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"Beach read": It's a horrible phrase and here's why

Sara Dobie Bauer is a writer and book nerd in Phoenix, AZ. She is an Ohio University alum, which means her college experience was more fun than yours. She is the author of the novel "Life Without Harry." She loves bad horror films, footb...

Congratulations, your book is dumb

It's time for the year's best "beach reads," which seems to be a phrase that insinuates "reading for dummies."
Read something good on your next beach trip!
Photo credit: anyaberkut, iStock / 360

If you're like me, when you pack your bag for a trip to the sea, you leave behind that extra pair of wedges for an extra book. For every ocean extravaganza, I bring at least three novels, just in case. Woe to the woman who runs out of words!

On my last trip, I thoughtfully considered which books to bring, and I came up with three beauties: Everything That Remains, The Night Circus and Me Talk Pretty One Day. Do you know how many pages I got through? Zero.

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As soon as I arrived at my cabin by the coast, I found an amalgamation of steamy paperbacks and chick lit about shoes. Embarrassingly, I devoured these books on the beach, and now home, I realize I was a victim of "beach reads."

There's something about ocean waves that seems to sap all ambition. Granted, this is what vacation is for, but I'm still not clear on why I skipped over the books I brought (masterpieces all, by the way) in exchange for chest-heaving, shallow, idiotic love stories that will not be named to protect the innocent.

It got me thinking: Is the term "beach read" actually a put-down? Annually in early spring, the lists start piling up: Best Beach Reads of such-and-such year! These books usually feature bright-colored covers that lure us like fish to shiny objects. If not brightly colored, the covers are awash with buxom beauties and hunks dressed as pirates.

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Are these covers indicators of quality literature? Urm, no, not usually, but at the beach, we swallow them like raw oysters. What we call "beach reads" are usually books awash in melodrama, shallow characters and happy endings (wink). I have no idea who coined the term "beach read," but he or she inadvertently pigeonholed a lot of authors.

You wonder: Do authors pine to be on the next "beach read" list or do they tremble at the thought? Once a "beach read" author, always a "beach read" author?

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I'm not suggesting you lug War and Peace in your wicker basket, and please, don't curl up and relax with Man's Search for Meaning. Maybe we do need to redefine "beach read," though.

Maybe we need to come up with a whole new phrase. Go from the odious "beach read" to "coastal companion" or "seaside surrender" — books that act as friends and methods of escape but are also meaningful, intelligent and life-changing.

It's possible to read something important at the beach! I'll go find an example. Oops, hang on, let me put down my daiquiri....

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