Monday, August 19, 2013

Book Recommendation: Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter

Are you looking for one last literary beach read for your summer? If so, might I recommend Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins. It's a juicy read. Complete with a tiny 1960s Italian seaside village and present-day Hollywood, it has just the right mix of pure, indulgent entertainment value, coupled with fabulous writing to provide that lovely reading-by-the-beach feel where you're slightly illuminated, deeply relaxed, and in the mood for a little escape. But a literary one. You know; one where you don't have to be embarrassed by the book cover. One where you feel a little wiser at the end because of something revealed in the writing. Take this little excerpt for instance:

"All we have is the story we tell. Everything we do, every decision we make, our strength, weakness, motivation, history, and character--what we believe--none of it is real: it's all part of the story we tell. But here's the thing: it's our goddamned story!"

Genius. 


I must confess that my reading is perhaps a touch colored by the fact some of it was in fact poolside: my book club (I love my book club!) decided to take a road trip for our last meeting so that we could meet up at Health Spa Napa Valley. Good grief is that place delightful: you can get a workout in inside the shiny gym, then hit the super-clean, eucalyptus-scented steam room, partake of all their amenities, all before heading out to the pool and hot tub. Oh: And you can bring in your own bottle of wine to enjoy poolside. 

Huge bonus: members get big discounts, and so do their guests! So our whole club got in for a very reasonable day rate, which makes the whole experience that much more awesome. While not dipping in the pool, talking about the book club book (Song of Achilles, to be reviewed later), or perusing trashy magazines (will Kim Kardashian never go away?), I was reading Beautiful Ruins. With temps in the high 70s, the occasional sound of the wine train passing by behind us, and a plastic cup of Prosecco beside me in my lounge chair, it would have been hard to dislike this book. But that's the true test of a literary beach read: does it amplify the gorgeousness of reading near a body of water, or distract? Beautiful Ruins only succeeded in making my afternoon even more fabulous.

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