An Essential Guide to Choosing the Perfect “Beach Read” Book

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Natalia Sylvester

Staff Writer

Natalia Sylvester is the author of the novel Chasing the Sun. Her work has appeared in Latina magazine, Writer’s Digest, and Follow her on Twitter @NataliaSylv.

It’s summer! A magical time of year when the entire population is urged to pick up a perfect beach read despite the fact that only 10 percent of the U.S.’s total land mass is made up of coastline. To do your reading right this season, you’ll need a decent sense of geography and a taste for books that pair well with salt water.

As someone who was born on the coast and raised on another one, I’m a bit of an expert on which books are beach appropriate. True story: I once got banned from Key Biscayne, Florida, for bringing a copy of Bret Anthony Johnston’s Corpus Christi: Stories onto the sand. Rival coastlines and literary fiction? Such a rookie mistake. I’m older and wiser now, and for the sake of beachgoers and summer readers everywhere, I’m sharing what I’ve learned with you.

To choose a book that’s 100% beach-ready, make sure it’s:

Hot: Don’t let “Hot Reads for the Summer” lists or titles like Fahrenheit 451 fool you. What you’re really looking for is a book that, when placed in the sand for more than five minutes on a 101-degree day, will burn the soles of your feet if you happen to step on it on your way to the water. Obviously, darker covers are better.

Waterproof: You know how in Stranger than Fiction Dustin Hoffman’s character places his book in a Ziplock bag to keep it from getting wet? Adorable, but not the most practical idea for those real page-turners. Instead, try a book like The Starfish or The Dolphin. They’re waterproof, floatable, and only 6 pages each. Studies have shown brain cell levels decrease the closer humans get to the sea, so quick reads make the best beach reads.

Offers UVA/UVB protection: This is an easy one. Everyone knows that the more pages a book has, the higher the SPF. Grab a thousand-plus pager like The Dying Grass by William T Vollmann (out, appropriately, this summer) and make sure to hold it over your face as you read for the best protection. For full body coverage, place as many books as you can manage (open and face down) on any exposed skin from your chest to your toes.

Bikini-Ready: I’m so over this. Can we all just agree that all books dressed in a bikini are bikini-ready?

Set in a Tropical Place in Case You Forget You’re on a Beach or in Case You’re Stuck by a Pool at the Y: This Goodreads list of novels set in beach towns is perfect for when you’re on one coast but really wish you were on another (you know, sea is always bluer and all that). If, like me, you find yourself stranded inland and smelling of chlorine instead of salt water, you may be in serious withdrawal. Screw all subtleties and tell the world you’d rather be anywhere else with a copy of Alex Garland’s The Beach.

Any tips I missed?