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


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


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


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


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)


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)


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)


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…

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

It’s a phenomenon familiar to all of us. Who hasn’t heard someone talk about going back to the school where they spent their childhood years and remarking “how small” everything is now – almost as if everything else is what has changed and not themselves? Of course it’s a matter of perspective, but still one that is charming and thought provoking.

(below: author Esther Forbes)


I wondered – would I experience a similar phenomenon when reading a book that I hadn’t opened since childhood (junior high in my case)? Enter “Johnny Tremain” by Esther Forbes, a Newbery Award winner from 1944. I first read it at Indianapolis P.S. #89 while in the sixth grade (I think). Unlike in my adult life as a reader, where I am surrounded by books I want to read, back then, even though I may have been surrounded by books, there were only a few I LIKED to read, and these I revisited many times. Johnny Tremain was one of these, which makes it even more remarkable how much of the book I had forgotten.

(pictured below: The Newbery Medal)


Briefly, it’s the story of an apprentice silversmith in Boston in the 1770’s – a time when rebellion was fermenting in the British Colonies. Though only fourteen or fifteen, Johnny is talented and precocious, effectively running the day to day business of the silver shop of his aged master, Mr. Lapham. Johnny is treated with deference by everyone in his immediate circle and this treatment goes to his head. As his master would say, “pride goeth before a fall,” however, and when Johnny takes the reckless step of working on the sabbath in order to complete an order for the wealthy John Hancock, an accident occurs which puts an end to his apprenticeship.

Johnny drifts somewhat idly for awhile until, while searching for a new trade, meets “Rab” – a printer’s apprentice at the shop where the Boston Observer is published. Through Rab, who, though only a couple years older, is mature far beyond his years, Johnny begins to learn more about responsibility and also how to act better and to better treat those around him.

Through his work at the printing shop and delivering newspapers riding his spirited horse, Goblin (of course, Goblin was one of the things I remembered well from this book!). Johnny quickly becomes deeply involved in the work of The Sons of Liberty, and plays a role in famous events such as the Boston Tea Party, and Paul Revere’s ride. In the process, Johnny “becomes a man” and perhaps this is the main appeal to young readers. In fact, while reading this book, I was reminded of Kurt Vonnegut’s famous “story graphs.” Johnny’s story would be the “man in hole” variety.


So, did re-reading this book feel like returning to an old school building and finding everything “smaller?” Not really, but one thing I did realize is that when I first read this book, I WAS Johnny Tremain (how could I not identify with him, reading it at that age, when I was admittedly a bit precocious and full of myself as well). Reading it now, though, Johnny was “just” a character – but a very good one and one that I will always remember fondly.

My blogging friend and former fellow-founder of a book club, Dale, has also just reread Johnny Tremain and posted about it on his blog, Mirror With Clouds. What about you? Have you, as an adult, revisited a childhood favorite book? What were your reactions?


September Reading – The Month Ahead

What reading do I have planned for September? Let’s start with my “required reads.”

The Great Gatsby by. F. Scott Fitzgerald


Yes, I’ve read this before (at least once) but my “Great Books” discussion group is reading this for our September meeting. We usually discuss shorter works, but we don’t meet over the summer and for September’s meeting it is traditional to read a novel. That’s what they tell me, anyway, I haven’t been a member for that long yet. 🙂

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury


This is the September selection for the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Book Club. In honor of “National Banned Books Week,” we read a book that has suffered the ignominy of being banned. Last year it was Huckleberry Finn. I’ve read this before too. Twice. It will be interesting to see what my fellow KVMLBC members, an intelligent group, will have to say about this one. I always learn a lot at these meetings. It’s a good choice, too, with Bradbury having just passed away earlier this year.

Speaking of re-reads, I’m doing a nostalgic re-read of Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes – a favorite from my youth. Look for a post on this around the middle of the month. Fellow blogger Dale at Mirror with Clouds is also re-reading. Why not join us?

I’m also reading Pandora by Joanna Parypinski. A just-published first novel. After reading a short story of hers in an anthology a few months ago, I stumbled upon her blog and, since she is a graduate of Butler University (here in Indianapolis, just down the road from my office) thought I’d “support the home team” and read her book. I’ve already started and am enjoying it thus far.


What else? Well, there are five Saturdays in September, and that is the day of the week I draw a card to pick which of my fifty-two scheduled short stories to read. The Queen of Diamonds led me, on September 1, to Maya Angelou’s “Reunion,” which I just posted about. Four more to go, though, and I look forward to learning which ones fate picks for me this month.

There’s also my neglected “Author Biography” 2012 reading project. I have a Charles Dickens bio (Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin) queued up in my e-reader, but haven’t been able to get into it yet.


That’s about it for me. So, what are YOU reading in September. I’d love to hear about your reading plans…


Nostalgia Read-Along?

Have you ever heard of the name, Johnny Tremain? If so, it’s probably because you read the Esther Forbes novel of the same name when you were in school. Set in the time leading up to the American Revolution, it was “required reading” for me and I’m sure countless others of my generation. It was something of a rarity for a required read, though, as it was actually a page turner, and a book I revisited and read multiple times when I was in school.

So, in talking with one of the co-founders of my former book club – and fellow blogger Dale (Mirror with Clouds) we both agreed to re-read this “classic” from our youth this month. Has anyone else read this book? If so, why not join us in this re-read? Or, how about this: if that book doesn’t interest you, why not re-read a favorite book that has nostalgic value for YOU this month? OR… If you don’t feel like re-reading anything, I’d still like to know what books from your school days hold a nostalgic place of honor in your reading history…

(Below: I believe this is the edition of Johnny Tremain that I own/owned (I have no idea now whatever has become of it). I particularly remember the glare of the “redcoat “on the cover…)