Let’s hear it for beach reads! Yeah, those books that we never mention when someone asks “what have you been reading lately?” The ones that we feel just a little guilty for liking so much, because after all, they really aren’t improving our minds or making us think or whatever it is that reading is supposed to do for us.
But hey, there’s a time for thinking, and a time for enjoying the ease of a book that just about reads itself. And I will argue that vacation is the time for the latter. I’ve been tramping New Zealand with my family, and when I want a book at the end of a long day of hiking, I’m afraid I’m not up for even the natural history/creative non-fiction I love at other times. Nope, I want brain candy. A lot of my brain candy is cozy mysteries (or, as they’d say down here, cosy mysteries). Even better: they come in series, so you can keep reading without the effort of getting to know new characters. This time around I’ve been enjoying the Phryne Fisher mysteries by Kerry Greenwood, now up to 20 books, set in 1920s Melbourne, Australia.
Kid’s and YA books are another favorite when I’m tired, and I’ve gone in for both re-reads and some new discoveries. A new series recently discovered and a delight to me (which most YA isn’t; it takes a good writer to make me like teen girls) is Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series. These light-hearted thrillers are set in a special school for girls training to become spies. They have the most amazing curriculum (including some very advanced mathematics and chemistry as well as things like how to avoid surveillance), and the narrator is much better at all that than she is at boys. Yes, boys and romance do—sort of—enter into it, but I found protagonist Cammie’s naïveté with regard to those strange creatures painfully true and funny.
But it’s re-reading that’s really where I go when I’m tired, and there are a surprising number of books that stand up to a second or third read, even though they’re just pure fun. YA books I can always re-read include pretty much anything by Tamora Pierce. I think my favorite series might be her Protector of the Small quartet, as the main character (Keladry) is so very down-to-earth, achieving her prodigies by hard work and skill, not by any magic or favor. And Keladry’s a pioneer, going where girls aren’t supposed to go—so she gets three cheers from me!
I can also always enjoy some classic SF/Fantasy. And it’s hard to get more classic than Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern (which I discovered back in Jr. High more decades ago than I’m going to admit). I’ll take the early books over the later ones, but the whole world is a delight, and impressively developed by the author, who must have spent a lot of time having fun drawing maps and thinking about how everything works.
Whatever your taste, don’t be afraid to indulge it, and give your brain a rest while you are resting your body, whether it’s an extended vacation to the beach next summer, or a long weekend snowed in right now!
Rebecca M. Douglass is the author of a number of beach reads of her own, including the Ninja Librarian series for kids from 8 to 108, and the Pismawallops PTA mysteries, set on an island in Puget Sound. She and her husband recently sold their home and are traveling the world, which makes writing hard and calls for a lot of beach reads! Despite that, she’s making progress on the 4th book in the mystery series.
Photo credit to Rebecca's husband, Dave Dempsey