Brainy Beach Reads


Skip your standard thriller and pack something deliciously enlightening.

For the Battlefield Tourist

Antietam by Richard Slotkin

Every Civil War buff knows that the Union victory at the battle of Antietam, the single bloodiest day in American history, paved the way to the Emancipation Proclamation. But in showing how the two sides approached that pivotal moment in 1862, Slotkin has produced an absorbing revisionist history of what could be called the second American Revolution.

For the Chaise-Lounge Philosopher

Why Does the World Exist? By Jim Holt

Why is there something rather than nothing? We might have found the Higgs boson, but what's the Higgs boson made of? To these cosmic questions Holt applies his usual wit and verve to weave together insights from ancient Greece to modern times, along the way introducing the mathematician Roger Penrose, the existential philosopher Martin Heidegger, and even the novelist John Updike.

For the Ebullient Splasher

Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton

A cool memoir about competitive swimming that might as well be called The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Swimming can be so healthily euphoriant, yet what happens when you spend years training for the Olympics and never attain greatness? Shapton, never self-pitying, offers an original, mythical elixir of life in the water.

Not for the Cabana Prude

Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace by Kate Summerscale

In 1858 Victorian England, an industrialist found his wife's diary, read it, and filed for divorce on grounds of infidelity.

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