The 7 Best Beach Reads to Toss in Your Bag This Summer
It's beach reads season! You already have your swimsuit and beach towel ready (even if it’s just for the backyard), but no beach bag is really complete without some good beach reads. For many of us, the best beach reads are light and breezy. They could be books that are set at the beach or books about taking a vacation. Whatever kind of book you choose, make sure it’s something that helps you escape.
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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, our editors share their favorites 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 sweeping family epic, a (zombie!) 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!
Diamond Head by Cecily Wong
Chinese legend says an invisible red string binds each person to the one they’re destined to marry. Cecily Wong’s Diamond Head follows the journey of three generations of the Leong family, from China to Hawaii, as they discover how much of their story is left to fate.—Stephanie Sisco, home director
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
In Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers, immigrant couple Jende and Neni hustle to raise their young son in “the center of the world”—New York City—as their lives get tangled up in the unhappy marriage of a wealthy investment banker. The plot is packed and fast-paced, and the writing is funny (there’s an ode to shopping at T.J. Maxx, and I’ve never felt more seen) and heartbreaking, just the way I want it.
—Rory Evans, executive editor
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Fates and Furies will hook you immediately—Lauren Groff’s writing is so good. The novel gives you a front-row seat to a marriage in which the spouses have radically different interpretations of every interaction. It’s one big voyeuristic, twisted tale of character development you won’t be able to put down.
—Betty Gold, senior digital food editor
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
Warm Bodies is the most beautiful zombie apocalypse story you’ll ever read. Isaac Marion’s novel centers on a mentally astute zombie who can experience people’s memories when he eats their brains. R falls in love with a human, and in the process becomes more human himself.
—Hana Hong, associate digital editor
Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley
In Lily and the Octopus, Steven Rowley describes the companionship between struggling writer Ted and his 12-year-old dog, Lily. It’s a peculiar story—Lily fills Ted in on everything from her daily aches to her celebrity crushes—but their love is fierce and familiar.
—Rachel Sylvester, senior editor
The Power by Naomi Alderman
The Power by Naomi Alderman creates a gripping alternate reality where women discover their ability to administer deadly electric shocks. As knowledge of this power spreads, it upends the foundations of every society in the world.
—Courtenay Smith, contributing editor
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko, about four generations of a Korean family that immigrated to Japan, is both the longest book I’ve read in years and the one I didn’t want to end. Pachinko, a pinball-esque slot machine game that’s addictively popular in Japan, becomes a family business for one character. But it’s really a metaphor for the book’s ricochet between despair and hope, and for Lee’s choice to tell the story from multiple perspectives, which she does deftly.
—Liz Vaccariello, editor in chief