It’s that time of year when people start asking me about good “beach reads.” I’ve never been sure what makes a beach read. Is it a book you don’t mind getting slick with sweat and suntan oil (and perhaps an errant drop of beer)? Does that mean it’s a broken-spined, raggedy-ass old paperback?
I don’t know. But I thought I’d spend these summer-month blogs telling you about a bunch of worthwhile books to spend some time with during vacation season. Because that’s a “beach read” to me. It means that finally the assholery of work is left behind at the office and you have time to relax with a few good books.
Alas, Stieg Larsson is still dead, so there’s no new volume in the Lisbeth Salander series, but here are some things you might like (below). These are mostly hardcovers, so if you take them to the beach, use rubber gloves when turning the pages.
Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History (WW Norton, $25.95) is a funny-but-serious survey of those things so often exposed on beaches. Reminds me of the great science writing of Mary Roach, who wrote Stiffs, about what happens to bodies after they are dead, and Bonk, about what it’s like to be in a sex study. This book by Florence Williams deals both with the science and the obsession and we learn a lot about humans and human nature. (Alert to dude readers: No, it’s not illustrated with those kinds of pictures. This picture with Sophia Loren and Jayne Mansfield is the best image in the book.)
Live Fast, Die Young (Summersdale, $13.95) gives the impression that it will catalog all of the great American burned-out rock stars during a cross-country road trip. Not quite. Authors Chris Price and Joe Harland are mostly concerned with one rock star, the late Gram Parsons. He came from Winter Haven, Fla., and ascended the rock’n’roll throne with the Byrds and then the Flying Burrito Brothers. He was a musical pioneer and genre bender, but seems most remembered for dying young and having his body stolen and burned in a dessert ceremony by friends. Key scenes take place at Gram’s Place in Tampa. It’s a fun book, but if you have a Gram fixation, stay tuned for Calling Me Home, a serious look at Parsons’ life and influence by Orlando-based writer Bob Kealing.