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Beach Reads: Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out

Sound the vacation alarm and load up your bags, mate! And should you be in need of something to read this summer, below are a bunch of non-business books I’ve recently enjoyed. Half are fiction, the other half non-, and a few are truly great.

For my 8th annual beach reads edition, here are eight selections for your consideration:

Outlive, Peter Attia with Bill Gifford – This one has changed my life. Among the bounty of tips herein from Dr. Attia – spanning medicine, nutrition, balance (new obsession!), exercise, memory, and even emotional health – is blackening entirely the bedroom at night and hiding any form of clock, time be damned. Sound sleep being another key component of healthspan (which beats lifespan any ol’ day), it’s this sort of wisdom crammed into 400+ pages that may just have you rethinking daily behaviors right there on the beach.

Misfit, Gary Gulman – A hilarious and thoughtful memoir from one of Boston’s own. A stand-up comedian, Gulman’s also a brilliant writer with the best memory this side of the late, great Frank McCourt. Vividly recapping his K – 12 education, including a crushing repeat of first grade, while sharing insights into his mental health challenges at each chapter’s conclusion, this is the sort of gutting account one might expect from someone desperate enough to move back in with Mom in his late 40s.

Raw Dog, Jamie Loftus – If you don’t wanna know how the sausage is made, you’ll also avoid the harsh truth about hot dogs, yes? Well, for those of us curious about the diary entries of someone with a footlong fetish, there’s Loftus’ Covid-era confessional. She spent a whole summer canvassing the US eating almost nothing but hot dogs and the results are, well, messy (counting with her about-to-be-dumped travel-companion boyfriend). The title alone suggests the author’s raunchy humor. I’ll have what she’s having.

It’s Hard for Me to Live with Me, Rex Chapman with Seth Davis – The only downside in the wake of the glorious championship run just completed by the Boston Celtics is somehow replenishing that hoops hole in your heart. But then there’s Chapman’s warts-and-all memoir. Known as perhaps the best basketball player ever to hail from the state of Kentucky, he takes us inside sports injuries which can result in debilitating pill addictions like his. Raw and humiliating, it also catapults the reader back to the electrifying days of peak March Madness and the Jordan-era NBA.

Razorblade Tears, S.A. Crosby – I’ve learned to only recommend violent material to fellow sickos who enjoy gore. You’ve been warned. Crosby’s novel centers on two dads – one Black, the other white, hardly the only way they differ – on the warpath to avenge the mysterious murders of their sons, who’d been happily married to each other. Whatever your take on pair-of-pliers-and-a-blowtorch revenge, should you have a gay child as I do, this book might make you ponder what your reaction would be in the event of an unspeakable hate crime. It’s a riveting story.

The Maid, Nita Prose – I’ve no idea if that’s the author’s actual surname, but man can she write the stuff. Our heroine is the simpleton Molly, an OCD-addled housekeeper at a high-end hotel and friends there’s been a moidah! Could she have killed that wealthy old jerk of a guest? Why would she have? And what’s up with his young widow? This one has memorable characters, welcome twists, and a protagonist worth rooting for. Perfect at the beach, by the pool, or – duh – in a fancy hotel lobby while people watching.

Demon Copperhead, Barbara Kingsolver – Easily the most engrossing novel I’ve read in years (and shame on me for missing out on Kingsolver’s work until now). Ostensibly the retelling of David Copperfield with the backdrop of the opioid crisis in Southern Appalachia, we follow Damon through the rigors of jarring poverty and abysmal foster care, into long-odds young adulthood, and there is not a wasted page, paragraph, phrase. Driven to advocate for unwanted, rag-dolled children, the author’s Acknowledgements section had me sobbing.

The Teacher, Freida McFadden – The worst for last. I mean, it’s fine. Here’s some light fare to gobble up in bite-sized chapters that, POV-wise, alternate between Addie, the problematic jailbait high schooler, and Eve, her math teacher. Toss in Nick, Eve’s scumbag husband, a poetry teacher at the school and you’ve got yourself a sex romp and then a dead body… maybe. Your paperback might become riddled with sand, slurp up a poolside puddle, or get pounded by gobs of mayo falling from your over-stuffed turkey club. Who cares? You’re on vacation and will get the gist. Leave it behind on a beach chair for a fellow traveler who’s also up for mindless escapism.

If you have anything to say about this – or book recommendations – kindly post below (rather than emailing me) to spark conversation. Thank you!

6 comments for “Beach Reads: Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out

  1. Chris, great job as always! What an amazing range of interesting books. And for your older readers, the subject line was the title of a Timothy Leary book.

    • Glad you caught that! Now to be clear, my goal was for people to kick back and relax, not consume handful of mind-altering drugs. Just say no, Roger…

  2. Thanks Chris!

    Great job. Agree re: Demon Copperfield. If you like Angela’s Ashes, you are going to love this Kingsolver masterpiece. Check out Frozen River on tape… a great New England historical fiction tale.

    • Much appreciated, Peggy. Will look that one up now. And as you clearly love my all-time favorite book, Angela’s Ashes, may I again suggest Misfit by Gary Gulman? I think you’ll be impressed with his razor-sharp memory!

  3. I really loved “Demon Copperhead” as well. After finishing I tackled “David Copperfield” which I had somehow missed thus far. While I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as Demon, it was pretty fascinating to see how she mirrored the story.


    • Thank you for the perspective, Michelle. I was curious about that and am glad you did the heavy lifting to figure it out! Let’s just say it’s been a while since I read the classics. 🙂

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