Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Why Is Any Book A Good Beach Read?

There’s a phrase thrown about for books, usually novels, that says “It’s a good beach read.”  The implication is that it’s a book that will captivate you while you seek to escape the world, perhaps while on a vacation. It’s similar to its winter cousin, “It’s a curl-by-the-fire book.”  Why do the two things seemingly go together -- book and beach?

Reading a book, even one for pleasure, makes us feel we’re doing something. It is a measured accomplishment to say your read a book.  Maybe you can judge a vacation by how many books you read, though that would depend on several factors, including where you went, who you went with, the weather, how good the books are, and how fast you read.

It’s a distinct pleasure to spend many hours at the beach, alternating between a hazy snooze, eating, walking the shoreline, taking a dip into the water and reading a book. Reading a newspaper can be enjoyable, but it’s more of a snack than a full meal. And if it’s breezy, turning the pages of a broadsheet like The New York Times becomes an Olympic sport.

I’ve vacationed the past three summers off the coast of some of New England’s most enthralling beaches.  I’m a New Yorker who actually hasn’t been to nearby Fire Island or the Hamptons, but I’ve gravitated to Cape Cod.  This summer I spent eight days on Martha’s Vineyard with my wife and two children.

Being on an island is exactly what I needed.  It technically has one traffic light, though it’s just a four-way flashing red light.  There is scant evidence of any chains (I saw a Dairy Queen with a small sign that inconspicuously, almost apologetically, says DQ).  There are no billboards.  The house we stayed in didn’t have a/c though the fans and freshwater breeze cooled it nicely.  I only watched ten minutes of TV my first night there.  I checked my phone a lot less often than I usually do.  It was a time to detach and unwind.

However, I still had my 8 and 11-year old kids and wife with me.  Though they can add such pleasure and depth to my life, they can also drive me crazy.  “I want to do this,” says one.  “I don’t want to do that,” says another.  How do you get four minds to agree on anything?   My daughter always, oddly, bemoans that we take beach vacations and yet every time we hit a beach she tells me she doesn’t want to leave, having busied herself collecting rocks or shells, petting dogs, or playing in the sand and water.

My wife and I would eventually settle into our books amid the calming surroundings.  We gave in to the influence of nature and sometimes nodded off from reading.  I guess we enjoy book-induced snoozing as much as actually reading.

The beaches of Martha’s Vineyard are all very different.  Most lack depth but run long down the coast.  Some curve around where you feel there’s water coming at you from all angles.  No one’s selling crap on the beach -- no food, no peddlers, no jet ski stands.  It’s doesn’t have volleyball nets either. It’s not California, Florida or Atlantic City.  It has its own quiet, almost private charm.

Lighthouses dot the 87 square miles of escape.  I walked up two of them, getting a wonderful 360-degree view from around 50 feet up, which feels high considering few structures stand any taller than half its height.

You’d think books don’t belong on the beach.  It’s a contrast between the natural environment and a manufactured existence.  They also compete for your attention – do you read and escape from a beautiful place that itself is an escape from life and one’s busy world?  Does water mix with paper?

We did a lot of fun things on our semi-annual family vacation.  We went to an airfield that featured low-flying bi-planes that landed and took off while we lunched outside on some good fare.  We even had a cool celebrity sighting.  David Letterman, the long-time late night comedian of 30 years looked in full retirement mode as he sat at a table with his family directly next to us.

We also rented paddleboards for the first time.  We brought along our own kayak that we bought last year after enjoying a rental in Cape Cod.  We biked almost daily and we made sure we had ice cream every afternoon or evening.  One time we brought seafood to a beach in Menemsha and watched the sunset.  Just beautiful.  Just exploring new terrain in a place you need a ferry to get to was fun.

One of my favorite pastimes is to go into independent bookstores in towns that I visit.  I managed to buy two books at one in Vineyard Haven.  I also stopped several times at the one in Edgartown.  I was looking for the new Tom Wolfe book on language but it wasn’t out until a day or two after we left paradise.

I didn’t realize how many people read at the beach until I took notice this vacation.  It seems this area, in particular, invites wealthier, more educated people so it only makes sense that book readers will fill the beaches.  It’s such a nice site to behold – the beauty of nature, the beauty of books.  Throw in some bikini-clad hotties and you’ve hit the trifecta.

Did you read any good books on the beach this summer?

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2016 ©.

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