What Would YOU Read On A Tropical Beach?

By Mary Jaksch

A short while ago I was about to travel to Tonga for a chill-out. A couple of days before getting on the plane, I completed the most important pre-flight preparation. Guess what that was. No, it wasn’t getting travel insurance. Nor was it finding my passport. It was much more important:

I visited a book shop.

“I’ll be flying to Tonga in a couple of days. Have you got a classy mystery novel for me to read on the beach?”

The bookseller peered at me over his specs, “Have you read Stieg Larssen’s novels?”

“Stieg Larssen? – No. Should I know him?”

He looked at me as if I’d crawled out from under a prehistoric stone.

“Haven’t you heard of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’?”

“Is it really that good?”

“Good?” he spluttered. “It’s fantastic!”

Then he put the three volumes on the counter, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo , The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest

“If you’re spending a week at the beach, you’ll need to buy he first two books of the trilogy. They’re so riveting, you won’t be able to put them down.”

“You mean I should buy two books? No way!”

The bookseller’s wife joined in the conversation, and said: “Yes, really – you’ll get through the first book before you know what’s hit you!”

“Two books? No way! I need at least three to keep me going.”

So they wrapped up all three, beaming.

It was a mistake. I should have waited until I was in the airport. Because I started reading the moment I got home and was so engrossed, I nearly missed my flight… If you haven’t yet read Larssen’s trilogy, please go and read at least the first volume. They are a fantastic read!

Swedish investigative journalist and writer Stieg Larssen was never to see his books in print. He had a heart attack just three months after he delivered volume no. 3 to the publisher. He was fifty years old when he died on the operating table and never got to see his books become bestsellers.

Stieg Larssen’s books were not the only ones that found their way into my backpack. I also took some other interesting goodies with me.

I read Career Renegade by Jonathan Fields. It’s an inspiring read! If you want to change your work and actually do what you like, then read this book. It’s practical and eloquent.

The Purple Cow has now appeared in a new edition. It’s Seth Godin’s book on how to transform your business by being remarkable. It’s informative – especially if you’re planning to become an entrepreneur.

I also read Sebastian Faulks’ Human Traces under the palmtrees. That’s a wonderful novel of epic proportions. The Sunday Telegraph called it, “A bold and remarkable work of imagination.”

So there you have it – those are the books I read on a tropical beach in Tonga.

Here’s a question for you:

If you were heading for a tropical beach, what books would YOU take?
Please share your personal book tips in the comments.

Mary Jaksch is Editor-in-Chief at Write to Done. Grab her FREE report How to Write Like an A-List Blogger. Mary has helped thousands of students successfully create outstanding and profitable blogs at A-List Blogging and is the blogger behind Goodlife ZEN.


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33 thoughts on “What Would YOU Read On A Tropical Beach?”

  • Lucy says:

    Choosing books to take away with you is definitely the most important step in any plan!

    A beach in Tonga… sounds fabulous. I’d have to be sure I went with several other people though, each with a good stash of books, because books are for sharing. And that way, I’d get exposed to books I might not otherwise have picked up – and wouldn’t have to carry so many, either.

  • I have yet to read any Seth Godin books, but I do plan on reading them. “The Purple Cow” sounds like an interesting and beneficial read.

  • Jake Johnson says:

    If you’re reading on a tropical beach, you need to bring books that can suite your mood as you plow through each pina colada.

    I’d start the day with something more cerebral like Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death”, move to the afternoon with Salman Rushdie’s “The Enchantress of Florence”, spend the evening with something comfortable like Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast”, and let anything by Tom Robbins or Hunter S. Thompson send me into a delusional dream state late in the evening.

    Or I’d probably just fall asleep during the first book and spend the day in and out of blissful napping.

  • I would wait patiently for Elmore Leonard’s new book “Djibouti Lp” and if it wasn’t published on time, I would go back and read a couple of his old ones.

  • Wendy says:

    I’ll have to check those out. Thanks for the suggestion!

    If I could only bring one book, it would Be the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe. Well, the entire series really, but I own it all in one book so it counts.

    I didn’t really like Purple Cow, but found The Dip to be contain some helpful information, though I haven’t found any of his books to contain enough info to warrant the books, maybe a few blog posts, but overall I haven’t found him to live up to the hype. I must be missing something.

  • Dave Thielen says:

    I’m going to Jamaica this summer, and this question has been at the forefront of my mind lately. I’ve been trying to come up with some ideas other than re-reading Hunter S. Thompson’s “The Rum Diary” for the umpteenth time. Current candidates are Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” or Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy, although I worry those may be a bit too heavy for relaxing beach reading.

  • tuxgirl says:

    I’d take my kindle as it is right now, loaded with over 700 books on my to-be-read list. I dont know if whispernet is available on the tonga beach, but i doubt that i’d hit any mood that none of my current books worked for. :)

  • Chania Girl says:

    Oh, I LOVE book suggestions! Thank you for this post today. As it stands, I’ve been skeptical for months about “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” but now I must check it out.

    When I’m on tropical beaches (hahaha) I like light reads or reads that just pull me in and let me swim around in their cool depths. Sadly, I don’t know that I have any of those I can recommend at this time.

    You may enjoy “The Geography of Bliss,” though. Journalist Eric Wiener takes off to discover the happiest places in the world. It’s a great read.

  • Andrew says:

    The book I was reading on a tropical beach on Kauai last week was “The Rights of My People: Liliuokalani’s Enduring Battle with the United States 1893-1917” by Neil Proto. Not exactly lightweight, but very appropriate to the locale.

    I’ve found Simon Winchester books make good vacation reading. Or Alastair Horne. Neither are fiction, but both really know how to tell a story.

  • Karin says:

    I just returned from the beach and read three distinctly different books, all worth the read. “Breakfast With Buddha” by Roland Merullo, “Look Again” by Lisa Scottoline & “Game Change” by John Heilemann & Mark Halperin.

    “The Lady with The Dragon Tattoo” just made my reading list thanks to your rave review, Leo. Thanks.

  • Karin says:

    Oops, sorry, Thanks, MARY, for your recommendation!

  • Ritergal says:

    What a magnificent list of Must Read books between the blog and the comments. I’ll add “Mennonite in a Little Black Dress” by Rhoda Janzen to the list. It’s a fast, fun read, in spite of the fact that the setting is her recovery from a horrendous auto accident that occurred the day after her bi-polar husband left her for a man named Bob whom he met on Gay.com, and during her time with her parents she revisits all the body and soul shame of growing up Mennonite. How can such subject matter be humorous? You’ll have to read the book to see.

    And Mary, I love the way you create scene in your post. :-)

  • lynn byrd says:

    Allow me to add “The Passion” by Jeanette Winterson, “Soldier of the Great War” by Mark Helprin, and “Evidence of Things Unseen” by Marianne Wiggins.
    I’ll hang in my porch hammock, imagine a farm breeze to sea air, and read behind my eyelids.

  • barbara says:

    I just finished the first two Larsson books. (The third is due out in hardback in the US in May and I can’t wait.) I’d add the 4 Promethean Age books by Elizabeth Bear. Ink and Steel, Whiskey and Water, Blood and Iron, Hell and Earth.

  • Eric C says:

    Almost embarrassed to say it, but I’d read twilight. I’ve never read them and they are about as light as it gets. Also interested in Dark Materials books, and some other sci-fi classics.

  • I’m reading “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” right now and it’s very good! On a vacation like that I always take at least one of my thickest books or three regular size. When I have unlimited reading time I get very greedy to make up for all the time lost to work. The next book on my list is Robert McCammon’s “Mister Slaughter”. Love his books!

  • When I’m reading on the beach, I like to read books that take me away completely. Trashy romance novels are great. But now that I have my Nook, I can take a ton of books with me and I won’t have to choose before I leave (as long as I have my 3G available).

  • Tracy Torgeson says:

    I love all things Larry Brooks, and his new book, “Whisper of the Seventh Thunder” is a must read.

  • Kate Huang says:

    I’d like my beach read to be something can make my mind wonder, thoughts float, and lead towards a light and pleasant direction, even go into a wonderland! So my recommandation is “Pin Ball 1973” by the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami.

    If I’m taking off tomorrow, I’ll go get his latest book which I haven’t read – “Kafka On The Shore”.

  • CoachBarrie says:

    I love this list Mary! Thank you. I am headed to the beach next week, so I’ll be off to the book store today to get Larssen’s mysteries. The last books that really knocked my socks off were Eat, Pray, Love and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. The first is interesting, funny and real. The latter is some of the most beautiful writing I’ve read in a long time coupled with an incredible story.

  • T says:

    A tropical setting lends itself to a tropical writer so my first choice would be at least two books by Jamaica Kincaid, preferably Annie John and A Small Place. My next choice would be a novel to compliment my inenbriated state,I believe Fitzgerald would fit the bill. It is always fun to comtemplate the existentiality of the green light while sipping Margaritas. The last must be a book of poetry by Maya Angelou which is always good as a Sunday morning antidote to the indiscretions of a week in the Tropics.

    If only I were there right now….

  • Johnny says:

    I was just on a tropical beach (Byron Bay –OK technically sub-tropical) and was reading Dostoevsky’s oh-so-uplifting “Notes From Underground”.

    It just happened to be in my bag. If I had a choice, I would go with something by Paul Theroux. I read “Hotel Honolulu” on Koh Samui and get the hell burnt of me in the process. If I get skin cancer, I’m suing Theroux for writing such engaging novels.

  • Farnoosh says:

    What would I do? What DO I read everytime I go to Hawaii? Literary Classics, the best of which has been Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy, followed by Jane Austen, Henry James, Emily Bronte, and Gustave Flaubert. Reading classics is pure joy and pleasure……..

  • Mary says:

    Now, you all have me wanting to read the Larssen books!

    I don’t know if I would read on the beach. I would be too busy looking for shells, standing in the water, taking photos, etc.

    I love the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books, but unfortunately, I’ve read all the ones Alexander McCall Smith has written so far. I’ve also read his Sunday Philosophy Club books. I’m reading a Neil Gaiman book right now.

  • Mits says:

    I would have to say the following book it’s one of my favourites Callings: FInding and folling an authentic life by Gregg Levoy

  • Ksenia says:

    It’s curious, because usually opinions about Stieg Larssen’s books are radical: hate or love them. Some people say it’s too…journalistic? I mean, he concentrate too much on details and the story lose rythm. I can’t give my own opinion because I haven’t read them, but if you say they are so good, maybe I should read them.After all, there’s no accounting for tastes, and you can’t please everybody!

    Last week I read Harumi Murakami’s autobiography, “What I talk about when I talk about running”, and now I am fascineted; I would definitely take one of his books 😀

    I am also reading Steven Pinker’s “The Stuff of Thought” and would take his “How the Mind Works”. Some books of Charlaine Harris’s “Southern Vampire Mysteries” series would finish in the bag too. Personally, sometimes I find her style a little bit poor, but I liked the TV series (True Blood) and now I’m hooked on it.

  • Jared says:

    Great suggestions for reading! My wife and I travel to someplace with a nice beach (we’re SCUBA divers) every six months and finding a few good books to take along is always on our list. I’m currently reading Career Renegade myself and really enjoying it. My wife has finished the Twilight books and is looking for something else… I’ve heard about Stieg Larssen’s books and will suggest them to my wife.

    We leave for MX in a month so my list this time includes: The Shadow Effect (sent for review), There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem, and probably will re-read Career Renegade or something similar… hmmm, haven’t read any of Seth Godin yet so maybe I’ll pick up one of his books, Linchpin maybe?

  • Bill Kehoe says:

    I’d take something big — meaty, worldly, with large people revealed through their thoughts and actions. I’d re-read either Don Quixote or War and Peace. Forget that they’re called classics: they’re quite possibly the most satisfying and instructive big novels ever written. Writers throughout the centuries have devoured them, savored them, come back to them with good reason.

    I’d read them in modern translations: Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky for Tolstoy; Burton Rafael for Cervantes (although the easily-found translation by Tobias Smollett bursts with Smollett’s enthusiasm and humor–traits that made him one of the best English novelists of the 18th century).

  • A beach is a connection with nature, and when I think nature, it is something that’s to do with pure ecstasy. I relate that with writings of Paulo Coelho, very mystical, yet somehow strongly connected with nature.

    If I were to be on a tropical beach, with the water gushing and the soft sand touching my feet, I’d be reading ‘Brida’ by Paulo Coelho, no doubt. Although I’ve already read it once, that is one book which resonates strongly with me, and I’d love to read it again for sure.

  • Alan Hammond says:

    I love posts like this. They cause you to daydream a little.

    I can only imagine what a paradise Tonga must be. I NEED to hear more about the trip. Love to go there but know little about it.

    Places like that are inspirational to me. Being a freelancer trying to get a business off the ground, while working full-time, is difficult. As far as I’m concerned, inspiriational places like that are essential to success. I like to become immersed in inspiration, so I’d take books that propel me forward. Of course, I’d re-read The Power of Less and Think and Grow Rich. I’d also take a book I’m reviewing, The Wealthy Freelancer.

    Although it didn’t receive much critical acclaim, The Historian, a novel from a few years back, was an excellent story.

    I’d also like to read a biography of George S. Patton.

    There you have it. To read all of those, I’ll need a one-month vacation. Perfect!


  • Suzanne says:

    Thanks so much! I LOVE book recommendations from other book lovers! Guess I need to read The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo since that title keeps popping up everywhere I go.

    As for what books I would take to the beach with me – The Life of Pi, Water for Elephants, The Shell Seekers, most anything by Anita Shreve. And, yes, even the Twilight series.

    Gee! You’ve made me long for the beach – and a good book, of course!

  • The Beach of course. And She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb.

  • XylotolGirl says:

    I think Talus by Erol Ozan ( http://www.amazon.com/Talus-Erol-Ozan/dp/1452828199) and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0307454541) are good beach reads. I am currently enjoying them on a Greek Island.

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