What Makes a "Beach Read" a "Beach Read?"
I can still remember the hippity-hop lower school buzz of leaving the Scholastic Book Fair before summer break. Back then, my cotton tote was stacked with Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, and Roald Dahl hits. These days, my warm weather plunder skews heavily towards magazines and Shore Stories, ahem, short stories of the travel memoir variety.
But what really makes a beach read just that? Recently, New York magazine's Vulture.com took a deep dive into precisely that topic. In the piece, Allison Duncan traces the history of the "beach read," noting that the term was likely only coined as recently as 1990, per The Guardian.
"So is the 'beach read' just an empty marketing term?" Duncan questions at one point. "It wouldn’t exist as a category if there wasn’t an audience willing to buy it — a mass of readers who know a beach read when they see it. It varies from person to person, of course, but the overarching idea is that the book will complement the frame of mind you hope to be in. You have to want an escape — a vacation for body and brain." For most, this means breezy thrillers and lighthearted fiction. ("Some of the best beach reads go down like Hallmark holiday movies — and I mean that in the best possible way," writes Duncan).
Of course, we all have those friends who schlep Vergil's Aeneid along to their strip of sandy shoreline. So ultimately, it seems, a beach read comes down to what sort of tome teleports you to your personal Shangri-La. You say George Orwell, I say Curious George.
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For me, that frayed tote may still very well be filled with Roald Dahl childhood classics — but don't judge me, I'm just saving more serious books for my lake reads.