BOOKS AND BEACHES go together like piña and colada, lime and corona, gin and tonic . . . okay, you get the pitcher, err, picture. Salt in the air, wind through hair, and a book in hand—for a beach-bound book lover, this is the ideal day.
On any given shoreline, hundreds of beachgoers can be found flipping the pages of beloved books both new and old. What are these myriad titles? To find out, StayMused recently combed some local beaches in search of folks willing to discuss the titles they brought with them. The results were as varied as the attitudes people held about a random stranger interrupting their peaceful vacation moments.
In this first installment of “Books on the Beach,” we met up with a man named John H. who enjoys historical non-fiction and cold beer. When I first came across John, he was sitting under a blue umbrella talking loudly about the book he was reading. This, I thought, was practically an invitation to begin my interview.
John: Umm, yeah, sure. What’s this for?
StayMused: A blog focusing on books, music and booze.
John: Sounds like my cup of tea. [John laughs then takes a sip of an undisclosed beverage.] Well, sure, I am reading Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates [by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger]. It basically tells about the measures Jefferson took in an effort to prevent the theft of American ships and the kidnapping of sailors during the early 1800s off the coast of Tripoli.
StayMused: A book about pirates seems particularly appropriate for the beach. Did you read any reviews before purchasing that title? Historical works are sometimes criticized for being inaccurately skewed for the sake of storyline or to suit the author’s biased viewpoint.
John: I haven’t seen any reviews, but I read a lot of historical non-fiction and I would say this is pretty good. The book does mention the tension between America and Islamic states, so maybe some people would find it a little controversial.
StayMused: I appreciate your insight. I am sure some readers will appreciate the connections the book draws between historical episodes and contemporary concerns. On a scale of 1 to 5, how likely would you be to recommend this book to a friend?
John: Well, if I knew they like history, I would say 4.5. If not, maybe a 3 to 3.5.
StayMused: It’s certainly important to recognize the interests of your fellow readers before making a recommendation. Are there any other historical works you have particularly enjoyed recently?
John: A while back, I read Guns, Germs, and Steel. That was good, really good. I lent it to a buddy of mine and never got it back.
StayMused: You’ve been plundered, John. Thanks so much for your time. I’ll let you get back to your book and beverage combo. Enjoy the rest of your vacation.
John: [Laughs.] I’m retired. Every day is a vacation at this point. And it’s no problem. By the way, wanna take one with you? [John motioned to an exceptionally large cooler.]
No one ever said journalism was a walk on the beach.
I would have obliged, but there were more interviews to conduct, so I politely declined and suggested I would come back later. When I finally did return, John and company had retired from the beach.
With the sun flaring at the horizon, the wind still whirling, and the air beginning to cool, I sat in the sand and opened the cover of the book I had brought with me that day, Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. I also cracked open a beer can that had been left behind with a little note crammed underneath the tab: “I’d also recommend The Mayflower. Cheers.”
“Books on the Beach” is an ongoing series relating conversations with fellow beachgoers about their favorite summer reads. In the next installment, we’ll meet a feisty elderly woman who enjoys sappy love stories and was clearly annoyed by my presence. No one ever said journalism was a walk on the beach.