As Spring Break fast approaches, I’ve been seeing a lot of books being marketed as “Beach” or “Spring Break” reads, and have been thinking about what those terms really mean. As it turns out, I’m not first to investigate…
In 2019, the New Yorker acknowledged that the term is controversial – not everyone has the same definition and not everyone likes the categorization. But when Book Riot took a shot at the definition in 2020, landing on terms like “light reading”, “compulsively readable”, “mass appeal”, and “accessible,” they were more aligned with my own understanding of the “Beach Read” category (though I would also like to acknowledge that term as somewhat problematic, often “dripping with sexist assumptions” or assumed to not be “particularly intellectually stimulating”, to cite Book Riot).
When I recently read The Whispering House, by Elizabeth Brooks, I couldn’t help but think of this as a sort of 2021 beach read: characterized by accessible language, familiar characters, and a balance between romance and mystery that keeps you turning pages but doesn’t make you work too hard. And who doesn’t need a book like that, once in a while? Admittedly, I typically go for books that are a little more “academic” – like classics or literary fiction, books that win Pulitzer and Nobel prizes, that drive tough conversations in social and literary circles. My inclination isn’t usually to reach for a beach read. But sometimes, you need a little (Spring) break.
Also, I’ll just add that if there is a “Beach Read” of 2021, The Whispering House feels right. I mean, it’s got all the elements of a good social distancing story: extreme isolation in what may or may not be a haunted house, sick people quarantined in their rooms, plenty of scrounging when the groceries run out, and let’s not forget all the characters that get a little obsessed with their new hobbies (not bread-making though, thank God).