There’s something about the beach that evokes a story. Maybe it’s the taste of salty air, or the ocean breezes, and the sound of waves crashing along the shore. Maybe it’s the way people lose their worries when they step onto the sand, stripping away notions of self-doubt to enjoy the feeling of warm sun on their Vitamin-D deprived skin, and a cold drink (or two). Or perhaps it’s the beautiful mystery of the depths of the ocean – a curiosity about what we don’t know – that demands a story to be told.
Whatever the reason, the beach is a hot spot for romance, drama, friendship, and sometimes danger. An alluring setting for a book, surely. Authors can, and do, blur the lines of reality when they utilize the sea and the sand as a plot device because, simply put, we’ve all been there. We all have experienced a beach rendezvous, imagined a scandalous scenario, feared the unknown, or felt right at home. Capturing all of those feelings and putting them down on paper is more powerful than a writer could ever imagine.
With that, here are fifteen books that take place on or around a beach – some newly released, some not. Spanning genres and topics, you’ll be able to find at least one that fits you swimmingly.
Olive’s mom, Billie, disappeared while on a solo hiking trip last year in the Desolation Wilderness. She vanished from the trail – no body was ever found, only a sole boot. Billie’s location remains a mystery to investigators, and though she’s officially declared dead, Olive’s intuition is telling her that her mother is still out there, alive. Olive begins to have very realistic visions of her mother on a beach nearby, and decides to trust in them, which leads her straight to the shore, searching for answers to uncover a shocking truth.
Seduction, romance, and one of the most sought-after upscale resorts in Florida? Oh yes, Keeping it Hot is really turning up the heat. Heartthrob Dylan Jackson runs the popular hotel Oceanix, and his childhood best friend, Zoe Hart, owns the coffee shop on site. Zoe has been head-over-heels in love with Dylan for years without him paying any mind, and at twenty-nine years old, she decides that she doesn’t want to go unnoticed anymore. She transforms from tomboy chic to va-va-voom right before Dylan’s eyes, and is thrilled when he starts to notice her in a whole new way. Get lost in a sunny Florida resort and watch this humorous love story unravel with each turn of a page.
J. Courtney Sullivan
Don’t let the serene beach on the cover of this book fool you – this novel is drama-packed and full of pain, scars, heartbreak, and irrational love. It follows the interconnected lives of four distinct and unforgettable women who have nothing in common but the fact that, like it or not, they’re family. The four Kelleher women are leaving for their annual retreat at a cottage in Maine, set on three acres of beachfront property. This year, each one carries with them dark secrets from the past and the present, along with new hopes for the future. When a hurricane of rivalry, guilt, and sadness hits this dysfunctional family, the Kelleher clan vows to leave Maine for good and never return. But love brings them back – to Maine, and to each other.
Ann Kidd Taylor
One summer day on a Florida beach, two extraordinary things happen to Maeve Donnelly. First, she is kissed by Daniel, her ultimate crush. And second, she is bitten by a blacktip shark. Even after the attack, Maeve is unafraid of the ocean. Eighteen years later, she is a fearless world-traveling marine biologist with a goal of discovering more about the minds of misunderstood sharks. Maeve has always been confident, but when she returns home to the legendary Hotel of the Muses, she finds herself in a perplexing situation, unsure of what to do next.
Ah, a nice, relaxing family vacation story of … infidelity and betrayal? The Posts, a New York family from Manhattan, are taking a two-week trip to the Spanish island of Mallorca with family and friends. There’s a lot to be excited about: Franny and Jim are observing their thirty-fifth anniversary, and their daughter, Sylvia, has graduated from high school. But all quickly goes south as tensions come to light, old and new humiliations are experienced, childhood rivalries resurface, and old wounds are reopened. This story showcases a family that’s all too real – a family that fights, and grows, and changes, but ultimately stays united.
Winn Van Meter is retreating to the quaint and breathtaking New England island of Waskeke with his family in celebration of the marriage of his daughter, Daphne, to the friendly and wealthy Greyson Duff. Though his wife, Biddy, had meticulously scheduled every aspect of their three-day celebration, nothing goes according to plan. A storm of infidelity and lust strikes the Van Meter family and stirs up a mess of emotions: Winn is tormented by his longstanding crush on Daphne’s beguiling bridesmaid Agatha, and Daphne’s sister, Livia, finds herself being pursued relentlessly by Greyson’s best man. A weekend that is supposed to be full of nothing but champagne and salt air becomes catastrophic, one day at a time.
Nancy Thayer, the “queen of beach books,” brings us back to the shores of Nantucket during Memorial Day weekend – an eventful time when seasonal visitors take over the island. Darcy Cotterill, year-round resident and local librarian, usually looks forward to meeting her new summertime neighbors, but this year, she finds out that her ex-husband and his family are living next door. Darcy must learn to navigate her complex love life and make peace with the ghosts of her past in this sweet, flirtatious, and heartwarming novel.
Matthew Klam’s protagonist Rich Fischer embodies all the discontentment, desire, and bitterness that comes with being middle-aged. Last year, when Rich left his family behind to teach a class on cartooning at an annual weeklong summer arts conference by the shore, he had an affair with student Amy O’Donnell: a married mother of three. They spent the winter exchanging hot texts and emails. They meet again, and Rich has to make a decision that has the potential to alter the future of not only his marriage, but his career.
Patti Callahan Henry
Bonny Blankenship and Lainey McKay have been best friends since they were young children. Bonny finds herself reminiscing about their summers spent together in Watersend, South Carolina, years ago, when they would swim all day and escape to the local bookshop to read whatever their hearts desired. They were always so carefree, so happy – until the night that Lainey’s mother disappeared. Now in their early fifties, Bonny and Lainey decide to return to their beloved river house and reunite with bookshop owner Mimi, to come to terms with the past and find themselves again in the later stages of their life.
If you’ve never read this book, you’ve at least heard of it, or watched the film that came out in 1975: The classic blockbuster thriller of a man-eating shark that made millions of beach-goers afraid to venture into the water. This thriller takes place in the summer town of Amity, where “fun in the sun” quickly comes to an end after a hungry shark seeks out human flesh. That’s not all there is to the story, though. We learn that sometimes the most dangerous beings of all are the sharks that live among us at the top of the socioeconomic food chain. It’s important to recognize that, after writing this book, Peter Benchley’s goal was to channel his fan’s excitement into support and protection of these magnificent, prehistoric, and often misunderstood, predators.
For the first time, I was afraid we’d die on this shore.
Part contemporary novel, part survival thriller, and part romance, this book is sure to captivate readers of all kinds. The book tells the tale of two sisters: Emma, who adores her older sister at the expense of her own self-development, and Henri, the wild and beautiful sister who uses her looks to get what she wants. The two were absolutely inseparable … until a torrential falling out wrecks their relationship. While on a family trip to Puerto Rico, Emma and Henri go on a boating trip with a boy named Alex, and suffer an accident that leaves them stranded on shore. The two sisters must learn how to forgive the past to survive in the present, and find their way back home.
After a nuclear World War III has destroyed almost everything, most of the population is wiped out in this 1957 classic by Nevil Shute. The only survivors that remain are in southern Australia, awaiting inescapable doom from radioactivity. Among the survivors is an American submarine captain struggling to come to terms with the fact that his wife and children in the United States are almost certainly dead. But when a faint Morse code signal is picked up near Seattle, Captain Towers makes the bold – and desperate – decision to leave the temporary safety net of Australia to search for signs of life. Shute successfully captured the present-day fear of nuclear devastation in his haunting novel – an amazingly terrifying feat, that’s for sure.
After the loss of his beloved wife to a longstanding illness, middle-aged Irishman Max Morden takes a trip to the seaside town where he spent his summers as a child. It is also a return to the place where he met the Graces, the family with whom he experienced the strange suddenness of both love and death for the first time. Max struggles with the fast pace of life after his wife’s death, and finds that his past traumas and memories have never truly been forgotten. Banville showcases the intensity of the natural world, the complexities of life, and the great equalizer of this world: death.
Each year in June, the seniors of Nantucket High gather for a bonfire on the beach to celebrate graduation. Festivities are cut short this year when a horrible car crash leaves its driver, Penny Alistair, dead and her brother in a coma. The other two passengers, Penny’s boyfriend, Jake, and her friend Demeter, are physically well, but suffer deep emotional wounds from the tragic loss. As summer days pass by, shocking truths are revealed about the survivors and their parents, leading the town to understand what really happened the night of the accident. Each page will move readers to believe in the power of community as a coping mechanism, and the infinite renewal of love, even in the darkest of times.
This bestselling novel centers on the life of Jean: a magazine photographer working on a photo essay about the brutal murders of two women on the Isles of Shoals of New Hampshire in 1873. To immerse herself in her project, Jean travels to the Isles with her husband, Thomas, and their five-year-old daughter, Billie, aboard a boat skippered by her brother-in-law, Rich, who has brought along his girlfriend, Adaline. While on the sea, Jean learns a lot about herself, and can see her faltering marriage with clarity. The Weight of Water is a compelling tale of passion, betrayal, and the nature of love.