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Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

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Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Austin Bound: The Beach Read

Editor’s Note: This podcast was originally published on Spotify on Sept. 5, 2023. 

In this new series, associate audio editor Melody Jones discusses and reviews book recommendations from the UT and Austin communities. For the first episode, she talked with two UT librarians about what makes the perfect beach read. Check out Gina and Sarah’s recommendations below!

Reported and edited by Melody Jones. Supervision from audio editor Molly-Jo Tilton. Cover art by Ana Campos. Ambient Seaside Waves sound by Inspector J. Music Tidal Foam and Kestral from Blue Dot Sessions.


*Beach waves* 


Melody Jones: In the midst of record-breaking heat, students such as myself search for one last getaway before summer officially ends. 


*fade out summer sounds, fade in music*


Melody: A great way to escape triple-digit temperatures is the tried and true beach read. 


Welcome to episode one of Austin Bound. A podcast about reading from an Austin perspective. This week, UT Librarians Gina Bastone and Sarah Brandt shared their thoughts on Summer reading. Gina and Sarah each offer curated research guides in their fields of study, and while they’re happy to help a student in need, they also love to highlight student book recommendations and even share some of their own.  Here’s that conversation.  


Melody: I’m really excited to be talking about you know, leisurely reading, because I mean, so much of your work is collecting these really hard and challenging, like scholarly works. But there’s so many other parts of reading that, you know, isn’t really explored when you are in college.


Melody: I mean, publications are always recommending a summer read. So I wanted to hear from you guys, what do you define summer reading as


Gina Bastone: I definitely think of it as the time we kept talking about the beach read like the book you take with you to the beach. you want something a little bit escapist I think you don’t want to think too much. At the same time. I think a really good summer read, especially something you’re taking on vacation needs to be light enough that you have that your brain kind of turns off. But it’s also got some stakes


Sarah Brandt: Yeah, we were talking about this for a while. And actually while we were planning for this conversation, Gina and I had this like brainstorming document and we’d be like, Oh, is this a beach? Summer read? And at the end of the day, we were like is this just books we like? But I do think that that that like fun, readable? You know, like those books that you’re like, Oh man, I I’m gonna blow through this in a day because yes, I’m like sitting in an airport or I’m on the beach and I’m just gonna like blow through this.


Sarah: And that can be like so many genres, so many different kinds of books, but it’s that like Ooh, I’m really into this. I want to keep reading it. That to me really, really says, this is a summer vacation read, you know?


Melody: Yeah, I love what you’re said about the beach read and leisure read, because I’m definitely on the same want something that you can relax with. But of course, you’re also mentioned that other people have different tastes. And I feel like one of those tastes is that some people want something that is challenging to read during the summer, that they may not have the bandwidth, I guess, to read when they’re doing studying. So I would just like to know, what do you how do you all stand on that? 


Sarah: This is very funny, because when we were brainstorming, I put on the list as a category like bucket list books, right? 


Sarah: And yeah, I think a project book can have a place in summertime, especially when you’re a student 


Sarah: So sure if you have a if you have a classic that you’ve always wanted to read, now’s a good time for it


Gina: And I think those like older novels, more classic novels I’ll say with like Jane Austen. 


Gina: the content, as Sarah said, is like the template for the modern rom com. And yet some of the language and the pros can be something you have to sit with. And you have to spend a little more time with and maybe that’s in the summer when you’re not focused on all your other schoolwork. both of those examples Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice and they’re, they’re, they’re fun. They’ve got some drama, they’re, you know, they they also fit. I think they fit the category.


Melody: Yeah, a rom com is not the, I guess, someone’s initial thought of something with substance. But Jane Eyre and Jane Austen proved that they can have really good themes in them. And so I’m wondering, you know, we talked about the rom com a lot. I feel like romance summer romance is one of the most biggest genres in summer reading. But what other genres do y’all personally gravitate towards it during the summer time?


Gina: So I think we’re both sci fi fantasy. Maybe I’m more sci fi. There’s more fantasy.


Sarah: I think that’s true. Yeah. Yeah. That’s a big one for me. Okay, but I want to talk about romance for one second day. Because I do think there is this like guilt associated with it. And I think that a we don’t do guilt to know with if you’re reading you’re reading like, yeah,


Gina: it’s like I said, you like what you like,


Sarah:  it’s wonderful. If you’re reading you’re reading don’t feel guilty for what you’re reading, unless it’s like, just racist, I guess. I mean, like, but for rom coms, or romance in general, what what I think one of the things that people really gravitate towards with romance is that it is really about self actualization, right? The plot isn’t just about, like, how are they going to get together, although that is important. It’s also about like, how do these two people become the people that they have to be in order to, to have a relationship that works. 


Sarah: And I think that’s part of why we come back to romance and even in the summer why romance is so popular. Like, yes, it’s light. And it’s fun. And those books can be funny and frothy, right? Or some of them can be some more serious, but they I think that as a as a genre, that is one thing that is really common across the genre that it’s about it improving or actualizing into the best version of yourself. So okay, that’s my romance soapbox. 


Sarah: I think world building, right? 


Gina: Yes yes. I love when world building is both very thorough, and not obvious. Like, there’s nothing to me more annoying in a sci fi book than where it’s like a whole lot of explanation. You never want that you never want to be taken out of the narrative. Because I think part of what I find so fun about sci fi and fantasy is the getting to imagine something wholly and utterly different. But yes, world building is incredibly important. But I also feel like it has to feel natural in the writing. You want to suspend that disbelief as long as possible.


Sarah: I think you’re so right about world building being your if you’re on vacation, then your brain also gets to take a vacation from the actual world, right? You get to you get to travel into this other world. And I think that that’s why fantasy or sci fi as a genre is so satisfying when you’re talking about summer reads.


Melody: So we are talking about fantasy, sci fi, and also romance being some genres that, you know, we may want to read during the summer. And even though they can have their similarities, there are some very distinct differences between the genres. So I want to know, what do you think unites all of these summer reads together?


Sarah: I mean, again, I think at the end of the day, what we landed on is like, whatever you want to read is fine, but I do think that genre books in particular really excel at being page turning, right? Where I’m like, I just want to stay here. I can’t come back to the real world.


Gina: I think you’re right, Sarah, it’s that that unputdownable aspect of like, and even when you kind of know where the story is going, but you don’t care. And escapism. I do think escapism plays a role in these as well. I agree.


Melody: Yes, I definitely think escapism is one of, in reading in general, but especially in summer reading, one of the biggest things that we all gravitate towards


Melody: So definitely something that can keep you engaged, even when you want to be having a break is something that I would say, defines a summer read. And so, we’ve been talking all about summer reads. And I’m super excited because you guys have some submarine recommendations for me, so we can finally get into what you guys have brought for me to read today.


Sarah: So my pick is Every Heart a Doorway, which is the first book in a series by Seanan McGuire. So this is a series that even though there are eight books, you could probably plow through it in a couple of days. Just because they are, they’re more like 160 pages, right? Sort of novella length. But the premise of these books and man I love them is that the first one is set at a home for wayward children and the wayward children in this case, are kids who have gone through a portal into another world. 


Sarah: And so they’ve gone into their perfect fantasy land. And for some reason, they couldn’t stay.


Sarah:  And then this one actually turns into kind of a mystery, because at the school, people start getting killed. Right? Which sounds, this sounds like not the light beach read that we were talking about. But it is really propulsive and you can’t put it down. And again, 


Sarah: it has that challenge of reentry. And it’s really interesting to have a series of books that tackles that question.


Melody: You know, the thing that you mentioned about the kind of challenge between switching between you know, this other world and then your real world, even though it’s obviously not as severe but I feel like college students kind of feel that a lot. I mean, I talked about it with my friends, that it’s kind of like living a double life. I go to college and I’m completely different because I’m in work mode. I come back here it’s all break time. So yeah, that’s it sounds like a super cool read. 


Melody: Gina, do you want to tell me about the book that you brought?


Gina: Sure. One thing we talked about was the fun of reading a book that’s set in the place you’re going to travel to, or maybe the place you just traveled to. And last fall, I went to Paris for the first time. And after I got back, I read this book called The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy, which is set in Paris, but it was published in the 50s. So this is like kind of an unusual pick, because it’s a older book. But it is very much a summer read kind of book because the protagonist of the data book, and the duck avocado herself, is this character named Sally J. gorse, who is definitely the original Emily Cooper before Emily in Paris, in 1958, and she, she’s 21 years old. She has a rich uncle who gives her some money to go live in Paris for a couple of years. And his only requirement is that she goes and has fun and has adventures and then goes back and tells him all about it. 


Gina: it’s kind of the template for kind of like Jane Austen, it’s a template for a story that might seem familiar, because all these other stories have kind of been based on it. And the other thing I think that’s interesting about it is it got lost to time a little bit. It was a hit novel when it was released. And then everyone kind of forgot about Elaine Dundee by the end of the 60s. And yet it still feels really fresh and fun and 2023. And I think if you if you have that European vacation or not, maybe you’re just maybe you want to go to Paris, this might be the book to like help you escape there.


Melody: Yeah, it sounds like a good read again both of  y’all brought such good reads like, I feel like The Dud Avocado definitely has a bunch of paragons is that the right word of, you know, true beach read, it’s episodic, you can pick it up, you can put it down. And at the end, it’s kind of low consequence because her only goal is to go to Paris have fun and then come back and tell her uncle all about it. So yeah, yeah, that’s really cool. I’m so


Sarah: like that it’s funny. We hadn’t like touched on humor, about retreats. But that’s so true. Well, so.


Melody: Yeah, Beach Reads, definitely,  that’s I feel one of the reasons why beach reads summer reads have so much staying power. I mean, they’ve been around since the 1800s. Since the summer vacation around to America. And so I guess as like a closing sentiment. Why do you guys think that beach reads and summer reads are still so popular? 




Sarah: I think it’s just partly because that’s people when people have time to read more. They have more time to read in the summer. Or, and I think some similar things apply to like Gina said, you’re like winter vacation read, like, at the holidays, I think people have a little bit more time to read. And I think they’re similar books that really grab you, you know? Um, I think that’s that’s a huge part of it.


Gina: I also think there’s, I was gonna crack a joke that it’s because public libraries have those summer reading challenges. Like, that’s my personal pan pizza


Sarah: Like, that’s my personal pan pizza that Pizza Hut gives out


Gina: Yeah Yeah, no, but I do think that it has kind of become a cultural thing, it’s like a seasonal thing you can look forward to


Gina: And it’s sort of that I give myself almost like a little treat, like, I’m gonna treat myself to, you know, a fun book. And that’s kind of part of the fun of taking a break and going on vacation. You know, it’s just like, I’m gonna buy myself a an ice cream that I wouldn’t normally get, and I’m gonna get a, a fluffy book that I wouldn’t normally maybe normally picked up in another circumstance.


Melody: I’m so grateful that Gina and Sarah took time out of their Summer vacations to provide some great recommendations for me, and with that, I have some thoughts to share. Starting with The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy. This book isn’t the type I’d reach for on my own but it did prove to be a great summer read. I had to fit The Dud Avocado between work, birthday parties, and a couple of sick days, so episodic chapters were a perfect break. As I expected The Dud Avocado has many staples of a summer read but what sets it apart from other Summer getaway books is the protagonist Sally Jay Gorce and her witty retelling of events. I don’t know Paris or the 1950s very well so I did have to pause and look up some words and phrases here and there, but Sally-Jay’s quips about Paris, glamor, artistry, and adulthood remain timeless. She experiences Paris curious and unconcerned with the consequences of her actions. Some might call it ditsy but I think it takes some serious thought to wind up in all the wrong places. Unlike a romance novel though, these mishaps don’t lead to anything. For a time, Gorce accomplishes her goal of escaping a dull life, and that’s it. There are some tough moments for her, but she comes out mostly unscathed. I wasn’t sure if I liked the lack of character development but I think it’s an accurate depiction of being in your 20’s. Either way, I enjoyed witnessing her antics just as much as some of the side characters in The Dud Avocado did. 


Melody: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan Mcguire on the other hand was not as loose and light as Sally-Jays stories. Despite how short it is this book is dense with careful worldbuilding and character exploration. Instead of being along for the ride on a fun adventure, we see the aftermath of it. Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children houses a mix of interesting characters forever changed by their lives in another world. Although we don’t witness the fantasy firsthand the characters are clear reflections of their worlds, some full of whimsy and nonsense while others are stoic and morbid. While they are very different, they share the same trauma of being cast out from a place they loved, and rejected by friends and family who don’t understand their change. This book is a great analogy for personal identity and expression and does a fantastic job at depicting what it’s like to grow out of a place you once loved, all while being a surprisingly delightful murder mystery. Seriously, this book has a lot going on for being so little. I’m not sure if it’s everyone’s ideal for a summer read with how fast and how much it is but it sure is mine. 


Melody: With these two books combined, I feel like I’ve gotten the whole Summer reading package. A bit of romance, a bit of beach, a healthy dose of discovery, a twang of sadness, a perfect escape, and most of all, a good conversation about books. Something I failed to mention in the interview is how nice it is to have a season dedicated to sharing your favorite books. Whether they’re lighthearted or challenging, it’s awesome that a whole community of book lovers has sprung from this Summer phenomenon. 


Melody: I’m Melody Jones and this has been a production of the Daily Texan Audio Department, edited and reported by me. Supervision from audio editor Molly-Jo Tilton.Cover art by Ana Campos. Ambient Seaside Waves sound by InspectorJ of Music Tidal Foam and Kestral from Blue.Dot Sessions Listeners looking for more recommendations can check out the transcript of this podcast for a full list of Summer read recs from Gina and Sarah. For those who have recommendations of their own to share, feel free to send a rec to Gina and Sarah, so it can be displayed in the 3rd floor of the PCL Library. And one more special thanks to Gina Bastone and Sarah Brandt for the great recommendations. Thank you for listening. 


Gina and Sarah’s Summer Read Recs

Sarah’s Top Pick: Every Heart a Doorway (and the Wayward Children series) by Seanan McGuire

Gina’s Top Pick: The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy


Sci-fi/Fantasy Series You Can’t Put Down


Heart-pounding Thrillers


Sweet & Cozy Romance


Laugh Til You Cry


Non-fiction Bangers


Childhood Favorites


Books set where you’re traveling (or want to!)




“Going back” had two distinct meanings at the school, depending on how it was said. It was the best thing in the world. It was also the worst thing that could happen to anybody. It was returning to a place that understood you so well that it had reached across realities to find you, claiming you as its own and only; it was being sent to a family that wanted to love you, wanted to keep you safe and sound, but didn’t know you well enough to do anything but hurt you. The duality of the phrase was like the duality of the doors: they changed lives, and they destroyed them, all with the same, simple invitation. Come through, and see.”

      -Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire


“What happens when your curiosity just suddenly gives out? When the will and the energy snap and it all seems so once-over-again? What’s going to happen to me five years from now, when I wake in the night (or can’t sleep in the first place like now), take a deep breath to start all over again, and find that I’ve no breath left? When I start running again and find I can’t even put one foot in front of the other? Then,  from outer space, that librarian who is going to be me, who is me, that dreaded librarian from outer space who is always waiting for me, always ready to pounce, is going to take over. And I’ll be cooked. If I don’t stop it. Stop it!”

-The Dud Avocado, Elaine Dundy 

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