Beachworthy

Recent Salon reviews of good books to read while sitting on a towel (or in economy class).

Topics: Books,

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
In another sidesplitting collection, the author writes about his foulmouthed brother, his hopeless French and his brief career as a speed-freak performance artist.
Reviewed by Greg Villepique [06/09/00]

“The Happy Bottom Riding Club” by Lauren Kessler
A juicy, smart biography of heiress Pancho Barnes, who wanted only one thing: More.
Reviewed by Patricia Kean [05/31/00]

“Chang and Eng” by Darin Strauss
The inner life (and the sex life) of the famous Siamese twins.
Reviewed by Jonathan Miles [05/22/00]

“Stern Men” by Elizabeth Gilbert
In a terrific first novel, a restless 18-year-old feminist idles away a summer on an island of irascible Maine lobstermen.
Reviewed by Jonathan Miles [05/16/00]

“White Teeth” by Zadie Smith.
In this remarkable debut novel, London is a merry capital of mismatched lovers.
Reviewed by Maria Russo [04/28/00]

“Wanderlust: A History of Walking” by Rebecca Solnit
A delightful and mind-expanding look at one of the activities that make us human.
Reviewed by Andrew O’Hehir [04/27/00]

“Horse Heaven” by Jane Smiley
A great big novel, jampacked with characters, that brings poetry to the dust and the lust of the racetrack.
Reviewed by Emily Gordon [04/17/00]

“The Custom of the Sea” by Neil Hanson and “In the Heart of the Sea” by Nathaniel Philbrick
Both books serve up hair-raising histories of maritime cannibalism with all the gory details.
Reviewed by Mark Schone [04/13/00]



“The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living” by Martin Clark
A wild and weirdly plotted novel by and about a circuit court judge, complete with a hunt for lost loot, a murder and a convoluted trial.
Reviewed by Michael Scott Moore [04/12/00]

“Le Mariage” by Diane Johnson
Yanks abroad and French nationals are still bewildering one another in a funny follow-up to the bestselling “Le Divorce.”
Reviewed by Elizabeth Judd [03/27/00]

“The Invention of the Restaurant” by Rebecca L. Spang
You didn’t know that it was invented, did you? A scholar unearths the unlikely origins.
Reviewed by Pete Wells [03/24/00]

“Patrick O’Brian: A Life Revealed” by Dean King
The bestselling novelist wasn’t, it turns out, the man he claimed to be.
Reviewed by Ian Williams [03/21/00]

“Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” by Helen Fielding
She’s back, she’s got her weight down, she’s got Mark Darcy and she’s in a Thai jail on drug charges.
Reviewed by Maria Russo [02/29/00]

“Chaos Theory” by Gary Krist
It starts quietly enough — with two kids copping a joint — and then spins into a breakneck thriller.
Reviewed by Jonathan Miles [01/27/00]

“Ghosts of Cape Sabine: The Harrowing True Story of the Greely Expedition” by Leonard F. Guttridge
Another arctic thriller — replete with starvation, executions, mutiny and cannibalism — that deserves a place alongside the best of them.
Reviewed by Jonathan Miles [01/21/00]

“Sick Puppy” by Carl Hiaasen
In a new novel and a new collection, the Florida author proves that he’s as outrageous in fiction as he is out there in fact.
Reviewed by Hal Hinson [01/13/00]

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    AP/Jae C. Hong

    Your summer in extreme weather

    California drought

    Since May, California has faced a historic drought, resulting in the loss of 63 trillion gallons of water. 95.4 percent of the state is now experiencing "severe" drought conditions, which is only a marginal improvement from 97.5 percent last week.

    A recent study published in the journal Science found that the Earth has actually risen about 0.16 inches in the past 18 months because of the extreme loss of groundwater. The drought is particularly devastating for California's enormous agriculture industry and will cost the state $2.2 billion this year, cutting over 17,000 jobs in the process.

       

    Meteorologists blame the drought on a large zone (almost 4 miles high and 2,000 miles long) of high pressure in the atmosphere off the West Coast which blocks Pacific winter storms from reaching land. High pressure zones come and go, but this one has been stationary since December 2012.

    Darin Epperly

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Great Plains tornadoes

    From June 16-18 this year, the Midwest was slammed by a series of four tornadoes, all ranking as category EF4--meaning the winds reached up to 200 miles per hour. An unlucky town called Pilger in Nebraska was hit especially hard, suffering through twin tornadoes, an extreme event that may only occur every few decades. The two that swept through the town killed two people, injured 16 and demolished as many as 50 homes.   

    "It was terribly wide," local resident Marianne Pesotta said to CNN affiliate KETV-TV. "I drove east [to escape]. I could see how bad it was. I had to get out of there."   

    But atmospheric scientist Jeff Weber cautions against connecting these events with climate change. "This is not a climate signal," he said in an interview with NBC News. "This is a meteorological signal."

    AP/Detroit News, David Coates

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Michigan flooding

    On Aug. 11, Detroit's wettest day in 89 years -- with rainfall at 4.57 inches -- resulted in the flooding of at least five major freeways, leading to three deaths, more than 1,000 cars being abandoned on the road and thousands of ruined basements. Gov. Rick Snyder declared it a disaster. It took officials two full days to clear the roads. Weeks later, FEMA is finally set to begin assessing damage.   

    Heavy rainfall events are becoming more and more common, and some scientists have attributed the trend to climate change, since the atmosphere can hold more moisture at higher temperatures. Mashable's Andrew Freedman wrote on the increasing incidence of this type of weather: "This means that storms, from localized thunderstorms to massive hurricanes, have more energy to work with, and are able to wring out greater amounts of rain or snow in heavy bursts. In general, more precipitation is now coming in shorter, heavier bursts compared to a few decades ago, and this is putting strain on urban infrastructure such as sewer systems that are unable to handle such sudden influxes of water."

    AP/The Fresno Bee, Eric Paul Zamora

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Yosemite wildfires

    An extreme wildfire burning near Yosemite National Park forced authorities to evacuate 13,000 nearby residents, while the Madera County sheriff declared a local emergency. The summer has been marked by several wildfires due to California's extreme drought, which causes vegetation to become perfect kindling.   

    Surprisingly, however, firefighters have done an admirable job containing the blazes. According to the L.A. Times, firefighters with the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection have fought over 4,000 fires so far in 2014 -- an increase of over 500 fires from the same time in 2013.

    Reuters/Eugene Tanner

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Hawaii hurricanes

    Hurricane Iselle was set to be the first hurricane to make landfall in Hawaii in 22 years. It was downgraded to a tropical storm and didn't end up being nearly as disastrous as it could have been, but it still managed to essentially shut down the entire state for a day, as businesses and residents hunkered down in preparation, with many boarding up their windows to guard against strong gusts. The storm resulted in downed trees, 21,000 people out of power and a number of damaged homes.

    Debbie Arita, a local from the Big Island described her experience: "We could hear the wind howling through the doors. The light poles in the parking lot were bobbing up and down with all the wind and rain."

    Reuters/NASA

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Florida red tide

    A major red tide bloom can reach more than 100 miles along the coast and around 30 miles offshore. Although you can't really see it in the above photo, the effects are devastating for wildlife. This summer, Florida was hit by an enormous, lingering red tide, also known as a harmful algae bloom (HAB), which occurs when algae grow out of control. HABs are toxic to fish, crabs, octopuses and other sea creatures, and this one resulted in the death of thousands of fish. When the HAB gets close enough to shore, it can also have an effect on air quality, making it harder for people to breathe.   

    The HAB is currently closest to land near Pinellas County in the Gulf of Mexico, where it is 5-10 miles offshore.

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