Escape from reality this summer with these eight books 

Beach Reads

click to enlarge RUTA SMITH / SCOTT SUCHY
  • Ruta Smith / Scott Suchy

Tip of the Iceberg by Mark Adams, Dutton

What better place to escape than Alaska? Join travel writer Mark Adams, who already enchanted readers with Turn Right at Machu Picchu and Meet Me in Atlantis, on his latest adventure into an exotic locale. Following on the trail of Edward Harriman, a railroad baron who organized a massive scientific expedition to Alaska in 1899, Adams made his way by air, sea, and land along the 3,000-mile Alaska Marine Highway — and he did it alone. The narrative is a pleasing mix of travelogue and history, and the many colorful characters — human and otherwise — keep the pages turning.

Sex and the City and Us by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, Simon & Schuster

It's hard to believe it's been 20 years since HBO debuted their provocative comedy starring dating columnist Carrie Bradshaw and her three single friends Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda. Millions tuned in each week to catch their (mis)adventures in the New York City dating world, an effervescent land of sex, cosmos, and conspicuous consumption. Just as she did in Seinfeldia, Keishin Armstrong meticulously chronicles all aspects of the show, from writing to casting to cultural influence, ably capturing the essence of what made it such a hit.

The Traveling Feast by Rick Bass, Little, Brown

Rick Bass has been writing about nature for more than two decades, and during that time, he's learned more than his fair share from other writers. In his latest, he pays tribute to many of them by chronicling his visits to their homes, where he cooked a hearty meal, often complete with wild game from his homestead in Montana. It's a charming, life-affirming travel/food hybrid memoir featuring an impressive cast of contemporary authors, including Peter Matthiessen, David Sedaris, Amy Hempel, Joyce Carol Oates, Tom McGuane, and John Berger.

Tango Lessons by Meghan Flaherty, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Few dances are more sensual than the tango, a liberating style that allows each dancer to truly escape into art. Meghan Flaherty took tango lessons when she was a teenager studying in Argentina, but she didn't pick it back up until a decade later as she struggled with an unfulfilling life in New York. Her memoir is consistently vibrant and entertaining, even for those who have little interest in dance; Flaherty is an intelligent writer who shows readers the joys of taking risks in life, why it's important to "close [your] eyes and trust."

Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris, Dey Street

Even as a teenager, Kate Harris knew she wanted to be an explorer — not exactly a practical career choice in our digital age. Nonetheless, between her studies at Oxford and MIT, the author set out on an unforgettable journey along the ancient Silk Road, the famed network of trading routes along which traveled spices, silk, and other exotic goods, not to mention countless instances of cultural and technological exchange. Eschewing maps and plans, Harris hopped on her bike to traverse this incomparable landscape, and readers are rewarded with an exemplary piece of travel writing that demonstrates the power of exploration as a way of living.

Planet Funny by Ken Jennings, Scribner

Primarily known as the greatest Jeopardy! champion of all time, Ken Jennings is also a bestselling author whose latest book is an insightful, expansive, and — most importantly — laugh-out-loud exploration of the primacy of comedy in our culture. Jokes, it seems, have permeated every corner of our lives, whether it's the meta-humor of the Simpsons or Family Guy or a toss-off fart joke on social media. As in his previous books, the narrative is compulsively readable, and fans of comedy in all its varied forms will find plenty to chuckle — and think — about in these pages.

Stealing the Show by Joy Press, Atria

Much of the entertainment that Jennings examines emerged from women creators, and Joy Press, the former Village Voice TV critic and entertainment editor at the Los Angeles Times, is the perfect author to chart the rising, undeniable influence of women writers, producers, characters, and showrunners in the TV and movie landscape. Press is especially good on Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes and Transparent's Jill Soloway, but she also looks at Tiny Fey, Mindy Kaling, Amy Schumer, and others. For Netflix binge junkies, this is necessary reading to understand the women behind some of the most popular shows of the past 15 years.

Springfield Confidential by Mike Reiss, Dey Street

Sticking to TV-land, what program has been more iconic than the Simpsons, arguably the most successful TV show in the history of the medium? Name any metric you want — ratings, years on the air, cultural impact — and the Simpsons will be near the top. For anyone wondering how Homer and company get from the writers' room to the screen, this is the book for you. Mike Reiss has been a writer and producer on the show for nearly its entire run, and he delivers the goods in this behind-the-scenes look packed with details on every aspect of production, interviews with some of the most important players and voice actors, and hilarious asides. Read it and then tune in to FXX to watch the reruns.

Bonus: Read and discuss

Get Lit Book + Wine Club

Tues. July 17, 6 p.m.


The Junction Kitchen & Provisions

4438 Spruill Ave.

North Charleston

Join Itinerant Literate once a month at Junction Kitchen in Park Circle to discuss a book and feast on a three course meal with drink pairings inspired by the book. The more you read, the more you drink: every six meetings you attend, you will receive a gift bag with a bottle of wine from the Junction and a mystery book from Itinerant Literate Books. The July book is MEM by Bethany Morrow.

Eric Liebetrau is Managing Editor and Nonfiction Editor, Kirkus Reviews


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