Four books worthy of your own beach reads list

I'm finally reading the first book of "A Game of Thrones." (Yeah, nerd status is in check.) I've watched a couple seasons of the show, which is making my read even more fun, as I've got the good-looking Hollywood types in my mind as I read the characters' prose. (Looking at you, Jon Snow!) It's really a blast (yes, reading can be "a blast"), and I find myself wanting to do little more than curl up with my Kindle lately. Highly recommended for grownups who still love Harry Potter-and aren't afraid to say so.

-Jenny Rogers, editor

I recently finished Maria Semple's "Where'd You Go, Bernadette." The bestseller from 2013 had been on my reading list for a while, and I'm glad I finally got my hands on a copy. The story centers around 15-year-old Bee and the quest to figure out what happened to her mother, Bernadette, after she goes missing. Don't be fooled: Even though the main character is a teenager, it's not a young adult novel. You'll find themes of family, friendship and complicated pasts as Bee weaves together the mystery surrounding Bernadette's disappearance. The book was a pretty quick and entertaining read, perfect for a vacation or a summer day at the pool.

-Heather Weekley, assistant editor

This summer, I am hoping to finish "A Darkness Strange and Lovely" by Susan Dennard (book two in the "Something Strange and Deadly" series). This sinister series starts in 1876 around Philadelphia's World's Fair, where unnatural forces have begun to plague residents and tourists. Socialite Eleanor Fitt is struggling to keep up appearances after her father's death. In her search for her missing brother, she finds a connection between the strange events at the World's Fair and his disappearance. The social dynamics at play are what makes this story interesting. Eleanor Fitt is a young, unmarried society woman who has grown accustomed to taking charge and solving her own problems given the recent tragedies in her family. But she lives in a time when this is very unusual, and even something she feels the need to hide. I enjoyed the growth of Eleanor's character in book one and have found book two to be equally intriguing so far.

-Kathryn Landis, designer

I've always had a strange fascination with North Korea. From the mystery that conceals its supreme leader to its history and culture, rich in custom but void of freedoms we often take for granted. I picked up Barbara Demick's "Nothing to Envy" in a bookshop up at Lakeside last summer and hadn't gotten around to reading it until just a few weeks ago. I'll cut to the chase: This book is unforgettable. It traces the lives of six North Koreans-defectors who recount how the government's stringent rule affected their lives and brought about the famine that wiped out hundreds of thousands (millions, by some estimates) in the late '90s. Demick draws you in with her knack, as a journalist, for beautiful stories punctuated by unbelievably sad details. Admittedly, this book is not a light read. It's poignant but worthy of reflection. It's one I'll have trouble leaving behind.

-Taylor Starek, web producer

Photo: Courtesy of Sharon & Nikki McCutcheon