The question of what books to take to the beach every summer is one that stumps those of us with even the longest to-be-read lists. What, really, makes a book a “beach read”? Does it need to be set at the beach? Have a beach on the cover? Have the word “beach” in the title?
We don’t have the answer, (though it’s likely “no” across the board), and instead, we’ve made up our own definition. For us, the perfect beach read is that book you’ve been meaning to read all year, but just haven’t gotten around to. You know the one: It’s the book everyone’s been talking about; the one Reese picked up for her book club; the one that’s hitting theaters later this summer (we’re looking at you, Crazy Rich Asians); the one that’s been lying on your bedside table, just begging to be cracked open, constantly pushed to the bottom of the pile. We’ve taken the liberty of rounding up eleven of those very books (many of which came out in the past year) for you, to make your “beach read” hunt a bit easier. Happy beaching.
It would seem impossible, but Celeste Ng may have outdone herself with her second novel, Little Fires Everywhere — Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington have already picked it up for adaptation. The novel is set in Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland that plays by the rules to the letter. When Mia Warren arrives in town, her out-of-the-box views and tendency to ignore the rules can’t help but shake things up. Elena Richardson, longtime Shaker Heights resident and rule follower, will let her obsession with Mia and her past get the better of her.
If you missed John Green’s much-anticipated follow-up to The Fault in Our Stars (five-plus years in the making), this past October, now’s the time to read it. Green once again takes on the narrative voice of a teen girl, this time sixteen-year-old Aza, who suffers from OCD and is prone to thought spirals. When billionaire Russell Pickett goes missing, she decides to join her best friend in tracking him down (the reward is $100,000) despite the never-ending spiral of her thoughts getting in the way.
This debut short story collection (and the inaugural book of Lena Dunham’s imprint Lenny) takes a look at the Chinese immigrant experience through the eyes of Chinese-American daughters growing up in New York City. Each story visits the life of a different young girl, and parallel underlying issues are revealed: Each girl is impacted by her parents’ current struggles and past experiences. This riveting collection won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, was a finalist for the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award, and made countless “Best of” lists in 2017. If you missed it when it first came out, this is the perfect (blessedly thin) collection to bring with you to the beach.
If you’ve not gotten to this one yet, now’s the time. A Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick and #1 New York Times bestseller, Gail Honeyman’s debut novel won over readers’ hearts across America when it landed on shelves last year. Following Eleanor Oliphant, a socially challenged young woman who does little but go to and from work, eat frozen pizza, and drink (too much) vodka, Honeyman’s novel examines what a full life entails, and why fighting for one is worth it.
Crazy Rich Asians is sure to be one of the most talked about books of the summer with the movie adaptation set to release this August. The first in Kevin Kwan’s bestselling trilogy, Crazy Rich Asians follows what happens when Rachel Chu discovers, on a trip to her boyfriend’s hometown in Singapore, that she is dating one of Singapore’s wealthiest, most eligible bachelors. His childhood home is more like a palace, his grandmother is trailed by lady’s maids wherever she goes, and just about every single woman in Singapore is out for Rachel’s blood.
The latest from the writer who brought us The Girl on the Train hit shelves last summer. When a single mother is found dead at the bottom of a river, her fifteen-year-old daughter is left in the care of her aunt. Her aunt stays away from town, as she believes there lurks more danger than meets the eye. Deep, dark secrets come to the surface when it’s discovered that the single mother wasn’t the first to drown in the river, and certainly won’t be the last.
Emma Straub is most recently beloved for opening and managing her delightful Brooklyn bookstore Books Are Magic, but let’s not forget she’s a fantastic writer, too. Elizabeth, Andrew, and Zoe have been friends and bandmates since college, and as they grow further and further into adulthood, they struggle to hang on to the identities they forged in their youth. In their fifties now, the three of them live within shouting distance of one another in Brooklyn, and their children are becoming the cool ones. The summer their children mature (and begin sleeping together), Elizabeth, Andrew, and Zoe can no longer avoid their age.
Stephanie Danler’s semi-autobiographic tale of life as a waitress in an elite New York City restaurant is so delicious that it quickly got the TV adaptation treatment (and the first season is now streaming on STARZ). The story follows twenty-two-year-old Tess, who leaves her small-town life behind for a shot in the big city, and finds herself in one of the most grueling waitress jobs in the city. So begins her education—in wine, fine dining, drugs, and nightlife.
Taking its inspiration from the Manson Family, The Girls was an instant bestseller upon hitting shelves two summers ago. Set in Northern California towards the end of the 1960s, teenaged Evie Boyd is captivated by a group of girls she spots one afternoon in the park. Evie is led by Suzanne, one of the older girls, to an abandoned ranch hidden in the hills, where they all live. Under the watch of their charismatic but dangerous leader, the group moves towards unthinkable, but unavoidable, violence.
A. J. Finn
If you missed the Woman in the Window bandwagon this winter, it’s not too late to climb aboard. A. J. Finn’s debut novel The Woman in the Window follows Anna Fox, a recluse living in New York City who spends her hours drinking wine, watching films, and spying on her neighbors. She of course notices when a new family, the Russells, moves into the house across the way, and soon she sees something she absolutely shouldn’t have. A novel of gripping psychological suspense, The Woman in the Window blurs the lines between reality and illusion as Anna comes to grips with what she’s seen, and what it means for her.
If this cover doesn’t scream read me at the beach, we don’t know what does. Alissa Nutting’s Made for Love is a laugh-out-loud funny examination of marriage, monogamy, and family that begins with Hazel having just moved in with her father, in a trailer park of senior citizens. She’s run out on her husband, Byron Gogol, CEO and founder of Gogol Industries, for whom she’s recently become more of a guinea pig for his latest technologies than a wife. When Byron begins using every (extremely sophisticated) technology at his disposal to find her and bring her back, Hazel is forced to take drastic measures to make a home for herself that doesn’t involve her dad and his sex doll.