The ingredients for a perfect day on the beach: sunscreen, towels, a tropical drink, and a book that will keep your mind stimulated in the heat. Our list of fantastic beach reads may not belong to the highest echelon of literature, but they are what any beach book should be: an enjoyable and leisurely read for anyone looking to spend a few hours of total relaxation.
- “Beginner’s Greek” by James Collins
Two young professionals, Holly and Peter, meet on a plane bound for Los Angeles from New York. They instantly realize that they are meant to be together, but a lost phone number and a ripped page from Mann’s “The Magic Mountain” separate the two for years before they find each other again in completely different circumstances. Full of twists and turns, this book is replete with enough romance and laughs to call it a true chick-lit guilty pleasure.
- “Lush Life” by Richard Price
It all begins with a seemingly simple crime. Marcus, a bartender, is shot and killed after a drunken confrontation with two muggers. The rest of the book explores in chillingly realistic scenes and visions the way of life in New York City in all its heart-stopping and visceral splendor.
- “One Fifth Avenue” by Candace Bushnell
Think of this book as a cocktail mix between F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and Edith Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence” with a splash of Bushnell’s own “Sex and the City.” 433 pages of glamour, fun, and hilarity, Bushnell’s latest creation captures the high-end pains of real estate in Manhattan (with a $15 million apartment at risk) and the utter chaos that ensues.
- “Nights in Rodanthe” by Nicholas Sparks
No beach book list would be complete without at least one title from the master of cheesy romance and heartbreak himself, Nicholas Sparks. In Sparks’ sixth novel, Adrienne Willis and Paul Flanner meet each other in the North Carolina coastal town of Rodanthe. Both seek refuge from their troubles at home, and both find love in a short-lived but life-changing affair.
- “What Was I Thinking?: 58 Bad Boyfriend Stories”
Occasionally on the beach, one might prefer a series of shorter reads to a full-length novel. If so, this collection of first-person accounts is for you. With essays by Carrie Fisher, Nicole Hollander, and more, this book is devoted to memories of bad boyfriends and the enlightening break-ups that follow.
- “In the Cut” by Susanna Moore
A bona fide erotic thriller, “In the Cut” is packed with jaw-dropping sex scenes, twisted adventure, and disturbing narratives. For readers seeking the best of both romance novels and murder mysteries, Moore provides a shocking but controlled account of a woman crossing social boundaries into a nightmarish but passionate affair with a homicide detective.
- “Appassionata” by Eva Hoffman
Isabel Merton, an American pianist, travels on tour to Europe where she becomes entangled in a love affair with Anzor Islikhanov, a follower of Chechnya. As their relationship develops, the possibility looms that Anzor’s impassioned love for his country might border on terrorism. A deeply thoughtful work on the place of music in a world torn by war and despair, “Appassionata” combines the intimacy of romance with a discussion of contemporary global issues.
- “Shanghai Girls” by Lisa See
Set in the mid-1930s, “Shanghai Girls” details the adventures of two sisters, May and Pearl, who leave China in order to start a new life together in Los Angeles. The reality of leaving the comforts of home sets in soon, however, when the two are detained for months on Angel’s Island. Through tales of suffering, humiliation, and pain, See shows how love, hope, and sisterhood can triumph any obstacle no matter how brutal or challenging.
- “Shopaholic and Baby” by Sophie Kinsella
Kinsella’s lovable but air-headed heroine, Becky Bloomwood, is back with shopping escapades to match. This time around, she is married, pregnant, and working as a personal shopper at a high-end boutique in London. Determined that her child be just as stunning as she is, she goes to every upscale baby store she can find and even snatches a celebrity ob-gyn. Kinsella’s slapstick humor makes this fifth installment in the Shopaholic series a worthwhile and hilarious read.
- “A Model Summer” by Paulina Porizkova
Jirina is a 15-year-old aspiring model who arrives in Paris looking for fame and fortune. On the way to modeling success, she witnesses the moral decay of nearly everyone she encounters, including herself. Porizkova, an internationally famous supermodel, reveals in her debut novel the dirty and oftentimes heart-wrenching secrets about what really goes on behind the runway.
- “The Manny” by Holly Peterson
Plum Sykes, the author of internationally acclaimed bestseller “Bergdorf Blondes,” called this debut work by Peterson “‘Lady Chatterly’s Lover’ for the beach.” The story revolves around Jamie Whitfield, a 36-year-old mother of three children, who hires a male nanny to act as a father figure for her 9-year-old son, Dylan. What follows is a comical and seemingly inevitable love affair between Jamie and the manny.
- “Chasing Harry Winston” by Lauren Weisberger
The bestselling author of “The Devil Wears Prada” returns with a story of three friends on a mission to change their lives. Emmy, Leigh, and Adriana are all successful, beautiful, and pampered, but unsure of how they see themselves in the future. Together, they make a promise to drastically alter their lives within a single year. Funny and full of emotional depth, “Chasing Harry Winston” reveals what truly matters in life beyond personal trainers, Tiffany engagement rings, and first-class tickets.
- “Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea” by Chelsea Handler
Irrelevant and flippant, this book contains snippets of hilarious memories and experiences ranging from sibling rivalry to one-night stands to a deep-seated phobia of red-headed men. Comedian Chelsea Handler’s energetic humor and nonsensical prose are perfect for a casual read on the beach.
- “L.A. Candy” by Lauren Conrad
For a sweet and satisfying read on the beach, Lauren Conrad’s debut novel details the careers of two young women, Jane and Scarlett, who are offered the opportunity of a lifetime when they move to Los Angeles. As Jane rises to fame in Hollywood, she realizes that nothing in her life will ever be the same again.
- “The Beach House” by Jane Green
Nan Powell, a widow, is on the verge of losing her beloved beach house. To prevent this from happening, she quickly turns the entire estate into a bed-and-breakfast inn where she receives a variety of guests who, like her, are all at a difficult crossroads in their lives. Featuring an array of realistic characters, “The Beach House” is a developed and emotionally moving read with soap opera twists and lovely scenes of Nantucket’s summer beauty.