Are you an aspiring writer? Do you dream of completing your first novel? Then you should read this book.
Are you someone who doesn’t really love romance books, but you don’t mind a little “will they, won’t they?” Then you should read this book.
Are you an adult with a pulse? Then you should read this book.
Kidding. Kind of.
Beach Read by Emily Henry is already one one my favorite books ever, and I think much of that is attributable to Henry’s ability to create an effortlessly relatable story with characters that seem more like your long lost summer camp friends than fiction. It’s like they exist outside of the page.
Technically, this is a romance, but it didn’t feel like a typical romance novel. The dynamics and logistics and everyday experiences of being a writer with a complicated family history is what sealed the deal for me.
This novel has excellent re-readability, and if you love to write, Beach Read will make you want to start typing or scribbling away. As an aspiring writer myself, I was more motivated and encouraged to write than I’d been after reading any book specifically about writing. And that includes Stephen King’s On Writing, which I love.
One thing I will say is that for a book called Beach Read, very little time is actually spent on the beach. However, the title isn’t a mistake. You’ll just have to reach the end to fully understand it.
A Brief Summary
January Andrews is going through some stuff. Not only did her beloved father just pass away, she found out that he had been cheating on his mother pretty regularly. And her mom knew. Do you want to know how she found this out?
From her father’s mistress…at his funeral.
Not only did she loved a very dear loved one, her understanding of their “perfect” family dynamic was proven to be a farce, all in the span of a few days. Yikes.
About a year later, January, a 29-year-old romance novelist out of options, moves into her dad’s beach house (that he shared with his mistress) that she inherited. She is running behind on her deadline for her new book, so she desperately needs to write. Easier said than done when you make a living writing lovey-dovey romance largely inspired by the love your parents share (shared?), and you’re surrounded by reminders of your father’s other woman.
Not to mention, the next door neighbor is a nightmare…a nightmare from her past that takes the form of her condescending college rival (at least in her mind) — Augustus Everett. Augustus is also a writer, who writes real, literary novels. Not silly romance novels with vapid happy endings. He’s also “stupidly, infuriatingly attractive” (January’s words).
After a few tense run-ins in town, January and August make a bet. Turns out, they’re both struggling with their respective books, so they decide to switch writing styles. Augustus will try his hand at a romantic happy ending for once, and January will write a deep, dark literary masterpiece. Whoever’s novel is sold first wins.
They also agree to help the other research their new genre. January takes Augustus, or Gus as she tends to call him, to county fairs and line dances so he can see happy couples in love in the wild. Augustus takes January on several interviews with survivors from a suicide cult. Speaking of, this book does have a few dark points. There aren’t any gory details or long passages about disturbing subject matter, but it’s still good to know that dark topics are discussed going in.
What ensues is a painfully adorable story of learning about each other and themselves. All in the name of meeting a deadline.
I chose to make donuts because they’re featured in the first scene that January and Augustus have an actual conversation. They just left the Red, White Russians, and Blue book club, and January is annoyed and drunk. Augustus takes her to a donut shop to help her sober up. To January’s surprise, the shop owner has a rather interesting quirt:
Now don’t be alarmed,’ he [Augustus] said under his breath as I stepped past him.
‘What?’ I [January] turned back to ask.
‘Hello!’ a voice called brightly over the Bee Gees song crackling through the place.
I spun to face the man behind the illuminated display case. The radio sat there on the counter, producing at least as much static fuzz as crooning disco. ‘Hi,’ I replied.
‘Howdy,’ the man said with a deep nod. He was at least as old as my parents and wire-thin, his tick glasses held to his face with neon-yellow Croakies.
‘Hi,’ I said again. My brain was caught in a hamster wheel, the same realization playing over and over: this elderly gentleman was in his underwear.
‘Welllll, hello there!’ he chirped, apparently determined not to lose this game. He leaned his elbows on top of the case. His underwear, thankfully, included a white T-shirt, and he had mercifully opted for white boxers rather than briefs.
‘Hi,’ I said one last time.
Gus sidestepped between my open jaw and the counter. “Can we just do a dozen day-olds?’Beach Read, pg. 62 (Chapter 7)
The donuts come super smashed in a box and look “disgusting” but taste pretty good. This scene is as satisfying and illuminating as it is adorable, so making donuts to represent this book seems fitting. Of course, the ones I made were not smashed and disgusting (so I was told).
- 1¼ cups whole milk
- 2¼ tsps active dry yeast
- 8 tbsps melted unsalted butter cooled
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 4¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 quarts neutral oil I used canola.
- 1½ cups powdered sugar
- 2 – 3 tbsps whole milk
- 1½ tsps vanilla extract
Prepare the yeast.
- Warm milk to about 90°F. Mix the yeast into the milk and gently sir. Let the mixture sit. It's ready when it becomes foamy, which takes 5 – 10 minutes.
Start the dough.
- Beat eggs, melted butter (make sure it's cooled), sugar, salt, and yeast mixture on medium speed. Add the flour while mixing slowly, about a cup at a time.
- Once the dough is combined, knead it on a floured surface until smooth.
- Once smooth, set it in an oiled bowl that is at least twice the size of the dough. Cover it with a towel and let it rise at room temperature for about an hour.
Cut the donuts.
- Once your dough has rested for an hour, roll it out to about ½-inch thickness on a floured surface. Cut out donuts with concentric cookie cutters or a drinking glass for the large circle and a shot glass for the hole (this is what I did). Your donut cutter should be about 3" across. Cut until all dough is used.
- Place your cut donuts and donut holes on two floured baking sheets, ensuring to evenly space them out. Cover again with a towel and let them rest in a warm place for about 45 minutes. They should puff up quite a bit (see my photo above).
Heat the oil.
- When there's about 15 minutes left before the donuts are done rising, heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot such as a Dutch oven over medium heat.
- Heat to 375°F. While it's heating, line a surface, plate, or cooling rack with paper towels so you have a place to drain your donuts when they're done frying.
- Once your oil reaches 375°F, carefully place a few donuts into the oil using a metal utensil. After about a minute, flip them. You want them to be golden brown all over. Pay attention closely, as they will cook quite quickly, and the donut holes will cook even faster.
- Once done, drain the donuts and donut holes on paper towels. Glaze and decorate as desired and enjoy.
To make the glaze:
- Whisk powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract until smooth. Glaze donuts as desired.
Beach Read is such a good book. It’s light enough to read for escapism, yet it is anything but vapid. It’s my idea of a perfect romance novel, and I particularly love how it focuses on a writer’s life and different kinds of writers.
If you’re looking for a quick, enjoyable book with a sprinkle of heavy drama, I definitely recommend giving Beach Read a try.
Also, there is something so satisfying about a hot-from-the-oil donut, so give them a try as well! They pair exceptionally well with a heart-warming yet heart-shattering read like this one.