The woman next to me on the plane was engrossed in a paperback for most of the flight. She finally looked up just as we landed. I asked her what she had been reading. In some embarrassment, she showed me the cover of a well-known thriller. “It’s just a beach book,” she explained.
But that “beach book” had held her attention for a four-hour flight. She hadn’t stared out the window or looked at the flight magazine. So why was she embarrassed to be seen reading something that was doing what every writer hopes, taking her to another place full of interesting people who kept her entertained?
I don’t know if anyone ever took some of my books on vacation but I’d be thrilled if they did. Beach books may not belong in the category of “serious” literature, but most readers aren’t the people who create categories. For most of us there are only two kinds of books, the ones that we can’t put down and the ones we will put down for any interruption and never pick up again. So, hooray for beach books!
Believe it or not, I’m still in Europe, although I’ll be home soon. I’ve seen a lot of old friends, checked several things off my bucket list, like Pompeii and the Coliseum, and even done some research and writing. This was my first trip to Italy and I loved it, although I’m not coming again later than the end of April. It was literally packed with tourists. After a while, since I couldn’t see around them, I started to look at them. In Rome, especially, there were people from all over the world: young couples, old couples, families, school groups, adventurous loners and so on. Some wore clothing from their cultures but most didn’t. I heard a babel of languages, and soon realized that it was very hard to tell by looking who was from where. This is a photo of people at the entrance to the Pantheon. It was a hot, muggy afternoon.
Can you spot the Americans, Russians, Lebanese, Australians, etc.? Honestly, I couldn’t even when I was there. Maybe “tourist” should become a new category of humanity, to which we can all belong.
I wonder how many of them brought beach books.