Annals of Japery

Help Me Choose My Next Beach Read

By posted at 12:00 pm on June 14, 2016 6

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With summer nearly upon us, thoughts naturally turn to the beach — and, of course, to beach books, the seasonal genre known for its breeziness and ease. And though I’m planning on visiting the beach this weekend, I can’t decide what I should read. (The Girls? The Wright Brothers? How the hell to choose?) What’s more, I find the beach a terrible place to read, as it’s teeming with distractions, annoyances, and lingering traumas. So I’m asking you, dear reader, to help me select my next beach book. I do have to warn you, though: I can be a little picky.

covercovercoverMy beach read should help me forget the roaming packs of half-feral children who will no doubt be running within millimeters of my blanket, kicking sand in my eyes, and screeching like wounded monkeys. So I don’t want to read Lord of the Flies or Blood Meridian.

It should help me ignore the seagulls that always seem to hover above, waiting for the perfect moment to steal my sandwich, shit in my hair, or gouge out my eyes. So Daphne Du Maurier’s The Birds is out.

cover coverI’d like to forget about the time I nearly drowned when I was eight — I tripped while playing paddleball and was dragged a terrifying 30 feet out to sea. For that reason — and, yes, I know it won a goddamn Pulitzer — the last thing I want to read is William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days.

If possible, I don’t want to be reminded that, at 37, I have the physique of a creepily hairy toddler — and that the shoreline will feature a parade of deep-tanned lunks built like young Schwarzeneggers. So if you’re thinking of recommending something Austrian — Franz Kafka, Robert Musil, Joseph Roth — you can forget it. (Also, by extension, no Kafka on the Shore).

covercovercoverI don’t want to think about the fact that it will likely be broiling, a full 12 degrees above the day’s average temperature — or that the beach I’m lounging on was ravaged a few years back by a climate change-fed hurricane. So Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded and Erik Larson’s Isaac’s Storm probably won’t do.

covercoverOn a trip to the shore when I was in high school, my friends and I managed to pick up some girls, and I was fortunate enough to later grapple with one of them on the moonlit beach. It was as romantic as it sounds, and as we pitched about in the sand, I was certain that I would a) see her again and b) marry her. We exchanged numbers, and I gave her my flannel shirt as a token of our love. But when I called her a few weeks later, she acted as if we’d never met, and the conversation devolved into me apologizing for my existence and stammering a goodbye. This is a roundabout way of saying that I don’t want any book that involves a person giving a shirt to another person — which I believe happens in both Anna Karenina and Clockers.

I definitely don’t want to be reminded of the fraught few months that I spent adrift in a lifeboat with a tiger as my sole companion. So nothing with tigers, please.

covercoverI’m going to the beach to forget the pendulum-ticking tedium of the job I’ll be forced to return to come Monday, so any workplace novels — Then We Came to the End, The Imperfectionists, et al. — are likely to bring on a low-level depression. And that’s the opposite of what a beach book should do.

You know what? Fuck all this. I appreciate your help, but this isn’t working out. Forget it. I think I’ll just stay home.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.





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6 Responses to “Help Me Choose My Next Beach Read”

  1. elle
    at 4:50 pm on June 14, 2016

    Ouch. Watch the F-bomb.

  2. Heather Curran
    at 7:51 pm on June 14, 2016

    Jacob don’t fucking stay at home! I am reading The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas and laughing my fucking head off. It is bloody brilliant and the dialogue is killer good.

  3. Jack M
    at 7:58 am on June 15, 2016

    Try Norwood by Charles Portis. It’s literate, funny and sharp.

  4. Danny D
    at 8:37 am on June 15, 2016

    Try ‘Wild At Heart’ by Barry Gifford. It’s a novella. Then go on to his subsequent novels about the continuing love story of Sailor And Lula. Then the latter ones about Lula and their son Pace. Sublime stuff. Or Jon Ronson’s ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’.

  5. Deirdre
    at 9:42 am on June 15, 2016

    Read Allison Amend’s Enchanted Islands, a fast moving novel that is as much about a lifetime friendship as it is about an unlikely marriage and spies on Floreana during WW II. This novel reminded me why I love to read a great story!

  6. Jay
    at 2:32 pm on June 15, 2016

    I’ll give you three from my favorite publisher, NYRB Classics.

    Talk, by Linda Rosenkrantz
    The Dud Avocado, by Elaine Dundy
    Eve’s Hollywood, by Eve Babitz

    These are three great books with a great female voice that are fun and fresh, without being cliched or overly light. Truly enjoyable writing.

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