Usually here at LPL we try to talk about the books we think you should read, but today I’m venturing into the other end of the pool: books you probably should not read. That said, do recall one of the first laws of robotics, I mean, library science: there’s a book for every reader and a reader for every book. Every book has a time, place, and circumstance in which it is a good book to read.
…At least that’s what I tell myself when I think about the time I consumed the comprehensive bibliography of Nicholas Sparks in a matter of weeks. I was dealing with some stuff, alright.
Now that it’s finally summer, people are laying siege to the Book Squad secret lair for a certain kind of book suggestion: beach reads.
What is a “beach read,” exactly? No one really knows. It seems every list of “beach reads” has their own criteria– some simply compile stories set near a beach. If there is sand on the cover, throw it in the pile. Done. Others focus on books with a blend of light romance, comedy, and page-turnability. I’ve seen a few lists seemingly devoid of any common traits, as if the list-maker just put their hands up and said “Hey, you can read these on a beach. So that makes them beach reads, am I right?”
After careful consideration, I have formulated my own totally-made-up definition for the ever-nebulous beach read– a good beach read is a sunny, unchallenging novel that is no more than 350 pages. It must embody the “spirit of the summer,” another thing I made up, which draws on idyllic feelings of freedom, adventure, and whimsy.
Albert Camus once pontificated about these ideas: “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back”
Despite clearly being down with summer, Camus still managed to earn a spot on a roster of dread: THE WORST BEACH READS OF ALL TIME.
The following books are all excellent in their own right, but spurn the spirit of the beach. Be it by length, complexity, challenging subject matter, or crushing sadness, all of these titles will kill your beach vibe.
10. The Stranger by Albert Camus – Getting existential in the middle of your tanning sesh is the last thing you want to do. Also, #unchill beach murder.
9. Beloved by Toni Morrison – Just because a book is incredible doesn’t mean it would be an incredible, or even decent, beach read. Harrowing does not pair well with fun in the sun.
8. The Brothers Karamazov - Russian literary classics are beach kryptonite. 824 pages of morality, patricide, and faith will make it feel like winter again.
7. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – is a horrible prelude to a beach volleyball game because everyone is in tears.
6. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka – There are few worse beach outings than those deemed “Kafkaesque.” Pack accordingly.
5. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – The title is a dead give-away here, folks.
4. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – The peace half of the book is relaxing and is fine for the beach. The war half… not so much.
3. Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon – Worry about what you look like in your bathing suit like everyone else, not how to make sense of this dizzying, non-linear post-modern novel about WWII.
2. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov – What were you thinking?
1. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski – Here’s what’s going to happen: you’ll be turning the book around in your hands, trying to follow the zig zagging typography, and sand is going to get EVERYWHERE.
For some actual, enjoyable beach reads, hit us up for some book suggestions here!
If you’d like more emotionally devastating/Russian books, we have those as well.