Pound a beach umbrella into a choice stretch of sand. Unfold a chaise lounge, spread a towel across and stretch out across the length. Have cold drinks close by. Breathe in and soak in the scene. Smell the sand. Smell the salt air. Hear the squawking of seagulls. Watch the waves roll toward you, crest, break and fan over the shoreline followed by flocks of sanderlings pecking at goodies in the sand when the wave recedes.
Look out, far out across the expanse of ocean to where water and sky touch in the far distance. Then open a book.
A good read dilates a moment, takes you deeper into your senses. Read a couple of pages and look up. Allow a quiet rumination to furl your mind.
You don’t have anywhere to be. Read a chapter. Take a walk. Read some more. Float. This is what the right summer beach read offers. Forget frothy. Go deep. Or go Florida. Listen to the way great writers describe her swamps and her springs and her oddities. Delicious summer repast.
100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
This is the summer to read or re-read this masterpiece of magical realism by the Nobel Prize-winning novelist and journalist who died on April 18. Márquez gives flesh to flights of fancy with the sensuous use of detail. A girl so beautiful she must cover her face with a shawl when she goes to mass is lifted from the earth with sheets fluttering, waving goodbye as a gust of wind carries her into the air.
The Collected Poems of Federico García Lorca
Spain’s most beloved poet reads modernist and fresh as the color green or a lucent drop of water. Check out this verse from “Ditty of Desire”: “(Soul, turn orange-colored. Soul, turn the color of love.) In the vivid morning I wanted to be myself. A heart. And at the evening’s end I wanted to be my voice. A nightingale.”
Cruddy by Lynda Barry
“Once upon a cruddy time on a cruddy street on the side of a cruddy hill in the cruddiest part of a crudded-out town in a cruddy state, country, world, solar system, universe … the Cruddy girl named Roberta was writing the cruddy book of her cruddy life and the name of the book was called Cruddy.” (It’s the story of a father/daughter cross-country murder spree.)
Fringe Florida: Travels among Mud Boggers, Furries, Ufologists, Nudists and Other Lovers of Unconventional Lifestyles by Lynn Waddell
Don’t assume this book is a freak show. The St. Pete-based Waddell is a reporter’s reporter, with a sharp eye and the desire to delve deep, as well as a respect for the people she writes about. She notices, for instance, that at the Holy Land Experience in Orlando, where actors re-enact scenes from the Bible, it seems a blow-up doll was outfitted with a long brown wig to represent the Virgin Mary in the manger scene. She also writes chapters on Tampa’s all-nude strip club king Joe Redner, hard-ass all-women motorcycle clubs and fetishists who dress up like ponies. It’s probably the only book ever published by University Press of Florida that comes with a content warning.
Alligators in B Flat: Improbable Tales from Real Florida by Jeff Klinkenberg
Tampa Bay Times feature writer Klinkenberg has the best job in journalism. He roams the state and writes about its people, its food, its culture and anything else in Florida that strikes his fancy. In this collection, he writes about rabble-rouser, Klan-infiltrator and folklorist Stetson Kennedy; burlesque queen and B-movie star Chesty Morgan, she of the 73-inch bust; and a trip to the Fakahatchee Strand to see a ghost orchid in bloom, as well as many other fascinating things.
Citrus County by John Brandon
It’s is a crime novel and love story set in a hot, emotionally rotting Florida community where a kid on the eighth-grade track team is a sociopath and teen romance goes really wrong and then right. Brandon inverts the genre of the crime novel to his own unpredictable ends. It starts: “There shouldn’t be a Citrus County. Teenage romance should be difficult, but not this difficult. Boys like Toby should cause trouble but not this much.”