Lines in the sand On the lookout for something even a little bit novel in the ocean of vacation books.

July 15, 1998|By Laura Lippman

We know what you read last summer.

We know what you're reading this summer, too, and probably the next one as well. You're reading a paperback, possibly a best seller, preferably fat, an old thing with a cracked spine that can stand up to sand, suntan lotion and "the drop."

You know about "the drop," don't you? It comes in the late afternoon. After swimming, after eating, after a long walk, after more swimming, you finally settle into your beach chair, ready to read. But the sun is warm and the breeze is light and before you know it, the book slides from your greasy, sandy fingers with a plop and you're deep into your own dreams, instead of those you borrowed from someone else.

Look, this isn't guesswork on our part. We walked a 3-mile stretch of beach to see what people are reading. The favorite author appears to be someone named Mary Higgins Clark Grafton Grisham Roberts Clancy King Delinksy Siddons.

Oh, there were a few surprises. "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" by Rebecca Wells is the thinking woman's summer read. But one of the biggest books of the summer -- literally -- isn't getting much beach time. "I Know This Much Is True" by Wally Lamb, at 900-pages plus, weighs more than some umbrellas.

In a sea of predictability, an old Robert B. Parker novel, "The Judas Goat," about the ever-reliable Spenser, seems like a dazzlingly original choice. But then we stop by the beach blanket of a young Washington couple.

"I don't get to read as much as I like," says Steve Dolmanisth, an attorney who specializes in environmental law. Nor does his wife, Elizabeth, a medical student, who is reading Henry Roth's "Call It Sleep," the latest book in an immigrant kick inspired by Annie E. Proulx's "Accordion Crimes," which she read on their honeymoon in January. In general, Elizabeth likes Latin American magical realists, Steve is fond of Russian novelists.

And we continue down the beach, momentarily cheered.

"Beach Life" is a summer-long series of dispatches from the shore.

Pub Date: 7/15/98

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