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St. Louis Librarians Share Their Best Beach Reads

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Paola Rodriguez
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Dive into a good beach read this summer with recommendations from two local librarians, Jen Ohzourk and Jennifer Alexander.

What makes a good summer read? For St. Louis Public Library regional branch manager Jen Ohzourk, it’s a book that is captivating, escapist, and easy to put down and pick back up again later — perhaps after a swim or bike ride.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, Ohzourk and St. Louis County Library Collection Development Specialist Jennifer Alexander shared their favorite beach reads.

JEN OHZOURK'S PICKS:

  • “Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake” by Alexis J. Hall (2021) “If you like watching 'The Great British Baking Show' and wonder about the real lives of contestants, this quick-paced, fun romance is for you! Single mum Rosaline is competing each week and also falling for another contestant, Alain. However, fellow baker Harry may be just the friend she needs.”
  • “Much Ado About You” by Samantha Young (2021) “When Evie is passed over for a promotion, she takes a leap of faith and plans a holiday in a small English village. The holiday rental apartment comes with a temporary position running a bookstore. How much better could it get? How about a charismatic farmer Evie meets?”
  • “It's Been A Pleasure, Noni Blake” by Clare Christian (2020) “Noni has always pleased everyone else, so now it’s her turn to please herself. When she starts out on a pleasure-seeking trip, she finds herself halfway across the world and discovers maybe she can have everything, after all.”
  • “The Chicken Sisters” by K.J. Dell'Antonia (2020) “Two families have operated rival chicken shacks in Kansas for generations. When one sister joins a reality TV show called ‘Food Wars,’ which chicken will be deemed the best? The real question is: Will the sisters still be talking to each other by the end?”
  • “The Ladies of the Secret Circus” by Constance Sayers (2021) “To enter the Secret Circus is to walk into a world of wondrous beauty. In Paris in 1925, women weave illusions and trapeze artists float through the air. But are the circus performers there by choice? And what is the story of the two mysterious sisters? In 2004, Lara Barnes is determined to find out the truth about her family when her fiance goes missing, perhaps due to a curse that dates back to the original circus.”
  • “The Girls Are All So Nice Here” by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn (2021) “Ambrosia receives an invitation to her 10-year college reunion, and while she’s not happy about going, she is compelled to follow through. Just how far will a girl go to impress a new friend? Too far… and now, 10 years later, someone wants revenge.”
  • “You Will Know Me” by Megan Abbott (2016) “How far would you go to achieve your dream? Does it matter if someone gets hurt — or winds up dead? Now, a mother desperately tries to hold her family together, but then discovers she isn’t sure if there is any price she won’t pay for her daughter’s success.”
  • “The Good Sister” by Sally Hepworth (2020) “Fern works in her local library and has a carefully structured life, centered around making sure her sister, Rose, knows how grateful she is to her. When Rose discovers she cannot get pregnant, Fern has the perfect opportunity to show her sister how much she loves her: She can have a baby for Rose. All she needs now is a father.”
  • “The Guest Room” by Chris Bohjalian (2016) “When Kristin agrees to let her husband host his brother’s bachelor party at their house, she expects a certain level of bad behavior. What no one expects is two women stabbing their bodyguards and running off into the night. Now, with their house a crime scene, Kristin isn’t sure if her husband is really telling the truth. And what about those girls? Where did they go?” Ohzourk adds: “Just about anything by this author is a great read. Right now, everyone is focused on ‘The Flight Attendant’ because it’s a new television miniseries, but I have read and re-read this book, ‘The Night Strangers’ and ‘The Double Bind’ several times.”

JENNIFER ALEXANDER'S PICKS:

  • “Beach Read” by Emily Henry (2020) “The setup for this romance is irresistible. Two writers — one writes popular romances, the other writes literary fiction — are staying at neighboring beach houses for the summer. They are both suffering from writer’s block and make a deal to switch it up and write each other’s books.”
  • “Project Hail Mary” by Andy Weir (2021) “This is another fast-paced page turner set in space. Regular guy Ryland Grace wakes up on a spaceship not knowing who he is or why he is there. He must use his ingenuity and intelligence to solve the puzzle, and — no big deal — try to save Earth from extinction.”
  • “The Most Fun We Ever Had” by Claire Lombardo (2019) “This long, 500+ pages family saga presents the joys and trials of the Sorensen family from the 1970s through 2017. Readers will happily immerse themselves in the lives of these characters. There is a good mix of fun, gossipy plot along with consideration of more serious themes.”
  • “Such a Quiet Place” by Megan Miranda (coming July 2021) “Living in a close-knit neighborhood where everyone knows each other and pays attention to who goes where, and with whom, should make investigating a suspicious death easier, right? Not necessarily. This mystery keeps readers guessing and second-guessing until the very end.”
  • “Maine” by J. Courtney Sullivan (2011) “Three generations of the Kelleher family gather at the seaside cottage that was won in a bet 60 years ago. Their stories are revealed through shifting perspectives. All the women have secrets, and one plot line involves who will inherit the beach house.”
  • “World Travel: an Irreverent Guide” by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever (2021) “Anthony Bourdain had such a singular voice and perspective on everything, not just food and travel. For those who miss hearing his takes on things, this book combines writing from Bourdain about visiting over 40 countries with brief essays from friends and family writing about Bourdain.”
  • “The Guide” by Peter Heller (coming August 2021) “A grieving young man takes a job as a fishing guide in an ultra-exclusive resort in Colorado. The setting is magnificent and the fishing is great, but he soon suspects that all the peaceful natural beauty may be covering up some sinister doings. Readers spend more time with the nature stuff than the action and suspense, but the book combines elements of thrillers and contemplative celebrations of nature.”
  • “The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop” by Fannie Flagg (2020) “This book continues the story first presented in Flagg’s 1987 novel ‘Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.’ It has been 80 years since Bud Threadgoode lived in Whistle Stop, Alabama. He longs to visit the now abandoned site of his childhood memories. The book revisits beloved characters and reveals a surprise or two.”
  • “Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World” by Simon Winchester (2021) “Simon Winchester is a master at exploring a large subject by presenting hundreds of anecdotes. He tells story after story in a pleasant meandering style. The concept of land ownership could inspire a dry history, but not with Simon Winchester. He writes with the enthusiasm of a person who has just learned something fascinating and can’t wait to share it.”
  • “A Cloud a Day” by Gavin Pretor-Pinney (2019) “This isn’t really a book you sit down and read cover to cover, but it is definitely a good companion when you have time to enjoy idly staring at the sky. From the founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society, this book presents 365 stunning images of cloud formations along with locations and identification. There is also a great mix of poetry and prose about clouds, scientific information about the atmospheric conditions that create the clouds and the whimsical — i.e., a cloud that looks like a dog. It’s a fun book to explore and share.”
Hear the discussion:
Librarians Jennifer Alexander and Jen Ohzourk share their favorite beach reads on St. Louis on the Air.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. Paola Rodriguez is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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