What Makes a Good Beach Read?

What is a beach read? It’s what every YOU want it to be! But since this term is so commonly used and, at times, controversial, we decided to ask our readers to weigh in on what makes a good beach read. Of course, we received a wide variety of answers, but there were definitely some common themes.

Beach Read Definition

Although “beach read” is not an official genre of literature, Dictionary.com defines a beach read as “a book, usually fiction, that one might enjoy during a vacation or a day at the beach because it is engaging, entertaining, and easy to read.”

What Kind of Book Makes a Good Beach Read?

The terms beach read and summer read are often used interchangeably. Throughout the year, it is common for readers to seek out different styles of books to fit their mood during different seasons. Just like many readers enjoy reading books about the holidays in December, and moodier/darker books in the fall, the books people gravitate to as the weather warms up are often lighter and more entertaining.

We recently surveyed our readers and asked this question: “What do you look for in a beach read/summer read?” We received 240 responses and noticed some definite trends. In the same survey, we also asked our readers to share their all-time favorite beach read titles and compiled a list that you’ll find here.

Location, Location, Location

Summer reading often reflects the desire to travel, spend time at the beach, and generally relax and enjoy a slower pace. The majority of our survey respondents mentioned the setting as an important part of a perfect beach read book. Some people simply said they look for a book set during summertime, but many specified that they prefer a beach location. Others told us they enjoy a book that takes place in a vacation or travel destination, especially one related to their own travel plans or bucket list.

Girl in a striped sunhat reading on the beach with a quote over the image that reads “Setting and atmosphere. A character-driven plot is fine for a wintry tale, but for a summer read, it’s location, location, location.”

“I look for books that mirror the vacation location and mindset that I want to be in. A vacation-worthy setting, an easy-to-follow plot, and a satisfying ending are usually my must-haves.” -Emily D.

“I like a great vacation setting, such as a beach house, lake house, a tropical island, the Mediterranean, an Italian Villa … I also like a juicy thriller/mystery/suspense as a beach read, especially if it involves wealthy people and/or a fabulous setting.” -Christine B.

“Setting and atmosphere. A character-driven plot is fine for a wintry tale, but for a summer read it’s location, location, location.” -Amy B.

“My favorite summer read is a fun, easy, light-hearted book preferably set in a far-flung destination that I’ve always dreamed about going to.”

“A story with a happily ever after ending and travel destination – beach, mountains, or foreign. May include a bookstore, some fun restaurants, a library, seashore and sunsets.” -Renate P.

“I’m a purist about a beach read. First of all, the setting needs to be at a beach — not a lake, not just summer. And the beach needs to be a factor in the story.” -Chris C.

“I like fiction that takes place by the ocean preferably in New England. Stories that evoke the sights and smells of the place.” -Laura D.

“I prefer a book that takes place in a sunny location or a cottage, even if it is off-season.” -Jean D.

“I love something that if fun, flirty, and definitely has some summer water fun. Overall, if I can picture myself having a fun summer in the book or wishing that was my summer – winner!” -Stephanie M.

Easy to Pick Up and Put Down

Regardless of whether readers told us they preferred romance, mysteries, or a different genre of book in the summer, one of the most common criteria people mentioned for a perfect summer read was a book that is easy to put down and later pick up right where you left off.

Woman in a rocking chair reading on the front porch with her feet up. A quote over the image reads “To me, the perfect summer read is low stakes, high reward. I can put it down and pick it up at any time, but I still want to keep coming back to my book while I'm at the beach or on the porch.”

“A great beach read is a book with a captivating story but also one that you can lay down for a minute then pick back up without a struggle to get back into the story.” – Kenna B.

“I look for something light and engaging, ideally with a gripping plot or fun characters that make it easy to dip in and out of between dips in the ocean or pool.” -Mitzi K.

“To me, the perfect summer read is low stakes, high reward. I can put it down and pick it up at any time, but I still want to keep coming back to my book while I’m at the beach or on the porch.” -Lindsay S.

“I look for more light and fun reads in summer—something I can pick up or put down without losing track of the plot.” -Claire T.

“A light romance with a happy ending, something that I can pick up and put down and not have to go back and re-read to pick up the storyline.” -Sue T.

Lighter Reads & Happily Ever Afters

Though not completely universal, a large percentage of survey respondents mentioned wanting a lighter read during the summer months. Of course, a “lighter” book means different things to different people, but common themes in the responses included plot-driven stories that draw you in quickly but that aren’t overly complex or emotional. Many people also mentioned they prefer summer books to have humor and a happily-ever-after ending.

Girl laying on her stomach reading on the beach with a quote that says "I want to laugh out loud. I want some romance. It has to have a happy ending. And I have to be more willing to burn in the sun than put the book down.”

“Something lighter. Time to put aside the heavy, psychological mysteries for chick-lit, nostalgia, sun-drenched capers, and buddy books with humor.” -Andrea

“Not a thick plot or something I have to think hard about. Friendship, family, small town. Cozy mystery or romance.” -Heather H.

“I like a good storyline, but nothing too deep or too emotional. I want to laugh out loud. I want some romance. It has to have a happy ending. And I have to be more willing to burn in the sun than put the book down.” -Kristin B.

“I look for something with snark. I want at least one character cracking jokes in ‘high-stakes’ situations. If I’m on the beach, I better be laughing.” -Lani

“A book about relationships and an easy read and will make me laugh along the way. A happy ending is a must!” -Pam W.

Even if I’m at home reading, my favorite summer reads help me escape and free my mind more than my average reads do.” -Lindsay S.

“While historical fiction is my favorite genre, I take a break from ‘heavier reads’ in the summer. I look for something light, but captivating. And if they feature a beach, all the better!” -Julie G.

“I want a book that holds my attention, obviously, but also something that tugs at my heartstrings, can make me giggle, is a little steamy, or is a good mystery. I do not want to analyze or think very hard; I want to just enjoy.” -Cindy L.

More Than Just Romance

While the stereotype of a beach read is romance, there are plenty of other books that make excellent summertime seasonal reads. Many of our readers mentioned enjoying books with a touch of romance, but we also received a wide range of other opinions, as reflected in this final set of quotes.

Girl in a hammock reading a book at sunset with a quote that says "The most importantthing I want is unputdownableness, if that can be a word! The genre doesn't matter."

“I look for entertainment, but not just silliness. I love historical fiction, thrillers, cozies, and contemporary novels. Personally, I don’t think romances are the only thing a summer read should be.” -Kim V.

“Something serious to remind me that life is not a beach for everyone. Helps me to be very grateful for my beach days.” -Kris I.

Of course romance is fun, but I prefer stories about relationships between family members and friends.” -Laura D.

“The most important thing I want is unputdownableness, if that can be a word! The genre doesn’t matter.” -Sonia G.

“I am as likely to read a dark mystery/thriller as I am a deep biography or a contemporary literature selection or a light rom-com on the beach – as any other time of the year. … Specifically, I like a beach read that is more character-driven, preferably with generational connections or a strong family story.” -Valerie C.

“I like to reread favorite classics or read the ones I haven’t yet.”

“I like something long and immersive with great characters. Most of my favorites are historical fiction. I love it when I am so completely pulled into a book that I feel like I’m leaving another place when I stop reading.” -Jane C.

A summer book, IMHO, is a book that you have been putting off reading. You can take all the time you want sitting in the sun reading a summer book. It might be a more ‘important book’ and one that you want to treasure.” -Cheryl M.

Join the Summer Reading Challenge

Our free self-paced reading challenge will keep you reading engaging books all summer long. To make it easy and fun, we include highly-rated book recommendations for each of the six summer reading prompts.

Arms holding an open book high in the air with the ocean in the background and the words What Makes a Good Beach Read?


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