Summer time for many, including my family, means going to the beach, so I had a great time browsing through NPR’s Audience Picks 100 Best Beach Books Ever . I have always been a discursive reader --at least since I discovered the word discursive when I was about 14 -- and apparently the NPR audience members are too. What an amazing variety of books have been suggested for the list! And I am pleased to report that I have read about half of them – so far.
The list includes classics like Treasure Island (ranked # 100) and Huckleberry Finn (#21) that I reread every few years, also Jane Austen (#5) and Emily Bronte (#76) that I don’t. There are classic mysteries like Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express (#50), along with contemporary ones including Janet Evanovitch (#87) and Scott Turow (#91).
There are titles that seem to me to be perfect beach books, including Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities and Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary (#4) or titles by Ken Follett (#41) and Carl Hiaasen (#99). On the other hand, Bonfire of the Vanities tied with William Golding’s Lord of the Flies for number 74 on the list!?! And has anyone really ever seen a reader stretched out on a chaise lounge reading Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (#56)?
Two titles by Cormac McCarthy made the list -- All the Pretty Horses (#83) and The Road (#86). Both of these books worked for me as late night reading, but you definitely won’t find them in my beach bag. I did read Peter Benchley’s Jaws (#62) at the beach when it was first published, though I have to confess that I was pretty nervous about going into the ocean for the rest of that week.
It is fun to scan any list of recommended books and pick out the ones you have read and love, but it is even more fun to be reminded of books you haven’t read and maybe didn’t even realize you wanted to. On the 100 Best Beach Books list I just spotted Princess Bride by William Goldman (#28). My family fell in the love with the movie Princess Bride when it was released in 1987. Give a Bowen any excuse and we still chant “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” But I have never read the book! The SWAN catalog shows that a copy is on the shelf, so Princess Bride has moved to the top of my own list of books for the beach this summer!