Beatriz Williams

Beatriz Williams’s bestseller, A Hundred Summers, lets 1930s socialites loose upon a Rhode Island beach town, as former lovers Lily and Nick, now spoken for, try to quell their lasting desire for one another amid a mixed company, including Nick’s commanding seductress wife and a handsome Yankees pitcher with his sights set on Lily. This week, Williams recommends five great summer reads she has placed under the banner of “the vintage beach.”

Evil under the Sun
By Agatha Christie

“I first encountered the vintage beach in the middle of a Christie marathon in my early teens, and still recall — as did Poirot himself — the entrance of the actress Arlena Stuart to the bathing beach at the Jolly Roger Hotel, ‘every inch of her exposed body…tanned a beautiful even shade of bronze’ in contrast to the fair-skinned scorned wife, Christine Redfern. This new decadence of tanned skin was turning centuries of European status identification on its head, to Poirot’s mustache-twitching disapproval (‘Bodies — arranged on slabs — like butcher’s meat!’); and as Christie rounds up her usual exquisite social mix of suspects to sneer and jeer at one another, you can’t help but wish you were there, murder or not.”

The Beach: The History of Paradise on Earth
By Lena Lencek and Gideon Bosker

“If you want to know how it all came about, this democratizing worship of the sun and sand, this literal beachhead in the unending struggle for social status, start right here. Lencek and Bosker guide us effortlessly through geologic history and man-made ingenuity, from the beginnings of the beach as a place of leisure and the dawn of its heyday in the twentieth century.”

On Folly Beach
By Karen White

“Though White is a contemporary writer, she excels at evoking the World War II–era South Carolina seaside in this time-slip novel, which moves back and forth between the Folly Beach of today and a mysterious episode in its past. Part love story, part espionage thriller, part southern family fable, this book enthralls on all levels, and particularly as the secrets of a handsome uniformed stranger — who might or might not be what he seems — unfold in their own good time along the heady wartime boardwalk.”

Everybody Was So Young
By Amanda Vaill

“I debated whether to include F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night here, but since this real-life evocation of the Rivieran world between the wars includes not just the Fitzgeralds, but the Hemingways, the Dos Passoses, and pretty much everybody else featured in the current wave of ‘wife of’ fiction, you may find yourself as enchanted as I was by Vaill’s well-researched story of Sara and Gerald Murphy, a wealthy American couple who once hosted seething literary house parties at an idyllic retreat in Cap d’Antibes. If all the Gatsby hype has made you tipsy with nostalgia for mansions by the sea and ice-cold champagne on a hot summer day, this book will send you away drunk.”

The Luck of the Bodkins
By P. G. Wodehouse

“Strictly speaking, this comic masterpiece from the comic master takes place on a 1930s ocean liner rather than a beach, but I dare you to resist a book that opens: “Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces an Englishman is about to speak French.” Nobody captures the spirit and dialogue of the idle British aristocrat between the wars so well as Wodehouse, and somewhere amid the impossibly madcap plot plays a pitch-perfect elegy to a vanished world.”