Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten “Beach” Reads

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme sponsored by the literary folks over at The Broke and the Bookish. A different topic is introduced each week and participants are charged with coming up with a top ten list. This week’s topic: “Top Ten Beach Reads (however YOU define a beach read)”. I’ve decided to define it as a book I’ve read during a vacation of any kind since I’m more of a mountains and canyons guy than a beachgoer. Another “requirement” for me would be a book read more for fun and entertainment than one read to learn something from its great literary merit.

I’ll start with a couple from my childhood and move on from there.

10. The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander

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This series was The Lord of the Rings of my youth. Great adventure and quite the page turners – all five of them.

9. Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

First read for school (maybe 5th or 6th grade), I remember having this with my on summer vacation camping trips with my family, reading it multiple times. I had little choice than to read the same books. More than once – it wasn’t like we took a big library with us; space in the pop up camper and car was limited.

8. The World of Null-A by A.E. Van Vogt

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Although you’ve likely never heard of this pulpish sci-fi novel, I have memories of reading this one multiple times during summer vacations during high school. It was a slim volume, which also made it easy to take along since it didn’t take up much space. I believe there were several “Null-A’ novels in Van Vogt’s oevre.  I’d like to do a nostalgic re-read some day…

7. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Probably the most ’edifying’ book on this list, it made quite an impression on me, and I’ve taken it with me on multiple trips – just like an old friend.

6. Lightning by Dean Koontz

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I have a friend who was a big Dean Koontz fan when I first met her. I remember being impressed that she had a list of all his books in her purse with the ones she had read marked off. She recommended this one and I took it with me on a trip in the early ’90s. Easy read,intriguing time-travel-ly plot.

5. Wonderboy by Simen Agdestein

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This is the story of the youngest Chess Grandmaster the world as of the time of its writing. I read it in 2004 when I travelled to Minneapolis for a “vacation” and to participate in the HP Global Chess Challenge (the biggest chess tournament in U.S. History). It was a great vacation, and this book was perfect reading during my down time during the event. Oh, and by the way, Magnus is now the highest rated chess player in the world and will challenge world champion Viswanathan Anand of India in a match this fall.

4. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I guess if you’re going to read ‘magical realism,’ a vacation is the right time to do it. I remember reading through this at the lodge at Hawks Nest State Park in West Virginia in 2010. Almost incomprehensible, the book was still somehow enjoyable to me.

(below: Hawk’s Nest Lodge and it’s cable cars descending down into the New River gorge)

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3. Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

I read this during a vacation in the nineties. The only problem I could find with it was that it ended too soon.

2. Insomnia by Stephen King

I have quite fond memories of reading this one in Utah’s Zion National Park in 2006, more than once throwing it in my backpack and, while cooling down after a hike, reading it on the lawn of the Lodge or in one of its comfy rocking chairs, soaking up the sun in that beautiful setting.

(below: Zion National Park Lodge – right where I read a lot of Insomnia)

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1. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

While I wouldn’t argue this book has great literary merit, it IS memorable to me for sentimental reasons. Practically my whole family read it during one of our annual “getaway weekends” – this one at Clifty Falls State Park. One nephew and I have lobbied to make a ’group read’ a tradition at subsequent years’ weekends, one time reading the same author’s novel, Deception Point, but he and I seem to be the only ones willing to continue to carry the banner. We were disappointed that this year’s annual “getaway” was just before Dan Brown’s latest novel, “Inferno,” came out.

(Below: view of the Ohio River from the grounds of Clifty Falls State Park Lodge.  I like sitting out there and watching the barges go up and down the river)

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Well that’s it for me. What about you? How did you define a “beach read” and what were your selections? Did we have any in common. I’m off to The Broke and theBookish to find out…

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Ready, set, read! A new family reading tradition?

Each May for the past 21 years my (immediate) family has had an annual “Getaway Weekend” at one of Indiana’s State Parks. I think it was eight years ago(?) when we were at Clifty Falls S.P. (near Madison, Indiana) and Dan Brown’s novel The DaVinci Code was making the rounds and being read by several members of my family. Now, I’m not here to argue any great literary merit on this particular author’s part, but at that time – as you probably recall – that novel was being talked about everywhere you turned, and I guess we got caught up in the hype.

Before last year’s Getaway Weekend I got a text message from one of my nephews asking if I had a copy of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol. This was just a couple months after I had purchased my Nook e-reader (but before my iPad, where I do most of my e-reading these days) so I texted back, “No, but I will in a minute…” and promptly downloaded it for reading availability over the weekend. This year the same nephew texted me again asking “What Dan Brown book r we reading this time?” Always a sucker to participate in reading traditions, I looked around a bit and saw two that I hadn’t read and could fit the bill: Digital Fortress and Deception Point. Actually these are the only two other Dan brown books I could find – is that really it (I’d already read Angels and Demons years ago for my book club)?

So I downloaded Deception Point as it sounded more interesting (hey, it had NASA in it!) and we were off. I initially thought one of us could read it on my Nook, and the other could read it on my iPad, but then a fellow reader at work loaned me a paperback copy. Somehow, this year’s reading also took on the character of a “race” to see who could finish first. Luckily, it was a rainy weekend, so we didn’t do much hiking (the traditional invite for these weekends – penned by my Mom and Dad – always closes with the phrase, “Come to hike, loaf, play, or just… getaway!”) and was able to work lots of reading time in between meals, conversation, and card games to finish it Sunday morning (ahem… BEFORE my nephew finished), although my struggles to stay awake to keep reading saturday night (in fear of his staying up and taking advantage of his “college student sleeping schedule” and passing me while I slept) were amusing to many.

How did I like the book? Well, it’s about what I expected. A page turner with a nearly unbelievable plot that really stretched the limits of my willingness to “suspend disbelief.” The sitting U.S. President is a supporter of NASA, while his challenger considers it a waste of money. The book starts off with a mysterious “discovery” in the Arctic that an orbiting NASA spacecraft has found. The president drafts the daughter of his challenger (!!) who is a federal security agent of some kind, to independently verify the find, along with four other civilian scientists, one of whom is kind of a Jacques Cousteau meets Carl Sagan meets Steve Irwin meets MacGyver amalgam and becomes a gratuitous love interest for our heroine. As you might guess, all isn’t quite what it first seems with this “discovery” and many powerful people have a lot to lose or gain depending on how it’s handled. I’ll let you read it yourself for the details. At 533 pages, it went pretty fast for me – aside from the 20 page head start I got before the weekend began, I read it in a day and a half.

So what do you think of Dan Brown? Worth reading as a break from “deeper” material?Brilliant? Avoid him like the plague? Do you and your family have any reading “traditions?” I’m curious to know…

Sent from my iPad