Beach Reading

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Above: The one time I took a novel not related to my degree fields to the beach last summer. 

I am very fortunate to live to live in an area that boasts one of the top 10 largest book sales in the country. This weekend, I spent a whopping $8.14 on 20 paperback novels and 5 CDs. One of the CDs was brand-new, still in the plastic shrink-wrap. It was the final weekend of the Friends of the Library book sale, and I made out like a bandit.

I have been to the book sale plenty of times in the past, but this was the first time I was able to choose books out of pure pleasure. The past 20 years in school, I would read the occasional novel unrelated to my degrees over one of my school breaks. I typically had a wish list of this popular novel or that new release. This was my first time making choices based on subjects and authors I have always wanted to read and never had time to look up.

One of the novels I chose has a sticker affixed to the front proclaiming it to be a perfect beach read. That sticker made me stop and think. I have read plenty of guilty pleasure “beach reads” in the past, although I have never read any of them on a beach.

Even though I used my park pass quite frequently at the beaches last summer, I took reading for grad school with me almost every single time. I was multi-tasking to the max and not fully enjoying anything. There was only one week when I had a “slow week” writing my thesis that I took a book not related to my subject area, as I needed a break from grad school.

This summer may very well be the first time in my life that I go to a beach and sit and read a “beach read” novel while my feet are buried in sand. While I sing the praises of the library and much prefer to borrow books than purchase them at some big box store, I feel justified in my book sale purchases because the money goes back to the library. Not to mention, I try to keep library books in good condition. If I take a book to the beach, it will at the very least be sandy, and at worst, maybe wet or damp. I would rather have a book I own suffer the consequences of being a beach read then a library book.

What makes a book a good beach read? I’m not sure. This seems to be another one of those first world problems. I am joyfully looking forward to long summer days spend surfing and lounging on the beach experiencing what it feels like to read a leisure novel in sand and enjoy every moment I have in the sun.

That small sticker that says, “beach read” makes me think of how to slow my life down and enjoy more. Life has changed so much in the past 5 months that I have been out of school and started to institute major changes.

In some ways, I have been wandering aimlessly trying to figure out which activities I want to keep in my life and in which directions I wish to go. I have walked into the library and just picked up whatever was new or looked good. I have been to book club trying to figure out what I like and want to read. At the book sale this past weekend, I was finally able to confidently pick up books, and be like, “this looks good,” without having to put a lot of thought or planning into the process. I did not have to consider whether I would have time to finish the book before it was due back at the library or before school break ended. That is some sort of freedom.

When I think about beach reading, I tend to think of it in context of class. People who have more money obviously have time to sit on a beach and read. When I was going to school full-time and working 70 hours a week, spending more than 3 minutes in the shower was a luxury, forget having a few hours to wile away on a beach. Then I think back to the mid-20th century when beach trips were actually the recreation of choice for the working class. Beaches are typically free. If you had a day off, you would just grab your towel, some sunscreen, and a good book, and head into the great outdoors for the day. In today’s society, time is at a premium. Actually having time to read on a beach is finally a luxury I am going to be able to have since rewinding real slow.

What books have you read that are perfect beach reads? What makes a novel a beach read? Isn’t any book I take and read while laying in the sand a “beach read?” When we slow down our lives, we have more time to do things we really enjoy – even if that something is to sit in the sand doing nothing at all.

 

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