What makes a “beach book?”

The voting is over and NPR’s list of the 100 Best Beach Books Ever (ever!) has been released.

While I understand compiling “the best of (anything) ever” is a risky undertaking in itself, some of the final 100 make me scratch my head a little. I’ll read anything anywhere, so I suppose there’s no such thing as a “beach book” in my life, but my sense of a “beach book” is that it should be engaging and enjoyable, but also light – easy, you might say.

I think of a “beach book” as a little paperback you toss in your bag and don’t mind if it gets sandy or wet, just something to pass the time when you’re not in the water. Not a book you want to make a big commitment to. Not a book that’s going to make you sad or frustrated or nauseated.

That said…I’m baffled by some of these choices. Great books, perhaps, but beach books? The following is not an exhaustive list, just the ones I had instant, visceral reactions to:

3. The Kite Runner (sad)
35. One Hundred Years of Solitude (hard)
44. Cold Mountain (sad)
52. The Stand (disturbing)
56. Love in the Time of Cholera (hard)
62. Jaws (YOU’RE AT THE BEACH!)
65. Snow Falling on Cedars (sad)
67. The Fountainhead (hard and disturbing)
86. The Road (SAD SAD SAD and disturbing and SAD)
96. The Shining (disturbing)

I fear we’ll be seeing a dramatic rise in the number of people weeping in their loungers or stumbling horrified into the water. Hey, beaches: better hire more life guards!

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One comment

  1. Mommabear

    I am also totally mystified about:
    56. Cholera and 35. Solitude, or anything else by Garcia-Marquez
    67. The Fountainhead (unless you are high; ditto for anything else by Ayn Rand)
    86. The Road (sobbing on the beach, anyone?)
    and I would add:
    90. Unbearable Lightness (I could not get through it, so it hasn’t a chance on the beach)

    There are 21 I have not read, but given the implicit recommendation of being selected for this list, I probably should (Lolita and Water for Elephants are already on my TBR list).

    The other 74 I have read, and liked, a good number of them while sunning beside the most beautiful lake in North America, so perhaps this is why I could see myself enjoying them on the beach.

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