Ever wonder?
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Person Reading on Beach
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Summer is officially here. That means it's time to pick your pedicure colors, debut your latest sundresses, pour that perfect cup of iced tea, and make plans for weekend trips to the beach, lake, or maybe just the neighborhood pool. But regardless of destination, we'll bet you're packing a beach read in your bag. But how does one define a "beach read?" Well, we were curious as well, so we did some digging.

History of the term "Beach Read"

According to Michelle Dean in this 2016 article for The Guardian, the term originates from book trade publications in the 1990s and by the middle of the decade, literary journalists had picked it up. "I t's hard to pinpoint the first usage, but the summer of 1990 is when many writers began, which leads me to believe that somewhere out there is a canny book publicist sitting on the fact that he or she coined the term for a release that summer." Dean wrote. She notes that leisure and fiction were not first linked in the 1990s, that can be traced back centuries. But rather that with the boom of paperback publications, "you began to see the beach so closely entwined with a page-turning thriller."

What is a Beach Read?

Defining this phrase is subjective and somewhat vague. Elise Moser of Book Riot said, "In publishing, the term used to refer to the blockbuster books published in summer." She notes that now the trend in publishing is to release the most anticipated books in late spring. "Over time, the term "beach read" began to describe a certain type of book, something that will have mass appeal and isn't particularly intellectually stimulating," she added. Now, I would say I mostly agree with that assessment, but I do think it can be intellectually stimulating. I would say the rule of thumb for a beach read is it has to be enjoyable. Easily digestible because you're going to read it when you're intentionally choosing to shut out the responsibilities of work or school. You want a page turner but that could mean a spine-tingling thriller to some or a tickle the funny bone romantic comedy to others. I say, to steal a line from Marie Kondo, "does it spark joy?" And does it keep you reading for pleasure? Then it counts as a beach read.

Some of Our Favorite Beach Read Authors

If you're looking for some suggestions, we have a few of our favorite authors who continually turn out winners in our book. Elin Hilderbrand never lets us down. She's given us over a dozen books that almost all take us away to the beach. Fellow Southerner Mary Alice Monroe is another constant in our beach bag as is Jane Green and for thrill seekers, you can't go wrong with Gillian Flynn or Liane Moriarty. Check out our full list of suggestions from Southern Living editors for beach reads for this summer here.

Time to get reading, y'all.