Ask a Librarian: Decks and Drinks Books

Last Saturday was gorgeous here – in the 80s and sunny, the perfect weather for putting a chair (or, if you’re as lazy as I can be, an air mattress) on the deck, propping your feet up, pouring a cold drink, and falling into a book. On sunny summer days, I don’t want my usual fantasy or romance, but I also don’t want something “literary.” For me, summer days call for a specific kind of literature, the kind with lots of money, long-range revenge schemes, constant fashion name-dropping, and sex between beautiful people. In short, summer calls for trashy fun.

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The book by which I measure all great summer reads is Kathryn Harvey’s Butterfly. Published in 1989, it’s a rags-to-riches story involving a TV preacher, a brothel of men dedicated to women’s pleasure, and the bored and frustrated women of 1980s Beverly Hills. It’s the first of a trilogy that was recently re-released for Kindle (probably to cash in on the Fifty Shades wave), so it’s easy to acquire and quick to read.

Another great 80s glam book is Judith Krantz’s Scruples. A rich ugly duckling is sent to Paris, where she blossoms into a glamorous and gorgeous swan. When she returns to Beverly Hills, she opens a high-end boutique, dabbles in the movie industry, and has tons of sex with fashionable people. There’s a sequel (Scruples Two), and these books are the prototype for all of Krantz’s books. Try to find the paperbacks, because Amazon reviewers are complaining that the ebook versions have misspellings or missing paragraphs.

Hollywood Wives is not the most well-known of Jackie Collins’ books, but it’s a great starting point. Published in 1983, it exposed the sex, plastic surgery, drugs, and ridiculous shenanigans of the women married to the Hollywood power set. I’m sure quite a few of us sneaked peeks at our grandma’s Jackie Collins books in the past, looking for the juicy parts.

In more contemporary titles, I highly suggest anything by Tilly Bagshawe, especially Scandalous. It’s the story of a young and gifted physicist at Cambridge who falls headlong into an affair with her married professor. When he takes credit for her discovery, she plots a years-long course of revenge spanning two continents and including his wife. I blew through this in 24 hours and loved it.

Gigi Levangie Grazer writes books based on her life as the ex-wife of Brian Grazer, a Hollywood producer. Her best-known is The Starter Wife (it was also a one-season sitcom starring Deborah Messing), about what happens after your life turns upside down in a very visible and embarrassing way. It has many of the same themes of the other books: Hollywood, the rich and famous, and revenge, but is a bit gentler.

Most of us don’t have summer vacations that stretch out ahead of us like we did as kids – we have jobs or classes or family responsibilities. But regardless of what’s on my social plate, every summer I hunger for the frothier side of the literature spectrum. I always say, “This year, I’m going to read [example of “classic” literature],” but invariably, I get 30 or 50 pages in, and then I put it down and pick up Lace instead. That being said, if you want a “classic” to read over the summer, Madame Bovary is the forerunner of all of these books, with a dissatisfied wife and a shopping addiction.

When the temperature rises, what do you read? Are there certain books you read at certain times of the year? Ask me questions, I love answering your readers’ advisory requests!

By Jessica Werner

Free-range librarian in Seattle. A sucker for happy endings, teen angst, and books that make me want to sell my possessions and travel the world. Incurable homebody and type A. Send love letters and readers advisory requests to

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