What Makes a Great Beach Read?

It's nearly August and so blazing hot here in Houston that going to the beach would be like reclining on a pancake griddle. But that hasn't stopped me from thinking about Beach Reads, especially after reading NPR's list of The 100 Best Beach Books Ever, tabulated from 136,000 votes by 16,000 fans of National Public Radio. (I love NPR!)

For your enlightenment, here are the top 20:
1. The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
4. Bridget Jones's Diary, by Helen Fielding
5. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
6. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells
7. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
8. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
9. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg
10. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver

11. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
12. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
13. The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan
14. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
15. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
16. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
17. Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
18. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
19. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
20. Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen

I've read most of these books, and have loved nearly all of them, but I have to admit, I scratched my head at the idea of calling THE KITE RUNNER a beach read. Sorry, but the material's way too dark for that. BRIDGET JONES, yes! THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE, amen! But LIFE OF PI? Seriously?

To me, a perfect beach read has to be, first and foremost, fun. Romantic fun (An oldie but goodie, Julie Garwood's FOR THE ROSES), scary fun (Stephen King's DUMA KEY would be a great choice), or fantastic fun (going with the Harry Potter series here, or THE HOBBIT would do, nicely). Nothing dense or heavy, nothing requiring too much concentration. Just an entertaining, engaging story that keeps me sizzling far beyond my SPF.

And sexy fun's never a bad choice either. :)

What are your qualifications for a beach or vacation read? Care to name any all-time favorites?


Lark said…
I'm with you, Colleen--a lot of those are NOT beach or vacation reads!! Beach reads do not require a huge amount of introspection or concentration. They're romantic,scary, thrilling, mysterious books you can put down to take a swim/nap/sail/wine break without feeling guilty. Love NPR but how can anyone assemble a beach read list without romances? One Nora at least...
Joni Rodgers said…
I agree. This list is apparently for those people who wear socks at the beach.
Vicky said…
Joni/Colleen, this list seems off-base because the sample (contact list of respondents) came solely from NPR listeners rather than from the general population at large. Trust me, it would look very different if made up of random readers from a larger population. IOW, we cannot project the findings outside the NPR listener audience; they only apply to NPR listeners. My professional Market Research analysis. :-)
The comment about socks at the beach made me think of my dad. His were always black! lol

I think there's a big difference between books people enjoy on the beach and those they *report* enjoying. Lots of people who read romance don't admit it. Or even know they're reading romance.

When people self-report, they always claim to be better than they are in real life. Ask any dental hygienist what percentage of patients lie about their flossing habits... :)
jenny milchman said…
Anything by Emily Giffin, Maryann McFadden, Debbie Galant, Libby Malin...

I want relationships, at least a dash of humor, and time off from my usual dark side--then again I don't spend much time on beaches, with or without socks...

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