27 easy beach reads that are perfect for summer vacation

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Summer beach reads 2021 4x3
  • Beach reads are highly entertaining books that you can’t put down, and are perfect for summer.
  • No matter the genre, these beach reads are an immersive escape, whether you’re on vacation or not.
  • Below are our 27 best beach reads, including YA, romance, thriller, and non-fiction books.

Beach reads used to be known as mindless, mass-market paperbacks with shirtless men on the cover that we’d throw in our bags, read for an hour, and never care about again. But now, beach reads are an escape, whether your toes are in the sand or not. They take us on vacation, into a new world away from our stresses.

My mark of a good beach read is one with a fully consuming story. Many of these books are ones I’ve read in a single day (or a single sitting), and every one of them pairs perfectly with a day off. Whether it’s a delightfully cheesy romantic comedy or harrowing nonfiction, every book on this list has the potential to whisk you away and make any day a vacation in the sun.

27 great beach reads:

Rom-com beach reads

An aptly titled beach read

Beach Read by Emily Henry

“Beach Read” by Emily Henry, available at Amazon and Bookshop

Of course I had to include this one. It’s about two polar-opposite writers staying in neighboring beach houses for the summer, one a romance writer and the other trying to write the next Great American Novel. Faced with writer’s block, they decide to swap topics and spend the summer teaching each other the ins and outs of writing their genres, all while competing to publish their own book first. With plenty of romance, scenes that might make you cry, and an interesting (and accurate) inside look at the process of writing a book, this is an easy one to read in the sun. 

Irresistible beach read quality: The enemies-to-friends-to-lovers storyline.

A beach read that feels like a reality show

One to Watch by Kate Stayman London

“One to Watch” by Kate Stayman-London, available at Amazon and Bookshop

Okay, I’ll admit it. I watch “The Bachelorette” every single week. If you love watching the show’s smart, strong leads who know exactly what they want and refuse to settle, then you will absolutely love this book. Bea is a plus-sized fashion blogger who gets asked to be on a “Bachelorette”-like reality show. She sees it as an opportunity to grow her brand and show that plus-size women deserve the spotlight, too. Between internet drama and conniving producers, this book is more entertaining than a reality show. 

Irresistible beach read quality: The can’t-look-away drama.

A charming, sexy rom-com

Take A Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

“Take A Hint, Dani Brown” by Talia Hibbert, available at Amazon and Bookshop

First of all, every Talia Hibbert book belongs on this list. Her romances are known for their sensitivity and steam, but they’re also such enjoyable reads that any one of them is perfect for a relaxing beach day. Danika has no interest in a relationship but asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits. So when a video of sexy security guard Zafir carrying Danika out of a building goes viral, they decide to fake a relationship to promote Zafir’s charity (and help Danika secretly seduce him behind the scenes). I loved Dani’s intelligence and the anti-toxic masculinity storyline around Zafir. Have you ever teared up because a book was so naturally inclusive that it felt like a breath of fresh air? You might once you grab this.

Irresistible beach read quality: The steamy romance.

An emotional yet adorable romance

The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abbi Jimenez

“The Happy Ever After Playlist” by Abbi Jimenez, available at Amazon and Bookshop

This one starts out a little cheesy, but there’s something so endearing about it that got me hooked. Sloan lost her fiancé two years ago and is still struggling to get her life together when she finds a lost pup named Tucker whose owner, Jason, is on tour in Australia. The two exchange texts and calls, their connection growing as their meeting grows near. But being an international star, Jason might not have time for a relationship and Sloan could end up heartbroken again. This book is super dramatic and full of scandal, giving it all the summer romance vibes you need. 

Irresistible beach read quality: A super cute dog — and a dog owner who’s not too bad looking, either.

The tale of an unexpected Hawaiian vacation

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

“The Unhoneymooners” by Christina Lauren, available at Amazon and Bookshop

Christina and Lauren (the co-authors) have written a bunch of fun rom-coms but this is my favorite because it’s absolutely hysterical. Olive (who thinks love is gross) and her sworn enemy Ethan put aside their mutual hatred for an all-expense-paid Hawaiian honeymoon after food poisoning hits everyone in her sister’s wedding besides them. When they run into her boss, the entire vacation revolves around pretending to be loving newlyweds. It’s adorable and fast-paced because of the constant (and hilarious) complications that arise.

Irresistible beach read quality: The witty banter.

Thriller beach reads

A brilliant and fast-moving thriller

Verity by Colleen Hoover

“Verity” by Colleen Hoover, available at Amazon and Bookshop

The day I opened this book, I did absolutely nothing else besides getting to the bottom of what the heck was happening in these pages. Lowen is a budding writer, brought to the Crawford home to finish writing Verity’s book series after a car accident left her in a waking coma. While doing research in Verity’s library, Lowen finds an autobiographical manuscript with haunting admissions, so devastating that she chooses to keep them a secret. This is a rollercoaster of lies that will have you trying to guess the truth until the last page.

Irresistible beach read quality: The need to know the truth gets stronger with every lie.

A unbelievably creepy novel

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

“Sharp Objects” by Gillian Flynn, available at Amazon and Bookshop

“Gone Girl” is undoubtedly the most famous of Flynn’s novels but “Sharp Objects” is my favorite to recommend as a beach read. It’s a bit shorter — and so twisted that you have to finish it in a day. Camille is an investigative reporter returning to her small town to cover the murder of a young girl. She’s staying with her hypochondriac mother in her childhood bedroom and must unravel some psychological twists in order to uncover the story. This is an incredibly suspenseful thriller and you’ll need the sun to balance out all the dark secrets.

Irresistible beach read quality: A disturbing past that feels all too real.

A summer story that turns deadly

I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick

“I Killed Zoe Spanos” by Kit Frick, available at Amazon and Bookshop

Anna is spending the summer in the Hamptons on a nannying gig, in a community on edge after the New Year’s Eve disappearance of Zoe Spanos. Anna, who is constantly reminded of her resemblance to Zoe, begins to dig deeper into the unsolved case. Two months later, she finds herself charged with the manslaughter of a girl she’d never met. The book bounces between Anna’s confession and the summer as it unfolds, with an ending that will throw you for a loop — I really thought I had this one all figured out but the last 10 pages blew me away. 

Irresistible beach read quality: The true-crime feel.

A shocking family drama

The Push by Ashely Audrian

“The Push” by Ashely Audrian, available at Amazon and Bookshop

Blythe is determined to be the warm and loving mother she never had. She’s convinced that something is wrong with her daughter, even though her husband says she’s exhausted and just imagining things. When her second child is born, the connection between herself and her children is strong and beautiful, until their lives are forever changed. This is another one that demands to be read in one sitting as everything you’ve accepted is eventually overturned. The book’s short chapters have you turning the pages faster and faster as you navigate haunting memories, trauma, and the legacy of motherhood.

Irresistible beach read quality: The ending that will make you want to throw the book in the ocean.

Historical fiction beach reads

A page-turning exploration of one woman’s life

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

“The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid, available at Amazon and Bookshop

This was the first book I read in a single sitting and it’s one I recommend to everyone. Evelyn Hugo is an A-list Hollywood actress who is finally ready to tell her story, but only to one little-known journalist. In this book, we get to hear Evelyn’s story of rising to fame in the ’50s, leaving the business in the ’80s, and marrying seven husbands (all for different reasons) along the way. Taylor Jenkins Reid writes characters and stories that are so vivid, you can’t believe they’re not real. This book is fascinating and a little heartbreaking, and when everything comes together in the end, it might become your new favorite. 

Irresistible beach read quality: The desire to know who the love of Evelyn’s life was.

A story of forgotten courage during the war

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

“The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah, available at Amazon and Bookshop

Just when you think you’ve read every World War II story there is to tell, this book comes into your life. It’s about French women’s role in the war — from secret messengers across country lines to wives forced to house German soldiers as bombs drop around them. While 600 pages might warrant a week-long beach stay, I read this in two days and cried twice. It is so achingly beautiful and so hard to pull away.

Irresistible beach read quality: The constant action of women fighting to survive.

A historical tale set in Scotland

The Skylark’s Secret by Fiona Valpy

“The Skylark’s Secret” by Fiona Valpy, available at Amazon and Bookshop

In 1940, Flora embarks on a forbidden romance that brings even more tension into a home rocked by devastating changes in the community. Many years later, Flora’s daughter, Lexie, returns to the village with her own daughter to learn about her mother, their past, and the sacrifices made in her name. This multi-generational story is about war, love, and learning from and about our past. The family dynamics — and facing that which lays hidden behind them — make this book so beloved by many. 

Irresistible beach read quality: The connection between the generations of women and their homeland.

A fictional account of a real, often-overlooked woman

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

“Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell, available at Amazon and Bookshop

Maggie O’Farrell’s magical writing elevates an already fascinating book into one that you’ll hold close long after the summer is over. It’s historical fiction, based on the little-known (but real) story of Agnes, found in the footnotes of “Hamlet.” In 1580s England, Agnes is a gifted healer, both feared and sought-after, who settles down with her husband and has three children. When her son, Hamnet, dies at age eleven, Agnes’ husband writes a play called “Hamlet.” You absolutely do not need to be a Shakespeare buff to love this story and appreciate its rightful place in history. 

Irresistible beach read quality: Maggie O’Farrell’s lyrical writing.

Young adult beach reads

A novel that will leave you feeling optimistic

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

“With the Fire on High” by Elizabeth Acevedo, available at Amazon and Bookshop

The only place Emoni has to let go of her stress is the kitchen, making food that everyone agrees is unparalleled. With a dream to be a chef and an opportunity just out of reach, Emoni needs to find a way to balance her dreams and responsibilities. This one is about hardships: Young motherhood, the harshness of the world, and balancing everything you love. It’s a very character-driven novel, so prepare yourself to become emotionally invested in Emoni’s happiness and success. Elizabeth Acevedo might not be capable of writing anything that’s not incredible, as every book of hers I’ve read has blown me away. 

Irresistible beach read quality: The food in this book will make you hungry in real life.

A queer enemies-to-lovers royal romance

Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

“Red, White, and Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston, available at Amazon and Bookshop

Alex Claremont-Diaz is the first son of the White House with a lifelong nemesis — Prince Henry of British royalty. When Alex confronts Henry at a royal wedding, the story is leaked to the tabloids and the best solution is a publicity stunt: a fake friendship between the two. As Henry and Alex begin to fall in love, the truth threatens to destroy the President’s reelection campaign and even the relations between Britain and America. I love a good queer romance but the added royal aspect, the snarky wit between the boys, and the fun development of the relationship make this a must-read for the summer. 

Irresistible beach read quality: The heart-swelling romance.

A competitive and sweet first-love story

Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon

“Today Tonight Tomorrow” by Rachel Lynn Solomon, available at Amazon and Bookshop

For all four years of high school, Rowan and Neil hate each other, bitter rivals and complete opposites. When Neil is named valedictorian, Rowan finds one last chance to beat him in a scavenger hunt/ninja assassin game played by all seniors after graduation. The plot spans 24 hours, which keeps this book moving quickly. It’s easy to laugh and root for these two as their faux-hateful banter turns quickly to friendship despite years of sworn rivalry. 

Irresistible beach read quality: The balance between pure fun and deeper feelings.

A truly adorable, romantic high school adventure

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” by Jenny Han, available at Amazon and Bookshop

Lara Jean does not tell boys that she has a crush on them. Instead, she writes each one a letter and hides them all under her bed. Somehow, these letters have been mailed and all her past crushes, big and small, are confronting her about them. It’s highly amusing because of the reappearance of every crush — from her sister’s ex-boyfriend to her first kiss many years ago. The story is very cute and light, so you can relax in the sun as Lara winds through sisterhood and her past loves towards a romance that leaves you smiling. 

Irresistible beach read quality: A light love story to make any beach day brighter.

A summer beach read set in picturesque Italy

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

“Love & Gelato” by Jenna Evans Welch, available at Amazon and Bookshop

After her mother passes away, Lina finds her mother’s old journal while spending the summer in Tuscany to get to know her father. Suddenly no longer focused on leaving, Lina begins to follow her mother’s writing through Italy’s streets and discover her secrets with the help of a charming local boy. It’s a summer story of family, first love, and discovery. My favorite quote is “People come to Italy for all sorts of reasons, but when they stay it’s for the same two things… love and gelato.”

Irresistible beach read quality: The adorable love story accompanying the uncovering of long-kept secrets.

Contemporary fiction beach reads

A novel of two very different journeys

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

“The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett, available at Amazon and Bookshop

The Vignes sisters ran away from their small, southern Black community at 16 and moved on to very different lives; one sister moving back home with her Black daughter; the other passing for white, marrying a white man — and telling him nothing of her past. When their daughters’ lives intersect years later, they begin to uncover the decisions and lies of their mothers. This book is about race, but also exploration, identity, desires, and how our past influences it all. There is so much about this book to love that I read it twice. 

Irresistible beach read quality: The stark differences of two sisters with the same upbringing.

A Californian story of love and friendship

The Knockout Queen by Rufi Thorpe

“The Knockout Queen” by Rufi Thorpe, available at Amazon and Bookshop

This is a coming-of-age story about the friendship between Bunny, a too-tall Olympic hopeful, and Michael, her closeted, home-schooled neighbor. Bunny is desperate to fit in and hide from her father’s alcoholism while Michael is trying to navigate his sexuality while meeting up with men on the internet, the two taking solace in each other’s company. With really intelligent writing that keeps you interested in the characters, it’s an unapologetic and unflinchingly honest telling of two teens seeking human connection. 

Irresistible beach read quality: A tender look into the victories and downfalls of two misfits.

A light read on a thought-provoking topic

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

“Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid, available at Amazon and Bookshop

This book gets interesting from the first scene, where Emira, a young African-American woman, is accused of kidnapping Briar, the white child she babysits, while walking around the grocery store. Alix, the blogger mom of the child, tries to right the situation that quickly gets farther and farther out of control. Emira and Briar are hugely loveable characters that contrast heavily with the supposedly well-intentioned Alix, making this an entertaining read as well as a broader commentary on race, class, and influencer culture.

Irresistible beach read quality: How true-to-life the story feels. 

A story of fighting for what you love

Things You Save In A Fire by Katherine Center

“Things You Save In A Fire” by Katherine Center, available at Amazon and Bookshop

Katherine Center is so good at writing hardships that leave you feeling hopeful. This one is about Cassie, one of the only female firefighters in her firehouse. With rundown facilities, no funding to fix them, and an environment that borders on toxic, the men aren’t thrilled to have a woman join the crew, even though she’s more competent than most of them. When the handsome new guy is the only one nice to her, Cassie has to constantly remind herself that she doesn’t date firefighters. Katherine Center writes stories that have you rooting for the main character with every part of your heart and soul, and this one is true to form. 

Irresistible beach read quality: The protagonist’s complete badassery.

A classic-feeling beach read with secrets galore

Winter In Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

“Winter In Paradise” by Elin Hilderbrand, available at Amazon and Bookshop

Elin Hilderbrand is basically the ultimate beach read writer, churning out smooth reads that end in cliffhangers. After the sudden, tragic death of her husband, Irene travels to St. John to investigate the unusual circumstances in which he died, stumbling upon the secrets of a man she may not have known as well as she thought. I loved this for a summer read because the characters are easy to understand, the drama keeps you interested, and there’s just enough romance to have me rooting for love. 

Irresistible beach read quality: The tropical tourist destination setting.

Non-fiction beach reads

A historical crisis told in an intimate way

The Splendid and The Vile  A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson

“The Splendid and The Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz” by Erik Larson, available at Amazon and Bookshop

This book is a highly researched history about Churchill’s actions and reactions in Britain during the WWII era. It follows him as well as his family and friends through the fear surrounding London as Hitler kills 45,000 Britains in a bombing campaign, having invaded Holland and Belgium on Churchill’s first day as Prime Minister. Erik Larson writes history like an unfolding drama, so you’ll find yourself learning and invested in the story.

Irresistible beach read quality: The diaries and formerly classified intelligence reports.

A true story about the mothers of our heroes

The Three Mothers by Anna Malaika Tubbs

“The Three Mothers” by Anna Malaika Tubbs, available at Amazon and Bookshop

This is the story of the mothers who raised and shaped Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin. Faced with Jim Crow-era racism, little has been previously said of the incredible women who taught these men the beliefs of justice and equality that would change the world. The book is filled with love and compassion, bringing the experience of Black women and mothers into the conversation while truly demonstrating their vital significance in the ongoing fight against oppression. 

Irresistible beach read quality: The untold stories of three extraordinary women.

A fact-filled presentation of a frustrating bias

Invisible Women  Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Pérez

“Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men” by Caroline Criado Pérez, available at Amazon and Bookshop

In nearly every aspect of our society, women are systematically ignored. From the way crash test dummies, voice recognition software, and even medicinal dosing have been designed, the data that drives nearly every aspect of our lives revolves around men. This book can be a little appalling as the well-researched case studies shed light on an unconscious bias in our society that might start to feel more and more obvious as you learn more about it. 

Irresistible beach read quality: The data to back up every claim.

A true story about women who glow

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

“The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women” by Kate Moore, available at Amazon and Bookshop

As soon as I found out about this phenomenon of “The Radium Girls” I dove headfirst into this book. During the First World War, they were working in factories to get radium — a newly discovered magical drug — into the hands of the public. The girls were covered in radium, literally glowing from the chemical all over their bodies after leaving their coveted jobs. But when they began to fall ill, the factories ignored their claims that it could be from the radium. It’s the story of a fight for workers’ rights, one that saved so many lives because the women demanded to be heard. It’s also such a remarkable story that it’s easy to forget it’s true.

Irresistible beach read quality: The tension created from fighting for what’s right.

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