75 Best Summer Reads of All Time
These captivating beach reads are the perfect escapes in and of themselves.
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Curl up with a good book on the beach
Summer is finally here, and you’re ready to hit the beach. You’ve picked a fabulous bathing suit, and you’ve got your bag packed with sunglasses, sunscreen, and all of the other essentials for some serious R&R. The only thing you’re missing? A great beach read. There’s no sweeter joy than having your toes in the sand and a book in your hand.
Our ultimate summer-reading list includes some of the most anticipated books of the year, the best fiction books (including historical fiction), and some of the best romance novels of all time. We’ve also added some timeless classics, true crime potboilers, memoirs, and contemporary best sellers with characters who will steal your heart. And that’s just the start! Trust us: These page-turners will keep you entertained and enthralled all summer long.
Run Away by Harlan Coben
Harlan Coben is the master of action-packed thrillers with nonstop plot twists, and this book about addiction, runaways, and a dark underground world is no exception. You’ll be on the edge of your seat as you read about Simon Greene and the lengths he’ll go to save his daughter, Paige, from the mess she’s gotten herself into. It’s no surprise that Harlan Coben also made our list of the most binge-worthy authors of all time.
Calypso by David Sedaris
This latest memoir by David Sedaris has been aptly dubbed as “beach reading for people who detest beaches, required reading for those who loathe small talk and love a good tumor joke.” In fact, Sedaris’ new beach house, which he calls The Sea Section, is the main setting for much of this book, and the relationships he has with his husband, siblings, and father take center stage. If you love this genre, you’ll also want to pick up a few of these compelling memoirs everyone should read.
Do You Mind If I Cancel? by Gary Janetti
If you could use a serious dose of laughter in your life right now, then you need to put this book by Gary Janetti at the top of your reading list. The Family Guy writer and former Will and Grace executive producer has penned a series of impossibly funny essays that chronicle everything from his tenure at Bennigan’s to his dreams of becoming a soap opera star to what he would say in his acceptance speech at the Oscars. This book is, without a doubt, one of the funniest books you’ll ever read.
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
Lisa Jewell delivers another psychological thriller that you’ll want to finish in just one sitting. In The Family Upstairs, 25-year-old Libby Jones learns that she is the sole inheritor of her birth parents’ long-abandoned Chelsea mansion. The same mansion in which three dead bodies were found along with a hastily scrawled note and a seemingly happy, healthy 10-month-old baby decades earlier. What happened in that house, and who is Libby Jones?
All the Breaking Waves by Kerry Lonsdale
Have you ever felt that you could just sense things? Molly Brennan can, and so can her eight-year-old daughter, Cassie. So when Cassie is plagued by horrific visions and debilitating nightmares, Molly is forced to return to the one place she swore she’d never move back to—Pacific Grove, where she’ll have to confront the dark secrets of her past and embrace her own special abilities in a desperate attempt to save her daughter’s life. Once you finish this page-turner, try one of these books that moms and daughters will love reading together.
The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel follows Stan and Charmaine, a young couple who have been reduced to living in their car after a nationwide economic collapse. That is, until they find Consilience, a gated community that will give them a beautiful home, steady job, and purpose. All they have to do is serve as inmates in the Positron prison system every other month. At first, it seems a small price to pay, but nothing is ever really as good as it seems. If you like dystopian novels, be sure to add these 10 books that predicted the future to your cart.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Even if you’ve already watched the hit Starz series, you’ll still want to read this novel. Fans will appreciate how closely the show follows the novel, and they’ll become even more engrossed in the book’s rich historical detail, stunning imagery, and, most importantly, steamy scenes between Claire and her sultry Scot, Jamie Fraser. Haven’t seen the show? Here’s a quick summary: It’s 1945, and World War II has just ended. While honeymooning in Scotland, nurse Claire Beauchamp unwittingly travels back in time to the year 1743. Scotland is at war, and Claire finds herself in terrible danger…until she meets the young, gallant James Fraser, who changes her life forever. Here are more best-selling books behind hit TV shows that also make the best summer reads.
Reunion Beach, stories inspired by Dorothea Benton Frank
Elin Hilderbrand, Adriana Trigiani, Nathalie Dupree, Mary Alice Monroe, and more penned this anthology of stories, poems, essays, and letters as a heartwarming homage to the late writer Dorothea Benton Frank. Each author shares something inspired by Frank and her love for the Lowcountry in her native South Carolina. This literary tribute includes a sequel to Hilderbrand’s Summer of ’69, interviews with Pat Conroy and Dorothea Benton Frank, and a host of stories that will warm your soul.
Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner
Following on the heels of the wildly successful Mrs. Everything, Jennifer Weiner’s latest novel does not disappoint. Ex-friends Daphne Berg and Drue Cavanaugh haven’t spoken a word to each other in six years after a blowout that ended their friendship. So when Drue walks back into the picture, as lovely and successful as ever, and asks Daphne to be maid of honor in the society wedding of the summer, Daphne doesn’t know what to say. This novel touches on everything from friendships and living your life on social media to body image and self-worth. While you might learn a thing or two from Daphne and Drue, you may also want to find out how to move past a friendship fight.
The Return by Nicholas Sparks
There are few things we love more than a heartwarming Nicholas Sparks book, and his newest novel has definitely satisfied our craving. Like most (if not all) of his novels, it’s set in coastal North Carolina, but in this story, Dr. Trevor Benson has returned home from the war in Afghanistan with devastating injuries and a bad case of PTSD. There, he meets deputy sheriff Natalie Masterson and a sullen teen named Callie, both of whom seem to be harboring some secrets that Trevor believes may help him solve the mystery surrounding his own grandfather’s death. Of course, no Nicholas Sparks book would be complete without a little romance, and you’re bound to find a few swoon-worthy lines in there. If you’re all about mushy lines, you’ll adore these romantic quotes from books.
People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
They say that opposites attract, and that’s exactly the case for Poppy and Alex in this brand-new New York Times bestseller. They couldn’t be more different, but they’re somehow the best of friends who, once a year, take a weeklong vacation together. That is, until two years ago, when they ruined everything and stopped speaking. Poppy decides the only thing that will pull her out of a funk is one more trip with Alex. He agrees, and now she’s got a week to fix their friendship. If that doesn’t sound like the perfect beach read, we don’t know what does.
The Guncle by Steven Rowley
Patrick loves being GUP (Gay Uncle Patrick) to his niece, Maisie, and nephew, Grant. But full-time caretaker to a six- and nine-year-old? Not exactly what he had in mind. However, that’s exactly where he finds himself after the children lose their mother and their father has a health crisis of his own. Patrick quickly learns that parenting is more than just being the fun Guncle and doling out treats and that even the best of us are simply human. Here are more of the best LGBTQ books to read right now.
The Therapist by B.A. Paris
Alice and Leo have it all, and their newly renovated home in an exclusive gated community is just the icing on the cake. But once they move into their new place, they discover that their perfect home isn’t so perfect after all. Something happened there, but no one will talk about it. Alice, who feels a strong connection to Nina, the therapist who lived in the home before her, becomes obsessed with discovering the truth. Can she find it? And will Alice and her marriage survive suburbia?
Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney
Calling all list-makers! You will have no trouble relating to Quinn, the main character in this debut YA novel from Joya Goffney who makes lists about, well, everything, from the boys she’d like to kiss to every time she’s ugly cried. And then, one day, her journal goes missing. And if that isn’t bad enough, an anonymous account posts one of her lists on Instagram for the whole school to see and blackmails her into facing seven of her greatest fears. If she refuses, then her entire journal will go public. Quinn is in a race against the clock to find her journal before it goes public but learns quite a bit about who she is and who she wants to be along the way. Don’t miss these other books by Black authors you’ll want to know about.
The Ickabog by J.K. Rowling
If you loved fairy tales once upon a time, then your inner child will rejoice at this original fairy tale from the beloved author of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling. The story takes place in a tiny kingdom called Cornucopia, which is inhabited (so they say) by a fearsome monster known as the Ickabog. Follow best friends Daisy and Bert as they embark on a journey to find the monster and hopefully restore happiness to Cornucopia. Though technically a children’s book, parents may want to read through first before handing this tale over to young readers, as it takes quite a few dark twists and turns.
All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney
If you’re in the mood for a poignant and moving coming-of-age novel, pick up All-American Muslim Girl. High schooler Allie is dating a popular White boy with ultra-conservative parents who don’t know she’s Muslim American. Themes explore the diversity and nuance of religious identity while presenting a brave, independent teen protagonist who grapples with faith and finds her voice, despite a world filled with Islamophobia.
Dominicana by Angie Cruz
This beautifully written novel follows a teenager named Ana, who immigrates to America from the Dominican Republic after marrying a much older man. Set during the 1960s in New York City, it explores the complex dynamics of the American dream for those who leave their homelands to seek better opportunities. Young Ana longs to return to her family when her husband’s brother, Cesar, shows her the ways of the city and the life she might have if she stays.
The Perfect Find by Tia Williams
Gabrielle Union is set to star in the Netflix movie adapted from this dishy page-turner about a fashionista, Jenna Jones, who falls for a handsome hottie who happens to be the son of her new boss and longtime rival. Jenna is 40 and starting over in her career, while her new paramour is a whopping 22 years old. Get ready for a hilarious deep dive into the world of New York-style mags. It’s the perfect kind of summer read if you adore diva-laden drama with dollops of romance. When you’re done, check out these other contemporary writers you’ll want on your to-read list.
Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan
If you loved Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians trilogy, prepare for his latest lush and luxuriant novel filled with the decadent details of ultra-rich lifestyles. In this beach read, you’ll find yourself on a vicarious tour of glitz, glamour, and high-society intrigue. Kwan’s satirical update of E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View follows Lucie, a socialite with a White father and Chinese American mother who gets the chance to explore her Asian heritage. She falls for the dashing George Zao, who bounces back into her life just when she was about to marry someone else.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Kiley Reid’s contemporary bestseller follows a Black millennial nanny, Emira, who finds herself accused of kidnapping the White toddler in her care while at a grocery store. Reid’s popular novel explores the unchecked privilege of White characters who think they know what’s best for the heroine at the center of a moment that goes viral. The plot twists through scenes that are provocative, cringe-inducing, relatable, and funny as it chronicles Emira’s experience and the turmoil in her personal and professional relationships. If you’re a parent, you may also want to pick up a few of these books about race to read to your kids.
Yellow Bird by Sierra Crane Murdoch
Sierra Crane Murdoch’s riveting true crime tale follows Lissa Yellow Bird, a member of the “Three Affiliated Tribes” and Arikara Nation, who obsesses over the disappearance of an oil worker on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Yellow Bird’s own life becomes a subject of fascination as Murdoch’s chronicles her resilient spirit and intrepid search for justice. Yellow Bird is a feat of literary journalism that keeps the pace of a mystery novel as it exposes the dark ways the oil industry affects the lives of Native people.
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Acclaimed journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates deftly blends the fantastic with the historical in his debut novel set in the antebellum South. The Water Dancer follows Hiram, who is born into the system of enslavement on a plantation but who also possesses enormous power. Coates infuses the story with magical realism to explore the power of memory and the history of the Underground Railroad. In the process, he also depicts the unbearable history of the enslaved through rich explorations of familial bonds and imaginative language that reinvents ways to represent this chapter of American history and the people who lived it.
Loving Day by Mat Johnson
Mat Johnson’s satirical, semi-autobiographical novel follows a biracial comic book artist, Warren, who revisits his Philadelphia neighborhood and confronts his mixed identity. Warren returns to the dilapidated mansion he inherited from his White father and connects with a teenage daughter he didn’t know he had and who doesn’t know she has Black heritage. This acclaimed novel explores the ambiguity of race and identity, especially for those who are mixed or perceived as White. To explore this subject from another perspective, read these essential books for understanding race relations in America.
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
If you love twisty mysteries with a fantasy edge, check out Sarah Gailey’s quirky crime tale set in an academy for mages. Magical happenings intermix with a hard-boiled investigation into a murder. The detective on the case, Ivy, doesn’t do magic, but her twin sister teaches a course in it. Gailey infuses sibling rivalry with suspense that’s both whimsical and relatable, and the writing mixes enchanting poetry with relatable intrigue that keeps you rapt until the very end.
Here for It by R. Eric Thomas
This heartfelt and funny memoir, which is written as a series of essays, explores the author’s hilariously poignant experiences as someone who is often considered an outsider in a White world. He writes from the perspective of being Black and queer with unabashed brio and laugh-out-loud wit and wisdom. This compelling read displays a one-of-kind voice that’s moving, conversational, and addictive as it moves through ideas of self-acceptance and saving your own soul.
The Travelers by Regina Porter
Regina Porter’s acclaimed debut novel sprawls across six decades as it explores the connections between two American families, interracial marriage, and friends whose lives intersect amid heartache and history. The intricate, captivating plot entwines the lives of characters across time and space with a startling genius—Porter writes lyrical prose in short vignettes interspersed with black-and-white photographs. Find out how one woman talks about race in her mixed-race relationship.
The Black Tides of Heaven by Neon Yang
Neon Yang is known for her spellbinding prose and mesmerizing world-building, which you’ll see in full effect in this fantasy novella that’s Book 1 in the acclaimed Tensorate series. The story follows non-binary twins who come of age in a techno-magic world where gender is chosen once the time feels right. It’s an intriguing story about individuals who rebel within a larger political system set for revolution. If you love this genre, here are a few more fantasy books you won’t be able to put down.
The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson
In this beautifully written coming-of-age novel, two young sisters move from Brooklyn to Barbados to live with their maternal grandmother, a midwife who practices Obeah and helps them rediscover their roots. Naomi Jackson brilliantly captures the experience of Phaedra, 10, and Dionne, 16, who are transported from the city to island life in the summer of 1989. When their father shows up to take them home, each grapples with what it means to go home and the bonds between family and culture.
Stay Woke by Justin Michael Williams
This meditation guide creates an inclusive practice that takes into account the experiences and identities of those who are often left out of conversations on mindfulness. Williams offers readers a way to get the practical benefits of meditation, especially if that practice acknowledges social struggle. Williams demystifies the mystical by telling readers “if you can worry, you can meditate.” He transforms a wellness buzzword into a tool for all, including the Black community, the LGBTQ+ community, and anyone else who goes through injustice and trauma. If you think meditation is boring and doesn’t work, delve into this kit to customize the practice to match the heartbeat of your messy, modern, worthwhile life.
The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews
Take a little escape for the weekend with Mary Kay Andrew’s sultry romantic mystery all about the tawdry and zany goings-on in Belle Isle, North Carolina. Get ready for a page-turner about the weekenders who drop in and the regulars who belong there. The story starts as the heroine’s husband fails to arrive on the ferry, which pulls her into a murderous and twisty fast-paced plot that centers on the perils of divorce.
The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand
There once was a girl from Nantucket…you how the rest goes! Elin Hilderbrand’s breezy novels about life on the island make you feel like you’ve just bounced ashore. This one follows two friends, Madeline and Grace, who get caught up in a swirl of gossip about love affairs. This intriguing beach read delves into the secrets you keep and the ones you shouldn’t hide.
Shrill by Lindy West
Fall in love with Lindy West’s smart, insightful, and totally hilarious take on living life in a scrutinized body. She writes with soul and wit in this memoir about comedy, love, writing, and the way the world responds to her as a woman who doesn’t conform to expectations. West’s eloquent prose will truly shift your thinking, making it one of the books every woman should read in her lifetime.
Summer Sisters by Judy Blume
Ever have a best friend so close that she feels like a sister? That’s the bond at the center of Judy Blume’s entrancing novel set on Martha’s Vineyard in the kind of summer houses most of us only dream about. Caitlin chooses Vix to be her bestie, but their complex friendship has to weather changes across the years while they each remain haunted by a shattering summer event from long ago.
First Comes Love by Emily Griffin
Dive into Emily Griffin’s family drama about two sisters and their alternately prickly and loving bond—especially in the aftermath of tragedy. Josie is single, but she longs for a child, while Meredith seems to have the perfect family life. The plot twists will keep you turning pages filled with astute observations, wit, and all those relatable emotions that exist between sisters. Speaking of siblings, you should text these funny sister quotes to your own sis right now.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This literary tour de force moves at a fast clip. Saunter from high-society parties to the dark valley of the ashes in this novel about wealth accumulation and the people hurt in its aftermath. Gatsby pursues Daisy, a woman whose laugh sounds like money, but he may be perpetually out of her league—even without the entanglement of tragedy that links them both. They don’t call it an American masterpiece for nothing. If this is one of those books you’ve always lied about reading, now is the time to actually read it!
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Virtuoso essayist Joan Didion turns her eye toward her husband’s sudden death in this memoir on grief, love, and longing. You’ll find yourself deep in the throes of a very personal reckoning and its hard-won mercies. Didion helps the reader make sense of loss through an intimate look at her own. This book also made our list of the best gripping memoirs by strong women.
There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker
Take a deep dive into poetry with Morgan Parker, who’s been called the voice of a generation. Her poems brim with passion and intensity as her works capture the ineffable experience of Black millennial womanhood in contemporary America. Here are more Black poets you should know about.
The Good Fight by Danielle Steel
You can always count on best-selling novelist Danielle Steel for a page-turning beach read. This book from 2019 is the story of a woman caught in the upheaval of America’s political past. Meredith is a heroine who comes of age during the civil rights era, in the midst of her father’s conservative values and those of her liberal grandfather, while blazing her own trail as an activist.
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Get ready for wit and wisdom from Amy Poehler, as she writes about life as a funny woman in this hilarious and inspiring bestseller. It’s certain to make you laugh and think as you roll through this collection of real-life stories punched up with one-liners and chock-full of great advice.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Settle into Holden Caufield’s classically cynical vibe. The old-time slang still resonates with contemporary human pathos and the universal condition of seeing the world through young and melancholy eyes. Find beauty amid all the phonies in this classic ode to life as a teenager.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood originally published her chilling tale of totalitarian Gilead in 1985, but the classic feminist novel retains contemporary relevance, especially since the debut of its addictive adaptation on Hulu. Delve into the gripping world of captive Offred (named as such because she is “of” the man who commands her, Fred). This novel delves into a world where women are valued only as childbearing vessels or sex objects—and while it sounds a little heavy for a beach read, you won’t be able to stop reading it or thinking about it.
Nobody Cries at Bingo by Dawn Dumont
Dawn Dumont’s charming and moving memoir tells stories about life on the “Rez,” the Okanese First Nation reservation. The author is a Plains Cree comedian and actress whose descriptions and humor pull you into the world of her family from the very first lines about her parents’ 6,945th breakup and where they go in the aftermath. Check out these iconic books that almost didn’t get published.
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Get ready for captivating prose in this classic about a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago. Esperanza’s childhood unfolds in a series of vignettes that grapple with identity and heritage, and Cisneros’ beautiful, evocative, and lyrical writing keeps you spellbound along the journey.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
When nostalgia beckons, return to Narnia. C.S. Lewis knew how to capture a heart and keep it engaged until the very last page. Adults still love this classic children’s novel about a magical wardrobe and the enchanting world just beyond a throng of fur coats. Fauns, a white witch, talking wildlife, and a majestic lion await to inspire your soul all over again.
Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman
Los Angeles Times journalist Amy Kaufman promises you an insider’s look at “America’s favorite guilty pleasure,” and this soapy exposé offers smart analysis and reliable dish. It focuses on the behind-the-scenes details of ABC’s beloved and bemoaned reality franchise, The Bachelor, a show that promises true love—or does it? Devour this breezy read that offers the real deal on a highly watchable show.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Follow a group of moms who seem to have it all in Liane Moriarty’s dramatic novel, which has been turned into a must-watch HBO series starring Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman. This page-turner takes you into the underbelly of the so-called “good life,” but the story ultimately focuses on the power of female friendships, as strong women band together to help each other out.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Get ready for Gothic goings-on set in a giant manse that has intrigue, scandal, and a little bit of lust in every nook and cranny. No heroine can really come of age and figure things out without a madwoman in the attic, a roguish boyfriend, a mean, estranged aunt, and a nice-guy missionary who offers reliable but boring love. What should Jane do? Read on as she sketches pictures, figures it out, survives, and lays her heart bare for you, dear reader! This is definitely one of the books everyone should read in their lifetime.
Fat Girl on a Plane by Kelly DeVos
When you’re in the mood for YA delight, take a ride with Cookie, an aspiring fashion designer who dreams of styling people of all sizes. But on her way from Phoenix to an interview in New York City, she’s declared “too fat to fly.” Cookie has to figure out how to navigate love and career while living in a body that seems to be under attack by fashion industry standards and just about everyone else. This touching and funny novels alternates between Cookie’s perspectives as both “fat” and “skinny” as she figures out how to accept herself in a world set on tearing women down. Kelly DeVos’ stellar debut is a relatable and moving story about following your dreams and learning to love yourself along the way. Because we could all use a little body positivity every once in a while, memorize these inspiring quotes to help you love your body.
Candy Girl by Diablo Cody
Get ready for Diablo Cody’s fearless brand of storytelling in this addicting memoir about her life as an unlikely stripper. Before Cody became the Academy Award–winning screenwriter of Juno, she was an aspiring novelist and ad-copy pencil pusher who took a walk on the wild side. She chronicled her adventures in this funny and surprisingly relatable story about body image and exposure that’s sure to keep you turning pages and applauding.
Knitlandia by Clara Parkes
Calling all crafters! Clara Parkes’ witty essays take readers on a journey around the world. Yarn shops become locales for inspiring, heartwarming life lessons learned through creative living, and you’ll unwind and draw inspiration from the often funny and always riveting stories about a knitter’s life and travels.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Prepare yourself for the chilling intimacy of a disintegrating marriage in this “she said, he said” spine-tingler. Gillian Flynn’s suspenseful bestseller will keep you on the edge of your chaise lounge as you twist and turn reading this mystery about a wife who goes missing. Her cheating husband seems to take the fall in a glorious and unrivaled setup. Of course, this book became a hit movie starring Ben Affleck, and you’ll definitely want to watch it, too.
The Stand by Stephen King
Anything in Stephen King’s enormous catalog will entrance you, The Stand will take your obsession to the next level. What happens when a mysterious illness kills almost everyone on the planet? Who is left behind, why, and how are they going to forge ahead in the face of loss and devastation? The premise is particularly chilling, given our recent experiences with the pandemic, but the battle between good and evil is a timeless theme. Are you a horror aficionado? See how many of these scary books you’ve read…and pick up the ones you haven’t. Sleep is overrated, anyway.
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
This heartbreaking and mesmerizing classic follows the friendship of two prep-school teens. Gene, the quiet, smart one, finds himself enamored with the popular and ever-charming golden boy, Phineas. Gene is enraptured by his inspiring friend but also entangled by a jealousy that leads to a tragic accident.
The Vacationers by Emma Straub
Take a jaunt to the idyllic island of Mallorca with a couple celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary. With family and friends in tow, the relaxing locale becomes the setting for rising dramas and rupturing secrets. You’ll get swept up in this family vacation and won’t want to put this book down until you get to the end. Hopefully your own family vacation will be a lot more relaxing!
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Young love was never so beautiful—or so stressful! Rainbow Rowell captures the ache and magic of this universal experience with a fever-rich passion that puts you right there. Set in 1986, Eleanor is a misfit with battles at home who finds herself drawn to comic-booking-loving Park. School bus rides become the setting for an epic love story that will keep you turning pages and rooting for the misfits.
Run for Something by Amanda Litman
This is one of the best summer reads to give you the tools to tackle real life. Effortlessly readable and totally inspiring, it offers easy-to-follow, actionable steps for changing your world—and becoming the change you want to see in the world at large. Holding public office (or even becoming president) isn’t some out-of-reach goal. You can do it with this fun guidebook that’s part civics lesson, part pep talk, and wholly encouraging. Here are more nonfiction books on a wide variety of topics that will capture your attention, too.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
This Pulitzer Prize winner takes you on a world tour with Arthur Less. The hapless hero, an author about to turn 50 who was recently jilted by his longtime boyfriend, heads to a series of travel destinations in search of adventure and avoidance. Andrew Sean Greer writes with wit and beauty in a tale that will move you as you chuckle along the way.
A Life’s Work by Rachel Cusk
Motherhood’s tedium and ecstasies are captured provocatively in this memoir on what is it to be a mother. Novelist Rachel Cusk writes with page-turning poetry about experiences during pregnancy and early motherhood, and she makes the subject fascinating and intense because she’s so unabashedly honest. These motherhood quotes will make you want to call your own mom.
Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher
Julie Schumacher makes bureaucracy side-splittingly funny in this novel composed solely of letters. Professor Jason Fitger unwittingly reveals his love affairs, passions, regrets, and obsessions in a series of recommendation letters, complaints, email entreaties, and written demands to a red-tape void. He’s alarmingly funny and woefully stationed. Quiet desperation becomes a means for hilarious highs and lows in this amazing beach read that you’ll want to recommend to everyone.
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Deborah Harkness offers Harry Potter for grown-ups in her spellbinding novel about a scholar and witch descendant who finds an alchemy manuscript in the stacks of a library. This discovery unleashes a world of magic and fantastical creatures, including a dashing vampire. On your way to your beach vacation, we recommend listening to these new fiction podcasts you’ll obsess over.
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
You’ll adore the young heroine in this graphic novel about growing up when your dad is a mortician and you live in the funeral home where he works. Alison Bechdel’s beloved memoir offers scandal, tragedy, and nonstop wit and charm as she navigates her own sexual identity and comes to terms with the one her dad hid from her.
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
This delightfully moving novel is about dating when you have Asperger syndrome. The heroine, Stella, loves math and algorithms, but romance and the like baffle her, so she hires a male escort to show her the ropes of all things kissing and more. But their relationship seems destined to move beyond the transactional. Get ready for heady romance that will warm your heart. In the mood for love? When you get home from the beach, tune in to one of these romantic movies you’ll swoon over.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Celeste Ng’s bestseller reads like a love story to the low-key suburb of Shaker Heights, Ohio, and its natives. Elena loves the placid sense of success the neighborhood provides, but when a mysterious single mom moves nearby, Elena and her family become drawn to their differences and their mysteries. Then conflict erupts for the whole community.
A Is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
You might as well start at the beginning of the alphabet with the best-selling Kinsey Millhone mysteries. Sue Grafton masters the form with her beloved series about a hard-boiled detective whose sharp skills light the dark and grittier locales of sunny California. Get ready for wit, twists, and a multitude of surprises. Bonus: If you start this series, you’ll have reading material for the entire summer and well beyond!
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Come for the literary intrigue, stay for the absolutely dazzling writing. You can’t help but be pulled into the story of fraternal twins making sense of political upheaval and societal restrictions. This richly captivating novel is set in Ayemenem, India, and spans alternating timelines and flashbacks. Arundhati Roy’s brilliant debut novel will make you laugh, weep, and long for more. We certainly think it qualifies as one of the best debut novels of the past 50 years.
Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
This coming-of-age classic broke ground when it was first published in 1973. Read it to experience heroine Molly Bolt’s romantic adventures as she figures out what it means to live and love as a lesbian. The book celebrates being bold, proud (with literary flair to match), and embracing who you are at your core.
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
If you don’t want to reread Jane Austen’s eternally lovable Pride and Prejudice for the millionth time, check out Curtis Sittenfeld’s contemporary retelling. You still get the Bennet sisters and Mr. Darcy, but in this round, everyone’s in modern America (Manhattan and Cincinnati, to be exact), working cool, high-powered jobs and appearing on reality TV. Austen fans will love it.
Meaty by Samantha Irby
Hilarious and astute, Samantha Irby’s essay collection is all about the perils of modern life. Prepare for massive LOLs with doses of poignant honesty from this effortlessly brazen and comedic writer. You’ll feel like you’re listening to a friend give you the scoop on the most intimate parts of her life (dating, eating, dieting), and it’s all stuff you need to hear.
Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
This short, enthralling novel will take you on a literary journey tethered to reality. It’s a gorgeously written masterpiece focused on the family saga of a teenager growing up in 1930s Harlem. Semi-autobiographical and still relevant, James Baldwin’s first novel proves he was one of the greatest American writers and far ahead of his time. There’s a reason this book is a classic, though it was published amid controversy.
The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell
Time for some YA dystopia with a strong female protagonist and zombies! Open up Alden Bell’s gorgeous and moving novel about growing up in the apocalypse. Fifteen-year-old Temple has never known a world that wasn’t brutal. As you follow her on a journey to find redemption and beauty in the midst of bizarre and deadly destruction, the lyrical and elegiac story will captivate you. Zombies can offer poetry, too.
Stars Above by Marissa Meyer
When you’re in the mood for fairy tales, dive into the Lunar Chronicles. You’ll love binge-reading this best-selling short story collection that infuses classic fairy tales with science-fiction action, resulting in a great genre remix that’s filled with romance, heartbreak, and suspense.
Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
Did you miss the series everyone was talking about? It’s not too late to dive into the series with the book that started it all. Lose yourself in Westeros and the epic struggles between the Starks and the Lannisters. George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series is legitimately addicting—the plots are filled with political backstabs, passionate uprisings, and armies of fantastical creatures. Choose a side and get taken for a dragon ride in this cult favorite.
It by Stephen King
Depending on the beachgoer, this horror novel can definitely qualify as the perfect beach read. And hey, the safest place to experience a scare (or a few dozen of them) is with your toes nestled in the sand. Stephen King’s horror masterpiece takes you on a journey into a long-cursed town and the diabolical clown who lingers in the sewers and emerges unexpectedly. Get ready for fearsome fun and classic chills from the master of suspense. If horror’s your thing, you’ll definitely want to listen to these scary podcasts that will keep you up at night.
All Summer Long by Dorothea Benton Frank
This quintessential beach read offers dazzling descriptions of life near the shore for long-married Olivia and Nick. They leave Manhattan for life on Sullivans Island, but their new house needs epic and expensive remodeling and Nick doesn’t know they’re in dire financial straits. Olivia misses the bustle of the city, but can’t help being drawn into the island magic in this lulling novel about love and marriage during an eventful summer near the beach. In the mood for some vacation magic of your own? Rent one of these beach house rentals and bring all the books you want to pass the time!