Necessary Luxury: 7 Great Beach Books

The term “beach read” connotes a certain type of tale: Some call them guilty pleasures, others, simply “fluff.” This summer a great crop of biographies offers the same dose of escapism (there’s nothing like living vicariously), with no excuses required. Craig Nelson tackles Apollo 11 in Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon (Viking). Glenn Stout’s Young Woman and the Sea: How Trudy Ederle Conquered the English Channel and Inspired the World (Harcourt) recounts the glory of the 19-year-old American swimmer. In Gabriel García Márquez: A Life (Knopf) by Gerald Martin, a great writer lets someone else tell his story; in Nelson Mandela: The Authorized Comic Book (Norton), the world leader becomes a graphic-novel hero. Paul Schneider tracks Bonnie and Clyde: The Lives Behind the Legend (Henry Holt), and Werner Herzog chronicles the madness in the Peruvian jungle during the shooting of his 1982 film in Conquest of the Useless: Reflections from the Making of Fitzcarraldo (Ecco). Christopher Buckley’s Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir (Twelve)—about life with his fascinatingly complicated parents, William F. and Pat Buckley, and the heartbreaking loss of both in one year—sparked this season’s real-lives reading trend when it debuted to rave reviews this spring, and we’re quite sure it will remain the book to bring to the beach this summer.