Today, a friend's blog called my attention to a new list put out by NPR on the 100 Best Beach Reads. Obviously, I immediately counted how many of the 100 I had read (21, in case you're wondering). I really enjoyed prowling through the list and trying to figure out why people would want to read certain books on their vacations that most people never attempt in their lives. I actually found out that War and Peace had made the list of 200 finalists. War and Peace! It's one of my favorite books and I still wouldn't make it my personal beach read. The list gives a glimpse into the reading lives of Americans (well, the kind of Americans who listen to NPR anyway), and I found it very interesting.
But, to be honest, my first thought upon seeing the article was simply, "Holy crap, do I love lists!" So in honor of that lovely self-reflection, I decided to make my own reading list today. I decided to make my own beach reading list based on 10 years of family summer vacations spent being a beach bum in Hilton Head, South Carolina. These are the books that I became attached to as someone who loves the ocean breeze as much as she loves book. So here you go, Readers Everywhere: Beth's List of Top 10 Beach Reads.
1. The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli: Short stories make great beach reads, particularly in the lazy evenings after dinner, and Fitzgerald always reads like a summer night to me.
2. The Season of Lillian Dawes, by Katherine Mosby: I don't know exactly what it is about this book that I like so much. The writing is lovely and the story (about hidden identies, inheritances, and brothers) is solid if not exactly exciting or hugely original, but this book is equally perfect poolside AND when stuck inside the beach house during a storm.
3. The Complete Poems of Theodore Roethke: Poems always read better outside, although I've never understood why. This book includes "The Storm," a great poem about the ocean.
4. You Shall Know Our Velocity, by Dave Eggers: Eggers's conversational style and ability to be emotionally satisfying without becoming cloying or sentimental is perfectly suited for vacation. And this book, although it had me nearly in tears occasionally, was a great escape as it followed two guilt and grief-laden travelers through many adventures and lies.
5. Assassination Vacation, by Sarah Vowell: A perfect vacation book that's part-travelogue, part-history. I learned more from reading this book on the beach than I learned for half a year in my high school American History class, and Vowell is the funniest and most charming writer around, in my opinion.
6. The Perfect Hour: The Romance of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ginevra King, His First Love, by James L.W. West III: A brief, interesting, and sad read about Fitzgerald's first failed love affair. I don't know if it would be interesting to anyone but Fitzgerald fanatics such as myself, but I thought it was an extremely satisfying beach read.
7. Emma, by Jane Austen: I don't know how much of this has to do with the book's charm and how much it has to do with my love for George Knightley. Part of me was hoping he was living in the beach house right next door the entire time I was reading it...
8. Pigs in Heaven, by Barbara Kingsolver: Okay, okay, I admit I didn't actually read this book on the beach (I read it largely in my parents' living room). But it was the only Kingsolver novel not on the NPR list, and because it has always been my favorite book by her, I felt greatly offended. This book is fantastic, and it's home to my biggest literary crush of all time: Jax Thibodeaux
9. Three Comrades, by Erich Maria Remarque: I apologize for this entry, being that it's the most depressing book on this list. But this long, enjoyable, and well-written book about friends and fellow German soldiers after World War I sustained me not only through a rainy vacation week, but the long car ride there and back as well.
10. Sea Swept, by Nora Roberts: That's right. A Nora Roberts book. I confess I do enjoy a good romance every once in a while, especially when I'm somewhere hot, lazy, and with lots of access to winecoolers. Deep down, even an NPR girl like myself is a little trashy.
I hope you enjoyed the list, and I really hope you all have had some amazing beach reads of your own! Happy Reading!