Is Reading at the Beach Really Good for You?

Every other blog post I’ve been reading today is about summer reading lists and I’m feeling left out because I’ve never made a summer reading list. Well, the truth is I’ve never made a (to-read) reading list at all (okay, GoodReads lists don’t count in this way for me). I’ve always just picked up a book and started to read it.

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So, when I think of summer, I think of the beach. Sand, sun, water… not always the most conducive setting for reading, especially with a modern electronic gadget or an expensive hard bound book. For this list I decided to go back through the books I’ve read (yes, I do keep a list of books I’ve read) and pick out a few I think would survive an incoming tide, as well as look great lying cover up on a beach towel.

  1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman. This one is first because I liked it a lot and because I’m pretty sure you can find it in paperback now (it was published in 2001). The protagonist in this story does a lot of traveling, driving specifically, and this is a classic thing to do in America in the summer. Also, I felt a strong undercurrent of philosophy and maybe theology running in the background throughout the story. Who doesn’t like to wax philosophical while ice cream melts onto their speedo at the beach?
  2. This is a Book by Demetri Martin. I was a little doubtful about this book when I started it, because I’d seen the author on TV. He was so dry that I missed some of his points. However, I did enjoy his writing and it even elicited a number of real life LOLs from me. Also, because it is made of essays and conceptual pieces, rather than a novel length story, it’s perfect for the frequently interrupted attention span of the beach reader / ogler.
  3. The Days of Anna Madrigal (Tales of the City, #9) by Armistead Maupin. I know, I know…why am I recommending the ninth book in a series? Well, because even though it is the ninth, and who knows, maybe last, book in this amazing series chronicling gay life over the past fifty years, it can and does stand alone. The focus is still on Anna Madrigal, the unstoppable transgender landlady of San Francisco, but almost all the old characters are around. Summer heat, sand, and excess are spot on at Burning Man in the desert of Nevada, as well. The descriptions of this event alone will make you glad you can put down your book and cool your toes in whatever water is nearest.
  4. Manila Noir by Jessica Hagedorn (Editor). If you enjoy a bit more darkness from your reading, you’ll get it in Manila Noir. This book is actually a collection of short stories from various authors, all set in, or close to, the capital city of the Philippines, Manila. If you think you’re familiar with Asian culture, but have not been to the Philippines, you are in for a surprise. No other Asian culture has been so heavily influenced by their sometimes oppressors, sometimes liberators, sometimes invaders, sometimes visitors. A slice of life, taken through a section of almost any street in Metro Manila, will yield one an innumerable variety of characters. You may read this book while you’re sitting on the beach…but watch your back!
  5. The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon by Tom Spanbauer. I had to go back a few years for this last one, but I knew it was one I wanted to include here. It deals with hard subjects such as race, sexual identity, prostitution, and family of choice. It is a slice of real life, with characters set in situations where the odds are stacked against them, and it shows the reader that love, understanding, and success are individual characteristics defined by each one of us. It’s a bit of a coming of age book, and maybe that’s a good analogy for the cycle of summer.

There it is. My recommended reading for your summer enjoyment. And if you don’t get it done this summer, it will be there when it’s time to curl up with a cup of coco in front of the fireplace, as well.

Happy reading!

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