Beach reads hall of fame | EW.com

Books

Beach reads hall of fame

Our picks for the best summer books of all time, from ''Gone with the Wind'' to ''The Secret History''

Funny time, summer. All of a sudden people who usually can’t make it to the back pages of a magazine (ahem!) find themselves idling by the paperback rack, running their fingers hungrily over shiny, embossed covers. Nothing less than 500 pages will satisfy. So for those seeking the most book for their buck, here’s our list of the top summer paperbacks of all time…okay, of the 20th century. Tanning, after all, wasn’t really modish in Tolstoy’s day.

Gone With the Wind (1936) Margaret Mitchell. Civil War saga wins Pulitzer, becomes legendary movie — and stays about as respectable as Scarlett O’Hara’s neckline.

The Source (1965) James A. Michener. The history of Judaism, over thousands of years. Thousands. Needless to say, involves lots of wars.

The Winds of War (1971) Herman Wouk. America’s Henry family gets all mixed up in World War II. Not sated? Add sequel War and Remembrance to the stack.

The Women’s Room (1977) Marilyn French. War between the sexes in preeminent feminist novel. Won out over Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying — hey, it’s longer.

Shogun (1975) James Clavell. Features a Japanese warlord, an English adventurer, and the clang of many different medieval weapons.

The Thorn Birds (1977) Colleen McCullough. Wreaking havoc on three generations of an Australian family, a priest wrestles mightily with his chastity vows.

Scruples (1978) Judith Krantz. Amid much sex and merchandise, a Beverly Hills boutique owner battles her weight problem.

The Bonfire of the Vanities (1987) Tom Wolfe. Bond salesman Sherman McCoy gets embroiled in a bubbling pot of racial, political, and class conflicts in New York City.

The Gold Coast (1990) Nelson DeMille. WASPy, silver-spoon-sucking lawyer John Sutter collides with Mafia bigwig Frank Bellarosa.

The Secret History (1992) Donna Tartt. College students form an elite clique and perform obscure, ancient sacrificial rites — then squabble rowdily amongst themselves.