Trashy beach books are the BEST, aren’t they? Though all sorts of publications will tell you you should use your free summer hours to dive into the latest challenging bestsellers, I’m gonna tell you that ain’t no dedicated sunbather got time for that. If you’re spending a good chunk of time laying out in the sun, then you don’t need your brain challenged and provoked. You want some easy, fun escapism. There’s no shame in bringing Danielle Steele and Jackie Collins to the beach, dude. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a little fluffy reading once in awhile; after all, you’re still reading!
Here’s what should be in your “beach trash” library this summer. Most of these are easily found at your local thrift store, so it’s wins all around. Don’t forget your sunglasses!
I often refer to this frothy novel by “Vogue” contributor Sykes as my personal Bible. It’s a modern-day answer to Anita Loos’ classic “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” though in our era of Twitter and texting it can seem a bit dated. it seems bubbly and birdbrained as you skim through, but Sykes’ decidedly brunette narrator (known only as “Moi”) gets more clever jabs and smart observations about the New York social scene than you’d think at first read. Plus, it’s infinitely quotable. Also worth a beach read is Skyes’ second (though less amusing) novel, “The Debutante Divorcee.”
Was I the only 12-year-old who checked this book out from the library thinking it was YA literature from our beloved Blume, only to discover it was chock-full of sex and other adult themes? No. I know for a fact I wasn’t. “Summer Sisters” is the story of two best friends, the stalwart Vix and charismatic Caitlin, and their summers at the shore in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Like any teenage girls, they experiment with sex and booze, fall in love, fight and drift apart while remaining steadfast friends. When you read it in your twenties, it feels significantly less shocking and more true-to-life.
Everyone will tell you to read “Valley of the Dolls,” Susann’s most famous novel, but we’ve all been there, done that. “Once is Not Enough” is by far her trashiest, juiciest book, with a slightly-incestuous father/daughter relationship between movie producer Mike Wayne and his daughter January. There’s just as much sex, drugs and pill-popping as we read in “Dolls,” but Susann goes off the rails with “Once is Not Enough” like she never did with her other novels. It was her last book before her tragic death in 1974.
You want trashy? Then you want the OG V.C. Andrews novels. I’m not talking about the stuff they’ve been churning out under her name since she died in the ‘80s. I’m talking the “Flowers in the Attic” series (“Flowers,” “Petals on the Wind,” “If There Be Thorns,” “Seeds of Yesterday” and “Garden of Shadows”), the Heaven Casteel series (“Heaven” and “Dark Angel” were written by V.C. and the rest by a ghostwriter) and the stand-alone novel “My Sweet Audrina,” which is the most twisted of all. If you didn’t read these as a teenage girl, what the hell are you waiting for? Forget the Llfetime adaptations and get yourself the Dollanganger (read: “Flowers in the Attic” and its counterparts) series. “Petals on the Wind” may be my favorite “trashy” book of all time. It’s infinitely delicious.
Want a “smart” trashy book?
Then look no further than “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier. It’s what they used to a call a Gothic romance, with a mousy narrator married to a handsome, rich widower whose first wife’s glamorous, almost-sinister presence haunts their new home.
What are your favorite trashy beach reads? I need a few new ones in my beach bag.