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Books by the Pool

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

An open book with a pool in the background.

I hurt my knee last week. After weeks on planes, trains, and walking along the cobblestone streets of Boston and Portland before flying down to Florida for a night of dancing in heels, my left knee finally revolted. I had to get a shot in my knee – so weird – and wear a brace.

I was prescribed to walk in the pool. No yoga – if you can believe that –.just walking in the pool. I am annoyed because I finally got into a groove with my yoga mat. Regardless, I’m doing what the doctor told me.

** I would also like to note that apparently walking around my neighborhood in a knee brace has encouraged older ladies to ask me – a perfect stranger and not a medical doctor – if they also need a brace because their knee is acting up. I am always happy to help people, but ladies, if your knee hurts, go to the doctor. **

Behr has been following me to the community pool for my walks. He lugs a round float with a pug’s face on it and a beach ball. At some point, he abandons floating and turns the ring into a basketball hoop for the beach ball. I chug back and forth in the water for 30+ minutes until I can clock a mile.

I love a good pool, but usually, I get in for a lap or two, do some spins, then get out so I can read the book I brought with me.

I had to work when I was a kid. And one of those jobs was looking after my sister. In addition to that, I was offered a babysitting job for a younger cousin. I would march these girls to the pool where my job was to make sure they did not drown. I had a teal lounge chair, a pink tape deck, a cup full of Country Time Lemonade, and a book. It was the best gig. One summer, I spent every day by the pool. My skin was as brown as a gingerbread. My sister and cousin would climb on inflatable rafts and alligators. We’d sing along with whatever was on the radio. When we got hungry, they’d pull plums from the nearby tree or grab a Nutty Buddy from our Maw’s back porch freezer.

I was reading whatever I could score from friends, at the flea market, or the few trips I could finagle to the bookstore a half an hour away. I was reading Christopher Pike paranormal mysteries and other short, spooky books by Lois Duncan, Caroline B. Cooney, and R.L. Stine before he downshifted his market audience. These books were short, surprising, and devourable.

Recently, when I was watching the first season of White Lotus and spotted the teens on the beach reading philosophy, it reminded me of when I went to the pool with a friend who was reading an academic book about minimum wage and the American class system. And she was not reading it for a class – but for fun. Like Hermione Granger’s version of “light reading”. All books can be beach books.

Hubs likes to read his Dad-Core books when we go on vacation, but he is partial to balconies to poolside. We have this discussion whenever we go to the beach. I suggested walking down to the beach and sitting under an umbrella where we can read by the ocean. He suggests we don’t do all that walking and sit somewhere under an umbrella with a view of the beach. He said he only wants to be able to hear the ocean. He was living his best life when we went to Cancun because he sat on our balcony with the ocean view and read three Jack Reacher books while Behr and I lounged by the pool. W. was on the trip and he rejected all seaside and pool-side activities to sit in the teen lounge and play video games.

I guess the things I am looking for when it comes to pool reads, personally, are three things:

Portability – I need something relatively lightweight that I can throw in a bag. Essentially this is my life philosophy for most books really. Anything too hard or too heavy can stay at home. No Goldfinch, no Anna Karenina, and nothing from the Twilight series. If you are comfortable carrying around a heavy book to the pool - go for it. For me, I’ll stick with pocket-sized books.

Water-resistant – When in Florida last week, I saw a woman by the pool with her Kindle. I can only hope it was a Paperwhite, because I have the damndest time reading screens in the sun. I am also always nervous to be too cavalier with screens near bodies of water. I am not always graceful and dropping tech in the pool only to bury it in rice is not my favorite thing. I have dropped books in pools. I have leaned them against my stomach, getting the pages wet. I have also spilled beverages on books. They eventually dry out, and I can still read them when the pages are wet. And if a paper book is taken by the sea or is accidentally lifted by a waiter clearing a table so the seagulls don’t devour what’s left of my chips and guac, well, I’m not out $150.

Light in subject – I don’t want to sit by the pool and read anything that’s going to bum me out. I will read heavy, important works full of social commentary. I have lugged my grad school books to the pool because I was on a deadline. But for me, the most fun books for pool-reading are lush romances, tawdry mysteries, disgusting horror, cowgirls, dragons, liars, cheats, and witches.

If you prefer to read on a Kindle or lug around a heavy hardback, it’s all good because reading outside by the water is a fun thing. Pools are usually a place where people are happy. Kids laugh. Adults get over themselves. There are floats and sometimes music. And sinking down amidst all that joy into an even more joyful space of a book is always worth it.

Read Books. Wear Boots.




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