Beached Reads

It's pushing 100 degrees in my neck of the woods, which means it's Summer. And with the heat, come the annual beach reading lists. The Wichita Eagle recently interviewed Sarah Bagby to pick her brain regarding her selections for summer fare. Bagby, co-owner of Watermark Books & Cafe in Wichita, suggests there are several types of summertime readers:

There's the Guilty Pleasure type, who can't wait to pick up a romance, some chick-lit or a cheap, cheesy mystery and blame it on the heat.

There's the Big Book type, who considers summer -- and perhaps some quality vacation time -- a perfect chance to savor the 900-page biography they've been meaning to read.

And there's the Buzz Book type, who'll read just about anything if it seems like everybody's talking about it.

I'm probably more the Confused and Intimidated by Summer Reading Lists type. But whatever type of reader you are, you'll find plenty of seasonal suggestions.

Slate recently asked some well-known authors about their summer reading schedule, or Favorite Beach Books. When I think of "beach reading," I think of soft, mindless, breezy tales. You know, like half the stuff on the NY Times Bestseller List. But this year, the lists appear to be, shall we say, bulking up. Other than Joan Acocella actually recommending The Da Vinci Code, the Slate interviewees made some interesting selections. Like Michael Kinsley tackling Trollope, Thomas Mallon touting Kenneth Anger's cult classic Hollywood Babylon and Robert Ferrigno commending H.P. Lovecraft's horror classic, At the Mountains of Madness.

Overbooked adds to the eclectic list with titles like Timothy: Notes of an Abject Reptile, by Verlyn Publisher.

Exploring the natural history of a tortoise by adopting its own sensibility, Timothy is the story of a creature whose real life was observed by the 18th-century curate Gilbert White, author of The Natural history of Senborne.

and The Futurist by James P. Othmer, with this plotline:

From the hideously ugly Greenlander nymphomaniacal artist to the gay male model spy to the British corporate magnate with a taste for South Pacific virgin sacrifice rituals, The Futurist manages to be wildly entertaining and deadly serious at the same time.

Sounds, um, interesting. The Guardian offers The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes novels, edited by Leslie S Klinger, Henry James's The Turn of the Screw and Philip Roth's Everyman for "pre-death pleasure." Hmm. Nothing like a little pre-death pleasure.

The Arizona Daily Star compiles its Beach Reads into categories like Pure Escape, Travel, Education and Sports. At the top of their list: The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue. In a nutshell, it's about a changeling and the boy whose place he took in the world, which sounds right up my alley. Then it's Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon by Thomas M. Myers and Michael P. Ghiglieri. Described as "a comprehensive guide to slipping, sliding, falling, jumping, drowning, murdering, helicoptering and the myriad other ways people have crossed over in and around the Big Ditch." But how it ended up in the Travel section, I don't know. It's neat to see Masuk High School recommend Peace Like a River by Leif Enger in the American Literature category. And of course, NPR's summer reading list contains some oddities. Like Monsters, Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler's "story behind the horror story, documenting Mary Shelley's creation of Frankenstein" and The Book of Lost Books wherein Stuart Kelly chronicles "the vanished (and sometimes recovered) works from Jane Austen, Sylvia Plath and others."

I'm not one for reading lists, not because I don't enjoy scanning the shelves, but because they only serve to make my own lists exceedingly long. But I have acquired a stack of classics which I've begun tackling. (You'll recall I'm woefully ingnorant of "the Great Books.") Right now, I'm finishing Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which has been a delightful read. (As a side note: I'm amazed at how many people actually read the book somewhere in school. Guess the nuns at St. Joseph's Academy kept Twain away from us impressionable students.) Anyway, my "beach reads" for 2006 -- or let's just say, Books I'll Try to Finish this Summer--looks something like this:

Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens

St. Thomas Aquinas, by G.K. Chesterton

Raising Lazarus, by T.L. Hines

Short Stories of Anton Chekhov

Okay, so I've not completely shunned all contemporary reading. I'll be receiving a pre-ordered, signed copy of Tony Hines' book sometime soon, which I'll dig into upon its arrival. Don't know how he feels being stuck between Chesterton and Chekhov though. Anyway, that's my list. Just don't hold me to it. Most of my "beach reads" usually become beached. So what about you? You've loaded the kids, the umbrella and the boogie boards, studied the lists and made your selections. What are you reading Summer '06?


Heather Smith said...

I don't do the beach, I'm a mountains kind of girl, but either way, I'll be reading while I'm there! Or I'll just go out by our lake and read and fish, but my stack of to-read books is pretty thick too. "Great Expectations" is among them! I read it in school, and I liked it. I also plan to read "Pride and Prejudice" even though I know the movie by heart! Hope you have a great summer!

Janet Rubin said...

I'm at the beach almost daily and never without a book. I tackling Stephen King's The Stand, a book so fat I need to haul it in my wagon. Need to also get to Stein on Writing, Self-editing for Fiction Writers, two more books by my favorite new author, Charles Martin, and a few I'm supposed to review. That'll keep me busy:)
Don't forget the sunblock

Mike Duran said...

Sunblock makes me feel...greazy.

michael snyder said...

Okay, I'll bite. I won't get through them all, but here' the pile of read/re-reads:

-Paul Auster: The New York Trilogy, The Book of Illusions
-Douglas Coupland: jPod
-AW Tozer: Pursuit of God
-John Piper: Desiring God
-Billy Collins: Sailing Alone Around the Room
-Langston Hughes, collected works
-Flannery O'Connor, collected stories
-Walker Percy: The Moviegoer
-TL Hines: Waking Lazarus
-Robin Parish: Relentless
-Anne Tyler: The Accidental Tourist
-Colson Whitehead: Apex Hides the Hurt (current)

siouxsiepoet said...

seriously? all right. mike bit, so shall i. (these are just the books piled around my feet right now):

robert a johnson: He!, She!, We! The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden (i've liked all of these, just starting we), owning your own shadow

mythology: all greek myths. roman parallel myths.

clarissa pinkola estes: The gift of story

emily dickinson: the complete poems

robert bly: meditations on the insatiable soul, my sentence was a thousand years of joy, selected poems by rilke, gratitude to old teachers (and any other bly books i can get my mitts on).

marion woodman: dancing in the flames, sitting by the well (audio),

ted kooser: flying at night

that's plenty, eh? don't hold it against me. you're the first one i've told what i'm actually reading at this moment.


Mike Duran said...

Dang, you guys are prolific! Mike, you're all over the map. Tozer and Piper are the equivalent of a theological heavyweight's combination. Don't know how familiar you are with Flannery O'Connor, but I've found many of her tales have left lasting memories. suz, I've always been fascinated with Jungian theory. But his flirtation with the occult has kept me from delving deeper. However, I am big on mythology. I still have a series of YA stories I outlined based on the reworking of Greek myths. Interesting stuff, folks. Thanks for biting!

Katie Hart said...

To-reads coming up (won't be at a beach, but I read part of Emma at a park):

Violet Dawn by Brandilyn Collins

Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, and others (I've already read Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, and Emma in my Austen crash course this spring/summer)

Daughter of Silk by Linda Chaikin

My Life as a Doormat by Rene Gutteridge

Yours Truly said...

No room for the whole thing.

Successes so far ... Emma and Peace Like A River (as everyone gasps, "She hadn't read that?")

Julius Caesar
84 Charing Cross Road
The Importance of Being Earnest
Aiken's Dido Twite books (A+ dialogue)
Sproul's Holiness of God
Reread some Trixie Beldens

Croopus, I'm all over the board.


Ame said...

Uhhhh ... okay ... I'm feeling a little on the "dumb" side here ;)

First ... gotta have time for reading ... then perhaps tackle the stack of books given/loaned or half read. Some of those half-read I really need to finish.

Of course, that's after reading another Junie B. Jones book - they really are great fun even though they're centered around a Kindergartener through her K and first grade years :) Oh, and after The Magic Tree House books ... those are fun, too. Umm ... yeah, and the Highlights that come every month are big hits, too.

For everything there is a season ... my lazy summer beach reading season will come ... someday ;)

btw - guess I'm a little late to the party - just saw your Flicker pics! Great pics! Do you live ON the beach???

lindaruth said...

No guarantee I'll get through this list, but in process is Eat this Book by Eugene Peterson. I just finished Bad Ground, by Dale Cramer -- excellent, excellent book.

Next up is:
Waking Lazarus, T.L. Hines
Peace Like a River, Lief Enger (a re-read because it's such a beautiful book)
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (I started it this spring, but haven't finished yet.)
A 'best of' book of Harlan Ellison short stories.
Flannery O'Connor's short stories.

Like I said, not sure how far I'll get through this list, but I do want to read more short stories -- never read Flannery O'Connor and I need to. Love Harlan Ellison and want to read more of his stories, too.

Also, love the profile pic! (Young Frankenstein is one of my favorites.)

Gina Holmes said...

I'm heading off to Nags Head tomorrow. I'm bringing Claudia Burney's, Murder, Mayhem & a Fine Man and War & Peace. I'm spending the summer on a break from genre fiction (attempting to anyway) and challenging myself a bit with either classics or prize winning fiction. Trying to keep balance.