20 Best Beach Reads for the Perfect Escape
Sit back, grab your sunglasses, and relax....We have gathered the best beach reads of 2021 for you to get lost in.
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These engaging beach reads are practically a vacation themselves
When it comes to the best beach reads, we all want books that will sweep us off our feet. From a swooning romance to a laugh-out-loud comedy or a heart-racing thriller, we have scoured the shelves to bring you titles you won’t be able to put down. Vacation means detaching from reality, and in each of these gripping reads, you will find the perfect distraction. Psst…you don’t need to wait until your next official vacation to read one of these page-turners. These beach reads are perfect anytime you want to lose yourself in a book.
This list of 2021’s best beach reads includes selections from Reader’s Digest book editors (these selects are noted by the “Reader’s Digest Editor’s Choice” seal), fan favorites that have set the internet abuzz, and best sellers that have critics raving. Once you’ve read them all, you can find more gripping titles from our lists of favorite romance novels, best books of all time, young adult novels, best fantasy novels, and historical fiction.
For more book trivia and inside info on authors and books news, follow the Reader’s Digest Select Editions page on Facebook.
1. Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery series by Mia P. Manansala (2021)
Manansala’s humorous culinary mystery Arsenic and Adobo lands somewhere between a Nora Ephron rom-com and an Agatha Christie novel. Lila Macapagal moves back home, to recover from a horrible breakup, where she’s tasked with saving her Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant. Things become even more complicated when her ex-boyfriend—a famous food critic—drops dead and Lila becomes the main suspect. Armed with a nosy auntie network, her barista best friend, and her trusted Dachshund, Lila tries to find out whodunnit. This will be the first of the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery series.
2. The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave (2021)
With its breakneck pacing, dizzying plot twists, and resonant family drama, The Last Thing He Told Me is a riveting mystery about a woman who thinks she’s found the love of her life—until he disappears, leaving her alone with his 16-year-old daughter and a cryptic note that says “Protect her.” While on the surface he looks to be running from a white collar crime, the truth may be more sinister. The book was recently selected for Reese Witherspoon’s book club and is being made into a movie starring Jennifer Garner.
3. Tell Me How to Be by Neel Patel (2021)
Rising star Neel Patel has been praised as “refreshing…defiant…consistently surprising” by the New York Times, and his 2021 novel “is daring, hilarious, poignant, and impossible to put down,” according to Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies. Both irreverent and tender, this story of a recently widowed mother and grown son going through the motions of selling the family home, each trying to figure out how to best make each other happy while learning to accept their mistakes and each other, is a love story at its heart.
4. Yours Cheerfully by AJ Pearce (2021)
Bestselling author AJ Pearce is back with a charming novel set in London during World War II about a plucky aspiring journalist. If you are vacationing with friends, this touching tale of a young woman who must navigate friendship and duty during wartime London when charged with recruiting more women for the war effort will be the perfect companion for your getaway. Yours Cheerfully is a celebration of friendship—a testament to the strength of women and the importance of lifting one another other up, even in the most challenging times.
5. Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney (2021)
One of the most anticipated books of 2021, Rooney’s newest book is her “best novel yet,” according to the New York Times. With a straightforward third-person narrative that manages to evoke incredible detail, Rooney leads the reader through the worlds and minds of her four main protagonists, Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon, as they navigate love, friendship, and their desires for the future. As she did in her earlier novel Normal People, Rooney manages to lay her characters bare on the page, and the story will have you laughing aloud and then fighting back tears from page to page. If you love this novel, take a look at our list of the other best fiction books to read this year.
6. One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston (2021)
Following up her fan favorite 2019 novel, Red, White & Royal Blue, McQuiston has produced yet another spellbinding romance that’s a best beach read. A combination rom-com and ghost story, this big-hearted romance centers on a 23-year-old girl who falls in love with a punk rock ghost girl on her NYC subway commute—a queer romance for the ages.
7. While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams (2021)
In a deviation from her usual romance genre, the voting rights activist is back on the scene with a legal thriller set in within the halls of the U.S. Supreme Court—where a young law clerk finds herself embroiled in a shocking mystery plotted by one of the most preeminent judges in America. The mystery book has been hailed as a successor to the works of Dan Brown and will have you on the edge of your beach chair until the final page.
8. The Scholomance series by Naomi Novik (2021)
For lovers of fantasy and dark comedy, The Scholomance series is a refreshing take on tales of magic and sorcerers. As the sequel to A Deadly Education, Last Graduate, a delightfully dark fantasy, will capture your imagination. El Higgins is a cynical 17-year-old with an affinity for world-destroying magic, and she is just trying to survive school—literally. Novik’s quick-witted writing style and nuanced characters will have you counting the days until the final installment.
9. The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson (2021)
Perfect for book lovers and one of our favorite books to read on the beach, this heart-warming story tells the tale of a lonely librarian in a sleepy English village who must break out of her shell and realize the strength of her community in order to save her local library. As thirtysomething June Jones fights to save the place and books which mean the most to her, she learns how to live beyond the page—and maybe even find love along the way.
10. Misfits: A Personal Manifesto by Michaela Coel (2021)
While this personal manifesto/self-help book by the Emmy Award–winning writer Michaela Coel isn’t a quintessential beach read, the musings of the celebrated creator of “Chewing Gum” and “I May Destroy You” are as razor-sharp in their wit, and raw in their truth, as her shows. Coel dives into race, class, and gender through personal anecdotes that verge on allegory, from her East London upbringing to her discovery of theater and love for storytelling. The book is short, at only 128 pages, but it will have you embracing your own power and feeling refreshed in your perspective.
11. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry (2021)
From the author of Beach Read comes an equally fun tale of two best friends and polar opposites, Alex and Poppy. For most of the year they live far apart—he’s in their small hometown and she’s in New York City—but every summer for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together…until two years ago, and they haven’t spoken since. When they have the chance to start over during one more vacation, it remains to be seen if they can recapture the friendship they once had.
12. Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner (2021)
Adapted from a viral 2018 New Yorker essay of the same name, this unflinching and powerful memoir by indie rock star Michelle Zauner is a raw portrayal of the author’s coming of age as a Korean American, her grief over her mother’s death, and the story of how she forged her own identity. The surprising beach read has been making waves all year, with readers raving over its raw tone and stellar writing.
13. The Brown Sisters Series by Talia Hibbert (2021)
What happens when certified “hot mess” Eve accidentally hits always-in-control, ambitious bed and breakfast owner Jacob with her car after a disastrous interview? Find out in Act Your Age, Eve Brown, the third installment in The Brown Sisters Series, where opposites attract and passions flair. This stand-alone novel is a fun and quick read for an afternoon in the sun, but if you find yourself wanting more, look for Hibbert’s other Brown Sisters books, and be sure to buy them from one of these Black-owned bookstores.
14. Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena (2021)
This national best seller has been called “a quintessential beach read” by The Washington Post, and for good reason. The new family drama thriller and murder mystery centers around the wealthy Merton family. The parents are murdered after a fraught Easter dinner, leaving the three adult children—who, by the way, stand to inherit millions—grappling with the murder of their parents and wondering who is the guilty party.
15. A Thursday Murder Club Mystery Series by Richard Osman (2021)
In this latest installment in Osman’s acclaimed murder mystery series, The Man Who Died Twice, the members of the Thursday Murder Club—Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron, and Ibrahim—are still riding high off their most recent solved murder case and are looking forward to a bit of peace and quiet at Cooper’s Chase, their posh retirement village. Then an old flame of Elizabeth’s suddenly arrives desperate for help and accused of stealing millions. That night, the first dead body is found….Who will be next, and can the quartet find the killer before the killer gets to them? For fans of Agatha Christie, this murder mystery will have you guessing until the sun sets.
16. Electra McDonnell series by Ashley Weaver (2021)
For fans of historical fiction who prefer to relax by being transported to the past, the fast-paced mystery A Peculiar Combination, the first book of the Electra McDonnell series, set in World War II London, has it all: murder, spies, romance, and wit. Electra and her family are talented lock-picks and thieves who make their living stealing from the city’s gentry, but when a straightforward-seeming break-in goes awry, she must work with the imperious Major Ramsey to stop Allied war plans from falling into the enemy’s hands.
17. The Break-Up Book Club by Wendy Wax (2021)
A perfect title for times when you need a little cathartic escapism, this funny and heartwarming exploration of friendship follows Jazmine, Judith, Erin, and Sara—who, despite their differences, bond over a shared love of reading, more than a little wine, and the disappointment that their careers, love lives, and children are less than perfect. Readers of all ages and backgrounds will be able to relate to this quartet of women as they seek to regain control of their lives and find a new version of happiness.
18. The Hunting Wives by May Cobb (2021)
When Sophie O’Neill trades in her fast-paced life in Chicago to settle in a small picture-perfect Texas town with her husband and young son, she finds herself embroiled in an elite clique secretly known as the Hunting Wives as she befriends its socialite leader, Margot. The group is known for its partying and late-night target practice. When the body of a teenage girl is discovered in the woods where the Hunting Wives meet, Sophie’s life is turned upside down as she finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation.
19. Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto (2021)
Fans of Crazy Rich Asians will delight in the laugh-out-loud twists of this high-paced comedy as Meddelin Chan and her band of aunties attempt to cover up her *accidental* murder of a blind date. When the body ends up following them to the California island resort where the family of wedding planners is throwing a billionaire’s wedding, it appears as though things couldn’t get crazier—that is until Meddy’s ex-boyfriend from college, the one who left her heartbroken, makes an unexpected appearance.
20. The Photographer by Mary Dixie Carter (2021)
When you pick a beach read, you want to lose yourself in someone else’s life, and that’s exactly the intention of The Photographer‘s protagonist Delta Dawn. When Delta, a photographer for New York’s elite, comes across the Straub family’s gorgeous home and elegant life, she ingratiates herself into their home and lives. A tale of envy and obsession, Mary Dixie Carter’s latest novel is told in the mesmerizing, irresistible voice of a character who will make you doubt that seeing is ever believing.