Beach reading

To get going, suggestions include two debut novels, a mystery spoof and sewing machines.

Looking to for something good to read on your Jersey Shore vacation? A few of these titles could be just right for your beach bag.

The Department of Lost and Found by Allison Winn Scotch (William Morrow, $23.95). A political hotshot gets breast cancer, gets dumped, and succumbs to the power of The Price Is Right while drained from chemo. This Penn grad's debut book is an odd twist on a cancer novel, but it works as a light, fast and, at times, fun read about a serious topic.

Black Hats by Patrick Culhane (William Morrow, $24.95). Wyatt Earp vs. Al Capone - it might seem an improbable situation, but it could have happened, and Culhane makes it work in this wild blend of classic western and gangster characters, all set in Prohibition-era New York City.

Mr. Dixon Disappears by Ian Sansom (Harper, $12.95). This is the second book in the "Mobile Library Mystery" series, a set of mystery spoofs about Israel Armstrong, a bumbling, slouchy librarian who gets stuck in the detective role. This time, he's shoved into sleuthing around so he can stay out of jail - he happened to be inside Dixon & Pickering's department store when the owner disappeared.

French by Heart: An American Family's Adventures in La Belle France by Rebecca S. Ramsey (Doubleday, $12.95). Ramsey, along with her husband, two kids, one baby, and one very old cat, moved to France for four years, and their adventures are recounted in this delightful memoir, as Ramsey takes the mundane - such as the old woman across the street and her aged cat's health problems - and turns it into nuggets of delight.

The Clarks of Cooperstown by Nicholas Fox Weber (Knopf, $35). It has all the makings of a great novel - a beyond-wealthy family, intense sibling rivalry, and even a closeted family member living a double life. But this rich, sprawling volume isn't made up. It's the true story of the heirs to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune.

Rules for Saying Goodbye by Katherine Taylor (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24). Warning: dysfunctional family ahead. If you're still reading, then you'll be interested in this finely crafted debut novel, which follows a young woman's rite of passage, which starts in a Massachusetts boarding school across the country from her hometown and takes her around the world. It's a less than glamorous adventure, all in search of the person she hopes to be.


Jen A. Miller writes about books for Poets and Writers, US Airways Magazine, the St. Petersburg Times, and Psychology Today.