Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Have book, will travel! Today's topic is beach reads.
Most of us, when we go on vacation, like our surf-side literature to be as fluffy as the cotton candy on the boardwalk. This explains the perennial popularity of Nora Roberts. If her novels aren't the literary equivalent of cotton candy, I don't know what is.
Are you a huge fan of Nora Roberts, and thereby offended by what I just wrote? My friend, your difference of opinion doesn't change my respect for you one bit! Of all the pleasurable experiences out there, reading is the most self-directed. And thank goodness for that. Variety is the spice of life. We would have much less of it if reading was like golf, something you have to learn to do just like other people do it.
Last summer my sister gave me two "beach reads." I read and hated them both. One was the award-winning The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood. The book kept me turning pages, but in the end I just didn't like it. In return, I gave her one of my favorite beach reads, Elsewhere in the Land of Parrots, by Jim Paul. She's never mentioned it, so I'm guessing she tried it and didn't like it. Oh well. I just hope she gives it back.
This past week when we were at the beach (sort of, see below), my daughter The Heir said she didn't have anything to read. She and her dad went into Easton, and she returned with her brand-new beach read: Junky, by William S. Burroughs. She sat there engrossed in it for the duration of our vacation.
See what I mean? Who picks Junky for summer reading? The Heir! You go, Heir. Read all about it, just don't try it. That's the whole point of a beach read ... to let us live vicariously.
There are two universally adored summer reads that I have not been able to penetrate past page 100 ... and not for lack of trying. One is The Mists of Avalon. The other is Twilight. Length is not an issue. The Thorn Birds, weighing in at a whopping 689 pages, is a personal favorite. I just couldn't become engaged in Mists or Edward Cullen. But go figure -- I've read every page of every Harry Potter volume. Sometimes I like the popular stuff, sometimes I hate it.
Here's my free advice on beach reading, just in time for your getaway.
1. Know what you've liked in the past. Nowadays, with Amazon at your fingertips, it's easy as pie to find similar authors to those you already love.
2. Ask people who have your personality type. I discovered one of my favorite authors, Carl Hiaasen, by borrowing a book from a totally unscrupulous local doctor with a sick sense of humor. Judging by the recommender, I knew what I was getting when I opened my first Hiaasen. I've since read every one of Carl Hiaasen's novels. Beach reads par excellence, according to Anne.
3. Vacation is not the time to strengthen your intellectual muscles. There's nothing quite so dismal as being stranded in a hotel room on a rainy day with nothing but Gravity's Rainbow for company.
4. Don't be embarrassed if you hate to read! It's your vacation. You can spend it in the library playing Farmville. Be proud of your strawberries!
5. Beach reads don't have to be books. Gosh, Heir's August issue of Rolling Stone just arrived, and I could for sure go to the beach with that puppy. There's an article in it about the BP oil spill. And a profile of Leonardo DiCaprio. I can't believe Rolling Stone is still so trippy after all these years. Leo on one page, dead pelicans on the next. It's like Hunter Thompson never died.
6. This may be a personal prejudice, but beach reads ought to be easily replaced without a trip to the poorhouse. No Kindles, no signed first editions (fine, in fine dw), no ebooks on your latest Droid. The person who steals your beach read in this case might not actually be taking it for content.
7. Don't travel light! If you're a picky reader, take along three or four (or more) books. Sample each one and stick with the one you like the best. I wish I had taken this advice myself when I was at the beach last week. I had a perfectly delightful history of Benjamin Franklin's diplomatic mission to the court of Louis XVI, but I passed it over for a more conventional beach read that turned out to be disappointing.
8. While on vacation, do something! Hike, swim, tour, ride a roller coaster. Do stuff you can't do at home. If you're at the beach, reading is fine -- but you should also take your chances with the sharks and play in the arcades. Because if your idea of vacation is to curl up with a good book, you should just stay home. With all the money you save, you can buy more books!
As always, this advice is offered for free. Of course, if you would like to make a donation, the ushers will be circulating with the collection plate.
What's your favorite beach read? Mine, along with the aforementioned Elsewhere in the Land of Parrots, is Stormy Weather, by Carl Hiaasen.