Speedy Beach Reads

Posted: June 20, 2013 in Uncategorized
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By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

During the summer, I’m easily distracted. If I sit outside with a book, it won’t be long until I’m itching to do something else that takes advantage of the nice weather.

Therefore, my ideal “beach reads” are short stories, personal essays, and poetry, because an entire piece can be read from start to finish rather quickly. Also, unlike stopping between chapters in a novel, the flow of a larger narrative isn’t being interrupted by putting the book down.

Here are some of my favorite collections of shorter works:

SedarisWhen You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

Sedaris is one of the preeminent living humorists. His essays about his life are hilarious, introspective, and relatable. This may not be his most famous collection, but I rank it as his best, in part due to the brilliant essay “Old Faithful.”

SaundersCivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders

George Saunders’ fiction is intelligent, weird, dark, disturbing, thought-provoking, and very funny. This is likely his most famous collection and a good entry point to his work, but add the story “Sea Oak” from his collection Pastoralia to your reading list; I consider it to be his weirdest and most laugh-out-loud funny story.

Dorothy ParkerThe Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker is viciously witty and hilarious. Her fiction and poetry is characteristically brief, yet packs a deceptive amount of depth. This collection contains her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Read it and you’ll be quoting Dorothy Parker in no time.

Chuck IVChuck dinoEating the Dinosaur or Chuck Klosterman IV by Chuck Klosterman

Reading Chuck Klosterman’s nonfiction is like sitting in a bar having drinks with your odd, yet super intelligent friend: you never quite know what he’ll say next – it may make you laugh, piss you off, make you think, make you tell him to shut up. Whatever the reaction, you’ll be interested and engaged in the conversation.

FierceFierce Pajamas: An Anthology of Humor Writing from the New Yorker by David Remnick and Henry Finder (Editors)

This anthology is packed with a lot of  short, funny pieces from a variety of authors. The hilarious “Here’s a Really Great Idea” by David Owen is one I share in several of my classes. I’ve also taught Steve Martin’s “Writing is Easy!” (Yes, THAT Steve Martin.)


  1. Thanks for telling me about Steve Martin’s essay. Oh, how I adore Steve Martin (I feel about him the way teens feel about teen hearthrobs). Here’s a gem “Writer’s block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol”.

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