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15 Beach Reads Worth Your Time and Money

Posted: 07/03/2012 3:53 pm

Looking for the perfect reads for summer?

So are we. All the time. And there's nothing that irks us more than shelling out our hard-earned dollars on a hardcover we end up hating.

Or being totally bored by the three thought-they'd-be-fun beach reads we toted all the way to the shore.

After all, summer reading should be pleasurable, not stressful. Enter, LearnVest's 2012 Summer Reading List. We're bringing you 15 summer reads that are worth your time -- and your money.

We've got a mix of current favorites, timeless classics and personal finance how-tos to keep you focused on your budget, even when you're on the beach. Even better? You should be able to find many of these classics at the library for free.

Don't worry, all of these titles go great with sun and a splash of lemonade.

Fiction: The Tiger's Wife
On NPR's bestseller list for a whopping 33 weeks and counting, National Book Award Finalist The Tiger's Wife is Téa Obreht's first novel. The Tiger's Wife is a collection of 20th-century tales set in the Balkans and told to the reader by Natalia Stefanovic, a doctor. The Washington Post calls the work a "novel of enormous ambitions." At age 25, Obreht has accomplished a literary feat. We can't wait to see more of her writing in years to come. $10.20

Fiction: Never Let Me Go
If you missed Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go when it debuted in 2005 (Time named it the Best Novel of 2005), don't miss it now. This one earned major pop-culture points thanks to a recent film remake starring Keira Knightley, but we think you should skip the movie and head straight for the book.

Never Let Me Go tells the story of three friends who meet at Hailsham, a British boarding school. As the students soon discover, Hailsham isn't any boarding school. This sci-fi work is a powerful look at the struggles of young adults (think heartbreak, friendship, growth) from a whole new perspective. The New York Times says: "It delivers images of odd beauty and a mounting existential distress that hangs around long after we read it." $10.20

Fiction: State of Wonder
You may remember Ann Patchett from some of her previous novels, such as Bel Canto and The Magician's Assistant. Her new novel, State of Wonder, now occupies a spot on the New York Times Bestsellers List for the sixth week in a row.

State of Wonder tells the story of Marina Singh, a pharmacologist from Minnesota who travels to the jungles of Brazil to seek out the services of one Dr. Swenson. State of Wonder is a thriller, a need-to-read "psychological journey," as the Chicago Tribune puts it. And now that Patchett is a 2012 Time 100 recipient, you've got no excuse. $10.87

Fiction: Middlemarch
George Eliot's Middlemarch, completed in 1872, is a literary masterpiece -- a weaving together of various fictional plotlines and real historical happenings between the years 1830-1832. The protagonist of Middlemarch, Dorothea Brooke, is idealistic, cerebral and, from what we can tell, extremely beautiful.

Lest the story seem too far removed to be relatable, check out this article from The New Yorker. According to writer Rebecca Mead: "Everything [I] might need to know about marriage, about love, about life itself, was encompassed in the novel's pages." Don't miss this learning opportunity in disguise... especially if you really do have a goal of reading classics before summer's over. $8.67

Fiction: A Game of Thrones
Heard of that über-popular HBO show Game of Thrones? If you haven't already thrown yourself into the hype -- and even if you have -- consider reading the first of George R. R. Martin's literary series. The series, collectively titled "A Song of Ice and Fire," is sure to satisfy your itch for fantasy. And, with five works in print and one story forthcoming, the series is sure to last you all summer long. $9.99

Nonfiction: Unbroken
Laura Hillenbrand's war story, Unbroken, is an unbelievable tale of hardship and struggle during the second World War. It's no wonder that this piece is still a New York Times bestseller after 73 weeks. Unbroken recalls the story of Louis Zamperini, a WWII airman who survives on a raft for seven weeks after a plane crash. But that's just the beginning. According to the New York Times, Hillenbrand's "research is thorough, her writing (even on complicated, technical wartime topics) crystalline." This is a gut-wrenching hit that will keep you engaged all summer long. $16.95

Nonfiction: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
A New York Times bestseller for 31 weeks, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a reflection on the life of Henrietta Lacks and so much more. Rebecca Skloot tells the story of Lacks' cancer cells, the first human cells ever to be reproduced in a lab. But she also provides us with insight into the field of bioethics and the racially divided world of 1950s and '60s America. The New York Times says: "Science writing is often just about 'the facts.' Skloot's book, her first, is far deeper, braver and more wonderful." This read is sure to make you smarter. $9.60

Nonfiction: The Happiness Project
We're big fans of Gretchin Rubin's The Happiness Project. In fact, we've covered this non-fiction feat here and in one of our discussions here! In The Happiness Project, Rubin recalls her year-long quest for a happier life, and her search yields some surprising results. Rubin learns how to let loose, all while becoming a more generous and appreciative person. This is a self-help story that's sure to make you smile. $10.19

Nonfiction: The Glass Castle
This 2005 memoir by Jeannette Walls has lived on the New York Times bestseller list for 261 weeks; it's a winner you won't want to put down. Walls describes her upbringing in an eccentric household -- her family's bouts of homelessness and reckless moves across the country. But the New York Times explains: "What's best is the deceptive ease with which she [Walls] makes us see just how she and her siblings were convinced that their turbulent life was a glorious adventure." The Glass Castle will provide you with a literary trip across the country and back, even if your own vacation this summer is in fact a staycation. $9.60

Nonfiction: The Power of Habit
Ever wonder why you sprint to buy that smoothie each morning, even if you're not hungry or you're late for work? Charles Duhigg has the answer, and in The Power of Habit, he's giving us some major insight into the habits and routines we can't kick. Duhigg's writing is easy to consume and is sure to make you laugh. You'll forget that this non-fiction book has as many stats as your college psych textbook. $15.40

Finance: The Real Cost of Living
Carmen Wong Ulrich will whip you into financial shape, even as you lie on the beach. The Real Cost of Living approaches personal finance from the standpoint of decisions. Each decision you make, big or small, can affect your finances in big ways. You can see how we've used Ulrich's advice to help with our own psychology of money, here. $5.98

Finance: Smart Women Finish Rich
What could be better than a nine-step guide to getting rich? Bach's overwhelmingly successful classic is easy-to-read and all-inclusive. As David Bach tells us in his introduction, he "strip[s] away the baloney", so you don't have to mess with fancy terms, graphs and stats. And he has a secret rule: "Women make better investors than men." We at LearnVest stand by this rule -- and you're sure to be convinced after reading Bach's book. $10.17

Finance: Never Eat Alone
This is a classic. Keith Ferrazzi teaches reciprocity and generosity, a worthy combination for successful networking in the workplace. Ferrazzi explains: "It's never simply about getting what you want. It's about getting what you want and making sure that the people who are important to you get what they want, too." We love this team-player perspective. $29.00

Finance: Get Financially Naked
Manisha Thakor is a LearnVest favorite, and this personal finance book is must-read for any woman in a relationship. Thakor explains: Financial compatibility with your partner is just as important as any romantic spark. We agree! In Get Financially Naked, Thakor teaches you how to "talk money with your honey" so you don't have any financial slip-ups. $12.95

Finance: Secrets of Six-Figure Women
We've covered Barbara Stanny's Secrets of Six-Figure Women in the past, and now we're back for more. Stanny teaches us that success requires dedication and sacrifice -- but that sacrifice should never come at the cost of happiness. She identifies four "Must-Haves" and three "Big Helpers" that will boost your success and your income. That's seven easy-to-spot drivers working behind the scenes of your career. We think this book is great. $10.99

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