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Make any book a beach read

As long as you read it on a beach, any book can be a beach read!

A book open flat with cover showing. A beach scene in the background.

Traditionally, the best time to read books – or reading season, as I call it – is in the fall. However, like many other people, summer offers the most time to read books. But I don’t want to read heavy, serious books when I’m traveling and sitting poolside. I want to read things that I consider FUN!

The top types of books I read in the summer are: scandalous, thrilling, and high drama. 

But anyone who has ever been handed a summer reading list before walking out the door at school knows, sometimes you are asked to read things that, on the surface, do not seem to have scandal, thrills, or high drama. 

And while stirring up the drama in your group chat is frowned upon, stirring up the drama in a classic work of literature, a historical biography, or dry report might be the only way to get through it without it being a chore. 

Whenever I make the choice to read a classic work of literature – some of the frequently assigned books of classic literature, Moby Dick, Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, Paradise Lost, etc – I have to do whatever I can to make the reading experience as fun as possible.

Consider for a moment that instead of waiting until the weekend before school starts to knock out that summer reading you can add a little drama to make that book a beach read.

For example, one of my favorite classic literature reads is … Wuthering Heights. Often when I mention this people cringe and want to run away, but hear me out. Wuthering Heights is known as this sweeping romance. Heathcliff is a broody dude icon. The wildness of The Moors. Kate Bush and Celine Dion have both written epic songs about this book. However, many readers I have known (and live with) will dismiss the story as being depressing, bleak, and unromantic. 

I suffered from the same problem at first, but what I noticed was that the book was surprisingly funny if you came at it from an irreverent angle. So I decided to start reading it as a Dark Comedy about a family falling apart under the carelessness of a younger generation rather than a tormented romance between two people who are being torn apart by circumstances. To me this book was much more like The Mighty Gemstones than Grey’s Anatomy.

First, you have the fish-out-of-water neighbor who has never lived in the country before who wanders into the wilderness on his first day out and meets some inhospitable neighbors who reluctantly provided him a place to sleep that night. This nube then has an encounter with what he thinks is a ghost and watches his grumpy host completely lose his mind over it. Once he finally gets home, he sits down with his maid who immediately tells him, “Okay, those folks are all crazy. I used to work there. Let me tell you about all these crazy sonsofbitches.” 

It’s a family drama. It’s a saga. It’s gossip. Everyone is spoiled. Everyone is entitled. Everyone is wrong. Kind of like Gossip Girl.

It’s all about perspective. 

Here is my approach when reading something that comes across as a little dry. 

  1. Cast your characters with celebrities. Many modern authors will do imaginary casting while they write to give them a stronger idea of who they are writing about. However, it’s also fun to do that with things you read, because it will give a different spin on how the dialogue is delivered. Like while reading The Devil in White City, reading the sections about the bureaucratic drama of The World’s Fair in Chicago was simpler when I imagined the cast of Billions as the coordinators. And you can do this with other books and ensemble casts. Perhaps imagine As I Lay Dying with the entire cast of Yellowstone

  2. Change the setting if necessary. If you are reading something historical, try to give it a modern context. Whenever I read Jane Austin, it’s nearly impossible not to transplant those characters into a high school. 

  3. Change the language if necessary. One of my favorite moments on A Different World is when Lena James – played by Jada Pinkett Smith – translates Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet into a language she can best connect with. If it’s complicated, read it aloud and then translate it to how you would describe it to a friend.

  4. Add context or remove context if necessary. Some instructors insist on students knowing the Historical Context of the time when something was written because it informs the writer’s choices. This is valid. Sometimes it helps knowing that the Romantics used heaps of opium as writers. And sometimes it distracts. You get to choose what information is relevant and irrelevant to the reading. 

  5. Switch the genre if it helps. I couldn’t get into Wuthering Heights as a Romantic story, so I changed it to a Dark Comedy. Pride and Prejudice plays more like a teen romance, Madame Bovary, a Soap Opera, and Moby Dick… well, have you seen Our Flag Means Death? You get to choose.

  6. Talk back to the book. I like to throw in an “Oh no, you didn’t!” every once in a while to amp up the drama when I am reading. It helps me stay alert. 

Reading is all about processing the story in a way that connects to the reader. Often readers have been told what a book is about, what certain symbolism markers represent, what the themes are, blah, blah, blah. Anyone can go online and search for the gist of what students have been told a story is about. But that implies that there is only one way to understand something. There is not. There are multiple ways to interpret a work of fiction. And if the way to connect to the story is to recast the characters with everyone from Grey’s Anatomy and set it in space, then why not? 

Read Books. (your way!) Wear Boots. 




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