Off the Shelf: Best Beach Books of the Summer

By Sharon Saye on June 12, 2019 from Off the Shelf via

Summer Reading recommendations are usually heavy on what are called “beach books;” these can be meaty family sagas, romances, mysteries, etc.  Since it is beach reading who wants to lug a copy of “War and Peace.”   The books are usually lighter and frothier, or rich twisty mysteries.  Nonfiction doesn’t often make most summer reading lists, but as we all know, truth can be stranger than fiction, and there are some first-rate nonfiction sagas out there that read just like the best fiction.
Daniel James Brown’s “The Boys in the Boat” is a perfect example of this type of non-fiction with its riveting tale of the rowing team from Washington State who competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  Brown tells the story of nine working class boys who struggled to even get into college much less stay there and who with coaching, grit, and determination worked to overcome the stigma of being a Western rowing team in an Eastern dominated sport.
Brown tells the story of the coaches, the English immigrant who built the greatest racing boats, the boys, and their community who rallied behind them to raise enough money to send them to competitions and then to the Olympics.  He also contrasts their stories with what was going on in Germany to present Hitler’s vision in a positive light from imprisoning all the Gypsies to renting apartments cheaply so that Berlin seemed prosperous to the Olympic visitors.  He even interweaves behind-the-scenes squabbling between members of the Nazi propaganda machine to highlight everything in the best possible camera angle.
“The Boys in the Boat” just barrels towards the end, and I can say from my own experience, once the team hits the water in Germany, you won’t put the book down until the end.
Other nonfiction books that would make great summer reads are:  “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly about a dedicated group of female mathematicians known as “human computers” who used ordinary means to launch rockets and astronauts into space,  “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” by Michelle McNamara about one woman’s obsessive search for the Golden State killer, “Educated” by Tara Westover about a young woman born to survivalists in Idaho who never attended school until she was 17 and despite great odds went on to attend Harvard and Cambridge University, and “The Library Book” by Susan Orlean about a disastrous fire in the Los Angeles Public Library that destroyed four hundred thousand books and reached 2000 degrees.
These are but a few of the great stories told on the nonfiction shelves.  So, remember them when you are gathering up books or downloading them to your readers before you head out for vacation.

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