From The Beacon: Pick up one of the greats this summer

"I have never known any distress that an hour's reading did not relieve,"Montesquieu (1689-1755).

A book (or CD, audiobook, downloadable e-book) is an excellent companion on the beach or at home. As the summer continues, consider reading a great novel. For fiction lovers, here are a few recommendations with the date of first publication given in parentheses:

"David Copperfield" by Charles Dickens (1850): Some might find this classic a bit long and gloomy, but it remains an excellent story for all times. The book revolves around the life of Copperfield, who grew up in England during the Industrial Revolution. Child labor and grinding poverty were common threads in a dreary world. Dickens introduces us to unforgettable characters including Mr. Micawber, Uriah Heep, Peggotty, Miss Betsey Trotwood and Mr. Murdstone.

"The Good Earth" by Pearl Buck (1931): Set in China, this novel is about Wang Lung and his family. The beauty of the book is the description of family and village life in China during the early 20th century. Land and the ability to pass the land on to children is the most valuable of possessions. Being a farmer, Wang must constantly worry about drought, floods and war. "The Good Earth" won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1932.

"Cry the Beloved Country" by Alan Paton (1948): On one level, this is a story of South Africa during the 1940s with its history of colonialism and apartheid. On another level, it is the story of Stephen Kumalo, an Anglican priest who attempts to help his sister and son, who become involved in drugs and murder, respectively. In his travels from the country to the city, Kumalo finds that his notion of life under apartheid is vastly different from that of a younger generation growing up under the system.

For the connoisseur of nonfiction, I recommend:

"Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson: Set in Chicago during the 1893 World's Fair, this is a history of Chicago up until that time, the effort to bring the exposition to the city, and the efforts to build it. While these events are going on, a serial killer is stalking women in the city.

"Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer: This is a mystery of a young man who basically disappears after graduating from college. He resurfaces in the western United States and eventually goes to Alaska. He leaves no forwarding address to his family and ends up trying to live in the Alaskan wilderness. The author offers unique insight into the mindset and bizarre behavior of this young man.

"Titanic's Last Secrets: The Further Adventures of Shadow Divers John Chatterton and Richie Kohler" by Brad Matsen: We know that the Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg nearly a century ago. However, there is much about the Titanic that is not well-known, and unanswered questions abound. Many of these questions are answered in this excellent history of the era of big luxury liners. As the authors also are divers, they visit the watery grave of Titanic's sister ship, the Britannic, to search for clues in the hull, in the rivets and from other found treasures of that time so long ago.