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A captivating exploration of beach resort culture—from its roots in fashionable society to its undervalued role in today’s world economy—as the travel industry approaches a climate reckoning
With its promise of escape from the strains of everyday life, the beach has a hold on the popular imagination as the ultimate paradise. In The Last Resort, Sarah Stodola dives into the psyche of the beachgoer and gets to the heart of what drives humans to seek out the sand. At the same time, she grapples with the darker realities of resort culture: strangleholds on local economies, reckless construction, erosion of beaches, weighty carbon footprints, and the inevitable overdevelopment and decline that comes with a soaring demand for popular shorelines.
The Last Resort weaves Stodola’s firsthand travel notes with her exacting journalism in an enthralling report on the past, present, and future of coastal travel. She takes us from Monte Carlo, where the pursuit of pleasure first became part of the beach resort experience, to a village in Fiji that was changed irrevocably by the opening of a single resort; from the overdevelopment that stripped Acapulco of its reputation for exclusivity to Miami Beach, where extreme measures are underway to prevent the barrier island from vanishing into the ocean.
In the twenty-first century, beach travel has become central to our globalized world—its culture, economy, and interconnectedness. But with sea levels likely to rise at least 1.5 to 3 feet by the end of this century, beaches will become increasingly difficult to preserve, and many will disappear altogether. What will our last resort be when water begins to fill the lobbies?
SARAH STODOLA has written about travel and culture for the New York Times, Slate, the Wall Street Journal, and the BBC, among others. She is the author of Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors and the founder and editor of Flung, a publication that challenges assumptions about travel.
"If you liked White Lotus . . . watch for The Last Resort. . . . Stodola’s sobering investigation into the beach resort economy leaps from Thailand to Cap d’Antibes to Senegal, looking at why these manufactured environments became the vacation ideal and how climate change threatens them all." — New York Times Book Review, "Summer Reading Suggestions"
"Sharp . . . [A] careful critique of the invasive species that is the luxury resort. . . . I am glad that The Last Resort exists." — Lauren Groff, The Atlantic
"For a book that's not a thriller, this could be one of the scariest beach reads imaginable this summer. That's because Sarah Stodola's journalistic look at beach resorts . . . pulls back the curtain on paradise and reveals some of the shocking truths behind the surf and sand." — Town & Country, "The 33 Must-Read Books of Summer 2022"
"[A] gripping account about the dark side of paradise. . . . After reading The Last Resort, you’ll never look at an all-inclusive vacation quite the same way." — Esquire, "The 20 Best Books of Summer 2022"
"A beach read that will make you think. . . . Fascinating." — Washington Post, "21 Books to Read This Summer"
"There's a lot more to reading by the beach or the pool than you realize, as revealed in this history and exploration of beach resort culture—all the more critical as the travel industry is grappling with how to not only recover and thrive post-pandemic, but to also curtail its worst offenses as we approach a climate reckoning." — Fortune, "5 New Books to Read in June"
"Sarah Stodola's new book cracks open ideas of paradise and the complicated histories of coastal travel." — Southern Living, "Beach Reads Perfect for Summer 2022"
"What could possibly be a better beach read than an investigative deep dive into the dark underbelly of the beachside resort business? With expert precision, Stodola weaves together travel notes, climate journalism, and scathing critiques of capitalism into a work cultural history exploring why we all flock to the beach in the first place." — Harper's Bazaar, "The Best Beach Reads of 2022"
"Stodola details both the disastrous effects of overdevelopment on multiple beachfront sites as well as hopeful instances of conservation, charting the steps needed to curtail the devastating consequences of unchecked development. . . . Avid travelers and environmentally conscious readers alike will appreciate this treatment."
"Thought-provoking. . . . Stodola travels the globe to highlight how coastal towns that largely depend on tourism are changing due to climate change and have become hotbeds of social inequality. . . . A fascinating look at the dangers of climate change." — Publishers Weekly
"A critical look at the juggernaut of vacation destinations: the beach resort. . . . A thorough and appropriately alarming analysis of how we made paradise and how it might be saved." — Kirkus Reviews
“The Last Resort is an extremely well-researched and enormously entertaining, even surprising, read. Combining historical context, on-the-ground reporting, personal anecdotes, sociopolitical and economic analysis, and actionable suggestions, this book should be essential reading for anyone who lives near, profits from, fantasizes about, loves or loathes, beach resorts.” — Laurie Woolever, author of Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography
“The Last Resort is an eye-opening study of our collective fascination with the beach and the global rise of beach culture. Equally as compelling is Stodola’s examination of the underbelly of ‘paradise’ and the toll it takes on the people and places that make our beach fantasies real. You’ll never look at an infinity pool in quite the same way.” — Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon, Caribbean travel expert, @JetSetSarah
“Rising seas, heat waves, pandemics, shrinking resources, unhappy workers: As Sarah Stodola writes, the idyllic beach destinations around the world are in real trouble. Stodola trekked from Phra Nang, Thailand, to the Rockaways in New York City, Fiji to Hawaii, Bali to Brighton Beach, taking the pulse of ailing industries and beaches devoured by hungry, rising seas. The Last Resort is a tour de force.” — Laurie Garrett, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of I Heard the Sirens Scream and Betrayal of Trust