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Sandy dozen: 12 site-specific beach reads

By: Matt Hickman on May 25, 2011, 7:12 a.m.
beach, palm tree at sunset

Photo: melenama/Flickr

7 of 14

Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand

Book:The Beach” by Alex Garland (1996)

Perfect page-turning locale: Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand

Publisher’s description: "The Khao San Road, Bangkok — first stop for the hordes of rootless young Westerners traveling in Southeast Asia. On Richard's first night there, in a low-budget guest house, a fellow traveler slashes his wrists, bequeathing to Richard a meticulously drawn map to 'the Beach.' The Beach, as Richard has come to learn, is the subject of a legend among young travelers in Asia: a lagoon hidden from the sea, with white sand and coral gardens, freshwater falls surrounded by jungle, plants untouched for a thousand years. There, it is rumored, a carefully selected international few have settled in a communal Eden. Haunted by the figure of Mr. Duck — the name by which the Thai police have identified the dead man — and his own obsession with Vietnam movies, Richard sets off with a young French couple to an island hidden away in an archipelago forbidden to tourists. They discover the Beach, and it is as beautiful and idyllic as it is reputed to be. Yet over time it becomes clear that Beach culture, as Richard calls it, has troubling, even deadly, undercurrents."

Afterword: This thrilling, debut tome from British novelist Alex Garland is basically “The Lord of the Flies” for the hedonistic Euro backpacking set. It’s much better than the Leonardo DiCaprio and Tilda Swinton film adaptation, and, naturally, the book’s mesmerizing setting, Thailand, is an ideal reading locale. Download one of the best beach pop anthems ever, “Pure Shores” by All Saints (taken from the film’s soundtrack), for an optimum reading experience.