Cook book author Katie Lee, who first came into the public eye when she married (and later divorced) Billy Joel, has recently made a foray into novel writing. Her debut work, Groundswell, came out last year (and is now available in paperback) and centers on a young woman who "meets the biggest movie star in the world and has a storybook romance until it all falls apart," Lee said. "The woman takes off for Mexico to escape New York and the paparazzi and she goes to this sleepy little beach town and starts to surf. She finds herself and she finds a little love again with a hot surf instructor." When discussing the book, we couldn't help but ask Lee how much art imitated life. The author admitted that her inspiration came after "I started surfing when I was getting divorced and going through a really hard time...about three lessons into it, I had the idea for this story." And as for the hot surf instructor? Well, Lee played it coy.
That aside, whether you're in Montauk or Malibu or on your couch near a window air conditioning unit (we'll be doing much of the latter this summer), who doesn't want to trade in their New York Review of Books-recommended reading in favor of some escapist novels? Below, Lee shares 10 of her beach read recommendations.
One Day, by David Nicholls
"The book version was better than the movie as usual. I mean, I read this in like two days. I cried so much. It was a wonderful, wonderful love story. I just thought it was so well written and so much feeling and you got obsessed with the characters. I really like a book like that where you start caring so much about the characters that you're thinking about them long after and wondering what they're doing."
Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts
"This would not fall into the light beach read category but it's fascinating. I went to India in November and this really gets in to the underbelly of Bombay so I thought this was really cool."
Maine, by J. Courtney Sullivan
"This book is about the women in a family that has this summerhouse in Maine and it goes back-and-forth between who's narrating the story and you find out what's really going on. And a lot of times things look one way and it's really something very different that's going on beneath the surface so I really liked it. It was also very well-written."
Stories I Only Tell My Friends, by Rob Lowe
"I think that Rob Lowe's autobiography is a great beach read. He did such a good job of telling stories and talking about people without dogging anybody and without telling anything that would really offend someone. It really had just the right balance for a celebrity memoir."
Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer
"Though this definitely isn't a typical "light beach read," it definitely makes you think. It's about eating animals and questioning why we do what we do and talking about the way we raise animals and all of that. When it comes to food, I like to read things that aren't just about eating something and enjoying it but thinking about where it comes from. Anything that can make me a more conscious eater, I want to read that."
Cleopatra: A Life, by Stacy Schiff
"This book, on-the-other-hand, is perfect for a day at the beach. I would definitely recommend it. Cleopatra's this woman who had such mystery surrounding her -- she was this beautiful, seductive woman and you think of Elizabeth Taylor in the movie Cleopatra and this just kind of dives a little deeper to understand more who she actually was."
Juliet Naked, by Nick Hornby
"This one's set in the U.K. and is about a couple that comes to America because the guy is obsessed with this rockstar who quit performing and no one has heard from him in 20 years or something. So the guy is obsessed with finding the guy and the girlfriend's tagging along and, well I can't say what happens to the rockstar because then I'll ruin the story, but it's really good and it's about that idea of when you idolize somebody, they're not always what you imagined in your head. And I really liked it because it reminded me of my ex-husband [Billy Joel] -- his fans are so crazy for him and people feel like they know him. So I got a kick out of that."
Snowflower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See
"Simply, this one is such a sweet story about having a best friend."
The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain
"I like anything set in Paris, basically. But this one is also really good -- it's about Hemingway's wife, Hadley. So many books have been written about Hemingway but thinking more about his wife and what her story was like was really interesting and although it's fiction, it's another way of getting to know Hemingway and also to think about how people around someone great might be influenced and how he impacted her and her story."
A Thousand Days in Venice, by Marlena De Blasi
"This is a great travel memoir and at the end of every chapter there's a recipe of what the author was cooking while she was in Venice."
Photo credit: Miki Duisterhof