Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Sunday Question

What are your favorite beach reads?

The Sunday Question has been on holiday for the past few weeks. Basking in the sun, splashing in the surf, lying about on the strand reading, while I've been trying to solve technical difficulties in my sweltering office. I'm envious, to say the least.
But the summer is young, and more perfect beach weather is on the way. Since I usually pack more books than one human being can sensibly carry (or read) when I'm going to the beach, I thought it might be a good time to ask: What are your favorite beach reads?

I collected a number of responses, both surprising and predictable, from Odyssey staff and other beach and book lovers. One friend said she can't read on the beach, she hates getting a book all sweaty and sandy. She reads magazines she is usually ashamed to read in public - O Magazine and Martha Stewart Living. Nieves cites her summer (and fall, and winter) go-to book, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen.

Emily Crowe favors The Case Of The Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall, and of course, That Old Cape Magic, by Richard Russo.

Marika says she just reads whatever she happens to be in the middle of at the time. That might be the sensible thing to do. But when I'm lying on the beach, listening to the lap and crash of waves, I want to be reading something that magnifies and enhances the experience. I love it so much, I want to live it double, in life and in my reading. So most of my favorite beach reads are set on the beach or the high seas.

Perhaps my favorite is, appropriately, The Odyssey (especially the Richmond Lattimore translation). The descriptions of the sea itself haven't been bested in a few thousand years.

Along the same lines, I also love the vivid, muscular (and hefty) continuation of Homer's work, The Odyssey, A Modern Sequel by Nikos Kazantzakis. No fear of running out of book with that one.

For descriptions of langorous days on the French Riviera, Tender Is The Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald gets my vote. I particularly love the scene where all the rich folk are hanging about discussing which of them has the most repose.

Then there is Persuasion, perhaps Jane Austen's greatest masterpiece, set partly in Lyme, oh, and The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles, ditto.

Marika also suggests a few beach reads for kids. Harriet The Spy was always one of my faves.
Also, The Penderwicks (is there a Penderwicks Go To Lyme Regis?), Peter & The Starcatchers, and Charlotte's Web.

The Hunger Games, and Going Bovine for teens.

And I have to put in a pitch for my all time favorite, for the beach or anytime, anyplace, which I actually read once while looking across the Bay of St. Lawrence right at Newfoundland where it was set: Annie Proulx's The Shipping News.

Destined to become another classic beach read, Howard Norman's new book, What Is Left The Daughter is somewhat reminiscent of Ms. Proulx's Pulitzer and IMPAC winner, too. Set in Nova Scotia during World War II, the characters are as compelling, and the sea as ominous a presence.

Please let us know your most cherished beach books, the books that conjure up that old Cape, or North Shore or even Riviera magic, year after year.


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