Summertime beach reads. Various shades of rosé wine. Chilled white wines.
Those are a few of the calling cards of summer that are top of mind for wine lovers, as the summer stretches lazily into August. These past few weeks we’ve considered two of those three categories, from Italian rosa to sauvignon blancs of distinctly different origins. Today, in a brief mini-series, we’ll turn our attention to the third category of summertime calling cards for wine lovers, namely those beach reads.
The second post in this series lists specific book recommendations but first, here are three general tips worth considering: beach reads that are neither “beach” nor “reads,” the distinct advantage of audio books for wine lovers, and orienting around the theme of the senses.
Beach Reads that Are Neither Beach Nor Reads
Let me start by saying that “beach read” is a fairly narrow and misleading title of the category. This is partly because, though it’s a lovely idea in theory, relatively few of us will actually make it to a beach this summer, much less possess either the wherewithal or the desire to open a hard copy of a book and direct our attention to its pages instead of the waves on the horizon. “Beach read” is misleading also because allowance must be paid to book consumption, especially given the popularity of wireless ear buds and summertime road trips in the car, as something that is heard rather than read.
The Theme of the Senses
What books should you read, or listen to, this summer? And, more to the point, what books should you choose as a wine lover?
I’d like to suggest orienting your choices for the rest of the summer around the theme of the senses. Let me take just a moment to clarify what I mean by that.
Certainly, there are books you’ll find that are well worth recommending, that are sorted into the “wine category” and maybe also the “textbook” or “education” subcategory. These books will formally and very correctly walk you through the sight, smell, taste and texture of wine.
But those are not the books that I’m recommending here for summertime reading as wine lovers. What I’m recommending instead are books that shine a light on our sensory experiences in a far more casual — and even non-wine — kind of way. I offer specific recommendations in the second part of this mini-series, but the idea is to read or listen to books that relish the sensory, so that we spend time there, “fleshing out” our awareness and getting used to the nuances and interpretations of what it can mean to see, smell, taste and feel.
The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister illustrates my point for the sense of smell. This book heads the list of recommendations for wine lovers not because it discusses wine per se, or because the book discusses wine directly. I recommend it because it’s a narrative about experiencing the entire world through fragrance, about the sense of smell as a means of emotional survival.
As I listened to The Scent Keeper as an audio book, I remembered the legend of a college coach who taught his athletes to “hunt” for victory on the field by surrounding themselves, mentally, with cues of their success far in advance of game day. The idea was to live within the experience of the sport, to be immersed in the feel of it whether or not they were actively engaging in the physical exercise of it. It’s the same with The Scent Keeper and wine: Even when we aren’t smelling or drinking wine, we can pay attention to the experience of fragrance and aroma, no matter where we are.
That’s the kind of book that improves the experience for wine lovers.
Advantages of Audio Books for Wine Lovers
Beyond reading books this summer, let me add a note here about the advantage of listening to books, namely, that it invites the involvement of our sense of hearing. Hearing is, unfortunately, the one sense that is neglected or left out of most wine tasting experiences. We see the color of wine in the glass. We smell its aromas. We experience its taste. We feel its texture. But most of us haven’t figured out how to hear a wine. But listening to a book like The Scent Keeper enhances the words and story we hear about fragrance by also adding the value and warmth of the human voice.