I love Alissa Nutting’s Tampa (I really do), but I can’t extend that praise to whoever is responsible for the fuzzy black cover that feels like the shorn underbelly of a Muppet, collects random bits of fuzz, and also begs the hot summer sun to just beat down if taken outside. Either this most impractical summer book cover is some hoax perpetrated by a great prankster in the publisher’s art department or somebody forgot to mention that the book was coming out in July, because Tampa is a total anti-beach read. With that in mind, I’m in no way trying to discourage you from reading it or any of the other books on this list — I just suggest you do it in the comfort of your own home.
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
Like I mentioned, without Nabokov’s classic, there would probably be no Tampa. And just like Alissa Nutting’s brilliant new novel, you probably shouldn’t bring Lolita to the beach, because nobody wants to be seen reading a book about a pedophile while kids in bathing suits frolic in the water.
War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
Nabokov’s Lolita leads us to one very important Truly Horrible Beach Reads rule: anything written by a dead Russian, no matter how iconic and perfect, is a bad beach read. And while the “no dead Russian rule” means no Gogol, no Dostoyevsky, and no Chekov short stories, Tolstoy’s masterpiece deserves special mention for another reason: books over 1000 pages are also really impractical for the beach.
The Love Song of Johnny Valentine, Teddy Wayne
You should by all means read Teddy Wayne’s great novel modeled off the life and times of Justin Bieber, just know that it could be dangerous to bring a book with such a shiny cover to the beach. Think about all the damage it could do if the sun reflecting off it blinds a surfer or yacht captain in the middle of the ocean. You would totally be responsible for all of that because you decided you had to read this book while lounging in the sand.
Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground, Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind
I’m on the fence with this one, because if you truly want to read one of the best books ever on the early days of Norwegian black metal scene that features a burning church on the cover while working on your suntan, then I say all power to you.
Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
This isn’t a commentary on your politics; it is fine if you are really into the Ron Paul Revolution, and lord knows we’ll take any excuse for a good Ayn Rand takedown. I just wonder why would you want to spend your time relaxing by reading such a bad book.
It is totally acceptable that you are the last person who seriously feels the need to get caught up on the book that sold so many copies that Random House employees received a $5000 Christmas bonus last year simply based on the fact that even your grandma has probably read these books by now. You should by all means find out what the fuss is about, but don’t expect anybody to invite you to come hang out under their umbrella.
Ulysses, James Joyce
Go on reading your piece of iconic Modernist literature while people play games in the sand just a few feet away from you. I’d also like to offer you this complementary T-shirt with “Buzzkill” written on the front of it.
The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
You know what this book is about and what happened to the author in real life, and yet you still want to spend a beautiful July day reading this on the hot sand? It’s a free country…
Killing Kennedy, Bill O’Reilly
It is only acceptable to read this book on the beach (or any other time…) if you wear a T-shirt to go swimming or write “old” as your age on any questionnaire.