I’m of the opinion that any book is a good book. There are no guilty pleasures when you’re reading because, hello, you’re reading.  But sometimes you really want something meaty, something you can savor and not race through just to see what’s happening next.  And sometimes you happen to want that on your last day on the beach before fall.  You’ve laughed at plenty of quirky romances and you’re a bit done with those wife and mistress whodunits.

Certain phrases make a book seem like a smart choice . . . bestseller, award winner, etc.  But there are other descriptors that lend instant credibility and make you think a bit harder.  And sometimes you want that, even when you’re drinking out of a coconut with a paper umbrella.

“It’s beautifully written fiction about . . . “

Ah yes.  True Places (Lake Union Publishing) by Sonja Yoerg is beautifully written fiction about a sixteen-year-old girl who emerges from the woods, having never experienced civilization . . .  and stumbles into a wealthy couple’s life.  Who will save whom? And how will you answer the question ‘what would you do?’ that comes up about a thousand times.  True Places is also a Washington Post and international best seller. Ooh, more credibility! Lots of magic words!  And that cover. Oh, that cover.  That cover rivals the sunset over the water you will be seeing later.

“It’s nonfiction about a real-life _______.”

Maid (Hachette) by Stephanie Land is nonfiction about a real-life maid and her days of low paying work and the compromises she makes to keep herself and her daughter afloat.  It asks hard questions about minimum wage, health care, and economic safety nets.  Who will you relate to more, the people she works for? Or the people she meets in motels and dive bars along the way? Look around the beach. The people she’s writing about are sitting in those fancy backpack beach chairs with cup holders! They are!

“Award-winning historical fiction…”

Historical fiction means you will learn something. Even accidentally, while eating popcorn with one hand and fighting off seagulls with the other. Historical fiction makes you smarter automatically, as you tan.  And who doesn’t want to know more about the enigmatic history of China? The Moon in the Palace (Sourcebooks) is historical fiction by Weina Randel.  A novel about Empress Wu of China, it is so beautifully written it won the Rita Award. Be transported to ancient China and be swept up in the story of love, ambition and loyalty.

“Based on a true story…”

There are lots of novels now based on true stories . . .  but how about a novel based on a little-known true story?  White Houses (Random House) by Amy Bloom is based on a secret forbidden love affair between Eleanor Roosevelt and her best friend. Scandal!  And yet have you ever read a book by Amy Bloom, one of the most gorgeous literary writers of our time? Oh, you are missing out.  In her hands, it’s not a ripped from the headlines retelling. It’s a true thing of beauty. It’s time to right that wrong, today. Right after you apply sunscreen.