A beach trip demands a book you can get wrapped up in. We’re talking feel-good, funny, gripping, suspenseful or all of the above. A good beach read should have a compelling story, and basically serve the same purpose as your vacation or day trip: to make you happy.
Author Edan Lepucki, breaks down the definition of a beach read better than I can, so I’ll elaborate by using this quote from her: [a beach read] has the power to engage a reader who is sitting before an enormous, stunning body of water, and still decides to look down at a piece of paper with a bunch of words.
I’m not sure about you, but when I look through my library I always remember the books I read on vacation or during a beach day more fondly. Since summer is practically here, we rounded up our fave beach-worthy reads to pack for your beach day or next tropical vacay.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation, written by Ottessa Moshfegh (Fiction)
This book was recommended by my friend Natalya for our bookclub, and I absolutely loved it. Moshfegh has such a unique voice – and this story is so hilarious, in the most dark and twisted way. The interactions between the narrator (we never learn her name) and her best friend Reva had me actually LOLing. It’s a page-turner because it’s unlike anything you’ll have read before.
The premise: My Year of Rest and Relaxation is a novel about a young woman’s efforts to duck the ills of the world by embarking on an extended hibernation with the help of one of the worst psychiatrists of all-time. Our narrator should be happy. She’s young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, works an easy job at a hip art gallery, lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like the rest of her needs, by her inheritance. But there is a dark and vacuous hole in her heart, and it isn’t just the loss of her parents, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her best friend, Reva. It’s the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong?
Amazing, I want it: You can grab a copy of My Year of Rest and Relaxation here.
The Rosie Project, written by Graeme Simsion (Fiction)
Ok, this might actually be my favourite book of all time. It’s hilarious yet incredibly touching. The main character and narrator, Don Tillman, has to be the best fictional character ever created. It’s a really smart love story between two people that could not be more different – and it will leave you smiling from beginning to end.
The premise: A first-date dud, socially awkward and overly fond of quick-dry clothes, genetics professor Don Tillman has given up on love, until a chance encounter gives him an idea. He will design a questionnaire—a sixteen-page, scientifically researched questionnaire—to uncover the perfect partner. Don dubs this endeavour The Wife Project. This partner will most definitely not be a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker or a late-arriver. Rosie is all these things. She is also fiery and intelligent, strangely beguiling, and looking for her biological father a search that a DNA expert might just be able to help her with.
Amazing, I want it: You can grab a copy of The Rosie Project here.
Big Little Lies, written by Liane Moriarty (Fiction)
I read Big Little Lies on a trip to Australia, and can confirm that this book is deserving of the beach. Reason being, it’s got a great structure that will hook you right from the beginning. Many of you may have seen the HBO series based on this novel, so you know the ending. But, the series deviates from the book quite a bit and the journey to that ending is far more captivating in book form in my opinion.
The premise: Pirriwee Public is a beautiful little beachside primary school where children are taught that ‘sharing is caring’ – but the annual School Trivia Night has just ended in full-blown riot Sirens are wailing. People are screaming. The principal is mortified. And one parent is dead. Was it a murder, a tragic accident or just good parents gone bad? As the parents at Pirriwee Public are about to discover, sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal. Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, school-yard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.
Amazing, I want it: You can grab a copy of Big Little Lies here.
How to Murder Your Life, written by Cat Marnell (Non-Fiction)
How to Murder Your Life is a candid and darkly humorous memoir of prescription drug addiction and self-sabotage. It’s definitely a book that leaves you on edge in parts, as there are moments where you won’t believe how Cat managed to make it out alive. However, it’s incredibly smart, well written and will have you LOLing frequently.
The premise:At twenty-six, Cat Marnell was an associate beauty editor at Lucky, one of the top fashion magazines in America—and that’s all most people knew about her. But she hid a secret life. She was a prescription drug addict. She was also a “doctor shopper” who manipulated Upper East Side psychiatrists for pills, pills, and more pills; a lonely bulimic who spent hundreds of dollars a week on binge foods; a promiscuous party girl who danced barefoot on banquets; a weepy and hallucination-prone insomniac who would take anything—anything—to sleep. This is a tale of self-loathing, self-sabotage, and yes, self-tanner. It begins at a posh New England prep school—and with a prescription for Attention Deficit Disorder medication Ritalin. It continues to New York, where we follow Marnell’s amphetamine-fueled rise from intern to editor through the beauty departments of NYLON, Teen Vogue, Glamour, and Lucky. We see her fight between ambition and addiction and how, inevitably, her disease threatens everything she worked so hard to achieve.
Amazing, I want it: You can grab a copy of How to Murder Your Life here.
Girl, Wash Your Face, written by Rachel Hollis (Non-Fiction)
I read this book at a time in my life where I needed some personal and professional encouragement – and Rachel def delivered. This collection of personal stories is all about what’s holding us (the collective female we) back from our full potential. Yes, I know that sounds super self help-y, and I’m not going to say it’s not a self-help book, BUT, it’s not in your face about it. Her stories really spoke to me because they’re refreshingly honest, funny and she doesn’t just include the good stuff (there’s one that made me ugly cry – but I won’t spoil the premise). I was left feeling empowered, which is why I think this is a great beach read.
The only thing to be mindful about is that Rachel is a pretty devout Christian, and the concept of God comes up a a handful of times throughout. I don’t have a religious background, so each time Rachel brought up God, I tried to swap that with with my own beliefs when it comes to a higher power
The premise: Do you ever suspect that everyone else has life figured out and you don’t have a clue? If so, Rachel Hollis has something to tell you: that’s a lie. In this challenging and inspiring new book, Rachel exposes the twenty lies and misconceptions that too often hold us back from living joyfully and productively, lies we’ve told ourselves so often we don’t even hear them anymore. With painful honesty and fearless humor, Rachel unpacks and examines the falsehoods that once left her feeling overwhelmed and unworthy, and reveals the specific practical strategies that helped her move past them. In the process, she encourages, entertains, and even kicks a little butt, all to convince you to do whatever it takes to get real and become the joyous, confident woman you were meant to be. With unflinching faith and rock-hard tenacity, Girl, Wash Your Face shows you how to live with passion and hustle–and how to give yourself grace without giving up.
Amazing, I want it: You can grab a copy of Girl, Wash Your Face here.
Gold, written by Chris Cleave (Fiction)
This book made my heart swell. It’s a story of hard work, determination and sacrifice. I read it on a trip to Bali with Alyssa (she read it first and handed it off to me) and couldn’t put it down. I mean, I totally cried on the beach, but a good beach read needs to give you ALL the feelings. Plus, that’s when those sunglasses come in handy.
The premise: If your dreams pull you in one direction and your heart in another, which should you follow? This is the question that haunts Kate Meadows, a world champion athlete whose eight-year-old daughter Sophie is battling a recurrence of childhood leukemia just as Kate is about to compete for her last chance at an Olympic gold medal. For years, Kate has sacrificed everything for her family and watched her best friend and closest rival, Zoe Castle, conquer the world stage. Kate has never won gold and will have to go through Zoe—who has everything to lose—to get it. Now her child is facing a life-threatening illness, and the stakes are higher than ever. How can she do what is right for her daughter without abandoning all of her dreams?
Amazing, I want it: You can grab a copy of Gold here.
Lullabies for Little Criminals, by Heather O’Neill (Fiction)
This is a really refreshing coming of age novel, a genre that was made for the beach. It’s a really tender and honest portrayal of a lower class father and daughter living in Montreal (Canada represent!). It goes to some dark places, but the heroines signature sense of humour keeps it in beach-reading territory.
The premise: Baby, all of thirteen years old, is lost in the gangly, coltish moment between childhood and the strange pulls and temptations of the adult world. Her mother is dead; her father, Jules, is scarcely more than a child himself and is always on the lookout for his next score. Baby knows that “chocolate milk” is Jules’ slang for heroin and sees a lot more of that in her house than the real thing. But she takes vivid delight in the scrappy bits of happiness and beauty that find their way to her, and moves through the threat of the streets as if she’s been choreographed in a dance. Soon, though, a hazard emerges that is bigger than even her hard-won survival skills can handle. Alphonse, the local pimp, has his eye on her for his new girl—and what the johns don’t take he covets for himself. If Baby cannot learn to become her own salvation, his dark world threatens to claim her, body and soul.
Amazing, I want it: You can grab a copy of Lullabies for Little Criminals here.
The Word is Murder, written by Anthony Horowitz (Fiction)
Beaches and murder mystery’s are a match made in heaven, amirite? The Word is Murder is reads like a classic Agatha Christie novel – it’s a true whodunit. You’ll wanna read this book from start to finish in one sitting, so a long day at the beach is the perfect setting. The author actually writes himself in as the main character of the book, and there were a couple of times I had to consult Google to see if the murder the book is based on actually happened, as the biographical details of the author are real. You’ll love this one, I promise.
The premise: One bright spring morning in London, Diana Cowper – the wealthy mother of a famous actor – enters a funeral parlor. She is there to plan her own service. Six hours later she is found dead, strangled with a curtain cord in her own home. Enter disgraced police detective Daniel Hawthorne, a brilliant, eccentric investigator who’s as quick with an insult as he is to crack a case. Hawthorne needs a ghost writer to document his life; a Watson to his Holmes. He chooses Anthony Horowitz (yes, Horowitz writes himself into the book!). Drawn in against his will, Horowitz soon finds himself a the centre of a story he cannot control. Hawthorne is brusque, temperamental and annoying but even so his latest case with its many twists and turns proves irresistible. The writer and the detective form an unusual partnership. At the same time, it soon becomes clear that Hawthorne is hiding some dark secrets of his own.
Amazing, I want it: You can grab a copy of The Word Is Murder here.
Crazy Rich Asians, written by Kevin Kwan (Fiction)
Yes, I know most people have read this book already, or if they haven’t it’s in the queue. BUT, I couldn’t make a list of beach reads and not include Crazy Rich Asians. It’s the ultimate beach read, hands down. It’s got romance, humour and family drama all rolled into one addictive story. The characters are both original and believable – you will fall in love with them.
The premise: When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of Hong Kong Tatler; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian Jet Set, a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money, between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese, and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, disgustingly rich.
Amazing, I want it: You can grab a copy of Crazy Rich Asians here.
Modern Lovers, written by Emma Straub (Fiction)
Modern Lovers is a book about long-lasting relationships and friends you’ve known all your life – and how both evolve over time. It’s an easy, light read that is best mixed with a beachy cocktail. And this one won’t make you cry, but it does have some touching moments.
The premise: Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring. Back in the band’s heyday, Elizabeth put on a snarl over her Midwestern smile, Andrew let his unwashed hair grow past his chin, and Zoe was the lesbian all the straight women wanted to sleep with. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same neighbourhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer that their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adult lives suddenly begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose—about themselves, and about the famous fourth band member who soared and fell without them—can never be reclaimed.
Amazing, I want it: You can grab a copy of Modern Lovers here.
The Complete Persopolis, written by Marjane Satrapi (Non-Fiction)
If you prefer books in graphic form, then this The Complete Persopolis is for you. This graphic memoir is a funny, edgy coming of age tale that will definitely capture your heart.
The premise: The Complete Persepolis is the story of Satrapi’s unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming–both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.
Amazing, I want it: You can grab a copy of The Complete Persopolis here.
A good beach read deserves an equally good cocktail. And we can’t think of anything more fitting than Sex on the Beach. It’s a classic for a reason. Grab the recipe here.
90’s Feel Good
If a beach worthy read became a playlist, it would be 90’s feel good tunes. So this one feels appropriate.