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MONDAY, 21 APR 2014
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Best reads for kicking back at the beach
A good read completes the perfect day at the beach along with a sip and some sun. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)
A good read completes the perfect day at the beach along with a sip and some sun. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)
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BEIRUT: The perfect day spent lounging by the sea requires a trio of ingredients: the dip, the sip and the flip. The dip is easy: Just take the essential, refreshing plunge into the Mediterranean or for the more cautious, the beachside pool.

The sip is also taken care of almost effortlessly: Simply choose your preferred liquid consumable – fresh lemonade, the seaside classic Kasara Sunset, the tried and trusted Alamaza, etc. – and, well, sip; it never fails to satisfy.

The fulfilling flip, however, often proves a little more elusive. The flip, you see, is that book you retreat into during the glorious supine spells of the day when you’re neither dipping nor sipping – and it needs to be good. Structure, size and subject must all be considered in selecting the best reading material to flip your way through as your skin bronzes, your bathing suit dries and you lounge your way to an appetite for lunch.

The Daily Star has visited the bookstores, weighed the options and makes the following recommendations.

When size mattersBeach bags are big, and most could probably accommodate a sizable tome, but once reclined in a sun lounger, do you really want to risk wrist strain supporting a heavy hardback? The Daily Star recommends making a selection from the wide range of paperback pocketbooks currently stocked in the country’s bookstores. The selection on sale this season includes a wealth of recent literary and popular fiction titles. Three good options are “The Marriage Plot,” “Last Man in Tower” and “One Day.”

Pulitzerprizewinner Jeffrey Eugenidies’ most recent offering “The Marriage Plot” is ideal for book lovers. Its central character explores the marriage plots found in classic novels, as simultaneously her own far-from-classic marriage plot gains pace.

Aravind Adiga’s “Last Man In Tower” will appeal to those intrigued by the dark underbelly of money and power in an Eastern context. Fans of the novel say if you liked the film “Slumdog Millionaire,” you’ll love this Mumbai-set book.

You may already have seen the movie, but David Nicholls’ novel “One Day” is still worth a read.

With simple but well-written prose, this book is a great option for those who don’t want to toil through the especially artsy, flowery or experimental language oft used in literary fiction but still have an appreciation for a finely composed sentence.

The story itself is wonderfully compelling – it tells the tale of best friends Dexter and Emma by revisiting them on the same date each year for over two decades – and even if you already know how it ends, the book is full of exchanges, humor and insight that never made it to the screen. Brief encounterNot everyone finds it easy to become enthralled in the lengthier plot of a novel while drifting in and out of a sunshine-induced doze. For those whose concentration, and indeed consciousness, at the beach is intermittent, a good magazine may be the ideal printed companion. The usual suspects – Hello, Cosmopolitan and Glamour – will doubtless satisfy their female readership, but for something a little more diverse and less gender specific the June issues of Vanity Fair and Monocle are worth a look. Both are chockfull of short articles and interesting snippets as well as more in-depth pieces.

Short-term commitmentFed up of the many novels you’ve started at the beach but never finished? Perhaps it’s time to switch to short stories. A good short story anthology is the perfect flip – you need only decide when you open the volume what sort of story you’re in the mood for; you can complete the tale in one sitting; and if you hate your selection you can quickly switch to another option.

The Daily Star recommends “50 Great Short Stories” edited by Milton Crane. This 1983-published compilation is available in a paperback at Virgin outlets. It is priced at $7 and includes classic stories by such diverse writers as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allen Poe, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, Aldous Huxley, James Joyce and E.B. White.Summer loveIf you’re a regular beachgoer and want to commit to one tale and revisit one set of characters weekend after weekend, then The Daily Star suggests you invest in a trilogy. And indeed there are several good trilogies in high demand at the moment.

Although ostensibly a children’s book, “The Hunger Games” is the most sought-after of these. Suzanne Collins’ trio of books about the post-apocalyptic state Panem, where each of its 12 districts must contribute two youths annually to participate in a reality television show in which contestants fight to the death, has become enormously popular in Lebanon, among adults and youths alike, since the film release of the sci-fi action series’ first installment.

If you’ve not already gotten onboard with the story of Katniss, Peeta and Gale, then now is the time to do so and learn the outcome of their struggles long before Hollywood gets around to putting the remainder of their travails on screen.

Other highly recommended trilogies to flip through this summer are Japanese writer Haruki Murakami’s “IQ84,” which tells an incredibly imaginative tale of a woman who enters a parallel existence, and EL James’ “Fifty Shades” trilogy, which delves into the erotic physical affair between a literature student and an enigmatic young entrepreneur.It’s seriousBeaches are places awash with frivolity, and philosophical, political or deeply intellectual conversations may seem to sit much better on a barstool in a darkened corner than on a sun lounger, but that doesn’t mean there’s no place poolside for the more serious tome.

If you like to think while tanning, here is some recommended reading: “Why Nations Fail” by heavyweight academics Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson is the read for those who can’t seem to escape the conundrum of countries’ disparate economic successes. Be warned: You will develop significant muscle ache holding this book aloft as you recline. For those interested in China’s growing power, Henry Kissinger’s history text “On China” has just been released in paperback. And if the specter of civil war in Syria and the potential challenges of post-revolutionary state-building are overshadowing your summer, then it may be time to revisit the origins of the modern Levantine state in James Barr’s “A Line in the Sand.”

A summer apartFor many the arrival of beach season is bittersweet, coming as it does at the close of the football season. Sadly, there is little in the way of new sports books or biographies on booksellers’ shelves, but if you do need a read to see you through until Euro 2012 kicks off, then the updated version of Luca Caioli’s “Messi” (released in March) is available.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 25, 2012, on page 2.
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