There are a lot of wonderful things about summer, from ice cream trucks (hello to Mr. Softee only) to the solid excuse to spend too much money on bathing suits that look exactly like all the ones you already own—but there is perhaps no greater seasonal treat than the “beach read.”
Too often, books that make for good, light summertime reading get a bad rap, but really, do you want to drag The Brothers Karamazov down to the pool? (If you do, power to you, but personally, I’ll be out here with breezier fare.) A beach read is more than capable of being smart, literary, and engaging; it’s also just fun to page through, and in these difficult times, what’s so wrong with that?
Below, find seven books to slip into a woven summer tote (or pilly, three-year-old bag from Trader Joe’s, if your beach-going habits are anything like mine) and make for perfect company, whether you’re out sunbathing or enjoying a perfectly ripe tomato sandwich solo.
A Novel Obsession by Caitlin Barasch
If you’ve ever felt tempted to “keep tabs on” a partner’s ex on Instagram and then found yourself down a rabbit hole of their vacation posts from three years ago, this debut novel—which follows a 24-year-old New Yorker named Naomi who becomes obsessed with her boyfriend’s former girlfriend—is for you.
The Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner
The natural beauty of the Outer Cape is the backdrop for plenty of family drama and romantic intrigue in Weiner’s latest novel, which incorporates the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic but still manages to feel breezy and delicious to read.
You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi
Emezi can write a love story like no other, and this one—which revolves around Femi, a young woman healing from heartbreak who’s quickly drawn into more than one seductive and enthralling new romantic encounter—will have you gripped from page one.
Rainbow Rainbow: Stories by Lydia Conklin
The stories in this dazzling collection take place everywhere from a Midwestern library to a trans YouTube convention to an operating room, all of them encompassing LGBTQ+ identity in ways small, large, and compulsively readable.
Meant to Be Mine by Hannah Orenstein (June 7)
A young woman meets a handsome musician on the plane to celebrate her twin sister’s engagement—but quickly comes to suspect he’s not the match she’s been waiting for—in this fun yet surprisingly emotional romp that’s tailor-made for beachside reading.
Counterfeit: A Novel by Kirstin Chen (June 7)
A stylish and mysterious woman who deals in luxury purses gets an old friend from college to help her with her schemes and quickly leaves her holding the—you guessed it—bag in this heart-in-throat thriller that’s impossible to put down until you’ve read every last word.
Vacationland by Meg Mitchell Moore (June 14)
In this irresistible summer read, an aspiring writer heads to her parents’ house in Maine with three kids in tow and her husband back in Brooklyn, and quickly finds her family at the center of a web of secrets.