Need some books to read at the beach? I’ve put together all the best beach reads perfect for your next vacation.
What makes a beach read?
When I first started blogging, I equated beach reads with romance books. And since romance books are one of my least favorite genres, I generally just ignored everything labeled under the term beach reads.
Yet, while romance is a solid part of beach reads, it’s not all about the love story. When reading at the beach, people want something light and fun, a quick read perfect for soaking up the summer rays. Even heavier themes are manageable if the book is enthralling enough.
From the hottest books of the summer to touching family dramas and, yes, even some romance books, you are sure to find the perfect choice for your next vacation.
Best Beach Reads of All Time
For years, Kya Clark has survived alone in the marshes of the North Carolina coast. Dubbed “The Marsh Girl” by the locals, she raises herself in nature after her family abandons her. Now, as she comes of age, she begins to yearn for something more than her loneliness – maybe even a connection with the locals. An exquisitely written tale, Where the Crawdads Sing is one of the best beach reads of all time.
A tale of secrets and lies among perfectly respectable parents: powerful Maddie, gorgeous Celeste, and timid Jane. The intersection of three women’s lives ends in an (accidental?) death. Discussing serious topics like domestic abuse, Big Little Lies perfectly balances humor and suspense to keep you coming back for more and makes a wonderful book to read at the beach.
Taylor Jenkins Reid
Taylor Jenkins Reid has done it again with the must-read book of the summer. In 1983, four famous siblings throw an epic summer party at their Malibu mansion. Secrets come out, the party gets out of control, and a fire will burn it all down by dawn. Malibu Rising is a gorgeous family drama that surpasses a simple beach read. The story of the Riva children abandoned by their famous rockstar father is heartbreakingly sad and yet still hopeful. The characters come alive as each sibling ponders if they can escape their parents’ fates.
Kevin Kwan’s debut novel delves into the lives of the crazy rich Asians – those families so rich and pedigreed they practically rule the continent. When Nicholas Young, Singapore’s most eligible bachelor, brings Rachel Chu, his American-born Chinese girlfriend, to the hottest wedding of the season, everyone is in an uproar. With plenty of interesting themes to explore, Crazy Rich Asians is a perfect beach read.
When Kate develops leukemia as a child, her parents decide to have another child – one specifically with a perfect bone marrow match for Kate. Thus, all Anna’s life, she has undergone countless procedures to help her older sister. But now Anna is ready to live her own life unconstrained by Kate’s illness. As Anna makes a life-or-death decision, you just feel so torn between Anna’s needs, Kate’s needs, and the love and desperation of their mother.
Recent Beach Reads
Just in time for your summer vacation comes one of the top beach reads of 2021. On the remote Frick Island in the middle of Chesapeake Bay, Piper Parrish had a perfect life – until her husband died. But Piper kept carrying on, acting as if he was still alive, and the townsfolk decided to play along with the grieving widow. When an ambitious podcaster arrives in town, he feels like he has the story of a lifetime, until he starts to fall in love with Piper. With quirky characters, a cute love story, and thoughtful plot twists, The Invisible Husband of Frick Island is a poignant story about grief and the things we’ll do for those we love.
Emily Henry (author of Beach Read) returns with one of the best beach reads of 2021 for romance book lovers. Poppy and Alex have been best friends forever even though she’s a wild child full of wanderlust and he’s an introverted bookworm. Although she lives in New York City and he still lives in their hometown, every year they take a week-long vacation together. Until two years ago, when their trip ended in a falling out. Now Poppy convinces Alex to take one final vacation with her in an attempt to fix their relationship … and maybe even fall in love.
Six years after a fight ended their friendship, Daphne Berg is shocked when her ex-best friend Drue Cavanaugh begs Daphne to be her maid-of-honor. No longer a shy sidekick, Daphne is now a confident plus-size influencer and a weekend in Cape Cod is too tempting to pass up. With a little steamy romance, a little mystery, and a whole lot of woman finding confidence in herself, it’s the perfect beach read for those looking for a light story.
Can you have a list of summer beach reads without Elin Hilderbrand? At her brother’s bachelor party, Mallory meets Jake McCloud. Thus begins a love affair that lasts for decades, but only for one weekend a year. When Mallory is dying, she leaves instructions for her son to call Jake, who is now the husband of the leading presidential candidate.
Olive’s identical twin Ami has the best luck ever, while Olive always seems to have the worst. Except at Ami’s wedding, where the entire wedding party gets sick, except Olive and Ethan, the best man and Olive’s nemesis. Not wanting the all-expenses-paid honeymoon to go to waste, Olive and Ethan set out to enjoy Hawaii. When Olive runs into her boss on vacation, she and Ethan must pretend to be newlyweds in this enemies-to-lovers beach read.
After almost dying, chronically ill computer geek Chloe Brown decides it’s time for her to get a life. She moves out of her family’s mansion and makes a list of the things she wants to do: go camping, ride a motorcycle, and do something bad. To help her learn to be a rebel, she enlists the assistance of Red, the hot motorcycle-riding handyman whose rough exterior hides more than Chloe expected.
Beach Books From Popular Authors
Mary Kay Andrews
If you look at the New York Times bestseller list, you’ll generally see a few authors show up again and again every summer. Mary Kay Andrews is one such bestselling author known for her books to read on the beach. Every year, Riley’s family has kicked off the summer at Belle Island, North Carolina. As she waits for her husband to show up for the ferry, she finds something is wrong. When she investigates Wendell’s disappearance, Riley realizes she didn’t know her husband as well as she thought and everyone has secrets.
Mary Alice Monroe
In the first book of Monroe’s Beach House series, Caretta Rutledge returns to the South Carolina Lowcountry after her life starts spinning out of control. While restoring the family beach house, Caretta embraces life on the island and begins to renew old friendships. Most importantly, Caretta reconnects with her mother and learn life lessons about love, family, and sacrifice.
On a windswept summer day in San Francisco, eleven-year-old Pip Mckenzie finds herself enchanted by a local artist who paints on the beach. Matt Bowles finds Pip and her dog just as intriguing but is even more interested in Pip’s mother, Ophélie, who is battling depression after an unspeakable tragedy. As Matt gives Pip drawing lessons, he and Ophélie become closer until a stunning betrayal and shadows of the best threaten to tear everything apart.
Parker, Emma, Laurel, and Mac are childhood friends who turned their dreams of make-believe weddings into one of Connecticut’s premier wedding planning companies. Mac is the photographer, more comfortable capturing happy moments with her camera than living them. When she bumps into the bride’s brother, a handsome English teacher, she thinks he’d be just the fling she is looking for, not knowing how perfect for her he truly is.
After opening a Seattle yarn shop, Lydia Hoffman decides to host a knitting class for her patrons. As Lydia and her three students – Jacqueline, Carol, and Alix – meet together to make baby blankets, a fierce friendship ensues that helps them overcome the challenges each faces in her life. A fun little summer read that is the first book in the Blossom Street series.
Summer Romance Books
Nicholas Sparks’s books always make for good beach reads, and The Notebook is probably his most unforgettable work. After returning from World War II, Noah Calhoun begins restoring an old plantation house. Noah is haunted by memories of a beautiful girl from the other side of the tracks with whom he spent a beautiful summer when they were teenagers. Allie’s return sparks a memorable love story made even more famous by the popular film adaptation.
When the President’s son falls in love with the Prince of Wales, international relations take on a whole new term. At first, America’s darling Alex Claremont-Diaz can’t stand the royal British heir, Prince Henry. Forced to develop a fake friendship for the publicity, the two soon realize that no faking is required.
When she was sixteen, Emmie Blue released a balloon in England which Lucas discovers across the channel in France, leading to a lifelong friendship. When Lucas gets engaged to be married, Emmie begins to realize that you can’t leave your life up to fate. A heartwarming love story about friendship and loyalty, you’ll love the complicated relationship between Emmie and Lucas and Emmie’s journey of self-discovery.
Professor of genetics Don Tillman has never been on a second date. So when a colleague tells him he would make a good husband, he decides it’s time to get married. He starts the Wife Project – a methodical search for the perfect spouse. Instead, he meets Rosie, not at all an ideal candidate. Rosie has her own project – finding out who her father is.
Rueing the idea of attending his ex’s wedding without a plus one, Drew Nichols finds the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend when he gets stuck in an elevator during a power outage. Alexa Monroe would never normally do such a thing, but there is just something about Drew. After they hit it off at the wedding, they wonder: could this fake relationship have the ability to turn into an actual relationship?
Samantha Casey loves everything about her job as an elementary teacher in Galveston, Texas. After her friend and mentor dies, the school needs a new principal. When her former crush is chosen, Samantha is nervous and excited. Until she finds out he has become a stiff humorless man determined to change everything in the name of safety. One of the best easy read books to curl up with on your next vacation.
Best Beach Reads About Relationships
If you are wanting uplifting beach reads, you’ve found the perfect choice in socially awkward Eleanor Oliphant. She has the habit of saying exactly what she thinks and much prefers to spend her weekends at home talking on the phone to her mother. When Eleanor and her slovenly coworker Raymond help an elderly gentleman after a fall, the three become friends, and Eleanor learns that opening up isn’t always a bad thing.
The first time Lucy met Diana, she disappointedly finds her future mother-in-law is cold and distant. Not at all the best friend and replacement mother Lucy was hoping to find. Now ten years later, Diana is dead, and all eyes automatically turn to Lucy. More of a character study than a murder mystery, The Mother-in-Law shines by highlighting how two different people can view the same event differently and by navigating the history of a complicated relationship. If you’re looking for beach reads about family relationships, you don’t want to miss this one.
Crotchety old A. J. Fikry is struggling in life. He is now a widow. His bookstore is failing. To top it off, his rare edition of Edgar Allan Poe has been stolen. On the verge of becoming a complete recluse, a plot twist occurs that will gives Fikry a second chance at life. A heartwarming tale perfect for reading on the beach this summer.
Need some funny beach books to add to your reading list? Sometimes you just need a clever satire, and I promise you’ll laugh at the ridiculous Bernadette, a Seattle-area mom who takes antisocial to a whole new level. You might not love the ending, but the buildup is so much fun that I still like recommending it to others.
Historical Fiction Summer Books
Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Despite its mouthful of a title, this wonderful novel has earned its place among the best beach reads. On the German-occupied island of Guernsey, the residents form a book club as an excuse for breaking curfew. Written as a series of letters after the war between the book club and writer Juliet Ashton, the story gives you a look at what life was like on the occupied island. This fun novel is sure to leave you smiling at the colorful cast of characters and makes the perfect book for your summer reading list.
Set in a small village in occupied France, the story centers around two sisters. Forced to house a German officer in her home, the older sister Vianne Mauriac must decide, to protect her daughter, where exactly she should draw the line of being complicit with German demands. On the other hand, her younger sister Isabelle Rossignol feels committed to doing anything she can to resist the German occupation.
I love being swept away in good beach reads, and Kate Morton always delivers. Just so you know, this book is not the same story as the Sandra Bullock romantic movie. Kate Morton’s story is set in 1933. During a big summer party, a baby boy from a wealthy family disappears from the country estate. Now, seventy years later, a police detective starts to uncover the truth of what happened at the lake house. If you are in the mood for longer books to read on the beach, this well-written novel is worth your time.
Set during the Great Depression, Englishwoman Alice Wright marries a handsome American and finds herself transplanted to rural Kentucky. To escape her unhappy home life with her withdrawn husband and overbearing father-in-law, Alice agrees to become a traveling librarian, riding around the countryside bringing books to local residents. In her new job, she meets other fierce women and gains lasting friendships. Add in plenty of drama, love stories, corrupt businessmen, and even murder, and you have the perfect light historical fiction to read on the beach.
I have to admit, I don’t think a book has made me laugh quite as hard as Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. A few of the scenes were just so side-splittingly funny that even thinking about them now still makes me chuckle. Which is amazing because The Help is not a humor piece. It’s a moving tale of the lives of women in the deep South in the 1960s. Between Aibileen and Minny, “the help” of the title, the women they work for, and Skeeter, a young 22-year-old writer who wants to tell their stories, you get a layered approach and character study of a tumultuous time in US history.
In 1791, Nella uses her London apothecary shop to sell poisons for women to use against abusive men. The only rules are that the poisons cannot be used against another woman and that you must leave a record in the apothecary’s register. When she befriends a 12-year-old girl, the consequences will last generations. A beautifully rich novel that would be a great one for a summer book club discussion.
Mystery & Thriller Book For the Beach
Gone Girl took the book world by storm in 2012 with its look at a marriage gone terribly wrong. On her fifth wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne mysteriously disappears. At the top of the suspect list – her seemingly perfect husband Nick. Both husband and wife aren’t who they seem to be, so expect plenty of twists and turns (and lots of language) in this hit thriller. You might not end up loving the story or the characters, but I promise you, you’ll definitely find them memorable.
On a remote island, the perfect wedding turns deadly in this thrilling mystery. The high-profile wedding between a television star and a magazine publisher is supposed to be the perfect event. Set off the coast of Ireland, all the stops have been pulled out. Yet once the guests arrive, past conflicts come into play and someone turns up dead. Was it the bride? The best man? The wedding planner? Foley keeps you guessing until the end, giving each suspect a firm motive to want to commit murder.
Lo Blacklock is a travel writer sent to cover a luxury cruise through Norway’s fjords. When she thinks she witnesses a murder, Lo becomes enthralled in figuring out what happened to the woman in Cabin 10. This psychological thriller is a quick fun beach read that will keep you wanting more. Good thing Ruth Ware is a great author to binge read with plenty of exciting titles to choose from.
Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Just days away from her wedding to her charmingly attentive rich fiance, Nellie feels like someone might be following her. Meanwhile, his ex-wife Vanessa is obsessed with her replacement and desperate to stop the wedding. You might think you know how this domestic thriller will end, but appearances can be deceiving. In their first collab, Hendricks and Pekkanen have plenty of tricks up their sleeve, keeping the plot twisting and you second-guessing how it’s all going to end.
Instamom Emmy Jackson is known for telling it as it is to her millions of Instagram followers. She knows exactly how to monetize her life as a “good-enough” mom. When Emmy’s online narrative pulls further from the truth, it begins to strain her marriage. Meanwhile, an obsessed follower begins stalking the family, with a major grudge against Emmy. This accurate portrayal of influencer life (with plenty of thrills thrown in for fun) will make you think about how putting our lives online affects us.
Nonfiction Books for Vacation
After writing about recovering from a marriage rocked by infidelity in Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle has a new memoir about her love story with US soccer star Abby Wambach. Doyle details how she found herself by realizing her true power comes from within and not from the expectations others put on her. If you’ve read Love Warrior, you’ll have an interesting time discussing the public face we put on our lives. If you haven’t, you’ll still have a great time debating how much you agree with Doyle’s opinions.
Sometimes it takes doing something crazy, like hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, for you to truly put your life in order. By 22, Cheryl Strayed’s life felt out of control, so she decided to make a life-changing decision to hike the PCT. You’ll laugh at Strayed’s mishaps, be in awe had her stupidity and bravery, and, if you are like me, really want to go for a hike.
In the last few years, society seems to have embraced the idea of living a creative life. Find your passion in art, music, writing, or whatever pursuit has hold of your heart. Thus, Elizabeth Gilbert’s series of essays about creative living is perfectly fitting for your summer reading list. In it, she describes her thoughts on the creative life and firmly disagrees with the idea of suffering for your art.
Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books to Read
Sarah J. Maas
In her popular adult fantasy series, Sarah J Maas introduces you to Feyre, a teenage girl turned huntress doing all she can to provide for her poor yet ungrateful family. After she kills a faerie disguised as a wolf, Feyre is taken to an enchanted land run by her captor, a powerful man who can turn into a beast. Maas starts the story as a typical Beauty and the Beast retelling but transforms it into her own original work.
Walking home one night, Jason Dessen is kidnapped and forced into an alternate reality. He’s been thrust into the multiverse, a world where instead of marrying his wife when she got pregnant with their child, he single-mindedly persevered on with his research. Crouch’s premise will boggle your mind and the story concludes with a thrilling finale.
In this classic love story, art student Clare and librarian Henry try for a sense of normalcy as Henry time shifts through their life. Henry has Chrono-Displacement Disorder; he unexpectedly gets pulled to important emotional moments in his past and future life. A mind-bending romance that is a must-read for any fan of time travel books and a great choice for your summer reading.
Suzanne Collins’s series The Hunger Games has become the shining example of the best teen dystopian novels for good reason. In Panem, all the power and wealth are concentrated in the Capitol while the outer districts are forced into poverty and manual labor. Every year, two youth from each district are chosen in a televised fight to the death. To save her sister, Katniss Everdeen volunteers as this year’s tribute, forcing her to decide what she is willing to do to win. Captivating from start to finish, The Hunger Games is worth a read (or a re-read) this summer.
Zélie Adebola watched as a ruthless king ordered the death of her mother and all the other maji to rid the world of magic. With one last chance, Zélie must use the help of a rogue princess to restore magic before the crown prince manages to eradicate magic for good. Beautifully blending Nigerian mythology, symbols from the Yoruba religion, and young adult fantasy, Tomi Adeyemi shines in her debut novel and the perfect example of books to read at the beach.
Young Adult Beach Reads
The Princess Diaries meets Crazy Rich Asians in Emiko Jean’s delightfully fun young adult beach read about a Japanese-American teenager who learns her birth father is the Crown Prince of Japan. Suddenly, Izumi is swept away into a life of royalty and struggles to fit in as a princess. Can she bridge the gap between being too Japanese for America and too American for Japan while still getting her happily ever after?
In a moment, Mia’s world is turned upside down when her entire family is involved in a car accident. Mia’s emotions of watching her world change in an instant hit me particularly hard. As Mia decides whether life is worth living if her family might not be there with her, it makes you wonder what you would choose. A great emotional read that you should only read at the beach if you have tissues handy.
We Were Liars has all the classic characteristics of thriller young adult beach reads: a wealthy extended family, a private island, a tragic accident, and secrets and lies. As the protagonist Cadence slowly starts regaining her memory and all the details of what happened start becoming clear, half the fun is in trying to figure out what is going on.
The new girl in town, Eleanor, with her unruly red hair and mismatched clothes, doesn’t fit in at her high school. Park doesn’t fully fit in either and tends to hide behind his books and his headphones. When the two misfits bond over comic books and music, a friendship springs up that reminds you of the transformative power of love.
Prince Maxon needs a bride, so it’s time for the Selection. From around the realm, thirty-five girls are chosen to compete for his hand. After breaking up with her boyfriend, America reluctantly enters the competition. She has no desire to marry Prince Maxon until a chance meeting sparks a friendship between the two. Now, America must navigate her feelings for Maxon and her ex, all while rebels constantly threaten the Palace. This popular dystopian teen romance novel is perfect for any fans of The Bachelor.
Which beach reads are on your summer reading list?