by Caren Crane
By now, we have all seen the obligatory book reviews touting some book or other as the definitive "beach read" of the summer. The term "beach read" summons up lovely mental pictures of me lounging on a beach or by a pool, slathered in SPF 50 sunblock, wearing a huge hat and indulging in a thick, juicy slab o' fiction. "Beach read". I like this initial impression, but...
Is this term meant to be complimentary? Book reviewers, unless they are affiliated with genre websites or groups, tend to prefer non-fiction or "literary" fiction. So when a reviewer purports to have enjoyed a slab of fiction couched in the term "beach read", it is usually some genre distasteful to reviewers: romance, women's fiction, chick lit or, Heaven forfend, romantic suspense.
After years of reading these reviews, I recognize the sneer underlying many of them. Many of these reviews have been about books I enjoyed tremendously. I readily admit that I enjoy genre fiction year-round, so the relegation of my favorite fiction to a narrow category such as "beach read" offends me just a bit. I can only conclude that:
1. I can and always will enjoy a "beach read" even when I am not anywhere near a body of water.
2. Since I do #1, I obviously lack some sort of switch that turns on in late spring and firmly off at Labor Day.
3. Having no qualms about being seen reading such books in public with nary a camouflaging floral cover, I am obviously not getting an invitation to the Literati Club anytime soon!
Am I taking this "beach read" term too seriously? It could be that I am. By the time this posts, I will be firmly on vacation with my family. I will not be at the beach, unless the teenagers talk us into a day trip to Virginia Beach - that could happen! I will, however, be indulging in some "beach reads", including the first of Nora Roberts' series about the four friends who run a wedding business. Genre fiction is the stuff great vacations are made of - even in Colonial Williamsburg!
What "beach reads" are you indulging in right now? Have you actually been to the beach this year or do you plan to go? If you do, are you taking your e-reader? If, like me, there is no beach looming on the horizon, where will you feed your genre-fiction palate?
Have fun without me, be good, and bring on the "beach reads"!