The 9 Best Beach Reads to Toss in Your Bag This Summer
RELATED: 7 Authors on the Books They’re Packing for Their Summer Vacations
The term “beach read” can be misleading. Some people who know the ins and outs of the book trade believe the concept of summer beach reads emerged in the late 1930s with the advent of paperback novels. But the term “beach reads” didn’t come into wide use until the 1990s. Usually, when most people think of good beach reads, they think of women’s fiction, romance novels, cozy mysteries, and similar genres. For others, good books to read on the beach must also be set at the beach. But where did these ideas come from? Perhaps it’s because our culture associates easy-reading themes with genres dominated by women, whereas genres dominated by men are supposedly more discerning. Luckily, we know better by now. Your picks can be whatever genre you want them to be, whether that’s literary fiction, memoirs, essays, historical fiction, thrillers, or books set on the beach.
For this list of good beach reads, we’ve chosen new releases that will keep your attention even while seagulls are cawing and kids are splashing in the background. Our list includes smart women’s fiction, a beachy thriller, a romance, and some delicious historical fiction. Even though most of these books aren’t set at the beach, they’re definitely smart reads that will keep you glued to your lounge chair. Just make sure you don’t forget the sunscreen!
Evvie Drake Starts Over, by Linda Holmes
Widowed Evvie has become a shut-in, confining herself to her house in Maine. Her best friend Andy thinks it might be her grief. Meanwhile in New York, Andy’s friend Dean, a major-league pitcher, has lost his game. He can’t throw straight. So on Andy’s suggestion, Dean comes to Maine in hopes of getting out of his head. Soon, a bond forms between Evvie and Dean, but they can’t move on with each other without tackling the past. This novel is smart and sweet—a perfect fit for your beach bag.
To buy: $17, amazon.com.
The Wedding Party, by Jasmine Guillory
Summertime is wedding season. In other words, welcome to the season of awkward situations. It seems like one is coming for Maddie and Theo. They’re both best friends with Alexa, but they can’t stand each other. But since Alexa is getting married, they have to put their differences aside to share wedding party duties. One thing leads to another, and their animosity soon transforms into attraction, and then something more. If you want a juicy, modern twist on the classic enemies-to-lovers romance, Guillory has you covered with The Wedding Party.
To buy: $11, amazon.com.
The Golden Hour, by Beatriz Williams
Beatriz Williams has been a long-time favorite historical fiction writer for many. She’s always finding new stories in the twists and turns of the past. In The Golden Hour, she takes us to the Bahamas in 1941. World War II is wreaking havoc a world away, but in the Caribbean, Lulu Randolph is on the trail of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, investigating them for a New York society magazine. She makes some big discoveries. There may be treason afoot. If you’re looking for a tale of espionage in a suitably tropical locale, pick up a copy of this page-turner.
To buy: $18, amazon.com.
Park Avenue Summer, by Renée Rosen
Park Avenue Summer brings together everything you could want in a book: New York City in the sexy 1960s, a brash female protagonist—and real history. Rosen based her novel on the early career of iconic and infamous Helen Gurley Brown, the first female editor in chief of Cosmopolitan. Her fame and scandal come alive in this book as main character Alice Weiss begins her career in the glamorous world of magazines. If you loved Mad Men and The Devil Wears Prada, you’ll devour this book while soaking up the sun.
To buy: $13, amazon.com.
City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert
Gilbert, the bestselling author of Big Magic and Eat, Pray, Love, is back on the scene with a new novel, and this one is set in the sultry world of New York’s theater scene in the 1940s. After being kicked out of Vassar College, Vivian Morris moves to Manhattan to live with her aunt, the owner of a down-on-its-luck playhouse. There, Vivian meets showgirls, actors, writers, and other eccentric types, all living unconventional lives that are as scandalous as they are free. You’ll get lost in this one.
To buy: $17, amazon.com.
The Flatshare, by Beth O’Leary
The Flatsharedoesn’t take place at the beach, but its breezy prose and fun plot will have you hooked from the first page. Tiffy Moore and Leon Twomey end up having to share a London flat—and a bed. Tiffy works days at a publishing house, and Leon works nights as a nurse, creating an odd living arrangement complete with Post-It note messages and, perhaps, a blossoming love affair.
To buy: $18; amazon.com.
The East End, by Jason Allen
This beach read is actually set at the beach—the Hamptons, precisely. Corey Halpern witnesses the tragic death of a billionaire’s lover. What will he do when the billionaire tries to cover it up? This novel of scandal and secrets digs into the influence of wealth, privilege, and class and will keep you on the edge of your Adirondack chair.
To buy: $18; amazon.com.
Age of Light, by Whitney Scharer
Age of Light begins in Paris, the city of light, at the end of the Roaring 20s. Model Lee Miller becomes involved with Man Ray, a photographer who soon proves himself to be charismatic but egotistical. As war looms across Europe, Lee starts to break the bonds of her modeling career. Wanting to go from being the subject of art to an artist herself, she travels to document the horrors of war. This story of love and ambition shines a light on an important but lesser-known figure from the past.
To buy: $16, amazon.com.
I Owe You One, by Sophie Kinsella
I Owe You One is just the kind of delectable read we’ve come to expect from Shopaholic series queen Sophie Kinsella. Would you cash in an IOU from a stranger? In I Owe You One, we find out what happens when Fixie takes up a promise from Sebastian, an investment banker whose computer she saves in the coffee shop where she works. She asks Sebastian to give her childhood crush Ryan a job, and he agrees. But perhaps she’s gone too far with her habit of trying to fix everything.This one's a light and fast summer beach read that's perfect for picking up on the sand.
To buy: $12; amazon.com.