The beach read is a label or a widespread phenomenon that takes place all over the world every single year. Yet no-one set it up. We all are part of it whether we want or not. It just happens despite what you think or whether you’re conscience of it or not. When summer comes readers, no matter what genre they prefer, are picking their beach read. Most of them, I believe, are looking for something that is not taking much of a space or weight in their travel bags nor is too much intellectually or emotionally challenging.
T he beach read is almost like a distinctive „genre”, a label with quite well, although not officially, defined characteristics. The book should be reasonably small and light, should rather be described as an easygoing one, and be recommended by at least one of friends. To some, if not most of, people, it might also be of significant meaning whether the book is on the best-selling list of a newspaper or on a bookstore’s top-books display. This aspect, albeit might not correspond to the novel content at all, is often a crucial reason whether to consider bringing a book or not. I suppose most of the readers know how quite a lot, if not all, of a bookstore’s best-selling lists and “best-books-ever” stands are composed. Those are mostly another paid by publishers advertisement posts. I know from my experience that, unfortunately, most of those best-selling shelves have nothing in common with reality, especially with books quality and value. However, it still seems to be a useful marketing tool. Before summer all publishers, online bookshops send out their newsletters recommending you your beach read. I’d argue it is less about honestly advising you and more about advertising.
Another aspect is the internet and an endless number of „top-read”, „must-read”, „30-best-beach-reads”, „30-books-every-woman-must-read”, „10-books-every-man-must-read”. Why so many labels? Obviously, the answer is quite simple. It just works. Right or not, people need labels and defined frames to make their life and search considerably easier. From my perspective, those frames and schematics are nothing more than limitations. Moreover, I’d even say they are a bit discriminating. I’m almost certain it wouldn’t be possible to find Toni Morrison or Rachel Cusk, and presumably most of other great female writers, on any of „every-men-must-read” lists. To be honest, most of those internet recommendations that I have come across left me with nothing to read.
Further, for all those travelers either forgetting their books or not thinking about bringing them at all, there is, if they change their mind, another possibility. At every airport, train and bus station you can find book stands as separate shops or as a part of newsagents or any other store. Those are mostly paperback books from well-known and best-selling authors. Light and easygoing ones that should entertain you, but should not challenge you too much.
Apparently, now for many readers, the weight or size of a book doesn’t matter anymore. As long as you’re able and you like reading ebooks the only issue that you possibly should consider is to charge your device. Yet there still is a wide group of those who feel attached to “old-school”, printed versions. Whatever form you prefer whether it’s e-book or printed book I think all of the above patterns applies.
The thing is, without any judgments regarding preferred genre, that the beach read seems to be mostly defined by two “tools”: best-selling lists and promoted bookstores’ shelves. The label beach read comprises mostly of easy-reading romances, thrillers, mysteries, comedies and alike; all that you’d include in the fiction genre. I’m wondering, with all due respect to any preferences and genres, where is literary fiction in all of this? Does it mean it is excluded and discriminated as a worthy companion for your vacation? Although summer associates with pleasure, relaxation, comfort, and fun, I’d argue it’s not exclusive for non-literary-fiction books. Last summer my beach read list included Thomas Pynchon’s „The Crying of Lot 49”, Toni Morrison’s „The Bluest Eye” and a collection of letters published in New York in 1945. Well, I’ve survived. Moreover, I had that time and free head to really dig deep into Morrison’s novel, and honestly appreciate it. Maybe summer is a perfect opportunity to confront yourself with a challenging book without ruining your whole vacation? Maybe it is worth of giving it a shot? And maybe the way most of the people think about their beach read is not entirely their own decision? Naturally, you may advocate it’s just a matter of taste and personal preferences, and there is nothing else to add or discuss. On the one hand, undoubtedly that is the truth. However, the real issue is the fact, no matter what your preferences are, you’re offered, suggested, advised and recommended mostly an easy read.
The way I see it, the choice readers are given is too narrow and bereft of real variety. Obviously, to be honest, I must say at this point that there are exceptions from this pattern. Some of the journalists, bloggers, individuals spend their time on providing quite a wide variety of suggestions in their essays or lists they share. However, in general, my point is that I’d expect recognized publishers, magazines, bookstores, and internet-lists-makers to think a bit closer on those lists and wisely advise their readers or customers not only within one category or similar in type books but diverse in style, form, and genre, making it a real choice.