Friday, March 23, 2012

What’s a “Beach Read” Anyway?

Although I generally love the weather in North Carolina where my husband and I live, this spring has been ridiculously summer-like with its hot days and heavy humidity (today, it's 84 degrees). While this has most locals speculating about whether this summer will be an inferno so hot we’ll be frying eggs on the sidewalk, but what it got me thinking about is the term “beach read”. I guess all this steamy heat has me yearning for cool sea breezes and the roar of incoming waves against the shore.

So, what does this term mean, anyway? Isn’t every book a book you can read on the beach or by the pool? Honestly, I read all kinds of books on the beach (and everywhere else). I’ve read scary horror novels on the beach and touching memoirs on the beach and nonfiction how-to’s on the beach. I don’t have a particular kind of book I search for before I go to the beach – do you? So, what’s up with this silly seemingly-meaningless term?

You might be asking: “Why do you care, Tara? What’s the big kerfuffle?” (Damn, I’ve always wanted to use that word in a blog post, and I finally got my chance! Kerfuffle! Kerfuffle! Okay, calm down.) The answer: it’s one of the search terms on online book stores for Barefoot Girls.

So, I decided to do a little research, and this is what I found out

A Beach Read is….
An Engaging Page Turner
Okay, I’d be happy to take that! Actually, one of my favorite compliments I’ve gotten from readers so far is that Barefoot Girls is impossible to put down.

A Book about Summer or the Beach
Yes, much of the book takes place on or near the beach out on Long Island, but the main part of the story takes place one fall (September and October to be exact). Still, there are many flashbacks to prior summers, so, between the setting and season, it fits.

A Romance or Intrigue Is Involved
There are two major romances in Barefoot Girls, the one between Hannah and Daniel and the one (in the past) between Keeley and Michael. There is also a bit of intrigue related to Rose’s downward spiral of insanity and the danger she poses to characters in the story, so that’s there, too. Wow, it looks like the book qualifies. But…

A Book That Is Not Too Heavy
Whoopsie! There are definitely some heavy issues covered in the book: child abuse in particular. I would not call that light. But wait. I did some more digging and I found a list of “smart” beach reads. They included historical fiction about the Great Depression like Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants (loved that book!) and the works of literary writers like Anne Tyler covering such weighty subjects as foreign adoption in Digging to America.

A Tearjerker
These people are crazy with their contradictory definitions. Light reading that makes you cry. What??? Well, the good thing is that Barefoot Girls has many tear-jerking moments as well as laughs, so at least it fits the bill.

My conclusion: there is no real definition for “beach read” other than you finally have a peaceful moment and you’re going to grab up whatever book you’ve been dying to read and read it already. If there is anything that makes sense to me is, if the term “beach read” is going to be used at all, it should apply to books set on the beach or near a beach or in some way makes you remember happy summers of the past. For example, a great beach read is Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. Also, anything by Elin Hilderbrand, who writes wonderful beach-themed books set on Nantucket. And….oh, what the hey…Barefoot Girls!

What do you think? Any book stand out in your mind as a quintessential beach read?

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