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“Caught My Eye” by Katina: Inventing the Beach Read

by | Jun 25, 2022 | 0 comments


Inventing the Beach Read appears in JSTOR Daily and is by Livia Gershon, a freelance writer in Nashua, New Hampshire.

1895: A group of holiday-makers sunning themselves on the beach at a South Coast resort. (Photo by Express/Express/Getty Images)

“It’s the season for flopping on the beach with a romance novel or tucking a thriller into your carry-on bag. As English and Communications scholar Donna Harrington-Lueker writes, light reading has been associated with summer vacations for a long time.

“In the early 1800s, Harrington-Lueker writes, many well-to-do Americans began taking time off in the summer to travel by railroad or steamship to picturesque destinations like Niagara Falls or the Catskills. Within a century, the middle and even working classes were increasingly enjoying summer travel, even if it was just a day trip to the beach.

It didn’t take long for publishers to see an opportunity. In 1853, Boston’s Ticknor, Reed & Fields published A Book for the Sea-Side, a collection of ocean-themed poetry featuring work by Lord Alfred Tennyson, William Wordsworth, and others. In 1872, the Book Buyer, a trade journal from the Charles Scribner publishing house, ran its first ads for books explicitly labeled “summer reading.” Among the beach reads of the 1870s was Scribner’s own Bric-A-Brac series, gossipy stories about famous authors. In 1876, the Book Buyer reported that “‘Have you seen the new Bric-A-Brac’ was as common a question at Newport and Saratoga as ‘Shall you be at the hop [dance] tonight?’”

Soon, Harrington-Lueker reports, each summer brought a flurry of novels that were both literally and figuratively lightweight...”

Please click here to read the entire article as it appears in JSTOR Daily.


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