Two Questions: Beach Reading

What makes for a good summer read? Need the book be disposable, something picked up in one airport and tossed in another? Or can vacation reading have depth?

Our lovely Twitter pointed us to a Wall Street Journal summer reading list, which mentioned our own Stieg Larsson, Richard Russo and John Updike as possible beach companions. Their list stresses readability, and in those three they’ve chosen books that are familiar or gripping enough to make one forget the scenery. (A good summer book should be portable. Thankfully, the forthcoming paperback version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo should make it easier to fit in a tote bag.)

But vacations are also a time to settle into the serious texts that the rest of the year doesn’t give time for. A disciplined beach reader can work through Anna Karenina, sightseeing be damned! In the spirit of the season, I’d like to ask you two questions:

  1. What are you looking forward to reading on vacation this summer?
  2. What’s the worst book you ever brought to read on a trip?

Personally, I’m going to use my two weeks off to take another stab at the aforementioned Tolstoy, even if it’s too heavy to carry around. And the least appropriate thing I ever brought to the beach was Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem, a critical meditation on the Holocaust that, though grim, was actually much more stimulating than just lying around getting sunburn.

4 thoughts on “Two Questions: Beach Reading

  1. I know that many readers choose lighter fare during the summer months but I find that the summer is the perfect time to tackle a heavier read. I would really love to finish Moby Dick this summer.

  2. I’m one of those readers who likes a nice light book over the summer. Specifically because if I’m going to the beach or a park, I know I’ll be interrupted frequently. I need something that I can pick up and put down in an instant and not need to re-cap. I have a few books picked out so far for this summer – so we’ll see how it goes!

  3. I read Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams and Nevada Barr’s Borderline. Quite different reads…Lopez was for an EarthWatch trip, Barr was a beach read. Back in school now, so The Dharma Bums will have to wait.

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