Women's Magazines typically give very short shift to books, but every June & July things look up temporarily as they all wax poetic about the "Beach Read." When I lived in the sweltering Midwest, all this talk of "beach reading" just made me insanely jealous of those who lived near a body of water. Now though I actually live near a beach, so I can read these columns without turning red(der). (If you're not a big magazine reader, you might want to check these lists out to see what I'm talking about: Reader's Digest, Redbook, Border's, USA Today, ShowBuzz)
I'm still not sure I understand why vacation demands a certain sort of book. Frankly, I'm more likely to read heavy literary fiction and nonfiction when I don't have other demands on my brain. If I'm in the middle of a difficult time at work, light and fluffy is all I can handle. But, some women apparently crave the light and fluffy while they are on vacation. And with all the attention given to beach reads, some authors make a point of trying to craft the perfect beach read.
There was even a seminar at the Reno RWA on how to do this. Landing on a "beach reading" list seems to be as much the work of a good publicist as the result of careful plotting, and trends change. Two years ago, the lists were all about Chick Lit, and this year's list seems more skewed towards women's fiction. But, books that make the list do seem to share certain characteristics:
- Memorable, quirky characters.
- Gossipy tone--their lives might be way more screwed up than ours, but the angst factor is very low
- Steamy--depends on the magazine, but hot books dominate most lists
- Engaging, but not too taxing--there seems to be a delicate balance of page turner and something that you can look up from easily
- Soft cover--hardcovers rule at Christmas time, but most beach lists are dominated by soft cover books that make for easy toting
- Contemporary--historicals occasionally make the list, but modern single heroines rule them
- Stand Alone books--Harry Potter and Stephanie Plum notwithstanding, these lists are often geared towards people who ONLY read on vacation (horrors, I know).
- Happy ending
This leads to my questions for you:
- What makes your perfect "beach" or vacation reading? Have you read books based on their presence on a list before? Were you disappointed with the recommendation?
- Pretend you're standing in a bookstore with limited time to pick up a book or two for your vacation. What do you look for? Bestseller? Favorite author? On a list of best reads?
- Now, pretend a friend is heading to the beach this weekend. She's not satisfied with the fashion magazine's list. She wants YOUR top five recommendations for sure-fire vacation reading winners this summer. What do you recommend? Finally, do you see your own books as "beach reading?" Why or why not?
- Discuss! I'll give my responses in the comments as well. Then, late tonight, I'll compile all your recommendations into the 2007 MWVRWA Beach Reading list.