Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The ideal beach book

My only real experience "going to the beach" has been during the two years that I lived in Spain.  I mean honestly, you can't call the grassy shore of Bear Lake in Wisconsin a "beach".  And as gorgeously clear as the water is in Lake Wazee, it's not a real beach either.  Well, not in my book.

My first real beach trip was to Alicante in October of 2009.  I brought along my Spanish phonetics textbook to read that weekend (along with highlighters and colored pens for underlining).  Erm, yeah.  That is not a good beach book.

I got a little more beach-practice throughout that year, so fast forward to the end of June when I'm in Mutriku, a small town on Spain's northern shore.  Izzy had lent me The Glass Castle, which is what I was reading while we were catching rays. A much better beach book than at the beginning of the year.

Beach Book Standards

With even more beach experience this year, I've come to realize the importance of a good beach book, and have since then created standards for myself.  A good beach book must be:

1. A paperback - The beach book must be a softcover, since I often hold it up to cover the sun while lying on my back.  The arms can only take so much.  And even now that I own a kindle which would be much lighter to hold, I still never bring it to the beach.  Two words: Sand and sunscreen.  Which leads me to my next requirement:

2. Able to get dirty - While reading on the beach, sand will get in all the pages.  If you protect your skin like me (and Hermann! SPF 50 for life!), your hands will be covered in sun screen, thus by the transitive property the pages will also get sunscreen on them.  If you're even more like me, then you will fall asleep with the book on your face,  You will sweat under the hot sun while sleeping, and wake up to wrinkled, wet, sweat-soaked pages stuck to your face.  Yes, that happened multiple times this past weekend (Don't worry Hannah, that was with the hostel's books, not the ones you lent me).  So the book can't be a prized possession or in pristine condition when you borrow it from a friend.

3. Easy to get in to - If you're going to spend over seven hours out in the sun each day, you need to be reading something captivating.  Something that will keep your attention from the very beginning to the very end.  Something light and easy.

And that's really all you need for the perfect beach book.

This Summer's Beach Books

I really lucked out this past June in Alicante when I found a paperback copy of Da Vinci Code at our hostel.

Then this past weekend in Málaga, I came prepared with two books lent to me by Hannah: Stephen King's Different Seasons and Tucker Max's  I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

When I arrived on Friday evening I walked to the beach in my jeans, bringing a towel and I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell with me.  I read a few of the short chapters, which were quite entertaining.   But of course the next day I still had to take a peek at the hostel's bookshelf.  There were many German books, but then something caught my eye: Paulo Coelho's Aleph.

This summer I had read Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, followed by Coelho's The Zahier, followed by the biography of Paulo Coelho.  His biography made me want to read even more of his books, so naturally when I saw an English copy of Aleph next to all of these other German books in the hostel, I had to grab it.

I read most of the book on Saturday and finished it Sunday morning.  I knew I would finish it in no time on Sunday, so I double checked the bookshelf again on Saturday evening, just to make sure there weren't any new books.  There were!  Right away I spotted Susan Lewis's A French Affair, which kept my eyes busy all day Sunday and Monday.  It was a page-turner, but the plot was as believable as a Lifetime movie.  However, this is the type of book that ranks high on the beach book scale.


On my bus ride home today I finished I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, laughing out loud to myself throughout the whole read, while simultaneously wondering what is wrong with some people in this world (and never falling asleep with the book on my face).

My days of reading Spanish phonetics books on the beach are long gone.
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