The best beach reads are the ones that pull off the balancing act between “good enough to keep you interested” and “easy enough to put down and pick back up again.” They’re usually fun, light, and breezy with a dash of summer romance, second chances, or a backdrop of travel and adventure. Of course, there are also some great summer reads under mystery and historical fiction that are a staple in most beach bags. Consider this your guide to great books to add to your summer reading list.
1. The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand
Celeste and Benji are madly in love, and they’re about to say “I do” in a lavish beach wedding on the shores of Nantucket. Then the maid of honor washes up dead just hours before the ceremony. With everyone in the wedding party under suspicion, hidden truths quickly come to light, and it becomes apparent that no one’s life is perfect.
You might know author Elin Hilderbrand as one of the queens of beach reads, and The Perfect Couple is another title to add to her royal pedigree. It’s basically “Clue” but flavored like romcom ice cream. Gobble it up while you can!
2. The True Love Experiment by Christina Lauren
She’s a romance novelist with writer’s block. He’s a documentary filmmaker who’s been strong-armed into making a reality series. Both of them should know better than to let sparks fly…but hey, it’s a romantic comedy!
Funny, flirty, and just the right amount of raunchy, The True Love Experiment is a book for the self-aware. The leads know precisely what kind of story they’re in and aren’t afraid to complain about it.
3. Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld
When a female sketch writer falls for a dreamy pop star, she can’t believe her desires. She writes jokes about these kinds of situations, for crying out loud. She’s known for skewering them. How can she be turning into a cliche?
Such is the premise of Romantic Comedy. Sharply funny, it’s another self-aware novel with an almost observational look at love, which makes it ideal for viewing through a critical yet hilarious pop culture lens.
4. The Celebrants by Steven Rowley
After the sudden death of a dormmate, five college friends vow to reunite for “living funerals” whenever one is them is feeling low. They keep this promise for decades, periodically coming back together after divorces, medical issues, and family drama. But they have no idea that their latest meeting will be their last.
Spanning the years between 1995 – 2023, The Celebrants is an examination of the true meaning of friendship. What does it cost? How does age change it? Most importantly, how can it endure? By the time you’re done reading, your tears will be joining the ocean’s salt water.
5. Every Summer After by Carley Fortune
Percy and Sam fell in love as teenagers on the picturesque shores of Barry’s Bay. After it all fell apart, Percy moved away and reinvented herself in the city…, but when Sam’s mother dies, she returns to the lake for the first time in a long time, and she realizes that she can’t run from the past forever.
Though a bit heavier than your usual vacation read, Every Summer After is still one of the best books for the beach. Its evocative imagery will make you grateful for every ray of sunshine glittering on the water. The romance between Percy and Sam is swoon-worthy, too.
6. The Housekeepers by Alex Hay
When Mrs. King is fired from her job as a maid in a wealthy Victorian estate, she decides to get her revenge by returning to the mansion and robbing the owners — she knows exactly where the valuables are stashed, after all. She just needs a skilled crew to help her pull off a heist during the annual masquerade ball.
If this sounds like Ocean’s Eleven but with disgruntled housekeepers in a historical society, you’re absolutely right. Its tagline is “never underestimate the women downstairs.” You’ll realize why when you’re caught up in their misadventures just as surely as any thief!
7. A Perfect Vintage by Chelsea Fagan
Lea is single, childless, and perfectly content with a career of flipping old and crumbling estates into modern boutique hotels. Of course, that’s when she gets a work assignment that changes everything. The primary catalyst: her boss’s son.
A Perfect Vintage is a wish-fulfillment novel that doubles as a fantastic beach read. While you sip cocktails in the sand, your imagination will be transported to the rolling hills of the French countryside and the glamorous people that live within them. Who can resist romance set in an idyllic chateau?
8. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
Poppy and Alex are best friends who live apart but take a vacation together every year. After a trip turned sour, they’ve been at odds, but they decide to give their friendship one last chance with one last trip.
If you like fun, fluffy romcoms, People We Meet on Vacation is the novel for you. While it isn’t without depth, it’s ultimately a feel-good story. The dialogue between the leads is laugh-out-loud stuff that’s outdone only by their more sizzling moments and the ultimate strength of their connection. Pack this one when you want to smile!
9. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
Some of the best beach reads are ones that drop you into another person’s vacation. If you’re looking to take a wild ride ever leaving your towel and umbrella, try The Unhoneymooners.
When almost everyone at her sister’s wedding gets food poisoning, Olive is gifted with her all-expenses-paid honeymoon. The only catch is that she has to take it with the best man, Ethan, who she can’t stand. Will she learn to deal with him for the sake of a free trip? Or will she kill him before their plane even lands in paradise?
10. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Alicia has a seemingly perfect life until the day that she shoots her husband five times in the face. Refusing to speak of it, she’s committed, but criminal psychologist Theo refuses to let her waste away in silence. He wants to know exactly what happened, and his obsession could end up being just as dangerous as the crime he’s trying to unravel.
The Silent Patient is a beach read for stormy days when the clouds are dark. An intense psychological thriller, it’s a lot heftier than the usual summertime fare, but that’s precisely what makes it unique.
11. The Hotel Nantucket by Elin Hilderbrand
After purchasing a “haunted” hotel in Nantucket, billionaire business mogul Xavier hires local sweetheart Lizbet to run the place as a general manager. He isn’t expecting the sparks that fly between them. The ghost in the hotel is a bit of a surprise, too!
Another rollicking good time from Elin Hilderbrand, The Hotel Nantucket is actually the first in her Nantucket series. It establishes the familiar faces she brings back for later works. But one thing’s for sure: Whether you’re a new fan or a returning one, you’re sure to love sinking into the world of Hilderbrand.
12. Bad Summer People by Emma Rosenblum
Jen and Lauren are rich, perfectly manicured frenemies who rule their favorite vacation resort every summer. When a guest is murdered during their stay, they don’t let it stop their gossip, but the ensuing investigation threatens to break a nail or two.
Bad Summer People is a darkly entertaining novel that’s absolutely perfect for vacation. In fact, it’s so perfect that you’ll probably wind up carrying it with you through airports and hotels as well. You won’t be able to stop turning the pages on the beach alone!
13. Happy Place by Emily Henry
Known for being a blissfully happy couple, Harriet and Wyn don’t have the heart to tell their friends they’ve broken up. They’ll just have to pretend to still be together during their annual vacation with their best friends. It’ll be easy, right?
If you just groaned aloud, welcome to the wonderful world of Happy Place. It’s funny, convoluted, and full of zany mishaps, just like all the best romcoms. In short, it’s a fabulous beach read.
14. The Comeback Summer by Ali Brady
Do you fantasize about becoming a new person over the summer? If so, you’ve just found the perfect book to read by the pool. The Comeback Summer is sweet, funny, and dedicated to self-love just as much as romantic love.
Sisters Hannah and Libby partake in a 12-week challenge called “Crush Your Comfort Zone.” As they try new things, meet new people, and develop new skills, they’re thrown into a whirlwind that connects everything from their careers to their love lives.
15. The Five-Star Weekend by Elin Hilderbrand
After a car accident kills her husband, Hollis decides to go for a special retreat called “the five-star weekend,” which celebrates one’s journey from childhood to midlife. As she takes her trip down memory lane, she realizes some important truths about herself, her family, and the decisions that shaped both.
Another one of the weightier beach reads on this list, The Five-Star Weekend is nonetheless fantastic. It’s the kind of novel that will make you think about your life even while you’re currently on the outside of it during a vacation.
Prices last updated on 2023-10-01