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Every beach bag requires three things: a towel, sunscreen and a good book.
A good beach read is a page-turner that is almost impossible to put down. Its goal is not to stimulate discussion or inspire grandiose thoughts — it is meant, quite simply, to be an escape.
With that in mind, book experts in the midstate — from librarians to bookstore owners — shared their picks for a must-read. Their selections vary, with some books ideal for the mystery lover and others for the fantasy fan.
Whatever your genre preference, we have the perfect beach read for you.
“Triple Shot” by Sandra Balzo. • Summary: When a body is found near Maggy Thorsen’s coffee shop, Uncommon Grounds, a close-friend becomes a murder suspect. It is up to Thorsen to solve the case. • Recommended by Debbie Beamer, owner of Mechanicsburg Mystery Book Shop, 6 Clouser Road, Mechanicsburg. “Balzo has a wonderful coffeehouse mystery series,” Beamer said. “They have a great sense of wit and sass.”
“Come Home” by Lisa Scottoline • Summary: A woman attempts to solve the murder of her ex-husband. • Recommended by: Barbara Ellis, director of Hershey Public Library. “It’s a good one, [and] not too complicated,” she said.
“Death on Demand” series by Carolyn Hart • Summary: Bookstore owner Annie Laurance uses her knowledge of mysteries to solve crimes. • Recommended by Anne Hall, system director at Lebanon County Library System.
“Catch Me” by Lisa Gardner • Summary: A woman is convinced she will be murdered in four days and hires Detective D. D. Warren to save her life. • Recommended by Barbara Ellis. “It has a lot of twists and turns in it,” Ellis said. “Anyone who reads it will go ‘What?’ about a third of the way through.”
“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn • Summary: When Nick’s wife, Amy, disappears on the night of their 5th anniversary he becomes the prime suspect. • Recommended by Jonelle Darr, executive director at Cumberland County Library System and Kristi Fisher, store manager at Barnes and Noble, Camp Hill Shopping Mall. “Flynn has been a favorite author of mine ever since her debut novel, ‘Sharp Objects’,” Darr said. “While I’m normally not a fan of books like [this], hers are such well-written page turners ... that I can’t help myself.”
Jack Reacher series by Lee Child • Summary: Jack Reacher is an ex-military cop and drifter who uncovers secrets, solves crimes and makes enemies in every town he visits. • Recommended by Linda Manwiller, director of Myerstown Community Library and Jonelle Darr. “I’ve managed to hook several patrons on these,” said Manwiller. The series is “about as good as it gets for beach page-turners,” Darr said.
“Death and the Penguin” by Andrey Kurkov • Summary: Viktor Zolotaryov’s job is writing obituaries for still-living dignitaries, but when his subjects begin to die the day after he writes their obit, he begins to fear for his life. • Recommended by Catherine Lawrence, co-owner, the Midtown Scholar Bookstore, 1302 N. Third St., Harrisburg.
“Mistborn” series by Brandon Sanderson • Summary: This epic trilogy is part political thriller and fantasy adventure as three characters: a street urchin, thief and prince, work together to overthrow a government. • Recommended by Arn Howald, circulation training coordinator at Dauphin County Library System. “Intrigue, politics, and conspiracies mesh complexly in this book with impressive characters,” Howald said.
Jane True series by Nicole Peeler • Summary: Fans of “True Blood” and author Charlaine Harris will like this series, about a half-human, half-selkie girl that investigates supernatural murders. • Recommended by Ashlen Stevenson, assistant general manager at Books-A-Million, 5125 Jonestown Road, Harrisburg. “That is one of my guilty pleasures in sci-fi,” Stevenson said.
“The Dresden Files” series by Jim Butcher • Summary: Private investigator and wizard Harry Dresden uses his supernatural talents to combat monsters in Chicago. • Recommended by: Michelle Haring, owner of Cupboard Maker Books, 157 N. Enola Road, Enola. “They’re wonderful books and I’ve been selling out of them.” Haring said.
“Halfway to the Grave” by Jeaniene Frost • Summary: Half-vampire Catherine Crawfield is a demon hunter searching for her deadbeat father and finding love in the process. • Recommended by Lori Lane, fund-raising and event coordinator at Dauphin County Library System. “Dark, sexy and supernatural with a good splash of humor and danger,” she said. “What more could you want in a beach read?”
“Garden Spells” and “The Peach Keeper” by Sarah Addison Allen • Summary: In “Garden Spells” a garden with a prophetic apple tree helps heal the relationship between two sisters. “The Peach Keeper” delves into the secrets of a southern town — secrets that may have been best hidden. • Recommended by: Anne Hall, system director at Lebanon County Library System.
“Bared to You” by Sylvia Day • Summary: Gideon Cross captivates every woman he comes across, especially young, fresh-out-of-college, Eva. • Recommended by Mike Danilowicz, manager at Books-A-Million. This is the perfect book for fans of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” he said.
“Murder on Astor Place” by Victoria Thompson. • Summary: A murder arouses the suspicious of a midwife who becomes determined to avenge the victim in turn-of-the-century New York. • Recommended by Michelle Haring. “You can give that to a kid as long as they like mysteries,” she said.
“Death Comes to Pemberly” by P.D. James • Summary: Jane Austen fans can check in with the Darcys six years after Elizabeth Bennett has been married for this murder mystery. • Recommended by: Catherine Lawrence. This book combines classic literature with a modern writer’s twist, Lawrence said.
“The Flight of Gemma Hardy” by Margot Livesey • Summary: Coming-of-age story of an orphaned girl in Scotland and Iceland, during the 1950s and 60s. • Recommended by: Catherine Lawrence. “A fascinating re-working of Jane Eyre,” she said.
“Joy for Beginners” by Erica Bauermeister” • Summary: Six women embark on adventures, face their fears and celebrate friendship. • Recommended by: Todd Dickinson, co-owner of Aaron’s Books, 35 E. Main St., Lititz. This book is a “really fun, quick read,” he said.
“The Book Lover” by Maryann McFadden • Summary: A struggling book store owner and a striving author form a fast friendship. • Recommended by Todd Dickinson. “We’re big fans of [this book],” Dickinson said. “We like authors who set books in independent bookstores.