Looking for a Beach Read

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Sep 02 2008

I was asked recently about the term “beach read” and what this really means to both industry insiders and to readers. I don’t think that publishers or editors typically go in search of the beach read; instead it just sort of happens. It’s a book that is usually at some point or another published as a mass-market paperback and is a fairly quick and easy read.

To me beach reads are fast-paced and, most important, engrossing. But they aren’t books you have to think about too hard. In other words, Anna Karenina would not be a beach read for me. If I had to put it down for a quick dip or because I was distracted by a beach volleyball game, it’s hard to pick up without thinking about where you are. Nora Roberts, however, makes a great beach read.

Another interesting tidbit about beach reads is that it seems that on the beach readers tend to like to read books set on a beach and that, strangely enough, beach chairs on the covers of books sell books.

But what about you? If headed for a day at the beach what’s your choice of the perfect beach read?


33 responses to “Looking for a Beach Read”

  1. Avatar Kristin says:

    I like a good thriller or suspense novel when I’m on the beach or on any kind of vacation. I’d probably pick something by Tess Gerritsen or Preston/Childs. Two of my faves.

    I don’t usually ‘risk’ a vacation read on a new author, because the last thing I want is to be on vacation with a bad book.

    **See, this is why I need a Kindle…I could take LOADS of books with me on vacation. And if one was a dud…well, I’d have a bunch more to choose from!

  2. Avatar Kimber An says:

    The term ‘Beach Read’ is lost on me. I want to read constantly anyway. The seasons have no effect on me. I usually like to alternate because I like variety. I might read a Contemporary Romance and pick up a straight Science Fiction afterwards. Besides, you try to read on an Alaskan beach and you’ll freeze your tootsies off.

  3. Avatar Barrett says:

    For me, something like Clive Cussler or Tom Clancy- military thrillers or spy books. For my wife, anything by the Shopaholic author.

  4. Avatar Mark Terry says:

    I like Janet Evanovich for my beach reads, although I’ve read all sorts of dark thrillers and Harry Potter novels at the beach, but something like, funny and undemanding is good.

  5. Avatar JES says:

    Kristin and Mark Terry have pretty much covered it for me: Preston/Childs or Evanovich.

    If the beach(es) I visited were the sort where you could open up a folding chair and umbrella, and not see another human being other than little mobile dots on the horizon, my preferred beach reads might tend to the weightier and more philosophical. But with so many environmental distractions (kids, dogs, lifeguards…), well, it’s gotta be something that can withstand frequent interruption.

    (All of which implies that I go to the beach a lot. Nuh-uh.)

  6. Avatar Karen McQ. says:

    Summer Blowout and Life’s A Beach, both by Claire Cook! Fun, breezy reads that will put a smile on your face…

  7. Avatar Keri Ford says:

    Beach reads (or Comfort Reads since I rarely go to the beach!) are anything that I can put down and pick up with frequency. Anything I’ve already read works good since I know what’s going on.

    I like to think of my contemporaries as beach reads. One of those easy reads where you remember the characters and their emotional problems, but not so much of the plot(mystery in my case).

  8. Avatar Amy Nathan says:

    Chick lit is my beach read of choice. Of course, I’m never on the beach, so let’s just say it’s my summer read…easy to pick up, hard to put down, charming — nothing too heavy.

  9. Avatar Writer Dad says:

    I take a notebook to the beach. I’m always with my children and can’t focus on actually trying to read text.

  10. Avatar Being Beth says:

    Life is a mountain, not a beach for me, so I’m drawn to mountain lore and westerns which fit the mood of the mountains. I agree, whatever I read has to be the sort that can easily be set aside and picked up again. Seems there’s alway as trout or a trail calling my name.

    I also like to read historical non-fiction about the area where I’m vacationing– those interesting little books that can be found in the gift shops of small town museums and historical sites in the west.

  11. Avatar green ray says:


  12. An Atlas.

    Since I am terrified of water and don’t even own a pair of shorts, let alone a swimming suit, I obviously made a wrong turn somewhere if I am on a beach.

    Light reading would be something non-fiction historical, Janet Evanovich, David Eddings, Rowling, collections of short stories, the Halo books or something I am reading for research.

    “I also like to read historical non-fiction about the area where I’m vacationing– those interesting little books that can be found in the gift shops of small town museums and historical sites in the west.”

    Yep. I love those kinds of books. Even better is finding an old book store with used books and magazines pertaining to the area.

  13. Avatar spyscribbler says:

    That’s funny! That’s fascinating. There’s no beach where I live, so I guess I’m not one for beach reads. Would be nice!

    I used to love the Harlequin Intrigues for quick reads, though. I think I read so many I burnt out on them. I still like them, though!

  14. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I like spice….along with a nice cooler full of cold beers!

  15. Avatar Elissa M says:

    I’m totally with Kimber An here. I read whatever I’m in the mood for, wherever I am. I doubt I’d read on the beach at all though, since I don’t live near one. I’d be walking along the water’s edge, looking for cool stuff like shells or starfish and trying to ID the birds. If I sat down, I’d be sketching.

  16. Avatar Beosig says:

    Robert Asprin’s Myth series (especially the older ones) are my perfect beach reads. If I need an hour or three to decompress and relax, I always pull out the worn and tattered Asprin books, and dive in. I could probably recite them word-for-word by now, but I still enjoy every moment of every word that crawls off the page and into my brain.

  17. Avatar heather says:

    My beach reads tend to be thematic, so some past beach reads have been Moby Dick, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, Life of Pi, Old Man and the Sea, and The Idiots Guide to Pirates.

  18. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Thanks for this topic. I “tried” to write a beach read this summer. Mainly because I really do love those covers with the unbrellas and whatnot.

    Imagine my surprise when slogging through every page of it gave me one headache after another. Shockingly harder than I thought it’d be (and I’ve written many other books). I found that mine was so light, so easy, so easy to pick up and put down, that I ran out of plot by the time I got to page 100. Shoot! That cover would’ve been so nice.

    Easy to read, maybe, but not so easy to write, yes? 🙂

  19. Avatar Diana says:

    If I could actually find a beach in the middle of Kansas, I would definitely go with light and fun. In addition to the authors already mentioned, I would add”

    – Victoria Laurie’s Abby Cooper or M.J. Holiday books

    – Casey Daniels’ Pepper Martin books

    – historicals by Lisa Kleypas

    – Stephanie Bond’s new Sexy Mystery series

    – anything by Jennifer Crusie

    I don’t think Beach Read should mean empty, just fun and easy to follow.

  20. Avatar Anonymous says:

    A week ago my best friend and I went to the beach, favorite books in hand, figuring our days in the sun were numbered. (We live near Lake Erie.)

    We settled our sand chairs facing the not-so-crashing waves, snuggled our toes in the sand and began to read; in my case the hilarious latest from Sedaris, “When you are Engulfed in Flames.”

    Flea-brained at best, I was quickly distracted by the sights and sounds of the packed beach. Gradually, my eyes wandered to a young man who, curiously, had set up his sand chair with his right shoulder to the water at a right angle to my chair.

    Holy Crizap Batman! Our little neighbor wasn’t wearing any type of constraint under his veeery wide-legged bathing suit and was sitting with his legs wide-spread with the family jewels, shaved and nicely pinked-up from the sun, on display.

    My eyes widened. He smirked. “So, whaddaya think?” his expression said.

    I nudged my girlfriend. With my eyes now riveted to the water, I said out of the left corner of my mouth, “You HAVE to look to my right.”

    Looking over, she burst out laughing which sent me into spasms of hilarity. Not the reaction the young man wanted I’m guessing from his reaction. Huffing, he snapped his sand chair shut and stomped away, I presume to look for a more appreciative audience.

    A while later, when I went up the boardwalk to use the restroom, there he was with his wares proudly displayed. Apparently he found a more appreciative audience as he appeared quite content based on the supercilious expression on his face.

    I returned to my reading, chuckling aloud like a crazy person at both Sedaris’ prose and memories of the pink, hairless wonder, a fond memory I shall carry with me into the darkness of winter.

  21. YA, light fantasy, or manga for me. Like you said, nothing too heavy, something that can be set down easily without causing confusion once picked up again.

  22. Avatar Chiron says:


    Janet Evanovich, Sophie Kinsella, Diane Mott Davidson, Brenda Novak, Allison Brennan, Luanne Rice, Susan Wiggs, Sherryl Woods, Terri Garey, Angie Fox, & Sue Grafton.


    A wide range of tastes but they all share a common trait. These authors write entertaining stories that engage my attention without requiring a workout.

    These are authors I look for. I already have three tucked aside for my upcoming vacation To The Beach. *laughs*


  23. Avatar Diana says:

    I forgot to list Laurie Notaro.

  24. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Yipes. Anna Karenina is exactly the sort of thing I take to the beach. I always take classics on vacation because vacation is the one time I can just abandon myself to huge chunks of luxuriating in language. Sir Walter Scott, Willa Cather, Dumas – that’s the stuff. Other than that, I tend to read new works in my genre that I have been stockpiling for such occasions.

  25. Avatar Anonymous says:

    JAWS of course!

  26. Avatar JenA-GreenInkEdits says:

    keri ford, you’ve nailed it for me – it’s a comfort read. That can be anything from a good mystery to chick lit to Little Women, depending on my mood. Though there was a summer that I read Anna Karenina, for fun, entirely during pool and beach visits…

  27. Avatar L.C.McCabe says:

    A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke. It is a laugh out loud novel of a Brit living in Paris. However, if you look for that book in a brick and mortar store you will probably find it in the travel essay section rather than literature.

    It’s a novel, it’s just shelved as if it was a nonfiction travel story. It was a marketing decision, what can I say?

    The rest of Clarke’s books all seem to bear a Merde theme to them and are funny as well. There’s also a list of observations without any story arc titled Talk to the Snail: Ten Commandments for Understanding the French which is also worth reading.


  28. Avatar MyVerbocity says:

    I like to read John Grisham on the beach — it’s quick paced and easy to get back into after a beach nap.

  29. Avatar Genre Review says:

    If I’m on a beach, the last thing I’m going to be doing is reading a book. However, I did find it very interesting to find out what a ‘beach read’ book is, so thanks for the post on this topic.

  30. My favorite beach reads are genre – I love a good vampire or witchy book when I have a plane ride coming up – something that I know will engross me completely without too much work on my end. 😉 Last week, I was honeymooning, and I brought a ghost story (Stir of Echoes), a vampire story (Dead Sexy), Tethered (not so much a beach read) and Middlemarch (which I’ve been trying to plow through since July). The hubby brough his own onslaught of books, but between us, we were covered if any of the stories didn’t strike us at the time.

  31. Update – Dead Sexy was both vampire and witchy (win!), but I left out the second part accidentally.

  32. Avatar Chumplet says:

    Once at a cottage, there was a pile of Agatha Christie novels on the floor near the fireplace. I read one each day until the week was up.

    I could plug my book but I won’t, even if it meets the criteria.

  33. Avatar Wendy Qualls says:

    On the beach in Hawaii for our honeymoon, I was avidly reading Sherrilyn Kenyon's latest Dark Hunter paranormal romance. My husband was reading Plato's Republic.

    To each his own, I guess.