Top 5 books for reading near the water

At last, summer is starting to creep its warm-temperature tendrils around us, thawing our cold Minnesotan winter hearts. This weekend, if the weather cooperates, many of us will be taking a trip to the lake, biking along the river, or maybe even sitting poolside.

Let's get you in the mindset of waves, shall we? Here are five books that are set nearby or written on the topic of water to pack in your beach bag.

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The Peripatetic Coffin by Ethan Rutherford

Everyone needs a collection of short stories to pick up and set down at their leisure in between dips into the lake. This brand-new release of short stories from local author Ethan Rutherford is a smart read that is buoyed by playful humor. The comical yet heartbreaking title story takes place in a doomed submarine full of Confederate soldiers, who contemplate their unavoidable deaths in the depths of the Charleston harbor. Another chuckle-inducing tale chronicles rivalries between teenage boys at Camp Winnesaka on Lake Oboe. Yet another story follows sailors of the Saint Anna, who are heading toward ice-filled waters.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

A quick read for those with busy summer schedules, this classic novella undoubtedly belongs on this list. Written in Hemingway's trademark stark and simple style, The Old Man and the Sea follows Santiago, an elderly Cuban fisherman. Santiago is betting on better luck by putting up a stubborn and painful -- yet heroic -- fight with a giant marlin that drags him and his sense of worth far into the Gulf Stream.

By the Lake by John McGahern

McGahern's quiet novel By the Lake sets its sights on a small lakeside village in rural Ireland. Taking a slow, methodical pace, McGarhern invites the reader to get intimate with village's characters and their intermingled lives. There are sheep and cattle farmers, dramatic gossipers, womanizers, and more. Following the colorful town's inhabitants for a year, the book sinks deep into the community's roots, drawing the reader into the spell of everyday life in Ireland.

Sharks in the Rivers by Ada Limón

Published by local press Milkweed Editions, Sharks in the Rivers will satisfy any poetry-loving soul's waterside reading desires. A wonder of nature -- specifically of rivers -- swells up in many of the collection's poems. Limón infuses each of piece with a sense of deep awe and deliberate urgency, observing the power of water. She challenges the reader, such as in the closing lines of the poem "Flood Coming," in which she advises: Don't run. Open your mouth big / to the rising and hope to your god / your good heart knows how to swim.

Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn

This quirky, sugary romp of a novel about freedom of speech and expression is perfect for a waterside read. Nollop Island (off the coast of South Carolina), the story's location, is proudly named after the author of the saying "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog," which contains all the letters of the alphabet. The island community spirals into danger and oppression as their increasingly strict council begins to ban letters of the alphabet one by one (which also start to disappear from the novel itself). Ella, the main character, is a loveable and humorous woman who finds a way to stand up to the council.

What books prominently featuring water get you in the mood for a summertime swim (local, or otherwise)? Leave suggestions in the comments.

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