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beaches

Jul 11 2012

Hit the beach…reading!

by Dea Anne M

I’m heading for the Outer Banks at the end of the week and I’m excited—not only by the prospect of some down-time at the ocean, but also by the promise of hours of uninterrupted time to read. When I worked as a bookseller, the publisher reps would invariably try to sell certain titles as “the perfect beach read.” Actually, “beach reading” is a fairly broad category. It’s usually a book that goes down easy but it can be any author from Sophie Kinsella to Clive Cussler to Michael Chabon. Some people prefer non-fiction and there are certainly some beach worthy titles out there (Under the Banner of Heaven and The Tipping Point are two that come immediately to my mind) but for my beach reading it’s fiction all the way. I’m normally an enthusiastic reader of non-fiction but somehow it just doesn’t hold my interest near the waves as a well as a work of writing that carries me away to a different time and place. My co-worker and car pool buddy, Fran, describes a similar phenomenon. She is reading Agatha Christie but says that she is only able to read her when she’s away from home.

For this trip, I will, as usual, be overpacking books but I figure that it’s better to have too many than not enough. That sad situation actually occurred one year and I was forced to run to the grocery store in Gulf Shores AL to buy an emergency paperback. It turned out to be Dark Debts by Karen Hall, an excellent horror novel set in and around Atlanta that scared me silly (for me, a good thing) and proved impossible to put down. This time around, I’ll be steeping myself in Regency England as I re-read some of my favorite Jane Austen, specifically Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Northanger Abbey. Also coming along will be Georgette Heyer’s Frederica and The Grand Sophy. I’m excited as well about a new thriller writer I discovered recently, Cornelia Read, and I’ll be taking along her novels A Field of Darkness and The Invisible Boy. I also hope to take along The Paris Wife by Paula McClain, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, and I may re-read Caleb Carr’s The Alienist.

Do you need some ideas for your vacation reading?

For “brainy” beach reads check out this list.  If Chicklit is your thing then take a look at this.

This year, GoodReads is asking readers to cast their votes for top beach reads, and back in 2009 NPR asked readers and their own Books Board to nominate the 200 “best beach books ever”. You can check the lists out here and here and get inspiration for great new reading or books you’ve read before that you can enjoy rediscovering.

What are some of your favorite beach/vacation reads?

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Apr 2 2012

Life’s a Beach

by Greg H

I’m fortunate enough to have a sister who lives a ten minute walk from Pass-a-Grille Beach and the Gulf of Mexico but, on all too many visits, I never see the sand or the Gulf waters or the sun setting into them.  On my most recent visit, however, I not only made it to the beach; I also gained an appreciation for how much that setting sun means to people.

I’d just finished dinner at a local seafood restaurant and, stepping outside,  noticed that the sun was getting pretty low in the sky. The beach was just two blocks away so I strolled over and took a seat on a bench that faced the water.  There were people scattered on the beach in every direction. Some were walking at the water’s edge or jogging.  One young couple was playing a one on one game of wiffle ball.  Most, it seemed, were simply standing in the sand, looking out to the horizon and the reddening sun.

The sun’s motion in the sky is difficult to discern during most of the day (and who would stare at the glare of a midday sun anyway?)  At sunset, however, the sun’s movement can be observed quite easily in the diminishing distance between the sun’s lower edge and the line of the horizon.  The scene almost calls for a countdown that concludes with the hiss of the sun dipping into the waves.  So, while I wasn’t especially surprised by the  number of people waiting in the sand, I was a  bit surprised by what happened next.  As the last of the sun slipped into the gulf people all along the beach started to applaud.  Maybe this display was in part due to the number of spring breakers who were in town to see this exact type of event but I still enjoyed the appreciation behind the ovation.

The next evening I got to enjoy a slightly more scientific sun-related phenomena. If conditions are favorable the last second or two of a sunset may feature a green or blue flash of light.  Extremely shoddy research on my part revealed no fewer than four possible causes for this light anomaly and one or two were detailed enough to nearly cause my science anxiety to kick in.  Let’s just say that very clear skies are a plus.

We were eating dinner on a restaurant’s second story balcony when Norm,  my brother-in-law, reminded us of the sunset and the flash that we should be looking for.  I’d tried to see the colorful flash before without success but I was still interested.  The sun fell lower and lower and, when it finally slid fully away, there it was.  I clearly saw what reminded me of a Pentecost-like tongue of flame on top of the sun.  The vision lasted about 1.5 seconds. I don’t recall if there were any applause that evening but,  having finally seen the elusive flash of light, I was more than satisfied.

So there’s my late resolution for the new year.  Don’t take beaches or large bodies of water for granted.  And keep an eye out for dolphins too. They’re always fun to watch.

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