Questionable Beach Reads

Labor Day greetings from the New Jersey shore! I hope everyone is enjoying your Monday and, if you’re stateside, hopefully enjoying a day off to say goodbye to summer.

My sister and I have historically been laughably bad at selecting appropriate beach reads for our annual trips to the Jersey Shore. Americans are expected to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of the beach by reading something light and frothy – a paperback romance is the perfect Beach Read. But we never got the memo and always would show up with some weighty nonfiction book about, say, fascism or something.

Finally we decided to have a contest a few years ago: who could bring the least beachy Beach Read? The principal rule was that you had to actually read the book you brought on the beach during the week. My father, brother-in-law, and boyfriend Brian all participated. My mother, who does not struggle with the concept of the Beach Read, was the judge. Here were the entries:

In a highly controversial decision, my father’s pick, Ulysses, was selected as the winner. Even though I brought a book about Siberian gulags. #NotBitter. (Incidentally, it’s an amazing book – Adam Hochschild is a really great writer who also published a book called King Leopold’s Ghost, which I also recommend.)

This year, I did make an effort to select books more appropriate to the environment. Before leaving for the shore, I grabbed May Sarton’s House By The Sea, from her series of journals (hey, it’s got sea *in the title*).

I also am beginning Anita Brookner’s Latecomers. I thought she’d be good for the beach because the last book I read of hers dealt with [spoilers, I think] a woman recovering from an affair with a married man by having another affair at a hotel in the Lake Geneva district – Hotel Du Lac. At least that seems to be what I remember.

I didn’t really care for Hotel Du Lac. I believe (I’m not home to confirm) that the used copy I have includes an inscription from the prior owner to the person she bought it for that said something like “Lisa – interested to know what you think of this – a Booker winner?! I didn’t think much. – Helen.”

“Helen,” I’m with you. So I’m hoping Latecomers is better. Brookner is this respected, decorated writer in Britain but I just don’t get it yet. But if there’s more affairs between rich people it’ll at least be appropriately beachy, right? Here’s hoping!

If not, May Sarton is waiting in the wings to take over :). Happy Labor Day, y’all!

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