Each year, for the past 17 years, my husband and I (well, he wasn’t always my husband, but you get the point) head to Ocean City, NJ for at least a week of the beach.

Now, if you’ve seen my picture, you know the sun is not my friend. But I like the idea of sitting somewhere and just reading. So I’ve come to love the beach, even though it means slathering myself with SPF 50 and higher each time I venture outside.

I have a theory about beach readsd. Instead of choosing light, frothy reads, I like to read stuff that is in contrast to my surroundings. My beach time is when I choose the meatier books from my TBR pile. The other necessity is that the book be something I can count on–there is absolutely nothing worse than reading a dud when you’re stuck in the middle of sand, and can’t get back to make another choice.

So here is what I’ll be taking to the beach this summer:

Bernard Cornwell‘s Sharpe series. I’ve read the first two (chronological) Sharpes, and have been watching the series on BBC America. Cornwell is a FABULOUS writer, someone who can write 100+ pages of battle scene and keep my interest all the way through. And what’s really cool is that Cornwell always has a twist at the end, so you know there’s another payoff coming at the end of the book. The best part, though, is that Cornwell is alive and writing, and he is very, very prolific, so you will always have more of his stuff to read.

Next up is Ross McDonald‘s Lew Archer series. Lew Archer is a detective in Los Angeles in the–I want to say ’50s and ’60s, but I’m not quite sure–who is smart, tough, and compelling. McDonald’s descriptions are amazing, and the way he writes is on par with Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. If you like James Ellroy, you will like Ross McDonald. Again, I’ve been collecting his books. Unfortunately McDonald is dead, so there are no more Archer books, but he wrote plenty when he was alive, and they are now out in gorgeous trade paperback.

Loretta Chase‘s Captives of the Night has recently been reissued, and I have never read it. If you’re a Regency fan, you’ve read at least one of her books, and you know she is a solidly consistent author whose heroes are deceptively stupid and her heroines are smart and brook no nonsense. You can depend on Chase for an enchanting read, good for if there seem to be storms brewing over the horizon.

And last, Barbara Hambly. Her Benjamin January detective series is lush, intriguing, and describes 1830s New Orleans society so well I feel as if I’m there. January is a great character, a dark Black free man who is a pianist and a doctor. I’ve only read two of the series thus far, and am very much looking forward to reading more.

And that is what will be getting sandy with me at the beach. Sorry about no pictures, I am on a kind friend’s computer and haven’t the time to hunt down pictures.

Have you read any of these? Are there any in these genres that you would recommend?