It may not feel like it, but it is that time of year again: Time to pack your bags or your car or your kids, and head for what you hope will be sun and surf and peace and quiet. Spring break can have many different interpretations. It can mean chaperoning a high-school trip—or trying to avoid chaperons on a high-school trip. It can mean shuttling kids around an Orlando theme park, or it can even mean two weeks of It’s time for the kids to see Europe. It any event, whether land-locked, in flight or seaside, spring break always involves one thing: the beach read.

Now, the beach read is a far more complicated entity than one would initially suspect. Whether you’re a man reading Fifty Shades of Grey to find out 'what all the fuss is about,' or a frequent-flier who wants to read the memoirs of the Unibomber, there is the court of public opinion. You want to read something fun, something indulgent, but also something with which you wouldn’t mind getting caught. Even with a Kindle or an iPad, eyes pry. Not to mention the fact that it is absolutely perfectly acceptable at any time to ask anybody what they are reading. So unless you have a standard lie ready—I always say The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, because everybody knows the title, but few can remember what it’s about and fewer still would admit that—you need a book that holds your attention in a tabloid-smut kind of way yet isn’t embarrassing to admit to reading.

The Da Vinci Code may have been the world’s all-time greatest beach read. It was a fast-paced and lightly intellectual thriller in the guise of a brooding academic tome. When people asked you what you were reading, your reply was smug. And upon hearing the answer, there was no wrong reply. The inquisitor could say they hadn’t read it yet or launch into a dialogue about the prequel, Angels and Demons, which apparently no one noticed was the same damn book with a different title. 

I must say (again), there hasn’t really been one book—aside from the aforementioned erotica—that has been crowned undisputed king of the beach read. The Help came close, possibly Eat Pray (Doze). In any event, I have read, researched and reviewed, and have compiled a list of books that are compelling, perhaps even salacious, yet respectable enough to show the book jacket to the priest in the seat next to you.

Babayaga by Toby Barlow

No one seems to be able to nail down the genre on this one. It’s simply referred to as a novel “of love, spies and witches.”

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

The thriller, set in the arcane world of high fashion, was written by none other than J.K. Rowling.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Cecelia find’s an unusual letter of confession written by her husband that begins a compelling journey.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

See what the kids are reading: This sci-fi thriller deals with society’s intolerance in a dystopian future. Sound familiar?

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

This is a humorous and heartwarming novel about an iconoclastic wife and mother who suddenly disappears.

Inferno by Dan Brown

If you’re missing the Da Vinci Code days…

Bossypants by Tina Fey

If you read this parenting memoir without laughing out loud, I will be shocked.

Dress Rehearsal by Jennifer O’Connell

Chick lit is alive and well. Here, a celebrated wedding cake baker (designer?) has a sixth sense about the couples she encounters. And no, it was not a 2001 Jennifer Lopez film.

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