Keeping Up With The Penguins

Reviews For The Would-Be Booklover

6 Best Classics For Your Beach Bag

Picture this: you’re relaxing on a beach, in the sunshine, sipping something delicious, the scent of salt and sunscreen in the air. You reach over to your beach bag to pull out a good book. Is it a classic? Probably not. Most people don’t associate the classics with light vacation reading. I think these books get a bad rap for being too heavy, too dense, too difficult – but don’t fall victim to it! Sure, some of them aren’t ever going to be quick reads, but some of them would suit a lazy beach holiday better than you’d think. Plus, there’s hundreds of years of back-catalogue to choose from, so you can be sure there’s something for everyone! Here’s my definitive list of the best classics for your beach bag.

The Best Classics For Your Beach Bag - Text Overlaid on Image of Red Bag on a Beach - Keeping Up With The Penguins
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Like Romance?

Pride And Prejudice - Jane Austen - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Try Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen

It’s not exactly a bodice-ripper, but Pride And Prejudice has all of the sexual tension and happily-ever-afters a romance reader could hope for. Austen’s classic novel follows the lives and loves of the Bennet sisters, with more than one inheritance hanging in the balance. There’s scandal, there’s snogging, there’s love letters, and there’s longing. I was skeptical at first, and it took me a few goes to get on board with P&P, but I’m so glad I persisted! Plus, if nothing else, it’ll feel good to tick this classic off your list and put the days of pretending to have read it behind you. Read my full review of Pride And Prejudice here.

Like Mystery?

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Try The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you need something that you can dip in and out of without losing track, short story collections are just what you need. And this one is a classic! Light, funny, and with just enough spooky mystery, a summer holiday is the perfect time to re-acquaint yourself with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Always accompanied by his trusty side-kick Dr Watson, this world-famous detective battles everything from jealous husbands to the Ku Klux Klan. And Doyle’s economy of language is truly masterful; it’ll take you longer to describe one of the stories to someone than it does for you to read them! Read my full review of The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes here.

Like Children’s Books?

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Try Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

If you think you can tick this one off your list because you saw the Disney movie, think again! So much of the comedy and cleverness of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland comes from Carroll’s brilliant wordplay, and the only way to fully appreciate it is to read it for yourself. Plus, if you’re looking to steer clear of anything too dark or emotional, you can’t do better than this absurdist children’s tale. Down the rabbit hole you go! Read my full review of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland here.

Like Adventure?

The Thirty Nine Steps - John Buchan - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Try The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

This slim tome will fit in even the most crammed of beach bags – so that’s a good start! The Thirty-Nine Steps is the definitive spy thriller; you’ll recognise its archetypes from every action movie you’ve ever seen. The hero, Richard Hannay, has a miraculous ability to squeeze out of tight spots, and you’ll be gripping the pages trying to figure out how he’ll manage it next! Read my full review of The Thirty-Nine Steps here.

Like Comedy?

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - Anita Loos - Books Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Try Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos

Forget The Great Gatsby: this is the best book to transport you back to the glitz and glamour of the Jazz Age. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes alternates laugh-out-loud observational comedy with biting social commentary, all told from the journals of fictional socialite Lorelei Lee. Follow her across the world, as she and her best friend make fools of the wealthy men who think they’re in control. Read my full review of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes here.

Honourable mention: if the heat is getting to you, try Cold Comfort Farm instead. Another classic often overlooked for its male-authored contemporaries, this charming satire is set in chilly England, the perfect antidote to heatstroke in summer. Read my full review of Cold Comfort Farm here.

Like True Crime?

In Cold Blood - Truman Capote - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Try In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

You can’t call yourself a true crime aficionado without having read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, the book that revolutionised the genre. He might have skipped a couple of journalistic integrity lessons, but this novelistic re-telling of the Clutter family’s murder is as enthralling as it is beautifully told. This is one of the best classics for your beach bag when you’ve got the day to yourself and you crave something that’ll get your cogs turning. Read my full review of In Cold Blood here.


  1. Excellent choices, one and all! I had a hard time with some of Jane Austen’s books when I read them for the first time too, but I’ve always found they repay rereading. It took me at least three tries to get through Emma, and now it’s tied with P&P for my first favorite Austen novel!

    • ShereeKUWTP

      June 8, 2019 at 7:38 PM

      Yes, persistence is key! And I think it’s coming to them at the right time in life, too, as with so many of the classics – the book needs to catch you at the right moment. I feel like I’m more and more an Austen convert every day!

  2. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a favorite movie of mine, but I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t realize it was a book until I first read your List. 🙈 I bet the book is hilarious!

    Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is going in my beach bag tomorrow. 😊

    • ShereeKUWTP

      June 8, 2019 at 7:36 PM

      Hey, no judgment – I had no idea either until I put together the list! 😂 Here’s a sneak peek for you: I’ll be reviewing both the book and the movie side-by-side soon… 😉

  3. Patricia Anne Bryan

    June 12, 2019 at 2:46 PM

    Cliche list!What about introducing we avid readers to less well known or underrated classics!I reread I,Claudius for our latest Bookclub task and what a joy,what an eye opener.

    • ShereeKUWTP

      June 13, 2019 at 12:29 PM

      Ha! Sorry to let you down Patricia 😉 I would have thought Cold Comfort Farm – and even, to an extent, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Thirty-Nine Steps – might meet the criteria for less well known and underrated, but it’s all in the eye of the beholder. Hopefully even the avid readers will get a kick out of revisiting some of the favourites, as you did with I, Claudius. Happy reading! ❤️

  4. Great selection of books. Pride and Prejudice is my favourite! I’m working my way through my collection of Daphne du Maurier books so I would add one of her books to my beach bag.

  5. Yes I’m with the Movie of Gentlemen prefer blondes but only because of Marilyn, otherwise it seemed pretty thin to me.

    • ShereeKUWTP

      June 14, 2019 at 4:53 PM

      The book has a lot more going for it IMHO – I’ll be reviewing both here on the blog soon (book and movie), but I’ll give you a heads up that the book was definitely the winner for me.

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