Books Reviews Top

Good books for the beach, or anywhere

A Long Island, New York beach on the Atlantic Ocean. (Lucy Tobier/YJI)

Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A. – The world is a little scary right now. Between the pandemic, a turbulent political climate and an overload of breaking news stories and social media, I’ve found it hard to escape and take a breath without feeling guilty and distracted.

And so, I’ve turned to a very specific type of reading to calm my mind. 

So-called “beach reads” are a genre classified by being fluffy, devoid of trauma and very accessible and popular. They are often romance books, but don’t have to be, and always have happy endings.

I can tell a beach read apart from the type of mood it leaves me in. It’s the same zen you’re in after a week-long school vacation or day at the lake. 

These books, serving as portals to a more optimistic universe, can be a powerful tool to take a break, gain a new perspective and connect with characters through the shared human experience. They can help you combat hustle culture by forcing a pause to read about and reflect on the things important in life – love, family and the sun. 

But they’re often depicted as having a lack of intellect and no substance or being “trashy.”

The mockery can also be gendered – beach reads are sometimes called “chick-lit” or “women’s fiction” – and used to belittle female writers and their books as meaningless or of poor quality. 

But in recent years, the genre has received more traction and the respect it deserves. Every year in late spring, the books start to hit window-facing shelves in stores and top-rated book lists. They all sport the same brightly colored cover with simple drawings and can be spotted from a mile away.

I always wait with baited breath for the start of the beach read season. Of course, books aren’t limited to seasons. But there is something really special to me about waiting all year and then finally taking a deep breath before diving into a book.

One could argue that a good book would deliver information and knowledge but, for me, books are to tell stories and share experiences and beach reads do just that.

The genre of beach reads shouldn’t be underestimated. They hold the power to change your entire mood inside their brightly colored cover. Here are a few of my favorites to get started: 

Beach Read by Emily Henry – Of course, we have to start with this one. A beach read about writing a beach read set at a beach house in a Michigan coastal town. Two authors, a romance writer and a slightly pretentious literary writer, swap manuscripts for the summer as a challenge. Secrets are revealed, twists are presented and there might even be a little romance.

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary – A cute book with a unique premise: two people live in the same apartment without seeing each other. Told from both characters’ perspectives, this is a slow-burn romance that will make you fall in love with the characters and their stories. 

Montauk by Nicola Harrison – A beach-side small town, glittery rich people secrets, romance and lighthouses – what’s not to like? Set in 1938, this book is perfect for you if you want a period romance with some historical elements. 

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall – An LGBTQIA+ book set in England with the tried and true romance trope of a fake relationship that starts to turn real that will light up your heart. This is great if you want to curl up, read and feel like you’ve spent some time with a friend. Compelling characters, strong chemistry and lots of funny lines. 

Lucy Tobier is a Senior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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