Bookworm: ‘Last Resort’ will appeal to globetrotters and armchair travelers

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“The Last Resort: Chronicle of Paradise, Profit, and Peril at the Beach”

  • By Sarah Stodola
  • c. 2022, Ecco
  • $27.99, 352 pages

Your bags are packed. Yep, you’re headed for five days of sun, sea, and sand. Early-morning dips in the ocean, flip-flops, and little grains of beach in the sheets every night. But you won’t care, you’ll be on V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N. Might want to check first, though: read “The Last Resort” by Sarah Stodola to be sure your venue’s going to be there.

“The Last Resort: Chronicle of Paradise, Profit, and Peril at the Beach” by Sarah Stodola.

Some 13 years ago, nursing the wounds from an abrupt break-up, Sarah Stodola headed for what turned out to be the balm her soul needed: a semi-secluded beach on a peninsula in Thailand. She swam in warm waters near white sand that was often nearly empty. She drank island beers with new friends. She came home, refreshed, and looking with a new eye at why we love to go on vacation at the beach.

It wasn’t always like that.

A few hundred years ago – the Greeks and Romans notwithstanding – most Europeans feared the ocean, perhaps understanding it as a mighty force rather than a relaxing froth. Seafaring explorers changed that and by the latter half of the 1500s, wealthy Europeans flocked to “spa towns” as a retreat. Eighteenth-century doctors recommended that their patients bathe in the sea, and cabanas and resorts on an ocean beach became the place to be.

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It still is, says Stodola. You can be pampered and primped on any of the beaches on which to play: Monte Carlo, a getaway that started because of a broke prince’s shrewd wife; Hawaii, the shores of which require constant work; Fiji, which exists, in part, thanks to a former U.S. Air Force base; Nicaragua, which struggles to attract visitors; Tulum, in which the resorts are not hooked up to the power grid nor the sewer systems. These places promise guests the sun, fun, and sand they want, but they also have one other thing in common: like so many other resorts around the world, says Stodola, they could “be gone in a few decades.”

So you’re thinkin’ of sinkin’ a chunk of money into resorts, now that travel is possible again? You might want to read “The Last Resort” first and think on that idea.

“The Last Resort: Chronicle of Paradise, Profit, and Peril at the Beach” author Sarah Stodola.

It’s a fact that author Sarah Stodola’s descriptions of the many beaches she visited as research for this book makes you want to drop whatever you’re doing and head to the airport... but pay close attention to what else she says about the sand and sun. Stodola takes readers past the palm trees and marble floors, onto a back veranda to look at what’s gone wrong with the environment around the beach resorts we love to visit, why near-constant maintenance is required today, and why things aren’t getting any better. It’s like bending down to sniff a lush island flower, only to find that it’s artificial.

With an appeal to globetrotters, armchair travelers, and environmentalists, “The Last Resort” is also full of warnings for businesspeople flush with available cash. If you need to know more about your next investment or getaway hotspot, this book’s got it in the bag.

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  • c.2022, various publishers
  • $27.99 - $30

The kids have been looking forward to this all week. One large white bedsheet, a cord strung between two trees, a little high-tech magic, and you’ve got an outdoor theater tailor-made for a summer evening. Old black-and-white movies are perfect for a summer weekend of entertainment, maybe some comedies, so why not read up on the actors first by grabbing these great books ... ?

Fans of the oldest kinds of films will devour “Camera Man” by Dana Stevens (Atria, $29.99). It’s the story of film and TV star Buster Keaton, who got his start onstage in vaudeville with the family act in what, if it appeared today, would seem like child abuse. He seized that early work and refined it to become a beloved Hollywood movie actor, doing his own stunts and being his own director. Despite that his life took a sad turn in his middle-age, Keaton managed to stay relevant by also working in the then-new medium of television in its infancy.

Books featuring some legendary entertainers!

But this isn’t just the story of one man’s career. Other people moved in and out of Keaton’s life and work – influential, famous people who also left their marks on America. Today, years after his death, Keaton’s known as an innovator and, for some of his work, a genius.

Relevant for any Hollywood watcher or historian of any age, “Camera Man” is reel good.

If you’ve always loved a good drama, you’ll like “Managing Expectations” by Minnie Driver (HarperOne, $27.99). It’s a series of essays on life, grief, bad hair, being a daughter, and being a (surprise) mother with a high-profile career. These are easy essays to love, share, re-read, and the bonus: some of them are really funny, too.

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Speaking of funny women, try “In on the Joke: The Original Queens of Stand-up Comedy” by Shawn Levy (Doubleday, $30.00). It’s the story of women in comedy, both on-stage and on TV, starting with Jackie “Moms” Mabley, who was born into a family of former slaves and who died a very wealthy woman. It’s about the kinds of comedy that made Minnie Pearl, Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers – women who poked fun at very different things – into three of our most beloved comedians. It’s about clean jokes, dirty jokes, and female comedians who paid their dues at a time when most American women stayed home with husband and kids. And it’s about rule-breakers in stand-up and on-stage, how they made their way into what was mostly a male-dominated business, the roadblocks they faced and overcame, and how their work in the last century allows today’s female comics to keep America laughing ...

If these TV-and-movie-based books don’t quite fit what you’ll be watching this summer, be sure to check with your favorite librarian or bookseller. They’ll help you find the right kind of book to watch, the biography of the performer you follow avidly, or the book that the movie’s made from. They’ll help you find the books you’ll want to read, and things you’ve been looking forward to, all summer long.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books. Read past columns at