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The Unreliable Guide to…Beach Reads

By Nat Shepherd on December 31, 2020 in Other

Finish the year well. Photo: Bruce Read

Well, 2020 was one hell of a year, hey? From bushfires, to the pandemic, to the last gasps of American democracy. The Unreliable Guide has written about love, leadership and lockdown. We’ve had a big birthday, worn a mask and tried to politely keep our social distance. We’ve tried to figure out what’s normal these days and examined the effects of uncertainty. I don’t know about you, but I need a break.
Fortunately, against all the odds, I’ve managed to book a few weeks away. Now all I have to do is work out what book will keep me company this summer. If that sounds trivial, it’s not. I love reading, but the only time I get to dive into a book and really swim around between the pages is during the long summer break.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll kick yourself if you’re stuck for two weeks with nothing to read but the selection of decrepit old novels left behind by previous guests of your extortionately priced beach shack. But what type of book should you be packing in your case alongside your sunnies and sarong? Fear not, The Unreliable Guide is here to help you decide.

Genre
Publishers love to market ‘chick lit’ fluffy romances as the perfect beach read, but all kinds of books get read on the beach. In my opinion, a great beach read is actually like a vacation in book form – a great escape from reality. From the first page you’re totally immersed in that world. The setting envelops you. You share the characters’ feelings of love and hate and fear and joy because they’re relatable and charismatic. The plot is so addictive you can’t put the book down, but it’s not so complicated that your sun-befuddled brain gets confused. In other words, the best genre of book to take on holiday is one that gives you pleasure.
Don’t try and impress people by packing books you think you ‘should’ be reading. Personally, I love a good thriller on holiday, the type that hooks you from the first page and never lets you go, but if reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Trump’s Think Big and Kick Ass will bring you endless joy, you go for it.

Length
Summer is the time I get around to reading those big fat books that look so off-putting during the rest of the year. When I’m on holiday, I want a book so fat that it’ll be with me long enough to share a few meals and some long lazy days at the beach. I want my book to have sand in its creased spine and smudges of sunscreen on several of its six hundred pages.
But short books have their place too. A neat little two hundred-page Agatha Christie is the perfect book for a day at the beach. It fits in your pocket and you’ll know whodunnit by the time they’re serving the sunset cocktails. You’ll just need a few of them to get you through the fortnight.

Finally, The Unreliable Guide suggests that whatever you choose to read this summer, you take it easy. Get a long glass of something refreshing, climb into a hammock and give yourself plenty of time to unwind from what has been one of the strangest years in our lifetimes. Cheers!

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