Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Beach Reading

By Elaine Simpson-Long

About this time of year, when the sun is shining (hopefully), the nights are lighter longer and with the promise of warmth and long sunny days ahead, the papers break out in a rash of articles on Beach Reading wherein the great and the good give the readers their list of summer reading, or those books they will take to the beach when on holiday.

Now the first thing to remember when reading any such articles is, that they are all lies. Every critic or A-Z list celeb will tell whoppers when answering this question. Why? Because nobody wants to admit that they might read romances or murders or, heaven forfend, chick lit when they are away. If a lofty minded critic from one of the up market papers tells you he is taking Proust or Tolstoy with him on his sojourn on the beaches of the Maldives or other fleshpots, you know he has his fingers crossed behind his back and he is telling you a big fat lie. I mean, come on, who is going to lie on a sun bed anointed in Factor 30 or whatever, iced drink to hand and trying to look cool and glamorous reading A la recherché de temps perdu or War or Peace?

When I go on a beach holiday, and I have one coming up soon, my criteria for choosing books is their total lack of stimulus to my little grey cells. I want something I can wallow in, enjoy, and then toss to one side, either in the bin or leave at the hotel/villa for somebody else to pick up and read. They have to be paperbacks, no hardbacks on the beach as they are much less flexible, if you roll over on them while sunbathing you could crack the spine or tear the dust jacket, paperbacks are more forgiving.

Never, never take a book with you that you love and cherish. This is folly and dangerous folly at that. The chances of it being covered in sea water, sand and sun oil are too high and you do not want to wreck a treasured tome.

No, it has to be disposable reading that goes with you. Books that you have no close relationship with and don't mind waving farewell to as you head for the flight home.

And the number of books to go with you in your suitcase? This is dependent on the amount of reading you think you will do and the speed with which you read bearing in mind that you are liable to doze off at frequent intervals while sunbathing and will not take in quite so much as normal. I always pack an allowance of a book a day. I then add an extra one or two just in case and then I always go to the airport with another book, this is in addition to those packed you understand. Just imagine how awful it would be to have a cancelled flight and/or delays and nothing to read, it does not bear thinking about. Of course, the airports always have bookshops and there is usually a Borders or Books etc in case of emergencies and loss of luggage. Worth keeping an eye out for are 'airport editions' which are special paperback editions of new hardbacks or books not yet published. These are always good value for money and well worth checking out. I nearly always buy one...or two.

So, to sum up:

Plenty of books for beach and airport
Paperbacks, preferably not too large for carrying backwards and forwards to sun bed
Nothing precious, only books you don't mind losing
No hardbacks
Nothing intellectually testing or stimulating

Have a good holiday!

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