30 beach reads to dive into this summer
Published May 17, 2016 5:00 AM
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by Cora L Diekman
by Tracey Garvis Graves This addictive, can’t-put-it-down read has it all – including delicious tropical island imagery. When two unlikely passengers crash land onto a deserted island in the Maldives, they must learn how to survive as castaways in a beautiful, yet dangerously primitive environment full of the unknown. And if sandy white beaches, sharks, tropical storms, suspense, and drama aren’t enough, YES, there’s hot romance at play, too.
by J. Kenner If you’re looking for major summer romance, check out this steamy trilogy, referred to as The Stark Series by addicted fans. The first of the series, Release Me, will have you hooked from Damien and Nikki’s first encounter. Think of this as the 50 Shades of Gray you’re NOT sick of hearing about. And with two other books in the series (and a follow up 3-part anthology), there’s plenty to keep you busy by the pool.
Beach Colors by Shelley Noble When a former New York fashion designer returns to her coastal Connecticut hometown for a life reboot, she finds a new world of unexpected possibilities – including romance with the local police officer. The beach imagery in this read is realistically picturesque, and will have you wanting to crawl into the pages of this charming story as you follow the adventures of its relatable (we’ve all been there) heroine.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan When an unsuspecting New Yorker agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, she soon discovers there’s A LOT she doesn’t know about him. For starters, his family is ridiculously wealthy (you know – palaces and private jets) and he’s also the country’s most eligible bachelor. Ride along with Rachel as she navigates the twists and turns of a vacation packed full of opulence, family drama, social climbers, and a surprise at every turn.
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson So, you’re on vacation. And just when you thought about unplugging from social media, here comes a book with a brutally honest perspective on the sometimes dark role that social media plays in our lives by way of (gasp!) public shaming. Jon Ronson shares specific real-life examples of how these public humiliations (jokes gone bad, mistakes at work, indiscretions gone viral) have played out before our eyes, and highlights society’s need to use public shaming as a form of social control. Funny and raw at the same time, it’s a cleverly written read that you’ll have you hooked to the end.Emma Straub
This light read has just enough drama to keep you hooked, and plenty of dreamy beaches, mountains, and vacation-friendly vibes for enjoying by the pool. When a group of family and friends retreat to the island of Mallorca for a two-week vacay and celebration, feuds come to light, relationships are tested, and old wounds made raw – as only family knows how. This read promises plenty of heart, humor, and satisfying family drama – all beneath the Mediterranean sun.
The Rocks by Peter Nichols If a summertime mystery calls your name, pick up this Mediterranean-set page turner with romance, mystery, and love through the ages. When a single catastrophic event drives two honeymooners apart in 1948, keep reading to discover why they never spoke again – despite living on the same island for more than sixty long years. Set within view of the sea and the picturesque Mediterranean coastline, this double love story is as beautiful as it is complex.
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari If you still haven’t picked up this hilarious New York Times Bestseller, add it to your list of beach reads this summer. While you may know Aziz Ansari for his frequent appearances on the Daily Show, this book isn’t in the vein of standup comedy. Rather, it’s a hilariously intelligent look at the way in which the modern world seeks to find love with the help of technology. Part research project, part social experiment, part hilarious read, you won’t regret toting this book to the beach.
Local Girls by Caroline Zancan This novel seeks to explore a fantasy that we’ve all entertained at least once. When a celebrity walks into a local watering hole and meets three friends, an off-chance encounter sets drama into motion with consequences that are raw and heartfelt. Local Girls is an in depth exploration of the most basic of 19-year old feelings – love and friendship.
The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North Part character study and part haunting love narrative, this novel explores the life of an artist who becomes obsessed with the subject of her work, and the retribution that follows. Told by those who knew Sophie’s genius best, the story weaves a tale of intellect, obsession, love, and one woman’s fearless pursuit of her filmmaking dream.
A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry Newly released, this tale is chock full of mystery and mythical lore. In the island paradise of Puerto Rico, everyone speaks about the cursed girl Isabel, whispering that she feeds on poisonous plants and possesses the power to kill. Seventeen year old Lucas is enthralled by the legend of the girl, but when his girlfriend disappears and letters from Isabel begin appearing in his room on the same day, he finds himself drawn into a tangled web of danger, mystery, and secrets.
The Lost City of Z by David Grann This real life account of one man’s obsession with the Amazon has topped nearly every bestseller list since its release in 2010. In 1925, Percy Fawcett – famed British explorer, and a legend in his own time – set off to discover a fabled civilization he called ‘The Lost City of Z’. He never returned, and was never heard from again, disappearing into the deadly Amazon jungle that he loved so much. This account of his adventure is pieced together by his own letters and photos that were posted back to his family before his disappearance. Wrought with history, mystery, and Indiana Jones-like adventure, The Lost City of Z is the perfect summer read to satisfy your inner explorer.
Half a Lifelong Romance by Eileen Chang A 1930’s-era Romeo and Juliet story of love lost and longing, this tale takes place in the bustling, glittering city of Shanghai. When a young engineer and his colleague fall in love, the two find themselves torn apart by family drama, secrets, schemes, and misunderstandings. You’ll be hooked until the end, waiting to find out whether Manzhen and Shijun will ever find each other again, and finally create their own ‘happily ever after’.
The Bed Moved by Rebecca Schiff This unapologetically honest collection of short stories puts pen to paper about topics you’ve often thought about but perhaps rarely discussed – adolescence, sex, funerals, and a bevy of life experiences that somehow seem relatable with Rebecca Schiff’s clever way of introducing us to her characters. Shake your summer up with this witty unmasking of life as we really know it, through the eyes of those who aren’t afraid to let us peek into their innermost thoughts and feelings.
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler This lighter-than-most coming of age story combines life experience with the allure of New York City and food – two topics that will have you salivating over this charming novel. When well-to-do Tess comes to Manhattan and takes a job as a ‘backwaiter’, we ride along as she navigates her newly-chosen tumultuous life, studded with hard-learned lessons, love triangles, oysters, cocaine, champagne, friendship, and pain. Complex and relatable, Sweetbitter has just the right amount of drama for poolside reading.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel By Deborah Moggach Add this to your list, whether you’ve seen the film or not. When a charmingly hilarious group of London retirees retreat to Bangalore in search of opulent living at a bargain price, they’re in for a surprise – the facility is in great need of repair, basic amenities are lacking, and the surrounding area is in stark contrast to the mild mannered and well manicured lives they left behind. Full of beautiful imagery, complex characters, warmth, and heart, you’ll find yourself rooting for this well-meaning group of seniors, and eager to find out who can learn to appreciate the real beauty found in their newly discovered piece of Bangalore paradise – and who can’t.
The Zahir by Paolo Coelho Paolo Coelho is famous many times over for his much-loved tales of life speckled with deep, spiritual meaning. But if you’re new to this author’s work, The Zahir is an excellent place to start – full of love, lust, jealousy, and mystery. When the wife of a wealthy novelist suddenly disappears along with a friend, the husband is left with many unanswered questions. Was this friend her lover? Are they alive? Did they flee voluntarity? Were they murdered? The answers that he finally uncovers are enough to keep you hooked to the very end.
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen Jane Austen’s most famous work is likely Pride and Prejudice (especially with the recent film adaptations), but don’t discount her very first published work Sense and Sensibility. Dripping with romantic imagery and lyrical prose, you’ll fall in love with the sisters’ trials and tribulations in love lost and found.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith It seems the world is zombie-obsessed these days, so if you crave a Jane Austen classic with a twist, pick up this cheeky take on the original. Combining plenty of romance and heartbreak with (yep) zombies, this bestseller is sure to keep you hooked for hours of undead poolside reading.
The Summer of Good Intentions by Wendy Francis When three sisters come together over the summer at their family’s Cape Cod home, everyone arrives with plenty of baggage and drama to keep readers glued to this complex story of love and forgiveness. Relationships are strained, secrets are divulged, and hearts and broken – only to be healed again. This tale of family and the strength of sisterly bonds is heartfelt and compelling, with plenty of beachy feels, too.
Crossing the Borders of Time by Leslie Maitland Inspired by the true story her mother’s lost love, Leslie Maitland pieces together this haunting tale of a Jewish girl and the Catholic Frenchman she loved as WWII is breaking out in Europe. Janine and her family board one of the last ships out of France just as the ports are being cut off by the Nazis, with promises that she will one day reunite with her beloved Roland. This bittersweet romance, full of history and obstacles, is proof that true love does cross the borders of time.
The Family Fortune By Laurie Horowitz Since her family foolishly squandered its fortune, Jane is forced to move out of her comfortable and stately home in Boston’s Beacon Hill and begin anew. Jane never enjoyed the benefits of wealth, instead spending her time helping to build her family’s fortune, since depleted. Now, downtrodden and still single at 38, she sets out to save her family and reignite the only love she ever knew – a bestselling novelist whose career Jane helped to spark. Tag along with Jane as she conquers the world, saves her family, and finally aims her sights at true love.
Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger What happens when a modern day mail-order-bride arrangement goes awry? When one New Yorker woos his wife Amina from Bangladesh with the promise of marriage, both George and his new wife are in for surprises neither expected. False advertising, secrets, and crushed expectations are only the beginning of this tale of rich romance and awakening.
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain A New York Times Bestseller, this tragic tale of heartbreak and betrayal recounts the relationship of Ernest Hemingway and his first of four wives. Set against the backdrop of the glittering Jazz Age in Paris, there’s a lot to entice you about this novel, including a love story that’s chock full of drama and deception.
The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian Proving that even true love can possess tragic secrets, this tale follows one granddaughter’s search into her family’s history and the story of her grandparents initial meeting during the First World War in Aleppo, Syria. Her American grandmother Elizabeth meets a young Armenian soldier after he tragically lost his wife and child. The two fall in love and continue exchanging letters, even after Armen leaves for Egypt to join the British army. This tale of undying love is full of history, far away places, and buried secrets – the perfect page turner for summer reading.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter If you still haven’t picked up a copy of this perfect-for-summer read, add it to your must-read list this season. Ideal for beach reading, this tale of an almost-love affair (rekindled many years later) has it all – vintage sixties charm, Hollywood glam, and picture-perfect Italian coastline imagery.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple Bernadette is a fierce workaholic and a force to be reckoned with, until her increasing dislike of people and the busy Seattle world around her catches up. But when her beloved daughter aces a report card – the promised reward being a family trip to Antarctica – Bernadette suddenly disappears, and her daughter begins scouring her digital footprint in hopes of discovering where she’s gone. While hilariously written, this book is also a touching mother-daughter tale, as well as an expose on the complicated world in which we live today.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling So, in case you still haven’t cracked this book, now’s the time. Besides being a hilarious bestseller, this book is warm, touching, and so relatable. You’ll want to be Mindy’s BFF, chat her up over a glass of wine, and hear more of her hysterical observations about life, love, Hollywood, and just being a grown-up girl in the world. Seriously, add this to your summer reading list. You won’t be disappointed.
Don’t Worry, It Get’s Worse by Alida Nugent This tragically funny tale of one girl’s journey from college graduate to real-life responsible adult is charming and relatable. For anyone who has ever stumbled our doubted themselves (um, all of us) this book’s for you.
The Liar, The Bitch, and The Wardrobe by Allie Kingsley What is summer reading without a kitschy, it’s-all-in-good-fun novel for poolside pageturning? This book has it all, told from a true fashion industry insider. High fashion, drama, Hollywood, and luxury take center stage, but this tale packs plenty of heart and hard-earned life lessons too. Pour a glass of wine and get lost in this story of one girl’s mental tug-of-war between the high life and the life we’re really meant to lead.