Fall in love with the best beach reads of 2021. Escape into the best summer books to add to your summer reading list.
I often talk about wasting time on overrated bestsellers and wanted to read well-written books.
Yet, not everything you read needs to be thought-provoking and deep. Sometimes it’s just nice to escape into a fun story.
That’s why I’ve decided to compile a list of the best beach reads of 2021. Full of romance and drama and even some delicious fluff, beach reads can be such a nice treat to read while on vacation.
With a little bit of something for everyone, I’m sure you’ll find some fun new books to read this summer if you keep scrolling.
Best Beach Reads 2021
Taylor Jenkins Reid
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. An all-around brilliant read that belongs among the best beach reads of all time.
Emily Henry 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.
Just in time for summer 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.
The Princess Diaries meets Crazy Rich Asians in Emiko Jean’s delightfully fun young adult story 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?
A dying 17-year-old girl befriends a dying 83-year-old woman at the terminal ward of a Glasgow hospital. An unlikely friendship blooms and they both decide to make the most of the time they have left. They plan to make 100 paintings to celebrate the 100 years they have lived between them. One of the best reads this summer if you love books like Five Feet Apart or Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
Beach reads from Favorite Authors
On a brilliant June day, author Vivian Howe is killed in a hit-and-run car accident. She finds herself in the Beyond, where she is allowed to view one last summer and is granted three “nudges” to those she left behind. The mother of three must choose how she will help her three children, as they struggle with adulthood and discover secrets she had kept buried. Elin Hilderbrand is known for writing some of the best beach reads, so you won’t want to miss her latest book.
Mary Alice Monroe
Mary Alice Monroe’s latest Beach House book finds Linnea Rutledge struggling with love in the time of coronavirus. After Linnea is laid off from her beloved job at the aquarium in the spring of 2020, she struggles to make ends meet. While her new love interest, Gordon, is having difficulty returning from England, Linnea’s old flame John moves next door, and sparks ignite. Is it possible to love two men at the same time?
Mary Kay Andrews
When Letty Carnahan finds her sister dead on the kitchen floor, she knows exactly who did it: Tanya’s ex, Evan. Terrified of Evan, Letty takes her four-year-old niece and runs. Settling in at a Florida motel, Letty arouses the suspicions of the regular snowbird retirees and tries to avoid the handsome local police detective who has taken a shine to her.
Six years after divorcing her cheating husband, Julia Jones sells her interior design business and moves into a condo complex seeking a new start at life. Julia has finally accepted she doesn’t need a man in her life when she meets a handsome divorcé who might change her mind. Yet as they fall in love, they realize that, even with adult children, combining families isn’t easy.
You can’t have a list of beach books without mentioning Danielle Steel. Since the death of her child and the breakup of her marriage, author Melissa Henderson has not written a single thing. Nowadays, she pours all her devotion into restoring a Victorian mansion. Until she receives a phone call from her estranged sister, a nun who is determined to help her sister find the child Melissa gave up as a teenager.
As a child, Eliza Lawrence was saved from a dangerous riptide by Jack Ryder, an East Coast teenager vacationing with his family. Ten years later, Eliza and Jack feel an unexplainable connection when they reunite. She is on the brink of an arranged marriage to a notorious drug lord. He is a secret agent on a daring mission. Together, they must pretend to be in love … without falling in love … for both of their lives are at stake.
Popular Beach Reads 2021
After hitting it big last summer with Big Summer, Jennifer Weiner returns with an anticipated favorite among the 2021 beach reads. A suburban mom struggling to understand her dissatisfaction begins to mistakenly receive emails meant for someone else. To Daisy, Diana Starling seems to have the perfect life as a successful single businesswoman. When Diana invites Daisy out to her Cape Cod home, a friendship blooms that turns out to not be as accidental as Daisy thought.
Cynical August doesn’t believe life will ever change until she develops a crush on a girl from her subway commute. Jane is perfect and the highlight of August’s every day. But when August and Jane finally meet, August realizes that somehow Jane actually lives in the 1970s. A time-defying LGBTQ+ romance perfect for any summer 2021 beach reads list from the author of Red, White, & Royal Blue.
Number-crunching single mom Jess has troubling trusting others but decides to try a new DNA-based matchmaking service. When she scores an unheard of 98% compatibility score with the service’s founder, she is astounded. For she already knows Dr. Pena, and she can’t stand him.
If you want books to read at the beach, you should consider this debut novel about a family that vacations on Maine’s rocky coastline for generations. In 1944, Maren Larsen falls in love with a Brahmin doctor on vacation. By 1970, Oliver and Maren are against their daughter Annie’s romantic interest when disaster strikes. Decades later, Annie’s daughter arrives in Maine to scatter her mother’s ashes and learn the truth that has been hidden for decades.
After the death of her parents in 1981, nineteen-year-old Sherri Taylor decides to leave her sleepy hometown behind and jump full-tilt into an evocative adventure. She becomes a Playboy Bunny at a Wisconsin resort. Living in dorms with other bunnies, Sherri enjoys the sisterhood and the thrill of sex, drugs, and rock and roll until she is caught in a love triangle that will affect her for decades.
Thriller Books for the Beach
Thriller books make some of the best summer reads and Joshilyn Jackilyn delivers in this domestic thriller. Bree Cabbat wakes up one more to find a witch looking in through her window. She shakes it off as a nightmare, but then she experiences every mother’s worst nightmare: her baby boy is abducted. Instead of a ransom note, she finds a message telling her to follow the instructions to get him back, forcing her to decide how far she will go for her child.
Even though her husband helps out, successful lawyer Nora Spangler feels likes she carries an unfair share of the domestic burden. When they consider moving into an exclusive suburban neighborhood, Nora finds a group of high-powered women with extremely supportive husbands. While helping with a resident’s wrongful death case, she discovers they all have a secret worth killing over.
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, making it one of the best beach reads in 2021.
Zakiya Dalila Harris
Tired of being the only Black woman at Wagner Books, Nella Rogers is thrilled when Harlem-born Hazel moves into the cubicle next to her. When Hazel becomes the office darling, Nella starts receiving threatening notes. Could Hazel be trying to force out Nella, or is there much more going on in their workplace?
Abigail Baskin has hit the jackpot in her new marriage to the brilliant and kind millionaire Bruce Lamb. Until a one-night stand the night before her wedding comes back to haunt her, and the mystery man shows up on her honeymoon. Should she tell her perfect new husband or handle the psychopathic stalker on her own?
Best Summer Reads: Historical Fiction
If you love reading at the beach, be sure to pack this new WWII novel. In 1942, Elzbieta Rabinek, a curious teenager in Warsaw, is intrigued by her neighbor. Sara is a nurse who smuggles medical supplies to the Jewish ghetto. As Elzbieta begins to aide Sara, she meets a handsome Jewish teenage boy whose anger at the unjust circumstances places his family and Sara’s operation in danger.
Janet Skeslien Charles
Life is good for Odile Souchet, a young woman with a handsome beau working at the American Library in Paris. When the Germans invade Paris, Odile and her fellow librarians join the Resistance to fight the Nazis with what they have – books. Based on a true story, The Paris Library is the perfect new release for any historical fiction book lover.
In April 1917, a charismatic alumna gives an impassioned speech at Smith College urging the women to go to France to help with relief efforts. Kate Moran has no plans to go, but when a girl drops out, Kate’s best friend Emmeline begs her to fill the slot. Based on a true story, Band of Sisters tells of these brave women coping with the hardships of the war while navigating old rivalries and betrayals.
In December 1926, the mystery novelist Agatha Christie disappeared. After an 11 day manhunt, the infamous author suddenly reappears, claiming no memory of what happened. Marie Benedict’s new novel imagines Christie’s disappearance as a mind game against her cheating husband. Chapters alternate between Mrs. Christie recounting her life and marriage leading up to that fateful day and Mr. Christie dealing with the fall out of her disappearance, in which he is the prime suspect.
During World War II, three women become unlikely friends while working as code breakers at Bletchley Park: Osla is desperate to prove she’s more than just a society girl; Mab is determined to rise above the poverty of her birth; and both encourage Beth, a shy local spinster, to step up and use her brilliant mind. Years after the war, the three women must come together one more time to help uncover a spy who was working in their midst.
Best Reads This Summer
Among the best beach reads of 2021 is this beautifully rich novel that would be a great one for a summer book club discussion. 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.
While working as a producer at the BBC, Tessa is covering a recent IRA raid in Belfast when she spots her sister on the security footage pulling a ski mask over her face. Tessa is sure Marian must have been coerced for she would never condone violence. As Tessa gets pulled into the investigation, she must decide where her loyalties lie, what she is willing to do for family, and how to balance the needs of a sister with those of her newborn son.
After a personal tragedy, Anna Hart leaves her life as a missing persons detective in San Francisco to return home to Mendocino, California. When she arrives, she gets drawn into the case of a local missing teen, one that is hauntingly similar to an unsolved murder from her childhood. When the Stars Go Dark is a slow atmospheric character study of a cop haunted by her own traumas who sees herself in the victims.
Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
Although they’ve had their struggles, Flora and Julian have been happily married for twenty years. After years of struggling to make ends meet with Julian’s small theater company, a move to Los Angeles five years ago has finally brought some financial success and a reunion with Flora’s best friend Margot. When Flora stumbles across an envelope with Julian’s wedding ring, the one he that fateful, Flora begins to question everything about their marriage and must figure out what to do now.
A quirky free-spirited librarian with Asperger’s, Fern Castle likes to keep her life strictly regimented. On the other hand, Fern’s twin sister Rose is the responsible one with the perfect house and the perfect marriage, a sister who spent their childhood protecting Fern from their abusive mother. When Fern discovers her sister cannot get pregnant, she decides she can have the baby for her. As Fern starts making more choices on her own, she begins to realize that maybe Rose might not such a good sister after all.
With the strange ability to detect emotions left behind on objects, Ev has always kept herself apart from those around her worried she will fall to the same horrific end as her father. When she meets Harriet, an older woman with the same ability, Ev decides that might be able to help each other, Ev will help Harriet sort through her hoards of treasures and Harriet will help Ev learn to control her ability. When Ev’s sister returns pushing for answers to their past, Ev learns that Harriet suspects Harriet might have a connection to her family.
Nonfiction Books For Summer 2021
A new memoir from the owner and chef of an acclaimed restaurant in Maine tells of the challenges of finding your voice and rebuilding a life. Growing up in rural Maine, Erin French fell in love with food while working at her father’s diner. Despite multiple rock-bottoms – addiction, betrayal, joblessness – French managed to slowly rebuild her personal and culinary life and find solace in the food she loves.
Among the best summer reads of 2021 is Jenny Lawson’s candid look at anxiety and depression. With wit and humor, Lawson relates her mental and physical health journey in a series of essays. In a world where we don’t talk about mental health enough, Lawson’s humorous anecdotes remind us that we aren’t the only ones with these struggles.
Ashley C. Ford
A coming-of-age memoir about growing up a poor Black girl with an incarcerated father and the path to truly understand and overcome our origins. Growing up, Ashley idolized her father even though she barely knew him since he was imprisoned her entire childhood. As she ages, she eventually learns why her father is in prison and must reconcile her own identity with her family’s past.
Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey offers a memoir on his approach to getting the most satisfaction out of life. McConaughey poured over decades of his diaries to share the highs and lows of his life and the funny stories that shaped him along the way.
A powerful memoir about growing up a Korean American from the indie singer known for her Japanese Breakfast project. Growing up in Eugene, Oregon, Michelle Zauner struggled to fit in as the only Asian-American student in high school, burdened by the high expectations of her mother. Moving East, she began working in the restaurant industry and joined a fledgling band. But not until her mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis did Zauner feel liked she discovered her identity and understand her Koreanness.
What do you think are the best beach reads of 2021?