Say the words, that’s a perfect beach read to someone (hopefully someone who enjoys reading!), and it immediately conjures up a specific feeling. Or as an article from way back in 2010 in The New Yorker states, “Is there a more backhanded compliment than calling a book “a good beach read?” The article then moves on to call a beach read, “the Paris Hilton of the book world,” perhaps not what most authors are striving for when they put themselves and their writing out there for all to read.
Like it or not, the beach read has become the brand for summertime reading. Although there are contrarian readers who try to buck the trend, such as the author of an article titled “Bleak House on the Beach: What Makes a Good Beach Read?”, the term typically evokes a lighter, fun read that doesn’t require deep attention or thinking.
Beach Read Evolution
According to Michelle Dean, the term “beach read” entered into being in the early 1990s, typically in book trade publications, then migrated into general usage. As far back as 1976 (remember that pre-internet era age?), however, The New York Times published a “Vacation Reading List,” with a variety of categories ranging from poetry to autobiographies to fiction. As books seek to compete with all of the audiovisual and other written content available from any device at any time, the definition of a summer read has narrowed significantly.
A Book about Beach Read Books
Like any strong brand, the beach read has even had a book written about it, sort of like a play within a play. “Books for Idle Hours” traces the history of summer reading back to the 19th century, where increased tourism, the rise of printing in the U.S. and an emerging middle-class viewing summer leisure as a symbol of upward social movement all contributed to the idea. Book publishers saw their opportunity and authors embraced the potential for new readers. The trend was not without controversy at the time, as “fun, leisure reading,” especially for women, was viewed as possibly disreputable. Fast forward to contemporary times, and summer reading is big business for publishers, who devote significant investment to maintaining and building the “brand.”
Whatever your vision of the perfect beach read is, we encourage you to embrace it and indulge in some good old-fashioned summertime reading!