As summer approaches, many of us are probably looking forward to beach trips or pool days. But as you sort through your beach towels and stock up on sunscreen, are you also checking your book supply? Even if you love swimming or playing games in the sand, you’ll probably want to take some breaks. So, bringing some beach/poolside reads with you is a good plan.
Sometimes people think of “beach reads” as being limited to low-quality romance novels or lifestyle magazines, while others will read even the densest biographies during summer vacations. In our view, though, the best beach/poolside reads use easy-to-understand language, aren’t overly serious in tone or theme, and take you on a mental vacation in addition to your physical one. These books can belong to any genre, so we’ve categorized our list according to six major genres. No matter what type of books interest you, this post can lead you to your next summer vacation read!
Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
Firefly Lane follows the story of two best friends, Kate Mularkey and Tully Hart, throughout four decades of their lives. Tully is well-liked and highly driven, although she has a rocky past. Unpopular Kate admires Tully in some ways, but she really just wants to find love and have a family. The two women pursue their differing dreams, sometimes side-by-side and sometimes drifting apart, but their bond proves unbreakable despite some major hurdles in their friendship. After a long day of reading outdoors, you can unwind by watching the Firefly Lane Netflix miniseries.
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Malibu Rising simultaneously follows 24 hours and three decades in the life of the fictional, famous Riva family. As the novel details their past, the four Riva siblings prepare for the biggest party of the summer of 1983 at the oldest daughter’s Malibu mansion. The party will prove fateful as all the family members learn secrets about each other and unknowingly await a natural disaster. This New York Times Bestseller and Goodreads Choice Award winner is perfect for anyone interested in celebrities’ personal lives.
Oona out of Order by Margarita Montimore
While an epic fantasy or deep dystopian novel may not be a natural mental vacation, a story with some fantastical elements like Oona out of Order easily can be. As she prepares to start a new year, Oona Lockhart faces several choices in her career path and love life. But when the clock strikes midnight, she wakes up 32 years in the future. Oona’s life has been thrown so off track that she’ll leap to a different age at random every January 1 from now on. Oona out of Order is a story about living in the moment, even if those moments don’t happen as expected.
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
Although many reviewers categorize One Last Stop as a new adult romance, you’ll probably enjoy it if you like time travel stories, which is why it also falls into the speculative fiction genre. Low on options for jobs and relationships, August moves into a small New York City apartment with three quirky roommates. On her daily commute, she meets Jane, who is always on August’s train and looks like a ‘70s punk rocker. August eventually learns why: Jane was displaced in time while riding the Q line just before a citywide electrical failure. While August and her roommates devise a plan to get Jane back to her own time, August feels conflicted over her developing feelings for Jane. The impossible becomes possible in multiple ways in One Last Stop.
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
Fans of Agatha Christie will likely enjoy this whodunit. On a remote Scottish isle, the most exclusive wedding of the decade is about to take place. But the big day starts far from perfection when a dead body washes up on the beach. Which of the five murder suspects–the bride, the plus-one, the wedding planner, the best man, or the maid of honor–committed the crime, and why? The novel rotates among the viewpoints of the suspects and the victim, creating a challenging puzzle for the reader before the shocking reveal at the end.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
The title of this #1 New York Times Bestseller has a dual meaning. The novel opens with a scene of a burnt-down house, which the fire inspector determines had little fires set in many rooms, indicating arson as the cause. Additionally, the secrets of each resident of Shaker Heights, Ohio come to light with the arrival of single mother Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl during a publicized custody battle over an adopted child. After reading the novel, fans can also watch the popular miniseries adaptation on Hulu.
People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
In this ideal vacation book (it’s in the title), opposites attract in Poppy and Alex. Poppy is an outgoing New York City-based travel writer, while Alex is an introverted teacher in his small Ohio hometown. But since the two became friends in their first year of college, they’ve taken a big Summer Trip together every year–until they had a falling out in Croatia two years ago. Desperate to fix their friendship, Poppy takes one more Summer Trip with Alex to California–and finds love in the process. The narration goes back and forth between the past and present, hooking the reader as you wonder where Poppy and Alex stand with each other and what exactly happened in Croatia.
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
Even though The Love Hypothesis takes place at a university, we think it would be a fun romance to read during summer vacation. When Ph.D. candidate Olive’s best friend starts dating Olive’s ex, she wants to prove that she’s over him, so she kisses the first man she finds in the science labs. That man happens to be Adam Carlsen, a young professor known for his arrogance and harsh criticism. To Olive’s surprise, Adam agrees to keep her secret and start a pretend relationship with her. But fake dating eventually leads to real romance for both of them. You definitely won’t feel like you’re in school while you watch Olive and Adam’s chemistry grow!
American Royals by Katharine McGee
American Royals is built around a historical speculation: what if George Washington had become the first king of the United States instead of the president, and his descendants were still on the throne in the 21st century? This scenario provides a backdrop for multiple romances. A forbidden relationship develops between the crown princess and her security guard; the younger princess falls for her sister’s intended; and the prince, a noblewoman, and a commoner find themselves in a love triangle. The first novel in what will soon be a trilogy, American Royals provides a mental vacation to an alternate history.
The Lucky List by Rachael Lippincott
The Lucky List follows the contemporary coming of age of 17-year-old Emily. When Emily finds her deceased mom’s bucket list from one summer in high school, she decides to complete it as a way to feel close to her mom. Emily’s new friend Blake (whose mom has also passed away) joins her on this adventure, and both girls heal from their grief throughout the summer. Emily also learns about herself, especially as she considers getting back together with her ex while developing feelings for Blake. The Lucky List is about facing your fears and discovering yourself, but in a lighthearted way that makes for an interesting beach read.
Educated by Tara Westover
If you’re a fan of fiction but looking to read more nonfiction, this is the autobiography for you. Historian and essayist Tara Westover describes her unconventional upbringing as the youngest of seven children in a survivalist family in Idaho. She and her siblings never saw a doctor or attended any type of school (not even homeschooling) in their remote town. When Westover’s brother left home to pursue higher education, though, she taught herself enough reading and math to take the ACT and apply to college. After overcoming culture shock, Westover learned valuable lessons about life and the meaning of being “educated” that she shares in a memoir that reads like a novel.
The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
Based on the podcast of the same name, The Anthropocene Reviewed is an essay collection about the human-centered world. In a series of Yelp-style reviews, John Green (yes, that John Green from the Crash Course videos who wrote young-adult novels like The Fault in Our Stars), discusses anything and everything that humans affect or are affected by, from Diet Dr Pepper to Canada Geese to staph infections. The book’s structure allows you to read one chapter a day over the whole summer or plow through essay after essay in an afternoon, whichever you prefer.
If you want even more beach/poolside reads, additional books by all these authors are available on DiscoverBooks.com and our shopping app. Check out our beach read list from 2020 for more ideas. With low prices for all customers and free shipping on orders of $12 or more in the contiguous United States, Discover Books is a great place to fulfill all your summer vacation reading needs.