Every year for the past 30-something years, my mother’s side of the family has come together for a week at the beach. We’ve ranged in numbers from 15 to 45, with ages from one to 75. And while we’ve added family members and lost others, while bathing suit sizes have crept up, and while more folks have reading glasses perched on top of sunglasses, on every beach day, you’ll see a line of us on the shore with books from our summer reading list in hand.

What Makes a Great Summer Read?

Summer reading lists for the beach mean different things to different people. For some it’s picking up a classic they didn’t quite finish in high school but always meant to tackle. For others, it means they now have time to wade deeper into a mystery series.

One or two uncles always show up with a Tom Clancy or John Sandford paperback pulled waterlogged and dog-eared from the bottom of a bag. But for the majority of us, beach reads equal something lighter in nature, or catching up on the latest New York Times Bestseller that everyone is talking about.

Beach reads can be the paper versions of Lifetime holiday movies. You can generally figure out the plots early and know who is going to end up together. But exploring the complexity of family relationships and travelling to different places feeds right into the summer mood also.

In my teenage years, the author of most of my summer reads was Rosamunde Pilcher. In addition to her most famous book The Shell Seekers, she wrote more than 30 novels and story collections over her career.

From there I moved on to a couple of mystery series, choosing Janet Evanovich or Sue Grafton letters and numbers to pass the time. And now I read whatever the book club is (which can admittedly go multiple ways…).

How to Start Building Your Summer Reading List

You can find endless online lists of recommended summer reads where you can select by genre or choose based on an author you’ve enjoyed previously. Local libraries often have summer reading programs to encourage reading and are a great source of information as well. We’ve assembled a Popular Reads section where you can browse our top-rated and best-selling books. And when you’ve found your titles to pack in your beach bag, remember to check discoverbooks.com to make your beach budget stretch even further. Stock up on all of the best books for summer with our selections below:

Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy

Tom Clancy’s classic techno military thriller, Rainbow Six, focuses on one of Clancy’s lesser used characters, John Clark, and the elite counter-terrorism unit he leads. This is a standout novel of Clancy’s and a great example of the tech thriller of the late 1990s and early 2000s. It’s a beast at around 900 pages but is still a page-turner.

Shop Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy

Broken Prey by John Sandford

John Sanford is the king of the serial novel genre, and perhaps his most notable series is the Prey Series, which features Lucas Davenport as the main protagonist. Stretching across 28 books, the Prey Series follows Davenport as he navigates life in the Minneapolis Police Department. Broken Prey is the 16th book in the series and puts Davenport and the reader in a chase with one of the most ruthless killers in the Prey series.

Shop Broken Prey by John Sandford

Two For The Dough by Janet Evanovic

Two for the Dough is Janet Evanovich’s second novel in the Stephanie Plum series, which spent 36 weeks at the Top 150 best-seller list. This novel features corrupt funeral home owners, embalmed body parts coming in the mail, and not-to-be-underestimated grandmothers, as well as the introduction of “Big Blue,” the only car to remain unscathed throughout the Plum series.

Shop Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich

Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

Shell Seekers is a time agnostic novel that follows the main character, Penelope Kneeling, as she examines her life in her 60s. With its use of impressionistic flashbacks and multiple points of view, this novel has been a long-running best-seller, especially in author Rosamunde Pilcher’s home in the UK. While not a page-turning serial thriller, this is a great summer read if you’re looking for something with a little bit more emotional depth and less action.

Shop Shell Seekers by Rosamond Pilcher

X (A Kinsey Millhone Novel) by Sue Grafton

Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Series features detective Kinsey Millhone and is set in California. X is the only title in the series that does not match Grafton’s typical title styles (e.g. A is for Alibi). Written in the hard-boiled detective genre, X is set in 1980s California and follows Millhone as she tracks down a sociopathic serial killer.

Shop X by Sue Grafton

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