Alternative Beach Reads

Most of us know the "beach read" as a novel that is more straightforward and familiar than others. However, I tend to look for another kind of beach read, books that allow me to explore something unfamiliar in the culture of rest and relaxation. Here are five recommendations for beach readers who are looking for something different. 

88 Names brings real world science-fiction to the front in a fast-paced, even dizzying exploration of corporate hive-mind networking that highlights the razor thin divide between actual interactions and role-playing games. 

Greenwood takes place years in the future, backtracks to years in the past, and continues into the future once again. The novel is penetrated richly with the essence and wonder of trees. The narrative follows the Greenwoods as they work (sometimes apathetically, sometimes with conviction), immersed in natural landscapes that they soon learn to truly care for. 

Richard Flanagan's surreal and lucid The Living Sea of Waking Dreams transports the reader through brief glimpses of familial closeness and snippets of internal dialogue. Anna, coming to terms with her mother's illness, begins to experience an opening up of a seemingly quotidian reality where dreams and waking life blur. A moving portrait of lived spaces observed, the inner consciousness of the characters pours over the pages in an intimate style reminiscent of childhood. 

After the Great Flood, Naamah and Noah must learn to journey through the darkness along with all the animals they have saved in Naamah. Through quiet dialogue, Sarah Blake reframes the well-known Bible story, adding depth and creativity to characters old and new. 

The Seep critiques emergent subcultures that are so deliciously tempting: the New Age, the Underground, the Esoteric. With foresight, author Chana Porter tells a story that describes what might happen should our desires for joy in a crumbling world distract us from what actually could be done about it.