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Beach Reading Strategy Revisited

Last week, I made a mistake.

My wife and I celebrated our anniversary by going on a Caribbean vacation that we’ve been planning for awhile. Obviously, that wasn’t the mistake.

Despite meticulously planning this trip for more than a year, I completely ignored one of my cardinal rules of beach reading—a subject we have discussed on this blog before.

I ignored the fact that some books simply aren’t beach reading material. Instead of looking for another book on the list, I took my current read, Under The Volcano, with me. And there was my mistake.

You see, Under The Volcano is a good book. But it’s a dense, flowery book with long, comma-ridden sentences. The novel plods along in places. That’s not a knock on it because that was Lowry’s intention. He’s covering the span of 24 hours in 400 pages, so it pretty much has to develop slowly.

But, on the beach, I want something entertaining, something fast-moving, something that can hold my attention over the crash of waves, the high-pitched cries of seagulls, and the reverberations from the old guy snoring a couple of beach chairs down. I want a book that compliments my beverage of choice.

Under The Volcano just couldn’t hold my attention on the beach. I needed something more like To Kill A Mockingbird or I, Claudius.

In six days of reading, I only covered about 250 pages. So I’m still not finished with this novel. Compare that to my wife, who read 4 books in that time span!

But maybe it wasn’t the book. Maybe it was just me. Maybe I’m a beach reading slacker. I don’t know.

All that to say I’m not suggesting Under The Volcano is a bad novel. I haven’t finished it, and I’ll hold that judgment until my review. But I’ll simply say that maybe, just maybe, it isn’t a good fit for reading on the beach. The book didn’t fit the environment.

What type of books do you like to read on the beach…or on vacation anywhere?

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21 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hmmm. Holidays are not very fruitful times for my literary pursuits. Too many photo opportunities. I read best on trains or in bed. Or in libraries. Having said that, I am sure that had my first read of To Kill a Mockingbird coincided with a holiday, I would have found no difficulty in foregoing photography. Other books I have managed to prioritise on holiday include Cannery Row, Germinal, The Secret Life of Bees and I am the Messenger. Margaret Atwood and Jane Austen usually manage told my attention effortlessly. Strange.

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    April 26, 2012
    • I can see Margaret Atwood being a good beach-time read. Would’ve loved to have read The Blind Asssassin on the beach.

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      April 26, 2012
  2. segalini #

    Ever since having kids, my vacation reading plans have completely stopped. In fact, I always pack too many books and never read any of them. Always–this time will be different!–and never–sheesh, I never even opened one of these!

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    April 26, 2012
    • Oh yeah. I was able to read on this vacation simply because we left our son with the in laws, but when we go on family vacation this summer, I’m sure my reading will be limited.

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      April 26, 2012
  3. A new travel book on the area, a travel book from 50 to 100 years ago on the area (always enjoy the perspective) and something like Terry Pratchett. I’ve never done beaches though, mostly its when I rest at cafes or suchlike. I agree with you on the type of book, and given that, I’ve found it’s amazing how much a person can browse through while watching people in their daily life and chatting.

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    April 26, 2012
  4. I’m looking forward to a time when vacation reading will once again be on my schedule, and I agree that fast-paced is a good quality for beach reads, as are light & fun stories that don’t require a lot of thought.

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    April 26, 2012
  5. I’ve never really been able to read on the beach, either. No idea why – sit me down on a nice shady sun lounger by a pool with a beer next to me and I’ll go for hours.

    Agree that you don’t want something too dense. Some books are meant to be read in bed, or in a comfortable armchair on a rainy day.

    Oh! Just remembered. I did read a book on a beach once – The Long Song by Andrea Levy. Maybe I can only read books with beaches actually in them?

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    April 26, 2012
  6. When you’re on vacation, away from all the distractions at home and work, it’s an ideal time to focus on more demanding literature. I found the Russians to be some of the best reads and enjoyed both Anna Karenina and War & Peace on the beach in Lavallette. If you do want to go the mindless route, there’s always Hemingway.

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    April 26, 2012
    • Which was heavier: War and Peace or your beach chair?

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      April 26, 2012
  7. My vacation reading generally takes the form of books that can be read aloud to the whole family, so it needs to be something that is age appropriate across a wide range – though it is easier now that my daughter is almost a teenager. And for reading aloud, it is best if it is not dense and flowery with long comma-ridden sentences 🙂

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    April 26, 2012
  8. I find it impossible to read on a beach. Or anywhere outside, for that matter. I am too distracted by all the things going on outside, even it it’s only a zephyr fondling the branches of a tree. I have to read inside where I can control my distractions a bit better.

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    April 26, 2012
    • I can get into that problem too. Crowded beaches cause it. The less crowded the beach, the better. The ocean is like white noise.

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      April 26, 2012
  9. When I have beach-read it was usually something light, like Evanovich, Charlaine Harris or a racy historical romance. I do love genre reading. I’ll leave the literary masterpieces at home.

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    April 26, 2012
    • I’m with you, though Mike disagrees. As you see above, he read War and Peace on the beach. Wow.

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      April 26, 2012
  10. I will sometimes take along an old worn favorite that I have laid aside long enough to feel like I’m slipping into my favorite jeans and enjoying the re-discovery of why this is “favorite” for me.

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    April 26, 2012
  11. I agree with a majority of the comments posted. When I’ve on vacation, that is my time to relax, to escape from all demands in their various forms. Generally, a light mystery like Agatha Christie is perfect for the beach. And someone had mentioned that they liked reading books set at the beach while they’re reading on the beach. That, if I remember correctly, is why Patterson’s novel, Swimsuit, came out just before the summer months (although I never was a big fan of his).

    Like

    April 26, 2012
  12. Melissa @ Swamp of Boredom #

    I think re-reading an old favorite is always a good call for a beach read. That way you can leave the book to do other things or visit with the people you are with. Unless you are with someone who is as avid a reader as you are (and since your wife read 4 books I guess you are!) then they will inevitably want you to interact with them in some way, either through conversation or activities. A book that you can’t put down, while always a joy to read, will make you frustrated with your companions because they are taking you away!

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    April 26, 2012
  13. I wish I could answer this properly but I can’t. I rarely read on vacation especially with kids. I just love to take in the sights too much. When I’m poolside, that’s a different story though. I can read anything. I’m just lounging anyways.

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    April 26, 2012
  14. onejackdaw #

    I was in high school when I read Anna Karenina on a rained out 4 week camping trip with my parents while seeking refuge in the front seat of our car. It was far from anywhere and there were no distractions. These days I prefer one of Connelly’s thrillers, like The Lincoln Lawyer which I can finish in a day or so.

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    April 26, 2012
  15. Love this. It’s so true. I used to bring my homework on vacation. Archaeology turned the beach into a crying baby, biology turned it into a blaring alarm, and philosophy turned it into a bad argument. Books are like people, some demand more attention than others and just don’t mix in with certain crowds.

    I’m sorry you had to encounter this tragedy! I know I have learned this so many times myself. Efficiency with goals is not always the best choice when on vacation… especially the beach. I recommend a nice popular read or a collection of shirt stories that releases you between chapters to take a walk and enjoy their content rather than attempt to make sense of it and/or avoid it.

    Like

    April 27, 2012
  16. I read Lonesome Dove on our last beach vacation and loved every minute of it. We were in Mexico and the novel covers Texas in the mid 1800s, so it seemed to fit with the tours we took and some of the facts we learned about the Mexican-American war.

    Like

    April 29, 2012

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