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The Book I'd Take to the Shore Is . . .

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Writers share their quintessential beach reads and tell us why they fit into or redefine the mold.

David Baldacci, Fairfax

Author of political thrillers "Absolute Power" (1996) and "The Whole Truth" (2008)

One book I really enjoy is Nelson DeMille's "Plum Island," a treasure hunt with a contemporary twist. Or "The Gold Coast." Interesting reads. One of his main characters in "Plum Island," John Corey, has a fast mouth; he's funny as hell. DeMille gives you just enough research, just enough information to feel like you're learning something, and characters you can be engaged by.

Susan Choi, New York

Author of "A Person of Interest" (2008), Pulitzer Prize finalist for "American Woman" (2003)

I often choose beach reading because it's short and funny, but one of greatest beach-read experiences I ever had was reading a huge chunk of "War and Peace." I was staying at a beach house in Cape Cod above these tidal slats. At low tide, I'd walk out half a mile with a chair and plop down. It was really sublime to sit there with the tide out while people would play softball. A lot of people are worried their beach reading needs to be lowbrow and easy because they'll be distracted, but "War and Peace" -- I couldn't put it down.

Mary Higgins Clark, Saddle River, N.J.

Author of more than two dozen suspense novels

"Gift From the Sea," the Anne Morrow Lindbergh book, because when I'm up in my home on Cape Cod and walking along the beach, . . .

I think the thoughts she thought at the time -- a sense of eternity, a sense of peace, a sense of holding up a shell and listening and hearing the sea.

Tananarive Due, Glendora, Calif.

Author of supernatural fiction works "The Between" (1995) and "Blood Colony" (2008)

"The Stand" by Stephen King, because it's all-absorbing. I think that in "The Stand," like all of his novels, he creates real people who walk you through a nightmare. The great thing about being somewhere like the beach is that you can look up and assure yourself the world is alive and well.

Janet Evanovich, Hanover, N.H.

Author of the Stephanie Plum series

Maybe "The Great Gatsby." It has something to do with the time. A lighter, happier time. My second choice would be Nancy Drew, for similar reasons. When you're living in a time that's tense or stressful, maybe you think back to books that were about simpler times, when Ned Nickerson was a good guy and a mother didn't have to worry about her daughter being out with him. A time when you could see Nancy Drew in that roadster. We would all like to be riding in that roadster now.

Thomas Mallon, Washington

Critic and author of "Henry and Clara" (1994) and "Fellow Travelers" (2007)

One book that would qualify nicely for the sort of high-end vacation reading is "Nicholas Nickleby." There you have the extremes of human nature -- the detestable Wackford Squeers and the saintly Cheeryble brothers -- in one fat, companionable little volume.

-- D.Z.

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