Is Beach Read a Compliment? Ponderings from an Author and Reviewer

Wednesday, July 30, 2014
During the wonderfully glorious summer months, many book reviews (mine included) begin or end with something like, "This would make a great beach read." My own book, Caught Between Two Curses, has received a review or two with this statement, and I smiled because there's nothing greater than imagining a beach full of people reading my book.

When I write this in reviews, I always mean it as a compliment. I love sitting on the beach or by the pool or on the porch in my backyard, reading a book and sipping an iced tea or even a long island ice tea (depends on the day!). But is "beach read" a good thing? What do we mean when we say beach read? Would you be happy if your book was labeled as a beach read?

I started thinking about this and driving myself crazy. A couple weeks ago, I wrote about The Fault In Our Stars. I haven't done extensive research, but just going with a gut feeling here, I'm sure not many people labeled John Green's book about teens dying of cancer as a beach read. Why? Because it's well-written or because of the heavy subject matter? My feeling is the subject matter--a beach read is usually fun and ends happy, such as a lovely book by one of my favorite authors, Claire Cook , author of Must Love Dogs.

Let's look at the classics--would we call Catcher in the Rye a beach read? It's about a teenager, but again, the subject matter is pretty deep. What if all these beach goers in their swimming suits started having a huge literary discussion about Holden Caulfield right in the middle of the kids building sandcastles and teens playing beach volleyball?

So, I'm going to attempt to define "beach read" here. Now, I know I'm stepping way outside the box and putting my professional reputation as a reviewer on the line, but I'm going to take the chance anyway, and list the characteristics of a beach read. Ready?

  • Funny or humorous 
  • Happy ending
  • Well-written
  • Fast-paced
  • Waterproof
So, how about you? What's your favorite beach read this summer? I have to say that I recommend Beautiful Oblivion by Jamie McGuire. I actually didn't read it at the beach, but stayed up all night when there was a terrible storm, and we lost our power. Hey, maybe I should come up with a new popular term that reviewers can use. Something like, "Try this book. It's a power outage read."

Until next time. . .

Margo L. Dill reviews books for her blog, for WOW!, and the News-Gazette. She also teaches novel writing classes and is a novelist herself. Find out more at

Beach photo by anda :)


Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--I think you're right--it's the subject matter/tone and not the quality of writing. A great beach read is a book that's well-written but is not a downer. It may be sassy. It may be sharp, but it's not depressing.

Perhaps this will be your bit of a "signature" when it comes to reviews? You could have a variety of lines:

"This is a great stuck-in-an-elevator-for-nine-hours read."

"This is a wonderful trapped-in-the-car-for-a-seventeen-hour-trip-with-your-inlaws read."

"This is a marvelous pregnant-with-twins-and-forced-to-do-bed-rest-for-three-months read."

The market is there. Corner it. Get that tagline copyrighted before someone else jumps on it.

Margo Dill said...

You are so right, Sioux. Let me ponder this for a while and see what I can come up with. . .:) I see t-shirts and bumper stickers, too.

Krysten Lindsay Hager said...

To me a beach read means something that will make me feel good and take me to a vacation-like feeling. It's a book that will leave me with a smile.

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