The 18 Best Beach Reads of Summer 2021
After being cooped up in the house for the better part of the last 15 months, we couldn’t be more excited for summer—especially because rising vaccination rates mean we can actually, you know, do things. Whether you’re headed to the beach, to the pool or to your living room couch wishing you were at the beach or pool, here are 20 unputdownable beach reads to devour this summer.
1. A Special Place for Women by Laura Hankin
For years, rumors have swirled about an exclusive, women-only social club where the elite tastemakers of NYC meet. With her career in freefall, journalist Jillian Beckley needs a juicy scoop and decides she's going to break into the club. But the deeper she gets into this new world, the more she learns that bad things happen to those who dare to question the club's motives or roll their eyes at its outlandish rituals. This particular group of women may be far more powerful—and dangerous—than she ever imagined.
2. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
Alex and Poppy are polar opposites who are somehow best friends. Poppy lives in New York City, while Alex stayed in their small hometown, but every summer, for a decade, they’ve taken one week of vacation together. Until two years ago, when they ruined everything and spoke for the last time. Feeling stuck in a rut, Poppy decides to convince Alex to take one more vacation together to make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees, meaning they have just one week to mend their entire relationship.
3. Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert
No matter how hard Eve Brown strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding, she decides to grow up—even though she's not entirely sure how. She starts by applying for an open chef position at a bed and breakfast owned by Jacob, a Type A perfectionist who tells Even there’s not a chance in hell he’d hire her. Then, she hits him with her car…supposedly by accident. With his arm broken and the B&B understaffed, Eve tries to help and the two develop a bond neither saw coming.
4. The Year of Our Love by Caterina Bonvicini
Tale as old as time: Wealthy girl meets poor boy and the two forge a friendship that crosses class lines. Meet Olivia and Valerio, who grow up together in an opulent villa in Bologna. Olivia is the heir to a large industrial fortune, while Valerio is the son of their gardener and maid. They eventually take different paths: Olivia travels the world looking for herself, while Valerio devotes himself to a prestigious career that doesn't satisfy him, but they continue to meet again and again at crossroads in life.
5. Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
You know those people who, from the outside, look like they have it all figured out? That’s Finlay Donovan. Except, in reality, she’s barely staying afloat—a single mother and novelist whose next book should’ve been delivered to her publisher long ago. When Finlay is overheard discussing the plot of her new suspense novel with her agent over lunch, she's mistaken for a contract killer, and inadvertently accepts an offer to dispose of a problem husband in order to make ends meet. Soon, Finlay discovers that crime in real life is a lot more difficult than its fictional counterpart, as she becomes tangled in a real-life murder investigation.
6. It Had to Be You by Georgia Clark
Anyone else feeling desperate for an escape from reality in the form of a book? Same, which is why we're positively jazzed about Clark’s latest, about a Brooklyn wedding planner who dies unexpectedly, and instead of leaving half of the business to his wife and business partner, leaves his share to…his much younger mistress. Chaos and hilarity ensue.
7. We Are the Brennans by Tracey Lange
When 29-year-old Sunday Brennan wakes up in a Los Angeles hospital, bruised and battered after a drunk driving accident she caused, she swallows her pride and goes home to her family in New York. But it's not easy. She deserted them all five years before with little explanation, and they've got questions. The longer she stays, however, the more she realizes they need her just as much as she needs them. In the vein of Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney's The Nest, We Are the Brennans explores the redemptive power of love in an Irish Catholic family torn apart by secrets.
8. Bring Your Baggage and Don’t Pack Light: Essays by Helen Ellis
When author Helen Ellis (American Housewife) and her lifelong friends arrive for a reunion on the Redneck Riviera, they unpack stories of husbands and kids; lost parents and lost jobs; dirty jokes and sunscreen with SPF higher than they hair-sprayed their bangs senior year; and a bad mammogram. In these twelve essays, Ellis recounts their stories to hilarious—and moving—effect.
9. Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
Eva is a single mom and bestselling erotica writer. Shane is a reclusive, enigmatic, award-winning novelist, who, to everyone's surprise, shows up in New York, where Eva lives. When the two meet unexpectedly at a literary event, sparks fly, raising the eyebrows of the Black literati. What no one knows is that 15 years earlier, teenage Eva and Shane spent one crazy, torrid week madly in love. Over the next seven days, amidst a steamy summer, Eva and Shane reconnect, but will it be forever this time?
10. Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch by Rivka Galchen
In 1618, in the German duchy of Württemberg, plague is spreading and the Thirty Years' War has begun. In the small town of Leonberg, Katharina Kepler is accused of being a witch. An illiterate widow, known by her neighbors for her herbal remedies and the success of her children, Katharina has done herself no favors by being out and about and in everyone's business. Accused of offering a local woman a drink that has made her ill, Katharina—with the help of her scientist son—must try to convince the community of her innocence.
11. The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
In this thrilling debut, Nella is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. That is, until Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers and the two bond immediately. Things change, though, when Hazel becomes an office darling, and Nella is left in the dust. Then notes start to appear on Nella's desk—"LEAVE WAGNER. NOW”—and she soon realizes that there's a lot more at stake than just her career.
12. The Maidens by Alex Michaelides
In this long-awaited second novel from the author of The Silent Patient, Edward Fosca is a handsome and charismatic Greek tragedy professor at Cambridge University. He's adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens. Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member is found murdered in Cambridge and she suspects the professor is behind the killing. When another body is found, Mariana's obsession with proving Fosca's guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships.
13. She Memes Well: Essays by Quinta Brunson
You might recognize comedian Quinta Brunson from her really funny tweets or her often viral BuzzFeed videos. Her debut essay collection covers her weird road to Internet notoriety. She discusses what it was like to go from flat broke to “halfway recognizable,” and her experience rising up the ranks in a predominantly white industry.
14. Girl A by Abigail Dean
Lex has spent years trying to forget her childhood and her family. Growing up in an extremely abusive house, she became known in the news as Girl A—the eldest sister who escaped and freed her older brother and four younger siblings. After her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex the family home, she finds she can't run from her past any longer. Read this gripping psychological family story if you’re a fan of Gillian Flynn or Emma Donoghue.
15. The Break-Up Book Club by Wendy Wax
Breakups, like book clubs, come in many shapes and sizes. In this funny and heartwarming exploration of friendship, four women who have little in common meet at book club and bond over a shared love of reading, as well as the growing realization that their lives are not turning out like they expected. With the help of books, laughter and ever evolving friendships, the women find the courage to navigate new and surprising chapters of their lives.
16. The Summer Job by Lizzy Dent
What if you could be someone else, just for the summer? That’s the question Birdy asked herself before she took the summer job at a Scottish hotel that her world class wine-expert friend. Can she survive a summer pretending to be her best friend? Can she stop herself from falling for the first man she's ever actually liked, but who thinks she's someone else?
17. Dream Girl by Laura Lippman
You know Misery? This is kind of like that, by which we mean supremely creepy. Injured in a freak fall, novelist Gerry Andersen is confined to a hospital bed and dependent on two women he barely knows: his young assistant, and a dull night nurse. Then late one night, he gets a mysterious phone call from a woman claiming to be Aubrey, the alluring title character from his most successful novel. But there is no real Aubrey. Isolated from the world, drowsy from medication, Gerry slips between reality and a dreamlike state in which he is haunted by his own past and the very real possibility of a visit from this “Aubrey” character.
18. That Summer by Jennifer Weiner
From a master of the beach read genre comes a twisty novel of intrigue, secrets and the transformative power of female friendship. When a woman simultaneously overwhelmed and dissatisfied with her life starts receiving emails meant for someone else, she starts to envy the mysterious stranger’s glamorous, sophisticated single-lady life. When an apology leads to an invitation, the two women meet and become friends. But, as they get closer, it becomes clear that their connection was not completely accidental.