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Preparing to read with your sand in the toes? Then, you’ll love the best beach reads of all time to read during Summer and/or your beach vacation. You’ll be so glad you planned accordingly for your limited time seaside with these unputdownable books. Let’s “dive” in!

Top 3 Beach Reads of All-Time for Easy Vacation Reading

TOP PICKS

The Last Thing He Told Me: My favorite book of 2021; a page-turning, heart-pumping mystery you can read in one day

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: This massively bestselling book has salacious pop culture, Hollywood glamour, and intriguing characters.

The Perfect Couple: A satisfying Nantucket wedding murder mystery by the “Queen of the Beach Reads”

Quick Beach Reading List

Romance

  1. A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas
  2. American Royals by Katherine McGee
  3. Beach Read by Emily Henry
  4. Every Summer After by Carley Fortune
  5. Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros
  6. The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
  7. The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand
  8. The Idea of You by Robinne Lee
  9. It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
  10. Just For the Summer by Abby Jimenez
  11. Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld
  12. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  13. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
  14. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

Mystery or Thriller

  1. Cover Story by Susan Rigetti
  2. Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
  3. First Lie Wins by Ashley Elston
  4. The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins
  5. The Sicilian Inheritance by Jo Piazza
  6. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
  7. Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

Other Fiction

  1. The Guncle by Steven Rowley
  2. The Hotel Nantucket by Elin Hilderbrand
  3. Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson
  4. Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

Details on the Best Beach Novels (in Alphabetical Order)

Methodology: To curate this list of the best beach reads, I focused on the criteria that I think make for great beach reads: light, escapist, immersive, and intriguing. This great book list spans genres ranging from contemporary romance to historical fiction, fantasy, thrillers, young adult fiction, and more!

Read these books in The Literary Lifestyle’s Summer Reading Challenge.


A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

  • #1 New York Times bestselling series

My Review: ★★★★★

Why it’s a great beach read: It’s both romantic and completely whisks you away to a magical, whimsical world of faeries.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is one of the hottest-selling books all year, thanks to a resurgence of interest in it on social media.

It begins as a loose re-telling of Beauty and the Beast in a mystical faerie land, and it’s as good as everyone says it is! See what all the fuss is about for yourself.


American Royals by Katherine McGee

New York Times bestseller

My Review: ★★★★☆

Why it’s a great beach read: It’s a totally escapist, hypothetical book about royals ruling over America.

American Royals begins a series of books that tell the story of modern-day America if George Washington had become king instead of the first president.

It’s light young adult fiction with a lot of youthful romance and an array of royal family drama that allows the reader to totally escape from reality. I binged the entire series and recommend it for fans of shows like Pretty Little Liars.


Beach Read by Emily Henry

Instant New York Times bestseller

My Review: ★★★★☆

Why it’s a great beach read: All of Emily Henry’s books are beach reads, but here, especially, the title says it all!

A list of the best beach reads of all time wouldn’t be complete without the one that’s titled Beach Read. In this popular Emily Henry book, a rom-com writer and another writer spend the summer at neighboring beach houses, where they challenge each other to write a book that’s opposite of their norm.

As they battle the demons in their pasts and struggle in their careers, they also go on cute little “research projects” (a/k/a dates) that keep the summer romance afloat.

It’s one of my, and many other readers, personal favorites from her catalog.


Cover Story by Susan Rigetti

Why it’s a great beach read: It’s the most suspenseful and intoxicating mix of Inventing Anna, The Dropout, and Catch Me If You Can. You will NOT be able to put it down!

My Review: ★★★★★

Cover Story follows the diary entries of a naive young woman who becomes a ghostwriter for the glamorous daughter of a foreign mogul living at the Plaza Hotel in New York.

But there’s a trail of lies, fraud, and stolen identities and an utterly shocking ending that will leave you furiously turning the pages on the beach questioning everything you just read.


Every Summer After by Carley Fortune

  • New York Times bestseller
  • Named one of the Hottest Reads of Summer 2022 by Today, Parade, PopSugar, USA Today, SheReads, BuzzFeed, BookBub, Bustle, and more

My Review: ★★★★☆

Why it’s a great beach read: All of Carley Fortune’s books make for some of the best beach reads of all time, but this popular pick, in particular, masters summer vibes mixed with nostalgia, romance, and emotions.

Every Summer After quickly became one of the best books for the beach — and deservedly so. It taps into the nostalgia of first love and second chances with characters you want to root for.

Throughout six summers in Barry’s Bay, teenagers Persephone and Sam fall in love. Then, one Thanksgiving tears them apart. Years later, Persephone returns to Barry’s Bay for the funeral of Sam’s mother, and she must face how she feels about him after all this time.

This romance novel balances a lot of things just right: friendship, love, angst, conflict, family, and more. You will love it as much as everyone else does!

Related Post: Every Summer After Review


Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

  • Named a “Favorite Suspenseful Beach Read” by SheReads
  • Named one of the best books and best mystery books of the year by several outlets

My Review: ★★★★☆

Why it’s a great beach read: It’s light, romantic, comedic, and mysterious — all at the same time!

The Finlay Donovan Is Killing It series begins in a Panera Bread. A tired and frantic, recently divorced single mother of two and down-on-her-luck writer (Finlay), is discussing the plot of her next murder mystery with her agent.

A woman who overhears the conversation mistakes her for a contract killer and offers her payment in exchange for murdering her evil husband.

Struggling to make ends meet on her own, Finlay becomes intrigued by the offer. But, when she meets the woman’s husband in real life, she becomes entangled in a murder mystery that’s bigger than she ever expected.

An investigation with ties to the Russian mob follows as Finlay attempts to discover and develop her new self. She is joined by a cast of characters, including her nanny and partner-in-crime, Vero, her ex-husband and his new fiance, and two new men of interest—a law student/bartender and a detective involved in the investigation.


First Lie Wins by Ashley Elston

  • New York Times bestseller
  • Reese’s Book Club pick

My Review: ★★★★☆

Why it’s a great beach read: It’s a popular cat-and-mouse thriller that keeps you turning the pages and wondering who you can trust.

In First Lie Wins, Evie Porter seems like a sweet Southern belle, doting on her boyfriend Ryan, but it’s all a farce. Her real name is Lucca, and this is only one of her many aliases over the years, as she takes on jobs from the mysterious Mr. Smith to infiltrate people’s lives and get information for him.

And, it’s all going well for her until (a) she starts falling for Ryan and the normalcy he brings, and (b) she meets a woman bearing her real name, realizing that Mr. Smith has set her up to keep “Evie” on her toes. Then, he frames her.

Now, she must figure out exactly who Mr. Smith is and what will become of her future. The problem is that no one can be trusted, including herself.

It’s a fast-paced, multi-layered suspense novel that makes you second-guess everyone and everything from beginning to end.

Related Post: First Lie Wins Book Club Questions


Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

  • #1 bestseller: New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and more
  • Goodreads Best Romantasy Book on 2023
  • Named one of the best books of the year by several outlets

My Review: ★★★★★

Why it’s a great beach read: This viral dragon fantasy romance book transports the reader and is immersive, steamy, and suspenseful.

In Fourth Wing (Book 1 in the Empyrean series), Violet Sorrengail is a 20-year-old resident of Navarre, and she’s about to enter Basgiath War College in the Scribe Quadrant, like her father, studying books and history. But, her mother, the General, has other plans and orders her to seek entry into the elite Riders Quadrant, which is extremely dangerous and deadly.

Violet is petite and frail, so she’ll have to fight extra hard not just to succeed, but also to survive, especially since people like the powerful Wingleader Xaden Riorson have it out for her.

Circumstances may bring them closer than they ever thought they’d be, however, and it’s a heart-stopping journey of not just dragon riding, but also magical powers, mythical creatures, and even love (even if you don’t often read fantasy… trust me).


The Guncle by Steven Rowley

  • A national bestseller
  • An NPR Book of the Year
  • Finalist for the 2021 Goodreads Choice Awards

My Review: ★★★★☆

Why it’s a great beach read: Rowley excels at creating characters and plots as warm as the sun.

The Guncle is the story of a formerly famous Hollywood actor who takes on the care of his young niece and nephew after a family tragedy. He’s coping with another tragic loss of his one great love at the same time and, in ways both comical and heartwarming, the Summer brings together this unlikely trio as they begin to heal.

While it may sound sad, this beloved story is actually so hopeful and engaging, and you’ll wish you knew Patrick, the titular character, in real life.

Related Post: The Guncle Series


The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins

Why it’s a great beach read: It’s a unique and immersive thriller with plot twists that just keep coming.

My Review: ★★★★☆

The Heiress reads like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo mixed with a crazy family.

When North Carolina’s most infamous heiress died, her adopted son left it all behind for a “normal” life in Colorado. A decade later, he’s compelled to return home after another family death. He brings along his wife, who also has a difficult past, and reconvenes with long-lost family members and staff at the house.

There, the mysterious life and death of Ruby resurfaces, and the truth about everything from what really happened to her four dead husbands to why she adopted a son is methodically revealed.

It’s Hawkins’s best book yet, and the neverending twists will have you on the edge of your seat.


The Hotel Nantucket by Elin Hilderbrand

Instant #1 New York Times bestseller

My Review: ★★★★☆

Why it’s a great beach read: It reads like a literary version of the guilty pleasure TV show Below Deck.

The Hotel Nantucket is one of the best books by Elin Hilderbrand, the “queen of the beach reads.” It’s about the Summer in which a haunted old hotel is restored to the epitome of luxury and the staff who aims to get it a coveted “5 keys” rating.

Like the TV show Below Deck (which takes place on a luxury boat instead of a hotel), the storyline follows drama and love amongst both the staff and the guests throughout the Summer, and there are even some twists!

As a bonus, here’s an amazing guide to Nantucket at the end, which I saved for future beach visits.

Related Post: The Hotel Nantucket Book Club Questions | Elin Hilderbrand Books in Order


The Idea of You by Robinne Lee

  • A major motion picture on Amazon Prime

My Review: ★★★★☆

Why it’s a great beach read: It’s the epitome of a steamy fantasy romance.

The Idea of You is about a single mom who falls in love with a young celebrity pop star (similar to Harry Styles) after taking her daughter to his concert.

It’s a steamy, escapist, and even emotional romance read that readers love to devour, so there’s no better place to do it than on the beach. Even as someone who doesn’t like a whole lot of “spice,” I loved it!


It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

  • #1 New York Times bestseller
  • 2016 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Romance

My Review: ★★★★☆

Why it’s a great beach read: All of Colleen Hoover’s books are excellent beach reads, as they are generally fast-paced. Of all of Colleen Hoover’s spicy romance novels, this particular one kept me so immersed on the beach that I didn’t realize I was about to get engaged in real life!

It Ends With Us is Colleen Hoover’s most popular book, achieving massive popularity with millions of readers. Lily Bloom has graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started a floral business when she meets Ryle Kincaid, a stunning neurosurgeon.

Quickly, she becomes his exception to the “no dating” rule, but she soon learns the deep secret about why he has this rule in the first place.

Lily thinks back to Atlas, the protector of her pas. When he re-emerges in her life, the relations among all three become explosive.

While this book takes a much darker turn, it remains an extremely engaging (and important) book to read.

Related Post: Guide to the Ends With Us Series


Just for the Summer (2024; Part of Your World Book 3 of 3)

Best for fans of the fake dating trope and summer romances

My Review: ★★★★★

Why it’s a great beach read: All of Abby Jimenez’s romance books make for excellent beach reads, and this is a beloved new rom-com that’s destined to make you feel good.

Just For the Summer proves that Abby Jimenez can continue to deliver everything her readers love.

Justin feels cursed. Every woman he dates finds her soulmate just after breaking up with him. In a twist of fate, he meets, Emma, who is similarly “cursed.” Together, they create a plan to date each other and break up, so they can go on to live happily ever after with someone else.

A traveling nurse with her friend, Emma gets a nursing job and rents an adorable cottage on Lake Minnetonka near Justin to bring this plan to life.

Emma and Justin connect deeper than expected over their “mommy” issues. (trigger warning) They just may be the perfect pair. But, the chaos left by Emma’s mom seems be too complicated to make the plan work.

This summer romance novel features my favorite couple in Abby Jimenez’s books. They are quirky, loveable, have great chemistry, and support each other through difficult life issues. There is also one spicy scene for steamy romance lovers!

The supporting cast, including some characters you’ll recognize and a dog (of course), round out this “slightly more complicated than normal” romance. It’s great for those who like a little bit of realistic drama in their escape reads.

It’s one quick and very enjoyable summer-themed read.


The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

  • #1 Instant New York Times bestseller
  • Reese’s book club pick
  • Best Book of Summer selected by:  Vogue, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, CNN, Town & Country, Parade, Bustle, and more

My Review: ★★★★★

Why it’s a great beach read: It’s a page-turning, heart-pumping, satisfying mystery you can read in one day.

The Last Thing He Told Me is about a man who disappears after leaving a note to his new wife: “Protect her” — his 16-year-old daughter. When his boss is then arrested for fraud and FBI agents appear at her home with questions, she realizes her husband may not be who she thought he was.

She and her rebellious stepdaughter pursue the truth about his past while attempting to build a new future in this suspense-filled tale of twists and turns that will keep you guessing.

It’s a propulsive read I binged in 24 hours (and became my favorite book of the year), so it’s great for the beach.

Related Post: The Last Thing He Told Me Book Club Questions


The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

New York Times bestseller

My Review: ★★★★★

Why it’s a great beach read: It’s a “death at a wedding” book that delivers, with an unpredictable ending and the escapist “rich people problems” that characterize many of Hilderbrand’s Nantucket-based books, which are always the best books to read on vacation.

The Perfect Couple truly transports the reader to beachy Nantucket in this “death at a wedding” mystery. As you try to solve whether the death was an accident or murder (and if so, whodunnit?), you also learn the secrets of all the major players. So much drama and intrigue!

The bride and groom may not be the “perfect couple” after all, but this is the “perfect” book for a day in the sand and one of the best beach reads of all time.

And it gets extra bonus points from me because I did not correctly guess this ending.


Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson

My Review: ★★★★★

Why it’s a great beach read: It’s a sharply written modern tale of “rich people problems.

Pineapple Street was a 5-star read for me that I would describe as smart and observational.

It follows three women in the affluent Stockton family of modern Brooklyn. Darley, the eldest daughter, has chosen motherhood over her job and inheritance, but in doing so, she’s sacrificed a lot. Sasha, a middle-class girl from New England, married into the family and feels like an outsider. Lastly, Georgiana, the youngest, has fallen in forbidden love, which has unexpected consequences.

It’s escapist yet clever and makes statements about family, love, class, and so much more.


Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld

  • New York Times bestseller
  • Reese’s Book Club pick

My Review: ★★★★★

Why it’s a great beach read: As the title clearly states, it’s comedic, and it’s also an escapist celebrity romance.

Romantic Comedy, is definitely one of the best books to read on the beach this year! It’s about a late-night sketch comedy show writer (similar to SNL) who falls for the guest host, who just happens to be a rock star.

They communicate through letters filled with witty banter during the dark days of COVID-19, and they tackle things like insecurity and dating anxiety along the way.

I thought this one did so much so well, and I flew right through it. A lot of readers told me the same!


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

New York Times bestseller

My Review: ★★★★★

Why it’s a great beach read: All of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books make for great beach reads, but this massive bestseller, in particular, shares salacious pop culture, Hollywood glamour, and intriguing characters.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a book I read on the beach myself. Years later, I can still recall how immersive that lazy, hazy day was, thus solidifying its status as one of the best beach reads of all time.

It’s the beloved old Hollywood life story of the famous actress Evelyn Hugo and her seven husbands. But trust me when I say that’s only the beginning. There’s a surprising twist in the main narrative of the novel that will hook you into this gossipy guilty pleasure.

It’s a crowd-pleasing book I most highly recommend to everyone because everyone loves it.


The Sicilian Inheritance by Jo Piazza

  • National bestseller

My Review: ★★★★☆

Why it’s a great beach read: The setting is hot, and the book bends so many escapist genres, from romance to murder mystery and beyond.

The Sicilian Inheritance is based on a true crime story in the author’s own family history, and, for those who like to indulge in a full multimedia experience, she released a corresponding podcast about it.

The death of Sara’s beloved Aunt Rosie brings her to Sicily, where she comes to investigate the possible murder of her feisty great-grandmother there, all the while her husband worked in America.

There’s something for everyone here: historical fiction (with dual timelines), suspense, crime, mystery, romance, strong women, drama, family, and, of course, an Italian setting. I recommend it for book clubs and fans of Chanel Cleeton.


The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Instant #1 New York Times bestseller

My Review: ★★★★★

Why it’s a great beach read: This mega-bestselling book is an extremely quick and unputdownable thriller with unexpected twists.

The Silent Patient is one of the best vacation books for a reason — it contains a really amazing twist! A famous painter named Alicia, married to a popular fashion photographer, shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word again.

But criminal psychotherapist Theo Faber is determined to get her to talk. In the process, he goes down a twisted part of revealing why he is so consumed with her silence.

The Silent Patient is a super quick and unique thriller almost guaranteed to shock and delight.

Related Post: The Silent Patient Ending Explained


The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

  • New York Times bestseller
  • a hit TV show on Amazon Prime

My Review: ★★★★☆

Why it’s a great beach read: This popular young adult fiction series perfectly taps into the nostalgia of teenage romance at the beach.

The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy offers three good beach reads (and a great love story). The story follows teenage “Belly” as she and her mom and her brother visit their shared Summer beach house with her mom’s friend and her two sons, who are both like brothers and crushes to her.

It’s about how a young teen starts to bloom from that awkward stage to that “getting noticed stage.” And as life in the beach house takes a difficult turn, the course of Belly’s teenage life changes.

It’s perfect for teenage fans of YA Summer romance books and/or adults who have a special place in their hearts for shows like Dawson’s Creek.


Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

New York Times bestseller 

My Review: ★★★★☆

Why it’s a great beach read: It’s filled with the escapist drama of the rich and famous on an exclusive island, with some added mystery, great for coastal grandmothers.

Sometimes a book just suits you. I really felt that way about Summer Wives. This “soap opera historical fiction” book (I made up that genre) reminded me in different ways of great books like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Rules of Civility, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Need I say more?!

As far as I am concerned, Summer Wives doesn’t need a review or a summary. If you like the above books, just do it! It’s definitely one of the best beach reads of all time.


The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

  • Instant New York Times bestseller

My Review: ★★★★☆

Why it’s a great beach read: It’s a super popular enemies-to-lovers rom-com with a Hawaiin setting for fans of The Spanish Love Deception plot.

The Unhoneymooners perfectly delivers in ways that are both light and fun.

It’s an enemies-to-lovers trope about what happens when a surprisingly hilarious sequence of wedding events ends with the maid of honor attending the Hawaiin honeymoon in place of the bride and groom with her sworn enemy — the best man.

If you like romantic comedy movies of the late 1990s and early 2000s, you will adore this book for your beach reading.

Related Post: The Unhoneymooners Book Series


Yellowface by R.F Kuang

  • Instant New York Times bestseller
  • Reese’s Book Club pick
  • GoodReads Choice Awards Best Fiction Book of 2023

My Review: ★★★★★

Why it’s a great beach read: It’s suspenseful, intriguing, and has mass appeal.

Yellowface takes the modern thriller to the next level. As the suspense builds, it goes beyond gratuitous crime and tackles topics like diversity through the lens of copyright infringement.

It’s about a struggling writer who adapts the work of her successful author friend after her unexpected death. The story weaves in even more thought-provoking plot lines about who owns a cultural story and gives a behind-the-scenes look at book publishing and internet scandals.

It’s a book that really makes you think about diverse storytelling in new ways, and it’s hard to put down.

Frequently Asked Questions

What qualifies a book as a Beach Read?

A Beach Read typically refers to a light, entertaining book that’s easy to pick up and put down. Often featuring romance, humor, or mystery, these books are engaging yet not overly complex, making them perfect for relaxed, casual reading by the sea

Is Beach Read appropriate for 14 year olds?

No. Beach Read by Emily Henry is an adult contemporary romance novel for ages 18 and over. It contains graphic content, including language and sexual activity.

Is Beach Read a YA book?

No. Beach Read by Emily Henry is an adult contemporary romance novel that contains graphic content, including language and sexual activity.

Is Beach Read steamy?

Yes. Beach Read by Emily Henry has some steamy scenes for adult readers of spicy romance.

Conclusion

The best beach reads of all time to pack in your beach bag are light, escapist, immersive, and intriguing reads that ensure you make the most of your days in the sand. To recap and help you decide what to read first or next, my top 3 picks are:

SHOP THE TOP 3

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3 Comments

  1. Thank you for this wonderful list! I just ordered 3 of your recommendations. Looking forward to reading them during my vacation later this month. Glad I found your site!

  2. I started listening to Pretty Things. I definitely would say The Unhoneymooners would make a great beach read!