations of Burgundy. But Tess soon discovers that a key part of the job is the education that takes place outside the kitchen—namely, against the backdrop of dive bars and late nights. (Hint: There’s a lot more than food cooking in the kitchen). Anyone who has ever worked a job in a restaurant will be able to relate to Danler’s protagonist, whose coming-of-age story critics are hailing as "Kitchen Confidential meets The Devil Wears Prada."

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Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

Loved The Vacationers? You’ll fly through author Emma Straub’s latest novel, Modern Lovers. A multi-generational story about the real-life ties that bind and pull people apart, the novel is centered around three friends and former bandmates, Elizabeth, Zoe and Andrew. Now nearing their fifties, they've watched one another get married, have children, start businesses and lay roots in Brooklyn's Ditmas Park. But when their kids start sleeping together, the group is forced to take a hard look at their relationships in ways they've never had to before. You'll find yourself laughing, crying and cheering on Straub's dysfunctional but lovable characters as they navigate the highs and lows of adulthood.

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You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein

You may not know her by name, but trust us—you know Jessi Klein’s comedy. She is, after all, the head writer and executive producer ofInside Amy Schumer, with other writing credits including Saturday Night Live and Transparent. In You'll Grow Out of It Klein reflects on everything from her tomboyish teenage years to her rise in the comedy world to her aversion to wedding gowns in a series of poignant personal essays. Brimming with her trademark wit, wisdom, and barrier-busting humor, her stories are sure to be a hit with any fan of Schumer's show. This collection has many gems, but one of our favorites features Klein professing her love for the store Anthropologie (a place where she feels "emotionally home ... As if somewhere behind the rack of Eiffel Tower dish towels, I will find MY REAL DAD").

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The Assistants by Camille Perri

Anyone paying back a student loan will relate to Camille Perri's debut novel, The Assistants. The story centers around Tina Fontana, a 30-year old executive assistant to the billionaire CEO of Titan Corporation. After six years of dutifully performing menial tasks like ordering sandwiches and fetching her boss's dry cleaning, Tina comes to the painful realization that no matter how hard she works, her $50K a year salary will never make a substantive dent in her student loan payment. So when she inadvertently receives a reimbursement check from the corporation, she's faced with a moral conundrum: play by the rules or pocket the cash and pay off her student loan.

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I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan

You know Terry McMillan as the bestselling author of How Stella Got her Groove Back and Waiting to Exhale. Now, McMillan is back with I Almost Forgot About You, her latest read about baby boomer Georgia Young, who, despite having it all on paper–great friends, family and a successful career–feels completely dissatisfied with her life. Intent on finding happiness, she quits her job, moves home and sets off on a transformative journey that includes a second chance at love. It's as feel-good a tale as it gets.

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Invincible Summer by Alice Adams

An honest and heartfelt ode to friendship, Alice Adams’ Invincible Summer, traces the lives of four pals as they go from being college students to thirty-somethings. Eva is in love with playboy Lucien and works for a big bank; Benedict, who stays behind on campus to complete his PhD, has pined for Eva for years; and siblings Sylvie and Lucien pursue more alternative careers as an aspiring artist and a club promoter, respectively. Scattered across Europe and having settled into the restrictive routines of their adult lives, the once close-knit friends gradually find themselves longing for their youth - and for one another.

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