Vacation books and beach reads

Open Book at Beach
I missed the July 23 Booking Through Thursday about reading preferences because I was traveling that day, but Gayle of Everyday I Write the Book has turned it into a Vacation Book Meme, and I thought it would be fun to play it that way.

Reading something frivolous? Or something serious? Depends on my mood, but usually something at least semi-serious; I prefer substance over style
Paperbacks? Or hardcovers? Trade paperbacks (although for reading while traveling, I’m becoming a big fan of the Kindle!)
Fiction? Or Nonfiction? Usually fiction, unless it’s a good memoir
Poetry? Or Prose? Prose.
Biographies? Or Autobiographies? Either – depending on the subject, I may prefer the more objective approach of a biography, but if it’s insightful and actually written by the subject (and not a ghostwriter), I’ll choose the autobiography or memoir.
History? Or Historical Fiction? Historical fiction; I’m beginning to enjoy it more and more.
Series? Or Stand-alones? Stand-alones, mostly, although I do enjoy when characters re-appear in an author’s later books
Classics? Or best-sellers? Contemporary, regardless of the sales rank
Lurid, fruity prose? Or straight-forward, basic prose? Good writing, period.
Plots? Or Stream-of-Consciousness? Plots, although they don’t need to be convoluted; I like something to happen, and it’s fine with me if it’s more character-driven
Long books? Or Short? Somewhere in the middle; under 200 pages tends to make me feel shortchanged, while over 500 pages can be a bit daunting.
Illustrated? Or Non-illustrated? Non-illustrated.
Borrowed? Or Owned? Owned.
New? Or Used? New, or nearly new – I’m always glad to have a friend pass on a book to me after she’s read it, but I’ve never been a used-bookstore gal.

But honestly, my “vacation reading” preferences don’t really vary much from my “regular reading” tastes, except that if I’m traveling, I usually don’t pack big, thick books. And I rarely go to the beach, so I don’t usually think in terms of “beach reading” at all. In a recent Sunday Salon post discussing NPR’s “Best Beach Reads” list, Literary Feline (Wendy) of Musings of a Bookish Kitty said:

When I first heard it, I took it at its literal definition. A book you would want to read on the beach, one you would not mind getting sand between the pages. And I suppose that is, in part, where it got its start. In a broader sense, I think quite a few people think of “beach reads” as light reading, those books that don’t require your full attention or much in the way brain power. However, I’ve discovered that there are those who choose to think of “beach reads” as those more serious tomes they can finally pick up and give their full attention to.

That’s a “beach read” definition I can relate to, and based on it, I’ve apparently done much more beach reading than I realized – 46 of the 100 books named inNPR’s survey. Here’s the list; I’ve followed Wendy’s lead and marked the ones I’ve read with an asterisk. If I remember reading them during the summer, I’ve also marked them with a S.

1. The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling * S (books 4-7) (but I would NOT want to lug these chunksters to the beach!)
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee *
3. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini * S
4. Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding *
5. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen *
6. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells *
7. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald *
8. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams *
9. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg*
10. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver * S (actually read during a vacation)
11. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
12. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel *
13. The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan * S
14. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien *
15. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger *
16. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell *
17. Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett *
18. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien *
19. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides *
20. Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen * S
21. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain*
22. The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver *
23. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith
24. The World According to Garp, by John Irving * S (the summer after I graduated from high school, not long before the movie came out)
25. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller *
26. The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy *
27. Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel *
28. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman *
29. The Accidental Tourist, by Anne Tyler *
30. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer
31. A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
32. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck *
33. The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant *
34. Beach Music, by Pat Conroy
35. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
36. Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier
37. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
38. Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry
39. The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough * S (more than once, and during a few summers, as I recall)
40. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon *
41. Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
42. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
43. Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice
44. Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier
45. Empire Falls, by Richard Russo
46. Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes
47. The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas *
48. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, by Tom Robbins
49. I Know This Much Is True, by Wally Lamb
50. Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie
51. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott *
52. The Stand, by Stephen King
53. She’s Come Undone, by Wally Lamb *
54. Dune, by Frank Herbert *
55. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
56. Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
57. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
58. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
59. The Godfather, by Mario Puzo
60. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
61. Animal Dreams, by Barbara Kingsolver *
62. Jaws, by Peter Benchley
63. Good in Bed, by Jennifer Weiner *
64. Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner
65. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson * S (the summer of 1996, during the Olympics)
66. The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway
67. The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand
68. Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut
69. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
70. The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler
71. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
72. The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy
73. Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns
74. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
74. Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe [tie] *
76. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte *
77. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
78. The Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher
79. Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver *
80. Eye of the Needle, by Ken Follett
81. Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck
81. The Pilot’s Wife, by Anita Shreve [tie] *
83. All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy
84. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson (not yet, but I just bought it!)
85. The Little Prince, by Antoine De Saint-Exupery
86. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
87. One for the Money, by Janet Evanovich
88. Shogun, by James Clavell
89. Dracula, by Bram Stoker
90. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera *
91. Presumed Innocent, by Scott Turow * S (mostly on an airplane)
92. Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger *
93. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt *
94. Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris
95. Summer Sisters, by Judy Blume
96. The Shining, by Stephen King
97. How Stella Got Her Groove Back, by Terry McMillan
98. Lamb, by Christopher Moore *
99. Sick Puppy, by Carl Hiaasen
100. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

For me, reading’s nearly always like a vacation anyway. What’s your vacation reading like, even if you haven’t been on vacation this year?

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  1. "The Stand" or "Dune" as beach reads? They are a little heavy, in more ways than one. I'd read something by Dave Barry if I actually went to the beach. 🙂

  2. Wow – I've actually either read or currently own (and have been meaning to read) most of these. I think Stephanie Meyer is perfect for the beach if you have kids running around and can't really sit and read for long periods of time. That Twilight series is so bad, yet soooo good.

    I loved the Time Traveler's Wife and I'm dying to see the movie. It looks different from the book (which usually annoys me) but the scenes of him appearing and disappearing look exactly as I had imagined it. Just magical.

  3. Mike – Bring an extra copy for my husband :-). He's reading something by Dave Barry right now, actually.

    If you ask me, the only thing Dune and beaches have in common is a lot of sand.

  4. Kate – I was surprised to see how much "beach reading" I've done. Then again, this is NPR's idea of beach reading :-).

    I do have the first three Twilight books, but haven't gotten around to reading them yet. I'm kind of scared to…I have a feeling I'll be unable to put them down, and then I'll hate myself.

  5. What an interesting list! I must admit, I've always thought of beach reads as a quick light read, the kind you can dip into, while all the while keeping an eye on the kids building their sandcastle a little too close to the ocean, fishing around in the big cooler bag for snacks, and consenting to having your toes buried in the sand.

    I find when I go on vacation, I try to bring a little bit of everything, because I never know what I'll be in the mood for. Makes for a very heavy book bag but I feel much more secure the more I can pack away!

  6. Alisonwonderland – I'll be sure to check out your list! I was surprised that I'd read almost half of them, actually – but then again, there's a lot of "middle-brow lit" there, which describes a lot of what I read.

    Belle – Bringing a variety of books on vacation makes complete sense to me, because I do the same thing. I think that my Kindle will help lighten up the luggage, though :-).