Best-Selling Author Emily Henry on Her 9 Summer Vacation Must-Haves—and Her Favorite Beach Reads of 2022

She’s back with Book Lovers, your new favorite summer novel.

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emily henry
Photo: Devyn Glista St. Blanc Studios

A few things always come to my mind when summer finally arrives: The scent of damp sunscreen mixed with chlorine. The faint whiffs of ripe strawberries from the farmer's market. The weight of my canvas tote bag carrying a water bottle and my favorite beach read as I make my way to the Hudson River waterfront in New York City.

Digging into a summer read is the activity I try particularly hard to indulge in every time warmer weather finally arrives, and if there's one author whose books I consistently turn to when May and June roll around, it's Emily Henry.

After all, the instant New York Times best-selling author wrote a beach read called Beach Read, the incredibly meta, funny, earnest, and poignant 2020 romance novel that has spent 43 weeks this year alone on The New York Times Best Seller list so far. She then outdid herself with the even more sensational People We Meet on Vacation, one of Real Simple's favorite romance novels and best books of 2021.

Now, she's back with Book Lovers, a clever fish-out-of-water story that reexamines the romance trope of the "cold woman" a Hallmark movie protagonist would often dump in order to find happiness in a small town. It instantly shot to No. 1 on the Times' best-seller list upon release in May, where it has been a mainstay ever since.

Book Lovers Book Cover

To buy: $12 (was $17);

Her books not only exemplify but heartily embrace the beach read genre, a category that the author loves. "With Beach Read, that was the goal from the very beginning," Henry told Real Simple in an interview. To her, the perfect vacation book has to be something with a strong enough hook. "I think that's why, for a lot of people, beach reads tend to be either romance or thriller, because those are two genres that are really built on the idea of tension and just a question from the very beginning, and a question is a really strong way to get someone into a story."

Before each new novel, Henry would start by looking at books with her editor for inspiration, and many of them are often vacation- and summer-centric books that take you on a trip; the "armchair travel book," as Henry described.

Summer vacations, in particular, play a big part in her last three books—her Beach Read protagonist January Andrews heads to Lake Michigan for a few weeks that change her life; People We Meet on Vacation is devoted to the summer trips its main characters Poppy Wright and Alex Nilsen take together around the world; and in Book Lovers, New York City literary agent Nora Stephens is convinced by her younger sister to take a "transformative" summer vacation to North Carolina.

It wasn't exactly intentional, Henry explained, that all three novels found their characters embarking on summer trips, but she's "always looking for that thing that's going to make the book feel really fun and escapist and in addition to just the story and the premise," she explained. The author added that she envisions more down the line in the same summery vein. "I want these to feel like vacation reads," she said of her works. "I want them to be the book you buy at the airport."

Beyond the airport, this summer you'll want to make Book Lovers the beach read you reach for wherever you go. Henry's newest book is her best yet: Inspired by the cold-hearted character a city-living romantic comedy protagonist would otherwise leave behind in order to be with their main love interest (think Parker Posey's Patricia Eden in You've Got Mail), Book Lovers sees Nora, the typical work-obsessed "city person," try her hand at her own version of a small town romance in fictional Sunshine Falls, North Carolina, after being continuously left by her exes for their own small town happy endings. Yet she keeps running into her professional nemesis Charlie Lastra from back in New York City, an equally wry editor who "smiles with knives," who's also in Sunshine Falls for his own reasons.

You can imagine the rest, but the breezy and vacation-y setting of North Carolina in the summer, the sizzling chemistry between Charlie and Nora, and the clever book-within-a-book structure of Book Lovers has made the novel one that simply can't be put down—the ultimate beach read of summer.

Henry's writing strikes all the right notes in crafting the perfect beach read: Sparkling dialogue, laugh-out-loud banter, and a deftly crafted storyline that reinvents a classic romance trope with such wit, it feels as if Henry is winking at die-hard romantic comedy fans as she lets us in on the joke.

"Some books you don't read as much as live," says Nora in the novel, "and finishing one of those always makes me think of ascending from a scuba dive. Like if I surface too fast I might get the bends." The exact same could be said about Book Lovers, which will leave you breathless by the time you reach the last page.

Until Henry's next book arrives (which she can share will touch on the "fake dating" romance trope), Book Lovers, People We Meet on Vacation, and Beach Read might still be the go-to novels occupying many of our travel totes this summer.

Yet if you're looking for more than just the perfect beach read to pack for your next vacation, the author has provided, in her own words, a list of nine must-haves she finds herself packing during summer trips. And as a bonus for those who have already fallen in love with Nora and Charlie after devouring Book Lovers, Henry has even imagined a list of products Nora wouldn't be able to live without on a summer trip, either.

Keep reading for Henry's summer travel must-haves—including, of course, the vacation books she's not putting down this season.

Emily Henry's Summer Travel Must-Haves

summer vacation trip essentials

Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter

"I don't like to mess with a lot of makeup when I'm traveling, but this is the perfect semi-sheer solution to even out skin tone and give you a glowy, sunkissed look. Honestly, just putting this on makes me want to sit out on a patio with a glass of wine."

summer vacation trip essentials

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

"Admittedly, I'm still using a Kindle from several generations back, but if and when this one kicks the bucket, I will immediately be investing in another one. I used to be the person who brings a whole separate backpack on trips, just for reading material. Now I might bring a hardcover or two, but rely mostly on e-books while traveling. I love that there's a built-in light so you can read without a lamp without waking your partner up, and also that they're somewhat waterproof, so you can take them on floats and boats without worrying too much."

summer vacation trip essentials

Kristin Ess Instant Lift Thickening Spray

"When I'm on vacation, I really want to spend as little time as possible on my hair. I've recently fallen in love with this thickening spray as a beachy alternative to heat styling. The bottle recommends using it before blow-drying, but I love the boost this gives my hair when I let it air dry. Also—and perhaps most importantly—it smells amazing."

summer vacation trip essentials

Curology Skincare Subscription

"Vacation is a time for a lot of sun, good food, and fun drinks—all of which tend to irritate my hyper-sensitive skin. Throw in air travel, and my skin freaks out. A few years ago. Curology's subscription service revolutionized my skincare game, and now I travel with only three products: cleanser, moisturizer, and my personalized prescription cream. (And sunblock, of course.) Highly recommend!"

summer vacation trip essentials

Paula's Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster

Paula's Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster is soothing and fast-acting, and I love to keep it on hand when I know I'll be dealing with a lot of my usual flare-up triggers."

summer vacation trip essentials

Nonchalant Label Fabi Wide Leg Pant

"Because they're a bit of an investment, I waffled about buying these trousers for months before finally buying them in rose, and I have no regrets. I'm going to be wearing these all summer long. They're so lightweight, but still look polished. I feel like I'm living my best Katharine Hepburn life whenever I put them on. They're extra long, which is great for the tall among us, but I hemmed mine so I can wear them with flats."

summer vacation trip essentials

Mario Badescu Lip Balm

"My skin always dries out while traveling, especially if I'm flying. This lip balm is my all-time favorite. It smells and feels great, and I genuinely notice a difference in the morning when I use this before bed."

summer vacation trip essentials

Bobbi Brown Beach Eau de Parfum

"Maybe this is cliché, but I bought this scent because it made me feel like I was on vacation, and now I always take it with me when I'm traveling. It's warm, and sexy, and somehow clean all at once."

summer vacation trip essentials

Bink Day Bottle

"I forget to drink water even while I'm at home, so if you put me on a beach or in a mountain town, I really need the reminder. This bottle has helpful little time markers on it to keep you on track with hydration throughout the day. It comes in a gorgeous array of understated colors. As a huge bonus, it's dishwasher safe, so you can throw it in your beach bag without figuring out how you're going to get the sand out of it later."

Emily Henry's Favorite Vacation Reads of the Summer:

Book Lovers' Nora Stephens' Vacation Must-Haves

Anyone who has read Book Lovers already knows how particular Nora is about her 45-minute nightly skincare routine, her impractical heels (although, there's "nothing impractical about looking hot," as Charlie says to Nora), and her love for a good fashion moment. Below, Henry imagined the five must-haves Nora would have otherwise brought with her to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina.

summer vacation trip essentials

Rare Beauty Lip Soufflé Matte Lip Cream

"I am obsessed with this silky smooth, vibrant lip cream—especially in the bright red shade, Inspire—and Nora would be too. A red lip is both glamorous and fun, and this one also hydrates and looks lovely even after several hours of wear."

summer vacation trip essentials

Neutrogena Invisible Daily Defense Face Serum SPF 60+

"Nora is obsessed with skincare, and there's no more important step to the process than using sunscreen. In general, I'm a huge fan of Neutrogena's affordable, no-frills approach to skincare, but this is an especially fantastic product, because it's fragrance-free (important for sensitive skin), hydrating, and sweat resistant, without leaving a cast."

summer vacation trip essentials

LMS The Naomi Heel

"Even on vacation, Nora is committed to heels, but I think she'd still want to mix up her usual style and go for something bold and playful like these strappy, square-toed sandals in this vibrant orange. These are so innately summery to me."

summer vacation trip essentials

Good American Always Fits Monokini One-Piece Swimsuit

This sexy one-piece (technically speaking at least), screams Nora to me. She would get it in black and pair it with gold hoops. I am extremely tempted to get it in hot pink for myself."

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