Beach Reads and Summer Reading 2008

It’s that time of the year when you let it all hang loose and not care about whether what you’re reading is ‘literature’ or not. For some strange reasons, the hot summer months, the taking leave of work and school, the temporal evasion of chores and responsibilities seem to have emboldened us to new adventures, legitimizing ‘escape reading’. But my question is why only in the summer? Do seasons regulate our choices? Should ‘summer reading’ differ from that of the other 10 months in the year? Has the term “Beach Read” been coined merely to jack up book sales?

A look at some current writers’ “summer reading” casts even more doubts on arriving at a clear cut definition of “Beach Reads”. Dan Zak of Washington Post interviewed a sample of them and surveyed their summer reads. Here’s what he found:

  • Mary Higgins Clark: Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  • Susan Choi: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  • Janet Evanovich: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Thomas Mallon: Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
  • Sue Monk Kidd: The Grimke Sisters From South Carolina: Pioneers for Women’s Rights and Abolition by Gerda Lerner.

… and so on and so forth. Click here to read more of Dan Zak’s article on summer reading.

And here’s Arti’s list. I’m currently reading Lisa Scottoline’s Lady Killer, which should satisfy a ‘traditional’ definition of a ‘beach read’. Other than that, I’m also re-reading Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and still plowing through two of Robert K. Johnston’s books, Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film In Dialogue and Reframing Theology and Film. If a ‘beach read’ is defined as a fast pace, plot-driven page-turner, these definitely don’t qualify.

I’ve just finished The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, which is one dynamite read, a wild ride any time of the year. It deserves a whole new post. But to categorize it as a ‘beach read’ would seem to have down-graded its quality and impact.

A few titles I plan on getting hold of this summer:

  • Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman. After watching the film, I’m really interested to find out how a writer instills spirituality into the narrative of everyday living.
  •  Away by Amy Bloom. I’ve wanted to know more about her through her reading. So far I’ve only read one thing from her: Introduction to Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion.
  • The Savior by Eugene Drucker, founding member of the renowned Emerson String Quartet. In this debut novel, he dispels the myth of the saving power of music, using a Holocaust death camp as the backdrop. Should be one poignant read.

What’s your summer reading list like? Typical ‘beach read’ or evidence shattering its existence?

Summer Reading 2009 Click Here.


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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

14 thoughts on “Beach Reads and Summer Reading 2008”

  1. I read “Away” a while back, but I still prefer Bloom’s short stories – they are magical, empathetic, and they truly make you feel the way the characters feel, even though you have never been in their position before. Her novels though, don’t seem to possess the same power.

    I have to admit: I don’t do “beach reads”. Most of my reading is done during the “in-between time” – commuting to-and-from work, while waiting for the bus, for yoga class, etc.

    But I do bring books along on my travels. At guess they count? My last trip to Hanoi, I brought these books:

    1) G.K.Chesteron’s The Man Who Was Thursday
    2) Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons
    3) Robertson Davies’s A Voice from the Attic
    4) Marcel Proust’s Sodom and Gomorrah

    They were all interesting (to me at least) – and light in weight enough to fit into a sling-bag that I could bring around when I travel.

    Are they “light-weight” though? Some might say they are “heavy-weight” – but they were fun.

    I would never bring a Henry James on my travels.

    Dark Orpheus:

    Thanks for your detailed response… a look at your travel book list will testify that your reading is certainly not bound by the beach or the season. Thanks also for your view on Amy Bloom. Great input!



  2. Hi Arti. Yeah, I don’t know what “summer reads” or “beach reads” mean. I’ve never actually read a book when I’m on the beach, because I would be exploring the beach. For me, what I read at a particular time depends on my mood. So what I read could actually depend in some small part on the season, as far as a season can affect my mood.

    Anyway, this summer, if I can find cheap copies, I would want to read the following books I came across on the NPR website:

    * My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead, edited by Jeffrey Eugenides, a short story collection of love stories.
    * The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

    I also have the following lined up or currently reading, and which I already have copies of, ready to read (but by no means a permanent list—it might change depending on my mood 🙂 ):

    * The Queen’s Twin and Other Stories, by Sarah Orne Jewett (finishing this one up).
    * Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë (EB) (currently reading).
    * Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf (in preparation for reading the next book in the list).
    * The Hours, by Michael Cunningham.
    * The Brontës, by Phyllis Bentley.
    * Lighthousekeeping, by Jeanette Winterson.
    * Four Dreamers and Emily, by Stevie Davies (Emily, in this case, is no other than EB).
    * The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories, by Anton Chekhov.

    What I also realized was that summer makes me want to read adventure/exploration type books, so I might throw in one of those if I have time.


    Hi, thanks so much for sharing your reading list. Again, there’s no evidence supporting summer reading tend to be easy reads. I think the classics are for year round devouring… Interesting that you do wish to enjoy some adventure/exploration type books… must be the weather. Thanks again for your comment.



  3. Hi Arti,

    Just checked out your Summer Reading. It’s Winter Reading here in Sydney, I’m at the Willoughby Library.

    Currently reading ‘The Purpose Driven Life”, two thumbs up. Tried to sign out or purchase ”The Glass Castle” (Jennette Walls) but in vain. I will settle for Mary Higgin Clark’s ‘Gift From The Sea’, she is one of my favorites.

    Thanks for the reading tips….will curl up in bed with a cup of hot coco & read on.

    Take care everyone….happy reading.

    Afar from a very nippy Thurs Down Under.


  4. Oops…just noticed Gift From The Sea is written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Regardless…will check out the most recent Mary Higgin Clark’s book as well.

    Good day mate.

    Molly Mavis: It’s interesting to read your favorite writer’s summer reading selection… IMHO, Gift From the Sea deserves to be read regardless of MHC. Thanks for sharing and happy winter reading Down Under!



  5. Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. In response to your question, I’ll admit that I do tend to tackle less “serious” reading during the summer. Though currently I’m reading Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz, which is not really “light,” I typically choose murder mysteries or chick lit selections for my summer distraction. During the school year, I’m more likely to read work-related things or more literary fiction.

    Thanks for visiting and leaving your feedback! Arti


  6. Beach reads for me are usually whatever I’ve been meaning to get to… my TBR pile is ever increasing (and thanks to you, I’ve just added another — Then She Found Me 😉 ), and in summer I usually manage to find a lot more reading time. My pile includes several YA novels and some “books for grown-ups”. The ones I plan to read next week while camping are:

    Sarah Dessen’s Lock and Key, Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera.

    I LOVE having more time to read. There are so many good books out there!

    Shari: Don’t we just love to have more time to read! And come to think of it, ‘beach read’ to Island Girl is all year round since you’re so close to the beach isn’t it… Thanks for stopping by and sharing your list, and, Happy Camping!



  7. Ironically, summer is the time I do the least reading. For a brightworker, summer means long days and long work hours, and no real time for continuing leisurely reads. I do only enough to keep the writing going – but I pile things up for rainy days – and for January!

    One summer task will be repurchasing Gift From the Sea. I’ve given away three copies and lost the fourth, but it is one of my “yearly reads”, and it’s time for me to have my own copy again.

    In the little pile here at my elbow we have:
    May Sarton’s “At Seventy”
    Nora Ephron’s “Wallflower at the Orgy”
    Joan Didion’s “Slouching Toward Bethlehem”
    and Wendell Berry’s “The Art of the Commonplace:
    Agrarian Essays”.

    Do I see a pattern here? Add my two by de Botton, “The Art of Travel” and “How Proust Can Change Your Life” and I should be all set.

    The fiction I’ll be re-reading soon includes Theroux’s “The Mosquito Coast” and Durrell’s “The Alexandria Quartet”. I happen to know where there’s a fellow holding forth on the internet who could be the protagonist in Mosquito Coast, and I’m quite interested in looking at the life-imitates-art angle of all that.

    What a nice idea for a blog topic, Arti! It got me to put everything in a nice, neat pile and get interested all over again. I do believe I need more discipline in my life so that I can read them!


    Hi Linda: The little pile at your elbow sounds interesting and substantial, so are your other mentions. Thanks for sharing … and leading me to understand a bit more of the work of boat-varnishing … it’s only natural to work while the day is long, and the sun is high. Enjoy your summer!



  8. Thanks for stopping by and reminding me to come by! I apologize that school has gotten in the way of blogging 🙂

    I think that beach read typically denotes something mindless and fun…something you can enjoy when the hot sun is beating down on you and you really don’t care to have a deep thought. However, I also think it’s an attempt to capitalize on vacations and sell more books. I’ve often said I read anything that captures my attention, and last year at the beach I read chick lit and biographies, but this year I think I am adhering to the true spirit of a beach read and reading mindless books since I am worn out from school.

    I think I want to journey mentally this summer and will be going to Paris and London in my reading. We shall see.


    I’m sure you can find a lot of interesting reads taking you to these two marvelous cities. Enjoy your virtual adventure tours!



  9. I think this year’s best beach read is An Island Away by Daniel Putkowski. I mean, the whole story takes place in Aruba. How perfect is that?

    Sounds like a real ‘beach read’ indeed. Thanks for stopping by.


  10. Hi Arti,

    I like the fact that you question whether “summer reads” is a mere marketing campaign. If you’re in HONG KONG like me right now, going to the Book Fair certainly is no just about reading. The majority of locals just don’t like to read, and I”m saying it like a fact, at least for people my age.

    I don’t have a summer read list, but I do have a current reading list going on, and looks like will be expanding in the next month or so.

    1. “The Soloist” by Steve Lopez
    2. “Bone in the Throat” by Anthony Bourdain
    3. My Favorite Wife by Tony Parsons
    4. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan (once I get it)

    Foodiewil: It’s not just in HK, but here in N. America, it’s difficult to get young people to spend time reading books rather than sitting in front of the computer or a video games console. From your blog I can tell you’re a twenty something young man who’s interested in food, cooking, reading and writing… A rare find indeed. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments.



  11. I’ve just completed Lady Susan by Jane Austen, and am about to finish Almost French by Sarah Turnbull, an Australian transplanted to Paris. Next in line is Anne Tyler’s Digging to America.


  12. Arti, you might like to play the 100 book meme that I placed on my blog. I suspect your list will beat mine or close to it.

    Vic: I’m interested to know what it is… will definitely take a look at it. Thanks for stopping by.



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