TTT: My Non-Beach Books

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Books I’d Recommend As Good Beach Reads. I have a confession. I’m not a beach person. My idea of a relaxing getaway is not lounging on the beach with a cool drink and a book. I’ve never been an outdoorsy kind of person. Whenever we’ve gone to the beach as a family, sure I might venture out onto the sand, walk around, perhaps even sit and watch the kids. But for fun, I’d just as soon go back to the hotel room and read. The wind, waves, and sun don’t particularly enhance the atmosphere for me. That might be rank heresy to some of you, but that’s just the way I am.

As you can imagine, then, the concept of a “beach book” is quite foreign to me. As I understand it, the “beach book” is the light, entertaining novel you take on vacation. You can lie on the beach reading it without fear of being reduced to tears, or being brought to the verge of some existential meltdown, in public. If you want to catch some z’s (that’s zees in the US, zeds in the UK and Commonwealth), you can mark your place and put the book down–you don’t feel compelled to keep reading until you’re straining your eyes in the moonlight, or you’ve turned into a lobster because you couldn’t stop to apply more sunscreen. Yet, hopefully you enjoy the book enough that when you awake, you’ll want to pick it up again and continue. Get the idea?

Given that I don’t think I own any books that would fit this description (nothing against those books, but I don’t actively hunt out beach reads… because I don’t beach-read), I thought I would have some serious problems with this list, so I asked my family for help. My wife suggested I list the books I think are the most inappropriate beach reads. Great idea! We even got a laugh discussing this in the car. So, inspired by my wife, here are my Top Ten Books I DON’T Recommend as Good Beach Reads:

WAR AND PEACE by Leo Tolstoy

I haven’t read this yet, but the edition I own is in three tiny-print volumes. You’d probably get serious eye strain trying to read this with sunglasses on. And think how many extra bottles of tequila you’d fit into your bag instead!

MEIN KAMPF by Adolf Hitler

The Fuhrer’s plan for world domination may turn a few heads. Probably not in a way you’d like, though. Again, not a book I’ve read… but I confess to being curious. I mean, the opportunity to get inside the head of one of the most (rightly) vilified excuses for a human being for at least the last century is a little tantalizing–especially to a writer. But perhaps not while sunning on Myrtle Beach.

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT by Erich Maria Remarque

Another book I haven’t read, but my wife has. She says it’s the kind of book you read on the beach only if you plan to tie a brick around your foot and throw yourself off the pier afterwards. A little depressing, is it?

INTRODUCTION TO BIBLICAL HEBREW by Thomas O. Lambdin

Okay, so maybe not the kind of book you would take to the beach. But for me, this would be the perfect opportunity to work on Hebrew verb forms–when the kids are all at the beach and the hotel room is nice and quiet.

A GRAMMAR OF THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORICAL RESEARCH by A. T. Robertson

See the previous book. Also, the size of this volume is particularly intimidating to other beach-goers. They might think you’ve brought some kind of offensive weapon.

FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley

This story features boats and large expanses of water, but probably not enough to qualify as a beach book. In fact, I don’t recall there being much beach at all. Yeah, skip this one.

UNDER THE DOME by Stephen King

Honestly, I wonder if there is such a thing as a good Stephen King beach book. What books do you suppose Stephen King takes to the beach? Perhaps he’s like me, and would rather be holed up in the hotel room with something less beach-y, with only a window view of the sea to remind him he’s on vacation. I picked this Stephen King book because 1) I’ve read it; 2) the story is tense and horrific (not so much in the blood-and-guts sense, but in terms of how people treat one another… though there’s a healthy dose of blood too); and 3) it’s big. If you’re traveling by plane, you’d probably have to pay extra to take it with you.

1984 by George Orwell

I think dystopian is the category to avoid at the beach. Unless there’s some light-hearted, humorous dystopian novel out there with a nice romance element to it. Perhaps Terry Pratchett has written something like that, which would be just like him to do. But Terry Pratchett isn’t beach reading to me. If you disagree, then scrap this list and put me down for his first ten Discworld books!

WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Emily Bronté

Unless you’re listening to Kate Bush on your iPod while reading, this might be a little sad and intense for a beach book. And if you’re listening to Kate Bush, you probably aren’t paying much attention to the novel. Especially since this is, IMO, one of her best songs ever.

SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY by Louis Berkhof

Really I could have picked any of a number of systematic theologies. I happen to like Berkhof’s. Yes, it’s another one of those books I would take, but probably not many others would.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m not putting down beach books. Not every novel needs to be edge-of-the-seat, or action-packed, or philosophically dense and deep. Books can–and often should–be fun and entertaining. I’m curious to see which books those who are more educated in the area of beach reading selected for today’s Top Ten. Join me over at The Broke and the Bookish’s Linky List!

 

25 Responses to TTT: My Non-Beach Books

  1. Haha :D Again your wife is very clever :D
    You know something funny though: War and Peace was my beach book one year…I did read it while laying on the sand and enjoying the smell of the water and the wind…

    • Yes, she is clever! :D

      Perhaps I’m mistaken, and WAR AND PEACE is the perfect beach book! I suppose it’s unfair to judge since I haven’t read it.

      • Well it depends from the beach book definition :D I love reading all types of books including loooong classics…with the sea sounds in the background…
        Again, great lists!

  2. Hahahaha! Nice! I can’t stand the idea of a beach holiday either, even with a good book. We redheads BURN! Plus it can be soooooo booooooring to just sit and do nothing. I gotta be out there exploring!!

    I haven’t read Mein Kampf, but I’ve heard it’s quite dull, arrogant and bloated :P Who would’ve thought it? ;)

    While I wasn’t keen on the end of Under the Dome, the book’s atmosphere was utterly chilling. And there’s one thing you can always say about King – he knows how to give a villain their comeuppance!

    • Thanks, Cole! Yes, I admit I’d be lying on the beach thinking of all the life I’m wasting doing nothing. I suppose reading would redeem that time, but not on the beach. Give me the comfort of a soft chair and a nice cup of tea. Now *that’s* relaxing! :)

      Yeah, who’d have thought Adolf Hitler was a self-absorbed bore? :) Still, that’s an interesting character insight–something to bear in mind when writing megalomaniac bad guys.

      I totally agree with you about UNDER THE DOME. It occurred to me about three-quarters of the way through that he could take the story that way–but I really didn’t think he would. It seemed a bit of a cop-out. But it was a chilling read. You could feel the frustration and helpless desperation of the people.

  3. LOL! Brilliant list. I agree, I wouldn’t take Wuthering Heights with me to the beach. The moors do not mix with sand.

    • Thanks, Lydia! :D

      As I understand it, a good beach book would be a nice, light, romantic comedy. WUTHERING HEIGHTS fails in just about every one of those adjectives. I suppose it is “romantic”–but in a “I love you but you’re sick, dying, dead, or married to someone else” kind of way. Not quite the same!

  4. Bahaha! A hilarious take on this week’s TTT. :D I can only imagine how hard you and your wife must have been laughing while coming up with some of these ideas. My personal faves are WAR AND PEACE, and then the BIBLICAL HEBREW and the GREEK GRAMMAR one. Probably the furthest things from beach reads ever. :) I think I’d probably consider adding a little Joseph Conrad to the list, particularly HEART OF DARKNESS, but then you’d probably need to do the whole brick-tied-to-ankle-and-throw-yourself-off-the-pier thing again.

    Thanks for the laugh this morning!

    • Thanks, Jaime! Yes, we had some fun with this. :)

      I read HEART OF DARKNESS a while back, and I would agree with you completely–not a good beach read! In fact, I’m not quite sure what to make of that book (aside from a paperweight). Perhaps I should re-read it sometime… when I’m feeling a little too happy.

  5. Great idea! Put’s a unique spin on TTT.

    Also, agreed on Heart of Darkness. I read that at university and dear me, I’m not sure how I got through it. I know it’s supposed to be a classic but I thought it was terrible.

    Also, add in The Canterbury Tales. With the original Middle English text. :D That would give people a bit of a headache trying to translate it in their heads. Don’t get me wrong, I loved TCT but it’s no beach read. At least not for me. I’d like something fun and light.

    • Thank you, Robin!

      Ooo… CANTERBURY TALES… that’s a good one. In the original Middle English, of course! I suppose in the same vein we could add BEOWULF in the original Anglo-Saxon (Old English). Definitely the kinds of books I would be reading in my air conditioned hotel room. :)

  6. Colin, this is a great list! I don’t mind the beach and I like reading on the beach, but my choices for books to read there would be more along the lines of your list as opposed to the typical (or stereotypical) books read on the beach. I specifically remember reading Steinbeck’s Cannery Row and Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow while sitting on the sand at Myrtle Beach. The Steinbeck novel was OK but not his best. The Berry novel is one of my favorites. I’m going to try to start War and Peace this summer, but it probably won’t be at the beach – buy by the pool, maybe.

    • Thanks, Dale! I haven’t read any Steinbeck yet. Sad admission, but there you have it. I do intend to read WAR AND PEACE–I’m not sure it’ll be anytime in the very near future, though. I have so much reading and writing to do at the moment, and W&P looks to be quite a commitment. I’d want to set time aside for it. Also, I’m a little leery about reading books in translation. Since I don’t know Russian, there’s not much I can do, but it feels like I’m reading someone else’s version of the story, not the author’s. Just my little quirk–I’m sure I’ll get over it. :)

  7. hilarious & spot -on! brilliant take on the assignment. A for effort!

    your wife is right (duh) about All Quiet on the Western Front, that’s suicide inducing. also, when I read your comment on it, I immediately thought of The Awakening by Kate Chopin, which would be in somewhat the same vein and especially not appropriate for the beach, particularly at the end of the book.

    I think Stephen King doesn’t do the beach, either, but if he did, he would read stuff like The Road or Metamorphasis. Or The Prince. If I were to take any of his books to the beach, though, it would probably be Gerald’s Game.

    • Thank you, Dixie! I haven’t read THE AWAKENING. Another book for when I’m enjoying life a little too much?

      I haven’t read GERALD’S GAME either, which really isn’t surprising. King has written so much, I could probably spend the next couple of years going through his back catalog (especially given the size of some of his novels–I have the “unedited” version of THE STAND waiting for me, and I think my desk is begging me to move it soon!). I’ll look out for that one, though.

      • King is really hit or miss for me, but Gerald’s Game is one of my favorites, even though it I don’t remember ever reading a good review of it. if you do read it, read also Delores Claiborne, cause they kinda refer to each other. sorta.

      • also, The Awakening is one of my favorite books, but it’s not light & funny. you’ve been warned.

  8. I’ve always enjoyed Frankenstein. Not sure I’ve seen the King book before. Great and inventive list.

  9. Lol – I can’t imagine reading Tolstoy on the beach either.

  10. Hilarious idea! I love your list and laughed out loud while reading it. Thanks :)

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