In Cincinnati, it can get pretty hot and humid in the summer. But a senior living here can easily beat the heat with a trip out to the pool, to a lake or by taking a beach vacation. And a day spent by the water can be immensely relaxing when a senior brings along a great book to read.
Many summer reading lists you might find on the web focus on light, somewhat mindless reading: romance novels, pop lit and other easy doings. But we thought it might be a nice change of pace to take a look at classic literature set on or by the seaside. So today, that’s just what we’ll do.
Here are three great choices for your waterside reading. Relax, listen to the waves and let these famous authors take you over the horizon.
Ask people to name a Melville story that takes place on the ocean and the most common answer you’ll get will, of course, be Moby-Dick. But there’s another Melville novel that exudes salt spray and sea breezes.
In 1843, following three years spent wandering about the Southern Pacific as a merchant seaman (from which the experiences garnered led to his cetacean magnum opus), Melville signed on to the crew of the American man-o-war United States to take his passage home.
White-Jacket is his memoir of that voyage. Melville took the opportunity to shed public light on the harsh, often barbaric system of discipline enforced on naval vessels of the period. Melville also drew pointed parallels between the beatings experienced by seaman and those given out to African-American slaves in the antebellum South.
Published just a decade prior to the outbreak of the American Civil War, the novel is both an intimate look at seafaring life in the 19th century and a sharp foreshadowing of racial injustices and class tensions that were soon to tear America apart.
OK, so this book has nothing to do with the sea other than its setting which, as the title indicates, is indeed near a lighthouse — in this case, a lighthouse on the Isle of Skye, in the Hebrides. At the book’s beginning, the protagonist Ramsey family, along with Lily Briscoe and several other friends, is taking its summer vacation in a small seaside cottage there. The Ramsey’s young son, James, is particularly fixated on the lighthouse and continually asks his parents if he might visit it.
Published in 1927, To the Lighthouse is considered a quintessential example of modernist literature, stream-of-consciousness storytelling and feminist criticism. It has been listed by many reputable scholars as being among the greatest novels ever written.
The novel follows the progression of time and the way it affects not only the Ramsey family, but also the physical surroundings of their vacation home. Spanning 20 years, it follows the family through aging, separation, deaths and the aftereffects of the Great War, and follows Lily Briscoe’s maturing self-awareness.
When the RMS Titanic sunk in April 1912, the world stood shocked. The largest, most luxurious, purportedly unsinkable ocean liner on the prestigious North Atlantic luxury run had been lost on its maiden voyage. Over 700 lives lost, from the poorest of poor immigrants, to luminaries of the New York and London social sets.
A feeling of nostalgia and romanticism for the lost ship sprang up almost immediately, sparking a cottage industry of Titanic-related stories, books, lectures and movies, which culminated with James Cameron’s epic 1997 blockbuster, starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio.
But the granddaddy of all Titanic lit was A Night to Remember, Walter Lord’s minute-by-minute account of the accident, beginning with the decisions leading up to the disaster and continuing through frantic rescue efforts led by the S.S. Carpathian.
Lord’s book was a lightning bestseller and was shortly thereafter made into a movie of the same name — the very movie that inspired Cameron’s own film.
Beach reading or pool reading can be fun and intellectually stimulating.
Sure, you could grab a cheap trade paperback, spread your blanket on the sand and while your day away by the waterside. But why bother reading if you don’t want to think a bit?
If you’re a senior living in Cincinnati who’s looking for something to read at the pool, lake, or beach this summer, take a trip to your local library, check out any of these three nautically-themed classics listed above and expand your horizons!