BJ’s Top 10 Beach Read Picks for 2017

If there is anything you read on vacation this year, whether you’re on a beach, a plane a cruise ship, or a hammock—these are the books you need in your hands.  While the sun warms your shoulders, while the kids are splashing around, while you’re stuck at the gate waiting for your clearance to take off—these will keep you entertained and asking for more.

10. The Paris Effect by KSR Burns

BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music recommends The Paris Effect by KSR BurnsImagine that your husband travels for work constantly, so much so that you and your best friend concoct an idea to take off to Paris for a week while he’s gone.  He won’t even know you’re gone!  But then your best friend dies, and her dying wish is for you to go on the trip anyway.  She even booked everything.  To honor your friend you decide to go, in secret, and along the way you meet more freaks than you can imagine. 

Unique story—a funny tale of adventure.  Could you do it?  Could you take off on a trip to Paris in secret?



9. A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner

BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music Recommends A Fall of Marigolds by Susan MeissnerIt all comes back to a scarf.  In 1911 a nurse working in a ward on Ellis Island discovers the scarf with a delicate marigold pattern on it.  Decades later it’s brought in to a Manhattan fabric restoration store, and is used to cover another woman’s mouth as the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center collapse in the 9/11 attack.  Both of these women, unrelated, are grieving the loss of love in a tragic event and the scarf is the common thread. 

I love the use of objects in a story like this.  I often think about what will happen to an article of clothing I’ve sold on consignment or donated to the Goodwill bin.  Will someone else wear it and wonder where its been?



8. Where I Lost Her by T. Greenwood

BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music recommends Where I Lost Her by T. GreenwoodTess is driving in a Vermont forest late at night when a young girl, half dressed, runs out into the road in front of her.  The girl disappears.  Tess reports the incident to the police and the town searches for this little girl, despite the lack of any missing children reports.  Did she really see the little girl, or did she imagine it? 

This story had me questioning Tess’s sanity at times.  It also had me questioning the police who were so quick to close the case.  So, was there a little girl or not?




7. Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf

BJ Knapp aGudenkaufuthor of Beside the Music recommends Missing Pieces by Heather Sarah and her husband Jack return to his Iowa hometown for a death in the family.  Sarah starts to uncover the secrets of Jack’s family, that he never fully told her about.  His mother’s untimely death, a murder, and his father’s disappearance.  Who really killed his mother?  And was Aunt Julia also murdered?

I loved how hard Sarah worked to uncover the truth, even though it was very uncomfortable.  She’s visiting family she barely knows in a town that her husband never wanted to return to.  An awesome who dunnit.



6. Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music recommends Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins ReidI loved the movie Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow.  In that movie, Gwyneth’s character gets fired and races to the train station.  At this point the plot splits—what would her life be like had she made the train, and what would it have been like had she missed it?

Maybe In Another Life is kind of like that.  The deciding incident is the first night she returns to her hometown, Los Angeles.  She goes out with her friends to a club.  What would happen if she stayed to hang out with her high school boyfriend?  What would happen if she left earlier in the night?

I think about this kind of thing all the time.  Whether some silly decision would impact my life in a bigger way than I imagined.  Had I chosen the other way, how different would my life be right now?  This book had me thinking back to moments in my life where things could have turned out so differently.


5. Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music recommends Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline LeavittIn the summer of 69 Lucy takes off with her boyfriend.  She has visions of a romantic life together.  The thing is, she’s 16 and he’s her high school English teacher.  She leaves without a trace leaving her family to figure out where she’s gone and why she’s gone.  Because she’s under age she must stay hidden.  Will her departure tear her family apart? 

I was pretty obsessed with this book.  I couldn’t wait to find out if Lucy every went home, or if her boyfriend was ever caught with a minor as his lover.




4. Ashes by Steven Manchester

BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music recommends Ashes by Steven ManchesterTwo brothers are estranged.  They are the polar opposite in every single way.  Their father’s dying wish is for the two of them to drive across the country with his ashes—to bring them to his family home in Seattle from Boston.  The rub is that the two brothers despise each other.  Over the course of the trip I learned why the brothers hate each other, and how a completely messed up childhood ruined their sense of brotherhood as adults.

I plowed through this one.  I hoped in the end that the brothers would reconcile, but in the end they discovered much more about their family.



3. Driving on the Left by Gail Ward Olmstead

BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music recommends Driving on the Left by Gail Ward OlmsteadThis is the sequel to Jeep Tour by Gail Ward Olmstead.  In this one, Mom and Daughter head to Ireland for a bonding trip.  Mom watches Daughter fall head over heels for the tour bus driver, just as Mom had done decades earlier when she toured Sedona.

The story brings out the delicate nature of the relationship between a young 20s daughter and a mother.  The daughter is on the cusp of really being an adult, but Mom is still holding on to the little girl.  It made me wish I had the chance to go on a trip like that with my Mom.



2. Landline by Rainbow Rowell

BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music recommends Landline by Rainbow RowellGeorgie and Neal’s marriage is in trouble.  She’s a workaholic, and he’s over it.  He takes the kids to his hometown in Omaha Nebraska, while she remains in Los Angeles to work.  She fears that she’s completely done the marriage in by honoring her work commitment over her family.  Then Georgie is presented with a rare opportunity to fix her marriage before the marriage even started. It’s not time travel, exactly.  But is it a delusion, or is she really given this chance to change the past?

I was fascinated by the concept of this story.  I devoured it, dying to know if Georgie was going crazy, or if she was really changing the past.  Brilliantly done!



1. Beside the Music by BJ Knapp

BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music recommends award winning Beside the Music by BJ KnappI know, I know.  Putting my own book in the number one spot…. But you know what?  It’s my top 10 list, I can do it if I want to.

Brenda Dunkirk mails a fan letter to her teenage rock and roll crush, and she never imagines she’d end up meeting him, let alone host him and his band in her home while the band records its comeback album.  Will her marriage survive as she gets caught up in the rock and roll glamour?  Can she be one man’s wife and another man’s muse?

Beside the Music won the 2016 Human Relations Indie Book Award, and click on Reviews at the top of this page to see what the reviewers are saying about it.


BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.

added on 03.20.17

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