Everybody knows "beach reading" is a contradiction. Too much sand, sun and glare. But if you insist on it, bring along one of these.

The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard. Winner of the National Book Award for fiction, it charts three lives as they intertwine in the devastation of post-World War II Japan.

The Known World by Edward P. Jones. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is built around the troubling fact that occasionally, African-Americans also owned slaves in the antebellum South.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. Summary (an autistic boy solves a dog's murder) doesn't do justice to this beguiling novel.

I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company by Brian Hall. A fine fictional re-creation of the odd partnership between Lewis and Clark and their female Indian guide, Sacagawea.

Positively Fifth Street by James McManus. As always with Las Vegas, fact trumps fiction as --the author goes to cover the World Series of Poker.