Not Your Typical Beach Reading

“I’m looking for a good beach read. Any suggestions?” is a question I hear all the time, and not one easily answered. My take on summer reading is slightly skewed. I use this sudden increase in leisure time to challenge myself intellectually. Yes, I want my reading choices to be page-turning experiences that make me laugh-out-loud or sob with heartache. But I also want to be enlightened, enchanted, informed. Each summer, I challenge myself to pick books that normally wouldn’t appeal to my tastes. Finding titles to fit that description can prove to be more of the challenge, not because of lack of choices. On the contrary – working in a bookstore with so many beach-bag-worthy books, how does one decide?

Judging a book by its cover can prove to be a brilliant method of selection when it’s a cover the likes of Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d’Art. (Hardcover, April 2012)
 
Attracted by the intriguing blue hues and mysteriously dark illustrations of the Eiffel Tower, a gentleman in a bowler hat depicted in shadow, a strategically placed half-jacket covering a menacing muse seductively perched on a painter’s palette, I felt dared to read this book. The latest work of fiction by New York Times Bestselling author, Christopher Moore, self-proclaimed writer of ‘comic fantasy,’ not a genre I would ever read.
 
As if the cover wasn’t enough to peak my interest, the first line on the dust jacket certainly sealed its fate as the first book to kick off my personal summer reading challenge to read outside the box.
 
“In July 1890, Vincent van Gogh went into a cornfield and shot himself. Or did he?”
 
Sacre Bleu is at once a mystery, a comedy and a dazzling adventure through the art world of Impressionist-era Paris. Moore masterfully combines historical accuracy, fantasy and mildly offensive humor and the result is nothing short of fabulously fun caper.
 
“A delectable confection of intrigue, passion, and art history—with cancan girls, baguettes, and fine French cognac thrown in for good measure--- Sacre Bleu is another masterpiece of wit and wonder.”
 
I would be remiss if I didn’t touch upon the production of this book. It’s a beautifully hardbound tome with typefaces (printed in blue ink) evocative of its 19th century Parisian setting.  Illustrating the story lines are twenty full-color reproductions of artworks of Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Manet, Seurat, Gaugin and many other artists of the era. The flyleaves are even wrapped in antique maps of Paris. In a time when we are seeing less and less spent on the art of bindery, this book is extraordinarily artful in its production.
 
“So, Now You’ve Ruined Art” begins the Afterward from the author. Not at all, Mr. Moore, this book has reignited a love of art history in this jaded student of the arts and has also reinforced my summer reading philosophy of trying something different. I picked up a book from an author/genre I have never read before; and was thoroughly enchanted.