What is a summer read?

There are loads of summer reading lists out there. A quick search came up with a list for every taste, including romance, mysteries, classics that you’ve never read, and must-reads-releasing-this-summer.

But what I couldn’t find was: what is the definition of a summer read?

The closest thing to a definition was on Bookriot, and it was, basically, “a book read during the summer months.” 

Had I been guessing, I would’ve said that my criteria was a bit more specific–usually something fun or breezy or light.

Yet, I read murder mysteries in the summer, too, and they do not fall into the breezy category. So I looked through the books on my summer reading list and noticed 4, beach bag, shades

  1. The story has a satisfying or optimistic ending.  (Which means murder mysteries end with justice served.)
  2. I can finish the book in six hours or less.
  3. I weight my choices heavily toward authors I know and trust. (I’m risk-averse, especially when I’m carving time away from a vacation.)
  4. The story is often set in a summery place or during the summer months (between May and September in the North Hemisphere or around Christmas/December in the Southern Hemisphere.)

I’ve already finished two from my summer list–and highly recommend both: The Decoy Bride by Lizzie Shane and The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. Here are some other books I have on my summer TBR list.


What is your definition of a summer read?
Do you think
set-in-the-summer is important for a summer read?
Do you have recommendations?
Join us in the comments, and tell us what’s on your list. (Authors, please recommend your own books as summer reads!) 
I’ll give away an e-book copy of my “summer set” books (Whisper Falls or Fade to Us) to one commenter.


Elizabeth Langston lives in North Carolina–but spends her summers traveling to faraway places, where she finds time to chip away at her summer reading list or write her next book. Elizabeth writes YA magical realism and YA contemporary romance (as Julia Day). To learn more about Elizabeth/Julia, follow her on twitter or Bookbub.


22 responses to “What is a summer read?”

  1. Wow! I’m honored to be on your summer reading list!

    I have no idea what makes something a summer read – maybe a page turner? Something with a rapid pace? I feel like I am more inclined to read lingering slower paced books in the winter months in front of a fire, but in the summer I like something that sucks me in and drags me to the finish.

    • Julia Day says:

      Yes, you are–and I haven’t read Candy’s book so she’s going on there too.

      Pace is something I hadn’t thought of. I’m probably the opposite, though. In the summer, I’m often reading on a plane and want something slower and more interruptible.

  2. I’m with Vivi. When I think of summer reads, I think of fast pace stories, set in the summer months. I like fun and breezy romance, but I love great romantic suspense-mysteries.

    • Julia Day says:

      Who do you like to read for romantic suspense? I’ve got one by Julie Ann Walker that I might dive into.

      • Recently I’ve read our own sister Kate Parker, British writer Joy Ellis, and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, all new to me and all very different and very good. I have six more suspense & RS new to me authors on my Kindle. I hope they are just as good.

  3. Tamara Hogan says:

    Interesting question, Beth. The concept of a summer read or a beach read has always baffled me, because I don’t notice seasonal patterns in my own reading.

    When I hear the phrase “summer read,” the marketing messages I perceive are “fast,” “quick,” “breezy,” “relax.” I think the phrases “summer read” or “beach read” are marketing shorthand: “We know you don’t have a lot of time. Here’s this book. It’s breezy and fast. Enjoy yourself!”

    These marketing messages miss the mark with me. Don’t get me wrong, I love a fast-paced, breezy read! But the pace or ease of the read aren’t effective marketing messages for me, because available time isn’t a factor in my purchase decision.

    A perhaps provocative idea: As a childfree person, I’ve always had larger chunks of free time available to me than my friends who have children do. My life is not impacted by the rhythms of the school year and summer vacation. Knowing a book is a “breezy, fast-paced read” isn’t a selling point for me, because I have fewer demands on my time. I can read whenever I want, for as long as I want.

    Am I off my rocker? 🙂

    Right now I’m (re)reading J.D. Robb’s “In Death” series, banging through Kevin Mitnick’s “The Art of Invisibility: The World’s Most Famous Hacker Teaches You How to Be Safe in the Age of Big Brother and Big Data”, and starting Chuck Wendig’s latest craft book, “Damn Fine Story.” And yes, I’ll read Mitnick on the dock at the cabin over Fourth of July weekend. 🙂

    • Julia Day says:

      I missed the “pace” message (so marketing fail for me.) But that could be because my summer vacations tend doing a lot of stuff and having time to read at night or on transportation to somewhere else. This summer, I’m spending a couple of weeks in the UK–so I’ll read on the plane or bus between cities. I need books that I can put down without grumbling too much. Stonehenge should not take a backseat to a book.

      Ooh, though, I’ll be in Bath. If anybody has a good book that really uses the city of Bath, that might be fun to read after I’ve gone. Balogh’s Someone to Care is set there, but I’ve already read it.

      Fun fact: Mitnick was living in Raleigh when he was caught.

  4. Jennifer Bray-Weber says:

    Summer reads to me are usually fast-paced action adventures of any genre. Having a summer or warm weather setting is also important, but not a deal-breaker.

    Great post, Elizabeth.

    • Julia Day says:

      Yeah, I do like the warm weather part–as if it’s nice to feel the same heat the characters are. But yeah, not a deal-breaker.

  5. Addison Fox says:

    This is a fun post!!! I LOVE summer reading but I never really considered why – I think you nailed it on your definitions.


    I just picked up THE KISS QUOTIENT, too and can’t wait to dive in!

    • Julia Day says:

      TKQ is a really cute book. Sweet and surprisingly sexy. I mean, duh, he’s an escort and she wants lessons. But I was still unprepared for how erotic it got.

      It does a good job of showing an autistic adult’s view of the world. The author is autistic (late diagnosis). I’d be interested in hearing my autistic daughter’s impression–except she doesn’t read fiction (unless she’s being paid. She copyedits/sensitivity-reads novels. But not for pleasure.)

      And I picked up JUST IN TIME. The cover does not say “summer read” to me 🙂 but I need to find out what’s going on with Avery and Roman!

      I’ve really been in a “Ruby Reads” mood lately.

  6. Truthfully, I think a ‘beach or summer read’ is a novel written in whatever style or subgenre is your favorite. A guilty pleasure book that you can’t wait to sit back and enjoy from cover-to-cover in one-sitting.

    For me, it’s a story that’s EASY to read, fun, and fast-paced. In other words, a book that has a writing style that isn’t bogged down by long descriptions and has great, snappy dialogue; a lighter story without a life and death conflict, and a plot with pacing that drives itself to a satisfying resolution and HEA. But that’s MY taste. I think it’s a totally subjective concept.

    • Julia Day says:

      I like the part about “easy to read.” I have a book that takes places almost entirely in the summer–and it does have an HEA (or HFN)–but I wouldn’t call it an easy read. The heroine has suffered a tragedy in her backstory, and the summer is all about recovery and grief management. Not easy to read.

      So–easy in the sense that this is the reading equivalent of a crisp glass of white wine or a lovely fruity cocktail. (As opposed to that “beverages” they make you drink before an intense medical test.)

  7. This is a great post, Beth! I’ve always thought of a beach read as a story set on a beach and a summer read as, you guessed it, a story set in summer. Apparently my definitions are a tad stunted.

    Now you have me thinking. Hmmmm…

    • Julia Day says:

      When I was pondering the definition, I thought about “does it have to be set in the summer?” And I guess I prefer that it is (’cause if I’m suffering through the heat, I want the characters to be suffering too.) But then I found some books I plan to read that aren’t summer-set. [Like the next book in Someone Else’s Fairytale–which is set in a city on my vacation bucket list, Albuquerque)

  8. Elisa Beatty says:

    Since I’m an English teacher, my reading (re-reading?) during the school year is usually whatever three novels I’m teaching at the moment, with an occasional new recommendation from a friend squeezed in…

    Summer is when I can read more widely. Sometimes I want the traditional “beach read”–silly, fluffy, but engrossing (can be funny, can be suspenseful, but doesn’t need to be intellectually high-brow). Sometimes I just want time to read the “big” books I don’t have time for in the winter.

    Regardless of what book I’ve got in front of me, one of the big pleasures of time off is MORE BOOKS!!

    • Julia Day says:

      I read a lot throughout the year, but the nice thing about summer reads is that you can enjoy them guiltlessly. Because, hey, summer read is a thing. We all know that.

  9. I never thought much about a summer read and what it entails. For me, it covers a wide range of books and simply means it’s one that I’ll enjoy, from a flirty romance to a heart-pounding thriller, simply a marketing term for a good book.

    • Julia Day says:

      In my day job, I facilitate difficult conversations. One of the first things we do is to make sure everyone agrees on the meaning of terms. It’s fun to see that we seem to have as many definitions of summer reads as we have commenters.

  10. Kim Law says:

    I’ve been asking myself this question for a while now. I think of it as a fun, flirty, fast read, often set around water (lake, ocean, etc). But then I see some women’s fictiony book being pimped as summer reads. And I don’t often think of women’s fiction as fun and flirty, nor even fast. So that just throws me back to square one. What *is* a summer read? Maybe some of us should corner a few editors at the conference next month and ask for their definition 🙂

  11. Cynthia Huscroft says:

    When I worked as a school nurse one of the things we did before the end of the school year was to put out a “Summer Reading List”. It was compiled by members of a SN Listserv. The titles were very diverse…mostly lighter in nature and a lot of mysteries…though some were not so light and were essentially books to prepare for the upcoming school year.

    I wanted something that didn’t make me think too hard (my def of summer reading) and as Vivi put it “…in the summer I like something that sucks me in and drags me to the finish.” That being said, I plowed through several of Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters series. The first one didn’t grab until me I was about a quarter of the way through…after that…couldn’t wait to get to the next one.

    Right now, there are several others in my TBR pile and it is a little heavy on “RSS” titles:) Along with those is an Elizabeth Peters – “The Dead Sea Cipher” and “Confessions of a Murder Suspect” – by James Patterson. Plan to add some of the recommendations from here as well.

    Happy Reading!!

  12. I love your definition of a summer read. Thanks for sharing your favorites!


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