Escape Into the 20 Best Summer Beach Reads
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There's a common misconception that beach reads always involve sun, sand, and string-bikini-thin plots. Readers who start summer with a straw tote full of new books know the truth. Whether you're cracking one open at a private beach resort or a lounge chair at your local pool, the best beach reads are ones that feels like stepping into an absorbing, alternate reality for a few hundred pages. It can be a lighthearted distraction from daily life or a nail-biting thriller: Whatever the specifics, if you don't want to go back in the water until you've reached the last page, you have a quality beach read on your hands.
Any of the best new books arriving from now until August have a can't-put-down quality that make them packing essentials for your summer adventures. Rachel Heng's The Great Reclamation and Jasmin Iolani Hakes's Hula are absorbing family epics with deep historical ties; pop culture enthusiasts will fall for the second chances presented to fictional early-2000s icons in The Daydreams and Once More With Feeling. And for readers who consider unabashedly beachy romance novels top-tier choices for summer? The latest releases from genre legends Elin Hilderbrand and Emily Henry will definitely satisfy. Read on for the 20 best new beach reads that no summer would be complete without.
The Great Reclamation: A Novel
The Great Reclamation defies easy genre categorization, with elements of historical fiction, magical realism, and a sweeping, captivating love story at its heart. It's set in Singapore at the time of major geopolitical shifts: British colonialism is nearing its end, but Japanese occupation and the second World War are looming nearer. In a small fishing village caught in the middle of it all, a young boy discovers an unprecedented power that can win over a girl he loves and service his community under siege.
You Know Her: A Novel
If you'd rather unwind with a slow-burn suspense than a dreamy seaside romance, You Know Her already has your name written in the inside cover. Two women, Officer Nora Martin and bartender Sophie Braam, are drawn together as serial killer stalks their small town. The catch? Sophie could be the killer—but Nora's department can't quite believe that the murderer is (potentially) a woman.
Trust BookTok on this one: Emily Henry has done it again with her fourth novel, Happy Place. It asks whether a once-happily married and secretly-separated couple can fake their relationship for a final summer trip with friends—and later, if they can rekindle the spark that brought them together in the first place.
Honey, Baby, Mine: A Mother and Daughter Talk Life, Death, Love (and Banana Pudding)
Readers who thought they knew Diane Ladd and Laura Dern will encounter entirely new, deeply personal sides of both Hollywood legends in this spring release. Honey, Baby, Mine compiles vulnerable conversations the mother-daughter pair had on long walks while Ladd was recovering from a difficult illness. Illuminating and honest, Honey, Baby, Mine reaffirms the special bonds shared by mothers and daughters and invites readers to get their own no-holds-barred conversations started.
Lucky Girl: A Novel
Solia, a Kenyan immigrant finding her way in '90s New York City, is a protagonist every reader will root for. As she leaves the protection of her mother and aunts in Nairobi for an unfamiliar and intermittently hostile city thousands of miles away, Solia finds what it means to create a new life entirely on her own terms. Readers will find a poignant, memorable voice they'll feel lucky to have met.
Hula: A Novel
Jasmin Iolani Hakes's stunning debut novel is both a sweeping introduction to Hawaii's history and culture and a multi-generational epic. As Hula charts successive generations of the fictional Naupaka family (with a spotlight on its mothers and daughters and their ties to the hula tradition), it deftly explores the detrimental impacts colonialism has had on Hawaiians—past and present, fictional and real.
The Half Moon: A Novel
When summer's at its most scorching, you'll want to escape into the blizzard-covered town at the center of The Half Moon. It unfolds over a single week where, frozen in place by an unexpected snowstorm, married couple Malcolm and Jess Gephardt confront the realities of their relationship and their long-held, but unachieved, aspirations.
The perfect novel to complement the return of cargo pants, platform flip-flops, and all other things Y2K, The Daydreams imagines what would happen if the former stars of a 2004 reality show were to meet again thirteen years later in a reunion special. Forget Watch What Happens Live or even The Hills: This book is what you wish you could see on live TV.
Quietly Hostile: Essays
"I don’t have a lot of coping mechanisms that aren’t wholly self-destructive, but here is one good one that I will recommend: saying I like things that I like." Such is Samantha Irby's self-aware thesis statement in her essay championing her "basic" tastes, one of many standout moments from her essay collection Quietly Hostile. Like Wow, No Thank You before it, Irby's latest is unflinching, honest, and absolutely hilarious. Wherever you take this book over the summer, you'll laugh through it.
The Guest: A Novel
The Guest in the title of Emma Cline's highly anticipated new novel is Alex, a 22-year-old drifter wandering East Long Island at the end of a long, hazy summer. Alex is used to using people to her advantage—manipulation and petty theft are two of her biggest talents—until her latest benefactor casts her out just before Labor Day. Alex chooses to act like her invitation to stay out East still stands and leaves an unsettling trail of damage in her wake, all rendered in Cline's insightful and deeply moving prose.
The True Love Experiment
Under the pen name Christina Lauren, Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings have written some of the most compelling and flat-out enjoyable love stories of the past few years. Their latest outing, where a romance novelist who's never really been in love is cast as the lead in a reality TV dating show—and has incredible chemistry with the show's producer—is possibly their best.
Social Engagement: A Novel
If your summer 2023 calendar is booked with weddings, bridal showers, and bachelorettes, you'll appreciate this novel that cleverly explores the darker side of the wedding industrial complex and all the ways it manifests online. It seems like Callie Holt's marriage was destroyed seven hours after she and her husband exchanged vows—but scrolling through social media, she gathers evidence from a year's worth of nuptial events suggesting the beginning of the end was earlier than she initially imagined.
Once More with Feeling: A Novel
Elissa Sussman follows up Funny You Should Ask with another heartfelt and witty romance tailor-made for pop culture aficionados. Once More with Feeling presents its starring couple with two second chances: a shot at returning to a life of performing on a Broadway stage after destroying their young adult careers in pop music and a door to rekindle a brief but memorable romance.
August Blue: A Novel
August Blue opens with a once-in-a-generation pianist hurrying offstage mid-performance and continues with her wandering through Europe with a potential doppelgänger at her heels. This intriguing set-up is worth following to the end, to see if she can leave her human shadow, and her past, behind.
A Perfect Vintage
In this can't-look-away summer drama, a boutique hotel consultant's meticulously constructed business—and life—is unraveled when a close friend and her daughter join a summer job in France's Loire Valley. The setting is picture perfect, but the affairs and betrayals are anything but.
The Five-Star Weekend
Elin Hilderbrand is summer beach read royalty, with more than twenty oceanfront novels to her name. This summer, the Nantucket resident returns with a new book about a woman who gathers friends from various phases of her life for what's meant to be a relaxing weekend following her husband's untimely death. Instead their reunion stirs up old feelings, new complications, and deep self-reflection, all with Hilderbrand's signature touch.
The Seven Year Slip
Clementine has found the love of her life standing in her apartment, with a supernatural problem: He exists in a version of her home that's seven years in the past. It's a mind-bending set-up, but it's the basis of a love story that transcends space and time—and that you'll read in a single summer beach day, easily.
All-Night Pharmacy: A Novel
Queer coming-of-age stories are too few and far between. All Night Pharmacy, following a young woman pulled into world of dangerous-decision-making and addiction by the example of her captivating but troubled older sister, is an entrancing new entry to the canon.
The Stolen Coast: A Novel
A shifty, sleepy Massachusetts harbor town becomes the front for an epic and unpredictable jewelry heist in this noir page-turner. Oceans, who?
Tom Lake: A Novel
Fans of The Dutch House and Commonwealth will be more than satisfied with Ann Patchett's latest novelistic exploration of love and family dynamics. Tom Lake braids together two engrossing narratives: one following a woman's romance with famous actor in the past, the other of the same woman's daughters hearing this story, and coming to a new understanding of a woman they thought they knew, at their family orchard in the near-present (2020).
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