One Thing Every Beach Bag Needs.

Open book with 3 stones stacked on pages on beach

Heading out on vacation and looking for the perfect book to accompany your adventures? That perfect book is often called a beach read. “Beach read” began as a term in the 90s as a publishing reference to big summer blockbuster titles but has evolved into much more; you’ll find lists of beach reads in every magazine, blog, or newspaper as summer gets into full gear. 

Kids on beach- one reading

While we’re all familiar with the term, it’s worth asking what makes a book a “beach read?” I suspect the answer is different for everyone. Folks who read know exactly what kind of book they want to pack into their beach bags, and what goes into mine might not be the one that goes into yours. Beach reading is also not necessarily a specific genre. For example, my criteria for a beach read are this:

  • I like a physical book, paperback preferably. I love the crinkly, curly feel of pages that get a bit damp and messy as the vacation goes along. My beach read needs to be disposable. (I always have extras on my e-reader because it’s far worse to have time to read a book and not have one than it is to have a book and not have time to read.)
  • Because I want a book I can hold in my hands, I prefer a relatively thick book that will take some time to read since I only want to pack one. (I’m a carry-on-only type of girl.) I don’t want my book to end before the vacation does. Horrors.
  • My beach read must be engaging; I want to get lost in the pages. Fiction or nonfiction, the book needs to pull me in. 
  • The book I choose also needs to be reliable. Since I’m only taking one, I must be reasonably certain I’ll enjoy it. Sometimes this means I take an old friend I enjoy rereading, or I may take a title from a favorite author. 

I know; it’s a lot to ask from a book. 

Open book with pages folded heart shaped on sand

Here are 10 titles for the reading challenge this month that are great for taking along on any summer vacation. A great beach read is more than just any book—it’s a captivating and enjoyable experience that complements the ambiance of summer vacation.

What do you look for in a beach read?

Man floating in ocean reading

Are you looking for an engaging and light-hearted storyline?

A great beach read often features an engaging and light-hearted storyline that keeps you hooked from the first page. Themes like love, friendship, self-discovery, or adventure provide an entertaining escape from everyday life.

The Rosie Project

Graeme Simsion, 2013

The Rosie Project Book cover

This romantic comedy revolves around Don Tillman, a socially inept genetics professor who embarks on a quest to find the perfect wife using a scientifically designed questionnaire. When Rosie, a free-spirited woman, enters his life, Don’s well-ordered world is turned upside down in a charming and funny way.

Are you looking for page-turning nonfiction?

Some readers prefer nonfiction; if that’s you, a great beach read must tell an amazing true story. Truth is stranger than fiction and, when well told, can entertain and inform.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

John Carreyrou, 2018

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silican Valley startup Book Cover

This gripping investigative account unveils the shocking rise and fall of Theranos. This healthcare technology company promised revolutionary advancements in blood testing. Carreyrou, a journalist, unravels the web of deception and corporate fraud surrounding Theranos, making this book a captivating and thrilling read that exposes the dark side of Silicon Valley. 

Are you looking for a fast-paced and easy-to-follow narrative?

A fast-paced, easy-to-follow narrative that keeps you engrossed during your vacation can make the perfect beach read. It doesn’t require extensive concentration or effort to understand the plot, so you can effortlessly immerse yourself in the story with little concentration.

The Girl on the Train

Paula Hawkins, 2015

The Girl on the Train Book Cover

This gripping psychological thriller follows Rachel, a troubled woman obsessed with a seemingly perfect couple she observes from the train. When the woman goes missing, Rachel becomes entangled in the investigation. The story unfolds quickly, filled with suspense and unreliable narrators that keep you engaged.

Are you looking for scenic and descriptive settings?

A book set in picturesque locations enhances the beach reading experience. Whether it’s a tropical island, a coastal town, or a charming seaside getaway, vivid descriptions of the setting transport you to idyllic places, evoking a sense of wanderlust and adding to the overall enjoyment of the book and the vacation.

The Beach

Alex Garland, 1996

The Beach by Alex Garland Book Cover

This thrilling adventure novel is set in Thailand and explores a hidden, heavenly beach untouched by tourism. The author vividly describes the pristine beauty of the beach, its crystal-clear waters, and its lush surroundings. As the gripping story unfolds, the setting plays a central role, creating a unique sense of escapism and wonder.

Are you looking for humor and wit?

Humor and wit are great in a beach read. Whether it’s clever dialogue, amusing situations, or comedic relief, a touch of humor brings lightness and entertainment to the reading experience, making it even more enjoyable.

Good Omens

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, 1990

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett Book Cover

This hilarious fantasy novel follows the unlikely friendship between an angel and a demon who team up to prevent the apocalypse. Packed with witty banter, clever wordplay, and humorous observations about humanity, this book will keep you entertained and laughing.

Are you looking for a feel-good book?

While beach reads are often associated with light-heartedness, many of the best ones balance entertainment and emotional depth. They may explore deeper themes or touch upon personal growth and introspection, adding layers of meaning to the story without weighing it down.

A Man Called Ove

Fredrik Backman, 2012

A Man Called Ove: A Novel by Fredrik Backman Book Cover

This heartwarming novel follows the life of Ove, a grumpy and isolated man who forms unexpected connections with his new neighbors. It seamlessly combines humor and poignant moments, exploring themes of friendship, love, and the impact of human connection. It’s a delightful and emotionally resonant story.

Are you looking for a page-turner?

A great beach read may be a page-turner that keeps you eager to uncover what happens next. The book’s ability to captivate and eagerly anticipate each page turn is a hallmark of a fantastic beach read, whether through unexpected plot twists, suspenseful cliffhangers, or intriguing mysteries.

The Silent Patient

Alex Michaelides, 2019

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides Book Cover

In this psychological suspense novel, a famous painter, Alicia Berenson, is convicted of murdering her husband and then refuses to speak. Theo Faber, a psychotherapist, becomes obsessed with unraveling the truth behind her silence. The book’s gripping narrative, shocking revelations, and clever plot twists make it difficult to put down.

Are you looking to be completely transported?

Evocative descriptions and sensory details transport you to different time periods, exotic locations, or nostalgic settings, heightening the reading experience and adding a touch of escapism that’s magical on vacation.


Madeline Miller, 2018

Circe by Madeline Miller Book Cover

This enchanting novel takes readers on a mythological journey to ancient Greece, where they follow the life of the sorceress Circe. The book beautifully captures the atmosphere of ancient mythology, immersing you in a world of gods, monsters, and epic quests. The vivid descriptions and rich storytelling create a truly transporting experience.

Are you looking for an action-packed adventure?

Action is another key factor in a beach read. A book filled with action and suspense will keep you on the edge of your beach chair. 

Six of Crows

Leigh Bardugo, 2015

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, 1) by Leigh Bardugo Book Cover

This fantasy heist novel follows a group of skilled outcasts undertaking a dangerous mission to infiltrate an impenetrable prison and retrieve a valuable hostage. Filled with intricate plotting, suspenseful action sequences, and a diverse cast of characters, the book offers a thrilling and adrenaline-fueled adventure that keeps you hooked until the end

Are you looking for imagination and fantasy?

Sometimes you want wonder and imagination; after all, a vacation is about getting away from the everyday. Nothing does that more effectively than an outstanding fantasy novel. 

The Lies of Locke Lamora 

Scott Lynch, 2006

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastards) by Scott Lynch Book Cover

Join the witty and cunning thief Locke Lamora and his band of fellow criminals known as the Gentleman Bastards. Set in a vibrant and treacherous city called Camorr, this gripping fantasy novel combines heists, political intrigue, and a richly detailed world. With its sharp dialogue, intricate plotting, and a perfect blend of action and humor, it’s a thrilling page-turner that will keep you captivated.

Your Vacay Needs to Include a Beach Read

Packed Suitcase with summer gear and book

What makes a great beach read for you? Regardless of what you’re looking for, you can find it at Add one or more of these reading challenge titles as you pack your beach bag, or browse our vast selection of new and used books to find one perfect for your summer getaway. If you want a variety of books to enjoy during your summer vacation, Discover Books and the reading challenge have you covered. And remember to share your favorite selections with the reading challenge community.

Even without a vacation, you can ensure your summer days are filled with literary bliss and unforgettable adventures with the help of Discover Books. With free shipping on orders over $12, you can afford to sample more than one.

Find May’s Reading Challenge here. Remember it’s never too late to join us in 2023 Reading Challenge.

It’s always a good day to read a good book.

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