Every year, when the northern hemisphere enters summer, countless articles and blog posts highlight books that are called “beach reads”. These lists are usually a mix of rom-coms, cozy mysteries, and other light reads, with a generous helping of new releases.
But what if someone doesn’t read in those genres? What if they want to take fantasy and science fiction on their vacation?
In a way, I’m not surprised that fantasy and sci-fi never make it onto such lists. For an outsider, these books might require too much focus and time investment, not to mention the necessity of settling into an entirely different world with different culture, history… but isn’t it like going on vacation abroad? Besides, any seasoned speculative fiction fan is well-accustomed to jumping into strange worlds.
I agree that summer in general and vacation in particular might not be the best time for an epic spanning 20 books or a particularly depressing grimdark novel, but there are many other options within speculative fiction to choose from.
So let’s have a look.
It’s the newest (at the time of writing this) trend in fantasy, and it seems perfect for summertime. The stakes are low, the stories are character driven, and a happy ending with no one dying is guaranteed. The book that, as far as I know, started this subgenre is Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldtree, but there are now many more books available, so there’s plenty to choose from.
I think it’s hard to at least not have heard about Terry Pratchett. This prolific author has created a vast universe of stories, most of them set in Discworld. There are plenty of books to choose from, and some of them form mini-series if you want to follow your favorite characters. At the same time, each Discworld book is somewhat of a standalone, so it’s only as much of a commitment as you want it to be.
Contrary to its name, science fiction isn’t always all about science, and doesn’t have to be a daunting read that requires at least one STEM degree to understand. There’s space (pun unintended) for spaceship battles, alien planets, and a lot of adventures.
If you don’t want your beach read to put you to sleep with its mellowness, an adventure-focused or fast-paced science fiction might be the right choice. Such books like Star Nomad by Lindsay Buroker or The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi might be a good choice for a vacation read.
Novellas are a great idea if you won’t have much time to read or don’t want to make too much of a commitment. For science fiction, there are Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells that also offer lovable (and relatable) protagonist, and if you’re craving fantasy, check out Swords of Haven by Simon Green—a compilation of three novellas featuring a married couple working as city guards and solving murder mysteries.
Romance of the SFF variety
And if you, in the end, crave some romance, you can always pick a book that marries (puns seems to happen in this text when I’m not looking) both of the worlds. The Witch’s Guide to Fake Dating a Demon by Sarah Hawley offers you all the beats of romance in a paranormal setting, and if you crave something more historical, Olivia Atwater’s Half a Soul might be for you. If you take your romance with a huge dose of science fiction, The Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha will provide you with both action and seduction. And that’s just a few examples.
Would my books be good beach reads?
I had to, of course, ask myself that question. My stories are on the brighter side, featuring happy endings, friendships, and friendly banter, but I thought that Humanborn might have a few darker themes that might not be suitable for a light summer read. Besides, the book is set in Dublin, during the dark and wet wintertime.
Pacts Arcane and Otherwise seem a better choice. Although it’s epic fantasy, it stays on the adventurous side and has an unbreakable friendship in its center. With only 4 books making the complete series, each around 300-350 pages, it could be a good choice for someone wanting to binge on a longer story without making a serious commitment. A seasoned reader could easily finish them all in a week.
What did I miss?
I’m sure there are many fantasy and science fiction books out there that could make it to our speculative beach reads list. Which ones do you think should definitely be on it? Why?