Whether you’re spending your summer holiday in your local park or being among the first to book into a well-cleaned holiday cottage, even Covid-19 can’t banish the notion of the beach read.
Do you neatly stack up immaculate hard-backs, or rummage around last-minute for that dog-eared classic you’ve had on the shelf for a decade? Do you plan your reading as you do your daytrips (whether with spontaneity or spreadsheets) or give yourself ambitious targets to meet?
Here, the Penguin.co.uk team outline the different categories of summer reader. Let us know below which gang you're in.
You’ve scrolled through hundreds of social media feeds accounts and have spent days watching YouTube book haul videos to curate a list of books that you think are the next big thing, based on how good they sound and, crucially, how they'll look on the ‘gram. You spend equal amounts of time reading and framing the books for pictures (there are 10 cold cups of coffee for every one that steams delicately in shot). You hope your likes will persuade a few people to buy books, but just in case, you’re also pressing your summer reads into the hands of everyone in your life (from your friends and family to the postman and your favourite supermarket cashier) to ensure your influencer status online and off.
Either you’ve eagerly raced through the book you brought with you or you’re just not feeling it. Either way, you’re left with a conundrum: you’ve run out of reading material, and there's still four days of the holiday left. Not to be deterred, you hit up your better-prepared friends and family.
What's next? Perhaps Untold Night and Day, the literary Korean bestseller your friend just finished, or the fantasy YA series that had your little brother hooked on the plane. Maybe you'll go full rogue, dive into the eclectic library of your AirBnb, decide to educate yourself on the ancient Japanese art of forest bathing, Shinrin-Yoku.
The genres, authors, preconceptions that shape your literary tastes in "regular life" don't apply. You're relaxed, sun-kissed, ready for adventure – it’s a holiday, after all.
Generally, you shun guidebooks. What’s the use in knowing about opening times or being given a one-day walking itinerary for “discovering the Old Town”? Who needs such hand-holding when all of fiction and non-fiction lies before you, offering insight into the love, lives and history of the lands to which you travel?!
No matter that you’re facing a few bleak days in Skeggy, there are few locations that haven’t inspired humankind to put pen to paper. For there is nothing quite like the feeling of being surrounded by salty sea spray or hearing the song of the local accent and while finding it inscribed on the pages of the book in your hand.
The Plot Chaser
You’ve always thought the vague snobbery around the term “airport novel” was unfair. Airports, after all, are dull, restless places: what better way to kill time than with a book that puts plot before everything else. Tightly paced thriller, twisting crime procedural, romances that leave your heart skipping a beat: these books were made to be devoured, to make you grateful for that four-hour delay, timed immaculately for after the one overpriced café in departures has closed. Holidays, after all, are about escape: and nothing accompanies hours on the beach than a good story.
The Prestige Reader
You’ve got room for three books, four tops, in your travel bag – why bring anything but the absolute best? Your reading list looks an awful lot like an amalgam of the most current Booker Prize shortlist and the Pulitzer Prize finalists, when you’re not tackling the must-read classics. You’re in the know, and you have thoughts about the canon. So while you’d love to take some time to reread your favourites, you were browsing the 2005 Booker Prize shortlist the other day and realised you’d never read Zadie Smith’s On Beauty – your personal ranking of her works from best to worst isn’t complete without that!
LEARNING IS FUN you repeat to yourself like a mantra as you methodically order every book you can find on the English Civil War / geology of Iceland / political theory of Ancient Greece. Not for you a week of frivolous brain candy – otherwise known as ‘novels’ – instead you intend to come back from your week in Portugal (sorry - Dorset) wise to the important topics of the world. Does it matter you gave up after 50 pages to work on your Instagram Stories? Certainly not. Education is a lifelong process. You’ll pick it up again on the journey home.
What kind of summer reader are you? Let us know by emailing email@example.com.