What Makes a Great Summer Beach Read?

Posted May 9 2013

beach dogIt’s nearly Memorial Day, and that means summer beach reading will soon be here! 

Funny, isn’t it, how readers often refer to particular books as a “good beach read,” yet there is no “beach reads” section in  the bookstore.  I suppose this means that everyone’s idea of what makes a good book to read on a vacation varies from reader to reader. Some readers enjoy books that take them to tropical locales for thrilling car chases and steamy nights with an undercover CIA operative. Others enjoy a summertime romance, falling in love on a blanket under the 4th of July fireworks. Others are looking for a light-hearted romp, literary cotton candy that leaves a reader feeling like they’ve had a fun treat.

I tend to be very lazy when I’m on vacation, and the books I take along reflect that fact. No books that require deep thought or critical analysis make their way into my beach bag. My brain wants a vacation, too!  A funny mystery or a romantic comedy makes the perfect beach read for me. Occasionally I’ll pick up a classic to feel that I’ve made some cultural headway while working on my tan.  

What about you? What makes a particular book a good “beach read” to you and why?  Share your thoughts for a chance to win one of five copies of my June 4th release – Death, Taxes, and Hot Pink Leg Warmers!  Winners will be announced on June 4th.


  1. Fast-paced and full of funny is what you’ll find peeking out from my beach bag! Give me some Laurie Notaro or Jenn Lancaster and I’m ready to enjoy some turquoise blue water and sugar-sand beaches!

    1. Diane Kelly says:

      And perhaps a cute cabana boy bringing you a salt-rimmed margarita, too? ; ) I’m right there with you!

  2. Jenny Martin says:

    I take tons of books with me on vacay! I love a good book with a touch of suspense, a little romance, a little humor….the new Tara book is going to be the perfect read!

    1. Diane Kelly says:

      Books always make the travel time go faster, too. They’re always the first thing I pack!

  3. Linda Bosma says:

    A book with sizziling love interest,mixed in with action-packed intrique, and humor.Oh that would be your books!Of course cabana boys and ‘ritas don’t hurt either.Beach,pool,or sofa I love my books!!!

    1. Diane Kelly says:

      Good point! A good “beach” read takes the reader on a mental vacation even without the sand and surf. I love to read in the backyard and bathtub. : )

  4. Josi Steward says:

    A good beach book for me would be fun and light. No deep thoughts or hard to follow plots. Tropical locales don’t hurt either!

    1. Diane Kelly says:

      Your “deep thoughts” comment made me think of that old “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy” skit on Saturday Night Live. Funny!

  5. moojuice says:

    Hi – Thought I left my comment last week but it seems to have vanished into the ether…
    My idea of ‘beach reads’ includes Christie Craig, Harlan Coben, Mary Kay Andrews, Ian Rankin, Carly Phillips, Michael Malone, Diane Kelly!, Stephanie Bond, and so many more favorites. I always carry some new-to-me authors as well for the possibility of great discoveries.
    My only problem with the newest Diane Kelly is that I can’t make it last very long -once started, I can’t stop! I’m so looking forward to all your future work.

    1. Diane Kelly says:

      Sounds like you and I share some favorite authors. : ) Thanks for chiming in “Moojuice!”

  6. Faye Lynn says:

    I love who-did-it romantic comedies. Easy reads, action going forward, nothing too dark, not stressful. BTW, I just downloaded Death, Taxes and Skinny No-Whip Latte and am loving it! Thanks.

    1. Diane Kelly says:

      You’re right, Faye Lynn. Rom-coms are perfect for the beach! Enjoy Skinny No-Whip Latte!

  7. Dee Smith says:

    Great beach reads invoke a sense of fun, adventure, and even a bit of learning. Not an actual read on the beach fan myself, I sure can get into worlds vastly different from own without leaving my deck or tempurpedic. Who knew death & taxes could be something I anticipate.

    1. Diane Kelly says:

      You made me laugh, Dee! It is indeed hard to look forward to death and taxes, unless it’s paired with something good like a latte, sangria, or warm and fuzzy leg warmers. : )

      I like books that I can learn a little something from, too. It’s fun to learn about a culture, a profession, a place, or a way of thinking or lifestyle, especially when it’s done subtly through a fictional story.

  8. Joye says:

    I guess i am fussy about the books i read. I don’t like to take to the beach because I don’t want sand or suntan lotion on them. Or get them wet.
    Besides, that is not why I go to the beach. i usually get wet, play volleyball, or hunt for shells just to name a few activities. However, i do bring books to read while traveling to the beach. Those i like to be action, thrillers or romantic suspense.

    1. Diane Kelly says:

      Sand in the book crack can definitely be irritating, just like when it gets in other cracks . . . but we won’t go there. : ) Beach volleyball sounds like a blast!

  9. JackieW says:

    I don’t go to the beach much even tho it is only 10 miles away. For summer I read my books setting out on lmy patio under the umbrella with something cool to drink and my little dog by my side. Since I belong to two Mystery book clubs that meet in the wintertime and read only those all winter long , I like to read other genres in the summer like Westerns, Romances, and Historials. Or hey, even a newspaper or a magazine…I just love READING.

    1. Diane Kelly says:

      A backyard with a dog sounds like a perfect summer reading spot! In fact, I’m writing this on my back patio with my two dogs running around the yard, looking for squirrels. : ) And if you like dogs, you’ll enjoy the new K-9 cop series I’ll be launching next year. I’m so excited!

  10. tami bates says:

    I like anthologies for the beach, several short stories

    1. Diane Kelly says:

      I agree! Short stories are great for those snippets of time we get between body surfing, dozing in a lounge chair, and flirting with the cabana boys. ; )

  11. Tonya says:

    I just stumbled on to the “Death, Taxes &” series. I was at the grocery store looking for something fun to read – not so much beach reading, but something that is fun and entertaining. To me, to define a ‘beach’ read, would pretty much imply a book that can be read in a matter of hours. We’re not talking Tolstoy here.

    For ‘beach’ reading, I’m partial to mass market paperbacks. I get on kicks – one month it will be cheesy romance novels, other months it will be memoirs and biographies. The common thread of them all is strong female characters / people.

    I used to love the Harlequin “Duets” series because they were such cheesy fluff. Comedy romance novels. No brains required. Do they still make those?

    An element of humor is always welcome, too. I hate when a book gets too heavy (figuratively) when I’m just trying to avoid having to think about world problems (in the narrow “MY WORLD” sense). And I hate it when an author whose works I love, pull a cheap stunt at the end of a book that was totally unnecessary (I’m looking at you, Jennifer Weiner – still not forgiven for that one!).

    To that end, so far I’ve read three of the “D, T&” series and have loved them all.


    1. Diane Kelly says:

      I agree, Tonya – light is good! I tend to get on kicks, too. Back in high school I read tons of Stephen King. Later I went through a classics phase. Often when I discover an author I’ll read all of his or her books in a row. I guess it’s “book binging.” : )

      So glad you found my books at your store and that you’ve enjoyed them!

      1. Tonya says:

        I met Michael Palmer (The Sisterhood, Extreme Measures, Fatal, etc) on a whitewater rafting trip a few years ago. (I don’t think it was much after Extreme Measures was released as a movie). He gave me whatever his current book was, and I plowed through it. His forte is medical mystery-thrillers. Anyway – I ended up going on a binge of his stuff. And I noticed something. That he re-used quite a bit of stuff from one book to the next. These were not a “series” of books, but he would use the same character names (Matt, Ginny) in similar, but not-totally alike situations (Matt is divorced, widowed, etc. from Ginny).

        I emailed him and jokingly pointed out that I noticed the pattern and he responded “Don’t ever read my books back to back! You’ll figure out that I’m a hack!”

        Gotta love a sense of humor.

        If you haven’t read any of his stuff, it’s good. Just don’t plow through them all at once. It’s better if you space them out.

        1. Diane Kelly says:

          That cracks me up! I have to admit I sometimes find it hard to come up with names, too. I’ve borrowed names from family, friends, acquaintances, my kids’ classmates, etc., though I never intentionally match a name with a character who is at all like the real person. There’s actually a bad guy in my new book with my husband’s first name. I was trying to come up with a name and I looked around in thought, and there he was on the couch! : ) My husband is a really nice guy, though. Kinda like the Richie Cunningham character from Happy Days. It takes a guy like that to put up with me!

  12. Isabel Jonas says:

    The best books to read on beach are from John Irving! He has the best sense of humor.

    1. Diane Kelly says:

      I love funny ones, too! Light reads are perfect for the beach.

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