Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Summer reading, part 1

(an occasional series featuring books old and new)

Good Beach Reads
What with all the distractions on the sand--the sand itself, the sun, am I wearing enough sunblock?, the heat, the mesmerizing waves, the occasionally mesmerizing other beachgoers--the beach is no place to try to read anything of any depth. (Props to you well-tanned Proustophiles, but I'm not among you.)

Titillation and/or suspense, along with a strong storyline that sticks with you through the distractions noted above, are essential. A few suggestions:

Out by Natsuo Kirino. (novel) Four working women in the Tokyo suburbs deal with a nasty situation that affects all of them. Violent at times, the narrative pushes forward along with their desperation. Especially interesting is the insight on class -- another view of Japan. Everyone I've recommended this to has enjoyed it.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. (novel) Bought this to read on a long plane flight (back from Paris, if you must know) and didn't expect much because of my snottiness toward bestsellers. On the other hand, I love vampire stories and this is a smartly written and entertaining one. I hope I'm ready if I ever find that creepy book on my shelf.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. (novel) OK, forget what I said about bestsellers. Because this was one, and it's great. A whodunit, a family drama, and on some level just plain sad. But written with love and humor.

Giving Up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel. (memoir) This one might be a little too serious for the beach...on the other hand, if you're a writer and/or a recovering Catholic and/or get migraines, like me, it might be just the ticket. Her memories of childhood emotions are phenomenal in their specificity.

1 comment:

Karen said...

As to those who vacation with tomes, e.g., "well-tanned Proustophiles," the sad truth is that most of them suffer from a form of paranoid troglodytic schizophrenia such that they never can board a plane without an absolutely assured longterm supply of quality, i.e., canonized. reading material--poor deluded slobs.