Looking for your next good book for the beach? These five are perfect for your summer reading list.

By Rebecca Renner
Updated March 11, 2019
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We believe in always having a good book on hand. Once the weather warms up our attention turns to good books to read during summer vacation. But how do you choose? There’s so much more out there than the classic beach read. Literary fiction can make you tingle with summer warmth, mysteries will have you on the edge of your deck chair, and true crime will give you the shivers.

Good books about summer are as much about place as they are about the season. In our collective psyche as readers, some settings are “summer” places, like the Hamptons and the states of Florida, Hawaii, and California. Islands always bring to mind summer breezes, even if they technically have winter, too, and cruises evoke a spirit of leisure that is hard to separate from the balmiest season.

In fiction, summer often acts like a symbol. In The Great Gatsby, not only does the entire novel take place in the span of a summer; the heat also acts like a foil to make the characters seem trapped and their interactions feel more tense. Atonement, by Ian McEwan evokes feelings of summer as well, especially with the scenes of certain characters soaking wet in the early parts of the novel.

In the noir genre, heat serves as a stand-in for grit. Classics of the genre are steeped in sweat. The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler takes place in Hollywood in the 1930s, and the Southern California heat soaks the story, even if it’s hardly mentioned.

When it comes to choosing a summer read, decide where you want to go in your imagination. Will you stay in the States or take a mental trip to an island paradise? These five good books will take you wherever you want to go.

Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

1

What could be more summery than a cruise? An engrossing book about a disappearance. Put those two together, and you have The Woman in Cabin 10. The story begins with Lo Blacklock, a travel journalist who is been assigned to write about the cruise ship. At first, the voyage is everything she expected. It’s glamorous and luxurious. But when a storm overtakes the ship, Lo believes that she sees someone push of a woman overboard. Did it really happen? Join Lo as she searches for the truth.

To buy: $12, amazon.com.

Courtesy of Penguin Random House

2

Summer at the shore takes on a relaxed pace in Maine. In this highbrow beach read, the Kelleher family, including three generations of women, convenes for the summer at their beach house. Other than their DNA, they share little in common. As always, whenever families get together, the past comes bubbling to the surface. Maine has its humorous moments and its sad ones, and it will leave you feeling nostalgic for summers with your family, despite any rough patches.

To buy: $12, amazon.com.

Courtesy of Penguin Random House

3

The year is 1969 and rumors are swirling about Kya Clark, the “Marsh Girl” of Barkley Cove, North Carolina. When a man is found dead, the town suspects Kya, a wild, otherworldly beauty. This mystery novel is a slow build, worthy of all the excitement it has generated this year. Venture into the marshlands of the North Carolina coast within these pages. As you uncover secrets hidden beneath the surface of the enigmatic landscape, you may also discover something about yourself.

To buy: $16, amazon.com.

Courtesy of Penguin Random House

4

The state of Florida is home to its fair share of summer scenes: famous amusement parks, white-sand beaches, and T-shirt weather all year round. You may think you are ready know the state, but the real Florida will surprise you. Lauren Groff shows off all its wild, wonderful, and mysterious glory in this phenomenal short story collection, perfect for lazy summer day reading. Through her characters’ eyes, you can experience life in the North Florida suburbs and the reptilian splendor of the swamp.

To buy: $18, amazon.com.

Courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers

5

Michelle McNamara may have passed away, but the work she put into this book will live on forever. Golden State Killer’s reign of terror in California included brutal acts of murder and more. For years, he eluded the police for more than a decade, and then he seemed to disappear. More than three decades later, McNamara’s reporting helped lead to his capture. With an introduction by Gillian Flynn, this is a cannot miss book for mystery lovers and true crime fanatics alike. You’ll tear through it at the beach.

To buy: $18, amazon.com.