Here Are Some of the Worst Beach Reads

You ever see some guy at the beach knee-deep in Marquis de Sade’s 1785 classic The 120 Days of Sodom, and think “What’s that guy’s deal?” You ever see somebody dragging along a minor library next to their towel and San Pellegrino? Have you considered reading vintage Playboys at the beach a good time? Do the books you bring to the beach mirror the weight of a concrete slab?

This list just might be for you.

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  • by Anne Carson

It is undeniable that Anne Carson is one of the greatest living poets, and her collection of twenty-two chapbooks Float is certainly a masterpiece. Imagine attempting to read Float at a beach though, with each individual chapbook at risk of the wind sweeping it away, the sand crusting it, or the sea salt finding its perfect pages. It's easy to see why Float may not be the perfect beach read, despite being a perfect read in almost every other respect.


Photo by Jennifer Rapinchuk

A Gutenberg Bible

This just feels like the perfect way to ruin an ancient text, but if you have $30 million or so to throw around maybe it's the ultimate beach flex.

Fac-similé de la Bible de Gutenberg (1455), premier livre imprimé en Europe à l'aide de caractères mobiles par le typographe et imprimeur allemand Johannes Gutenberg (1400-1468), exposé au 30ème salon du livre et de la presse à Genève, en Suisse le 27 avril 2016. L 'invention des caractères métalliques mobiles a été déterminante dans la diffusion des textes et du savoir. (Photo by Jean-Marc ZAORSKI/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images) Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

The Power Broker

  • by Robert Caro

Inspired by the Observer's Rachel Milman, who in diving into the history of New York City's horrific infrastructure found herself at the beach reading The Power Broker. It is something of a power move to read about the creation of Jones Beach out of swampland while at Jones Beach, but this thing is as thick as a brick, and it's probably be better suited for holding down your towel than relaxing on it.

the power broker


A People's History of the United States

  • by Howard Zinn

This is an amazing and incredible dive into the United States that everyone should read but let's make the argument that it's more of a pool read than a beach read. It's less likely to get wet or ruined that way. And you'll want to be able to give your copy to someone else to read right away.

people's history


The Phantom Tollbooth

  • by Norton Juster

On second thought, if you want it to be clear you're emotionally regressing maybe this is actually the perfect beach book.

Random House

The Bill of Rights

  • by We the People

It totally makes sense if you have embraced learning everything you can about the Constitution in order to win arguments with people who have differing views on it, and its impacts. All that being said, you're going to look like a freak for doing Constitutional studies at Coney Island.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 17: The First Printing of the Final Text of the United States Constitution is on display during a press preview at Sotheby's on September 17, 2021 in New York City. This one of 11 known copies of the official printing produced for the delegates to Constitutional Convention and for the Continental Congress. This is the only one that has remained in private hands. (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images) Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

The Pearl

  • by John Steinbeck

This could just be due to the fact that my personal introduction to John Steinbeck's The Pearl was far too young, and that I would have appreciated it more as an adult; however, due to that introduction the idea of reading The Pearl at the beach seems terrifyingly boring.

the pearl

Viking Press

If I Did It: Confessions of The Killer

  • by O.J. Simpson

This is an obvious vibe killer at the beach. OJ Simpson's memoir would be a ghastly read, if only due to the fact that on every cover because the family of Nicole Brown in a lawsuit gained legal rights to the book. As a result they changed the title to If I Did It: Confessions of The Killer with every "If" extremely tiny on the cover. This leads to "I Did It" being the largest text in bright red on the cover.

Beaufort Books

Patricia Highsmith's Diaries

  • Edited by Anna von Planta

If you loved the movies Carol or The Talented Mr. Ripley, you'll love the creator of those worlds, Patricia Highsmith. Author of the books that inspired those films, The Price of Salt and the "Ripliad" series, she was a celebrated and controversial lesbian writer, known for her eventual reclusion, grumpy and somewhat offensive personality. Highsmith's diaries are a horrible beach read because clocking at 999 pages in total they will make for a very uncomfortable pillow.


W.W. Norton

Infinite Jest

  • by David Foster Wallace

This is the absolute wallop of a book that launched a thousand pages and footnotes (and endnotes) into the public consciousness in 1996. If you are reading Infinite Jest at the beach, one thing is sure to come up: why are you reading Infinite Jest in 2022? Is it because it took since 1996 to get this far in the book?

infinite jest

Little Brown.& Company

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