Sunday, July 11, 2010

Summer Reading Love

Nothing makes a summer more awesome than a book that envelopes you in the heat and sweat and cool summer nights that come standard with July and August (pending where you live, of course). First, let's differentiate between a summer read and a beach read.

Summer Read

A book that drips summer. It makes you smell the ocean air, feel the sand between your toes, sweat with the heat and long for a pina colada and getting caught in the rain. No matter what time of the year you read a summer read, it'll wrap you in its little summer bubble and make you long for warmer times. If you're already in the midst of summer, like we are now, it'll make you want to quit work and live as a beach bum for a couple of months (and then go crawling back to your boss in September).

Beach Read

A beach read is a very light, simple, rather shallow book that could quite rightly get polished off on a day trip to the beach. It requires very little thinking to compute and you'll probably forget most of it before you even drop it in the sand when it's done. Unlike summer reads, beach reads are most like to be passed along or even left behind (don't litter, bastards!) and forgotten about as soon as the day ends. They're easy to skip from one to another and they often blend from one to the next.

Of course everyone's going to have different opinions on what's a summer read and what's a beach read. Not to mention not every summer read is actually a book set during the summer. Case in point - some of my favorite summer reads are my old school YA horror books. They bring me back to a time when my summers were still mine. I didn't have to work, I didn't have to go to school. I just had two months of summer to enjoy and they were often spent up late at night reading or putzing around on the internet (this was back in the day, on dial-up, they were long nights). Song of the Vampire by Carmen Adams is one of my favorite summer reads. I've reviewed it on this site and I've said it there and I'll say it again: I love it because it reminds me of The Lost Boys. It's set during the summer in a coastal town in California on a boardwalk with vampires. It's hard to disassociate that.

Not all of those YA horror books I have stacking up are set during summer nor are they all placed at the beach. But they remind me so much of my summers when I was younger that the association is too strong to ignore. When I read them I'm brought back to being curled up in my rec room late at night with a low light, crickets chirping outside and me getting freaked out with every little noise. So awesome.

Sea Change by Aimee Friedmann is a summer read for me. Now it's a book that's actually set during the summer, on an island at the beach. It's everything a summer read "should" be. I had a female MC that was strong-willed and carried the story, the premise made me think and at the same time I was still able to feel the water every time she went into the sea. I could smell the harbor and taste the seafood. OMG am I jonsing for some fresh salmon Wellington from the Santa Cruz Wharf. Only 2 more months before I can actually taste it again! But this story brings summer back and no matter when I read it, I can still feel summer.

Beach reads is the shit that barely sticks, for the most part. Your chincy supermarket romances, your Twilights of the world. Vampire Beach by Alex Duvall was very much a beach read for me. Aside from the fact that I didn't really enjoy the story, it was very shallow, required very little thinking and is best used for something to fill time that's distracted for half of it. It's one of those books that you can put down every few pages to run into the water or toss a Frisbee around, pick it up and continue on without missing a beat because there's no beat to miss. Most importantly, you don't mind putting it down. Even mid-chapter (as I know so many of us won't drop a book without at least finishing a chapter!), you'll put it down to collect sand and go off and do whatever. If it gets buried in the sand, you'll probably forget it's even there and pack up and leave without it (litterer!!!).

So what are your summer reads and your beach reads? If you're actually headed to the beach, do you prefer a summer read or a beach read? Does it depend on who you're going with?


AtenRa said...

I have read Vampire Beach,too,and I agree completely.
That being said,my beach reads have been mostly crime books with some corny romance in them.But this year,I think I'm taking The Duke And I by Julia Quinn with me.I think it will be easy going and light enough for my beach time.However,I have seen pretentious snobs(really, they were!)reading Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco while working on their tan.Unreal.

Sonja said...

Your beach reads are similar to what I consider airport reads. ;) Case in point, I read the first twilight novel at the airport...and if I had been able to find the second book for free I probably would have read that one whilst waiting for a plane to take me home to California.

I like my summer reads to have a theme - last summer it was sci fi, this summer I'm going to explore more specific kinds of stories I'd like to write myself.

I actually don't like reading when I'm at a literal beach - the bright sun combined with the presence of other people make it very difficult for me to concentrate, even on the stuff that as fluffy as cotton candy.

Barbara said...

No beach to go to. Strange that I never went to the beach when I was in CA but now that I'm in the hell of the bizarro weather I miss it. I guess I'm an oddball since I don't really change my reading according to the time of year. I just read but right now I'm in major series mode. I'm like a magnet for them. Even when I pick up a book that looks interesting odds are good that it turns out to be a series.

Mary Brebner said...

Great post--I guess I've never really thought about there even being a difference. But it's a good day at the beach when you've gotten some sun, some surf and finished a book, so I totally agree. There is a difference.

Now that I'm reviewing, so many of the books are fall and winter releases and they don't evoke the summer feel (obviously). I was in need of a summer read fix so I reread ONE FOR THE MONEY by Janet Evanovich--an easy, fun, summery read.

Enbrethiliel said...


A few weeks ago, another blogger asked her readers to list their favourite beach reads and got an odd assortment of genres that led to a combox discussion of exactly what a "beach read" is. Some people (including myself) had been thinking of it as a light, fun, more or less escapist novel; but others, going by some of the beach reads listed down, wanted more challenging, even depressing stuff.

The consensus reached in that combox was that a beach read is something you can only properly enjoy when you are on holiday and don't have to worry about other distractions. For some people, it's a novel; for others, it's a philosophical tome. (Which might explain the "pretentious snobs" AtenRa has seen!)

A few days later, I came across another blogger who defined "beach read" as a book that you wouldn't mind getting sand in or spilling suntan lotion on, because it just fits that environment. =P

As for me, I once brought Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island to the beach, because I thought it would be wonderful to read about an adventure on the high-seas while paddling in the waves . . . but that didn't really work out. =P

Donna said...

Anything that can make the ambiance of summer and the beach all the more enjoyable are my kind of summer reads!

Josette said...

Wow, thanks for pointing out the differences between summer and beach reads! Really, I thought they were about the same.

I don't have particular summer or beach read favourites. Actually, I prefer to read when it's cold though we don't always get cold weather in tropical Malaysia. :) Sometimes and I love them!

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