50 Best Summer Beach Reads of All Time (By Year)

Best Summer Beach Books to Read on Vacation

With summer finally approaching, I’m eager to revisit some books that are great summer vacation beach reads!

These books are often set on summer holidays, in vacation spots, in warmer settings, or just on a beach. They also lean towards being more upbeat, breezy reads (though not always) that are perfect to dive into with a cool drink in hand. They tend to be on the shorter end of the spectrum or with shorter chapters (but again not necessarily).

So, this list consists of the Best Beach Reads of All Time, listed in reverse chronological order by year. It includes books released in any year, but has a preference for newer releases. Also, books that are part of a series only have the first title listed.

So, let’s get into this list of fantastic summery reads and revisit some old favorites, too!

Beach Read (2020)
Emily Henry

What It's About: A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance...

See the Full Summary and Review of Beach Read (2020)

Publication Date: May 19, 2020
romance physical tbr contemporary

The Unhoneymooners (2019)
Christina Lauren

What It's About: An alternative cover edition for this ISBN can be found here.

Olive Torres is used to being the unlucky twin: from inexplicable mishaps to a recent layoff, her life seems to be almost comically jinxed. By contrast, her sister, Ami, is an eternal champion . . . she even managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a slew of contests...

Publication Date: May 14, 2019
romance contemporary physical tbr

Calypso (2018)
David Sedaris

What It's About: David Sedaris returns with his most deeply personal and darkly hilarious book.

If you've ever laughed your way through David Sedaris's cheerfully misanthropic stories, you might think you know what you're getting with Calypso. You'd be wrong.

When he buys a beach house on the Carolina coast, Sedaris envisions long, relaxing vacations spent playing board games and lounging in the sun with those he loves most...

Publication Date: May 29, 2018
non fiction humor memoir

The Perfect Couple (2018)
Elin Hilderbrand

What It's About: It's Nantucket wedding season, also known as summer-the sight of a bride racing down Main Street is as common as the sun setting at Madaket Beach. The Otis-Winbury wedding promises to be an event to remember: the groom's wealthy parents have spared no expense to host a lavish ceremony at their oceanfront estate...

Publication Date: June 19, 2018
mystery elin hilderbrand romance

Where the Crawdads Sing (2018)
Delia Owens

What It's About: For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her.

But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life's lessons from the land, learning the real ways of the world from the dishonest signals of fireflies...

See the Full Summary and Review of Where the Crawdads Sing (2018)

Publication Date: August 14, 2018
book club historical fiction mystery

The Wedding Date (2018)
Jasmine Guillory

What It's About: A groomsman and his last-minute guest are about to discover if a fake date can go the distance in a fun and flirty debut novel.

Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn't normally do. But there's something about Drew Nichols that's too hard to resist...

Publication Date: January 30, 2018
romance contemporary dnf

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (2017)
Taylor Jenkins Reid

What It's About: Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world...

See the Full Summary and Review of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (2017)

Publication Date: June 13, 2017
romance historical fiction physical tbr

The Hating Game (2016)
Sally Thorne

What It's About: Listening length: 11 hours, 29 minutes

Debut author Sally Thorne bursts on the scene with a hilarious and sexy workplace comedy all about that thin, fine line between hate and love.

Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
2) A person's undoing
3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office...

Publication Date: August 9, 2016
romance contemporary enemies to lovers

The Lake House (2015)
Kate Morton

What It's About: An abandoned house...
June 1933, and sixteen-year-old Alice Edevane is preparing for her family's Midsummer Eve party at their country home, Loeanneth. But by the time midnight strikes and fireworks light up the night skies, the Edevane family will have suffered a loss so great that they leave Loeanneth forever...

Publication Date: October 20, 2015
historical fiction mystery book club

Big Little Lies (2014)
Liane Moriarty

What It's About: Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal...

A murder . . . a tragic accident . . . or just parents behaving badly?
What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.
But who did what?

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with...

Publication Date: December 25, 2014
mystery book club contemporary

The Vacationers (2014)
Emma Straub

What It's About: The delicious, New York Times–bestselling book of the summer: an irresistible, deftly observed novel about the secrets, joys, and jealousies that rise to the surface over the course of an American family’s Mediterranean holiday.

For the Posts, a two-week trip to the Balearic island of Mallorca with their extended family and friends is a celebration: Franny and Jim are observing their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and their daughter, Sylvia, has graduated from high school...

Publication Date: May 29, 2014
contemporary book club books i own

The Invention of Wings (2014)
Sue Monk Kidd

What It's About: From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees, a New York Times bestselling novel about two unforgettable American women.

Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world...

Publication Date: January 7, 2014
historical fiction book club historical

We Were Liars (2014)
E. Lockhart

What It's About: A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E...

Publication Date: May 13, 2014
young adult mystery contemporary

The Rosie Project (2013)
Graeme Simsion

What It's About: An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance...

See the Full Summary and Review of The Rosie Project (2013)

Publication Date: January 30, 2013
book club contemporary humor

Beautiful Ruins (2012)
Jess Walter

What It's About: "The best novel of the year." — Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air

A #1 New York Times bestseller, this “absolute masterpiece” (Richard Russo) is the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962 and resurfaces fifty years later in Hollywood. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to the back lots of contemporary Hollywood, this is a dazzling, yet deeply human roller coaster of a novel...

See the Full Summary and Review of Beautiful Ruins (2012)

Publication Date: June 12, 2012
book club historical fiction italy

Where'd You Go, Bernadette (2012)
Maria Semple

What It's About: Bernadette Fox has vanished.

When her daughter Bee claims a family trip to Antarctica as a reward for perfect grades, Bernadette, a fiercely intelligent shut-in, throws herself into preparations for the trip. But worn down by years of trying to live the Seattle life she never wanted, Ms. Fox is on the brink of a meltdown...

See the Full Summary and Review of Where'd You Go, Bernadette (2012)

Publication Date: August 14, 2012
book club contemporary humor

Attachments (2011)
Rainbow Rowell

What It's About: "Hi, I'm the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you..."

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It's company policy.) But they can't quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives...

Publication Date: April 14, 2011
romance contemporary chick lit

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) (2011)
Mindy Kaling

What It's About: Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck - impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence "Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I'll shut up about it?"

Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages)...

See the Full Summary and Review of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) (2011)

Publication Date: November 1, 2011
non fiction memoir humor

Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009)
Sophie Kinsella

What It's About: Becky has a fabulous flat in London's trendiest neighborhood, a troupe of glamorous socialite friends, and a closet brimming with the season's must-haves. The only trouble is that she can't actually afford it–not any of it.

Her job writing at Successful Savings not only bores her to tears, it doesn't pay much at all...

Publication Date: November 4, 2003
romance contemporary books i own

The Summer I Turned Pretty (2009)
Jenny Han

What It's About: Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer—they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between...

Publication Date: May 5, 2009
romance young adult books i own

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2008)
Mary Ann Shaffer

What It's About: #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE ON NETFLIX - A remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German Occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.

"I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers...

Publication Date: July 29, 2008
historical fiction book club romance

Firefly Lane (2008)
Kristin Hannah

What It's About: From the New York Times bestselling author of On Mystic Lake comes a powerful novel of love, loss, and the magic of friendship. . . .

In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend...

Publication Date: February 5, 2008
book club books i own chick lit

The Ruins (2006)
Scott Smith

What It's About: Trapped in the Mexican jungle, a group of friends stumble upon a creeping horror unlike anything they could ever imagine. Two young couples are on a lazy Mexican vacation–sun-drenched days, drunken nights, making friends with fellow tourists. When the brother of one of those friends disappears, they decide to venture into the jungle to look for him...

Publication Date: July 18, 2006
thriller books i own mystery

Eat, Pray, Love (2006)
Elizabeth Gilbert

What It's About: A celebrated writer's irresistible, candid, and eloquent account of her pursuit of worldly pleasure, spiritual devotion, and what she really wanted out of life.

Around the time Elizabeth Gilbert turned thirty, she went through an early-onslaught midlife crisis. She had everything an educated, ambitious American woman was supposed to want—a husband, a house, a successful career...

Publication Date: February 16, 2006
non fiction memoir travel

Assassination Vacation (2005)
Sarah Vowell

What It's About: Sarah Vowell exposes the glorious conundrums of American history and culture with wit, probity, and an irreverent sense of humor. With Assassination Vacation, she takes us on a road trip like no other—a journey to the pit stops of American political murder and through the myriad ways they have been used for fun and profit, for political and cultural advantage...

Publication Date: March 1, 2005
history humor travel

Something Borrowed (2004)
Emily Giffin

What It's About: Something Borrowed tells the story of Rachel, a young attorney living and working in Manhattan.

Rachel has always been the consummate good girl—until her thirtieth birthday, when her best friend, Darcy, throws her a party. That night, after too many drinks, Rachel ends up in bed with Darcy's fiancé...

Publication Date: June 1, 2004
chick lit romance books i own

The Truth About Forever (2004)
Sarah Dessen

What It's About: There are alternate cover editions for this ISBN here and here.

A long, hot summer...

That's what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy's father...

Publication Date: May 11, 2004
romance contemporary books i own

Fluke, or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings (2003)
Christopher Moore

What It's About: Whale researcher Nathan Quinn has a problem. It’s not a new problem; in fact, it’s been around for nearly 20 million years. And Nate’s spent most of his adult life working to solve it. You see, although everybody (well, almost everybody) knows that humpback whales sing (outside of human composition, the most complex songs on the planet) no one knows why...

Publication Date: June 3, 2003
humor fantasy comedy

The Devil Wears Prada (2003)
Lauren Weisberger

What It's About: A delightfully dishy novel about the all-time most impossible boss in the history of impossible bosses.

Andrea Sachs, a small-town girl fresh out of college, lands the job “a million girls would die for.” Hired as the assistant to Miranda Priestly, the high-profile, fabulously successful editor of Runway magazine, Andrea finds herself in an office that shouts Prada! Armani! Versace! at every turn, a world populated by impossibly thin, heart-wrenchingly stylish women and beautiful men clad in fine-ribbed turtlenecks and tight leather pants that show off their lifelong dedication to the gym...

Publication Date: April 15, 2003
chick lit books i own contemporary

The Nanny Diaries (2002)
Emma Mclaughlin

What It's About: Wanted: One young woman to take care of four-year-old boy. Must be cheerful, enthusiastic and selfless--bordering on masochistic. Must relish sixteen-hour shifts with a deliberately nap-deprived preschooler. Must love getting thrown up on, literally and figuratively, by everyone in his family. Must enjoy the delicious anticipation of ridiculously erratic pay...

Publication Date: March 13, 2002
chick lit books i own contemporary

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2001)
Ann Brashares

What It's About: Carmen got the jeans at a thrift shop. They didn’t look all that great: they were worn, dirty, and speckled with bleach. On the night before she and her friends part for the summer, Carmen decides to toss them.

But Tibby says they’re great. She'd love to have them. Lena and Bridget also think they’re fabulous...

Publication Date: September 11, 2001
chick lit books i own contemporary

Good in Bed (2001)
Jennifer Weiner

What It's About: Weiner's witty, original, fast-moving debut features a lovable heroine, a solid cast, snappy dialogue and a poignant take on life's priorities.

For twenty-eight years, things have been tripping along nicely for Cannie Shapiro. Sure, her mother has come charging out of the closet, and her father has long since dropped out of her world...

Publication Date: April 2, 2002
chick lit romance chicklit

The Notebook (1996)
Nicholas Sparks

What It's About: A man with a faded, well-worn notebook open in his lap. A woman experiencing a morning ritual she doesn't understand. Until he begins to read to her. The Notebook is an achingly tender story about the enduring power of love, a story of miracles that will stay with you forever. Set amid the austere beauty of coastal North Carolina in 1946, The Notebook begins with the story of Noah Calhoun, a rural Southerner returned home from World War II...

Publication Date: October 1, 1996
romance nicholas sparks books i own

The Beach (1996)
Alex Garland

What It's About: The irresistible novel that was adapted into a major motion picture starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

The Khao San Road, Bangkok -- first stop for the hordes of rootless young Westerners traveling in Southeast Asia. On Richard's first night there, in a low-budget guest house, a fellow traveller slashes his wrists, bequeathing to Richard a meticulously drawn map to "the Beach...

Publication Date: October 14, 1996
travel thriller adventure

A Walk in the Woods (1998)
Bill Bryson

What It's About: The Appalachian Trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and covers some of the most breathtaking terrain in America—majestic mountains, silent forests, sparking lakes. If you’re going to take a hike, it’s probably the place to go. And Bill Bryson is surely the most entertaining guide you’ll find...

Publication Date: May 5, 1998
non fiction travel memoir

Summer Sisters (1998)
Judy Blume

What It's About: 🎧Listening Length = 9 hours, 18 minutes

This #1 New York Times bestseller and Read With Jenna book club pick is “a book to return to again and again” (Colleen Hoover). In 1977, Victoria and Caitlin form a bond that changes their lives. Years later, they reunite for a wedding on Martha’s Vineyard — and confront the pitfalls of their friendship...

Publication Date: July 25, 2006
chick lit books i own romance

84, Charing Cross Road (1970)
Helene Hanff

What It's About: This charming classic, first published in 1970, brings together twenty years of correspondence between Helene Hanff, a freelance writer living in New York City, and a used-book dealer in London. Through the years, though never meeting and separated both geographically and culturally, they share a winsome, sentimental friendship based on their common love for books...

Publication Date: October 1, 1990
books about books memoir epistolary

Dandelion Wine (1957)

What It's About: The summer of '28 was a vintage season for a growing boy. A summer of green apple trees, mowed lawns, and new sneakers. Of half-burnt firecrackers, of gathering dandelions, of Grandma's belly-busting dinner. It was a summer of sorrows and marvels and gold-fuzzed bees. A magical, timeless summer in the life of a twelve-year-old boy named Douglas Spaulding—remembered forever by the incomparable Ray Bradbury...

Publication Date: February 19, 2024
classics science fiction fantasy

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955)
Patricia Highsmith

What It's About: Now a Netflix Series

It’s here, in the first volume of Patricia Highsmith’s five-book Ripley series, that we are introduced to the suave Tom Ripley, a young striver seeking to leave behind his past as an orphan bullied for being a “sissy.” Newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan, Ripley meets a wealthy industrialist who hires him to bring his playboy son, Dickie Greenleaf, back from gallivanting in Italy...

Publication Date: June 17, 2008
mystery classics thriller

I Capture the Castle (1948)
Dodie Smith

What It's About: I Capture the Castle tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries...

Publication Date: March 15, 1999
classics young adult historical fiction

Death on the Nile (1937)
Agatha Christie


Following the success of Murder on the Orient Express, Kenneth Branagh returns to direct and star in this adaptation of the classic Hercule Poirot mystery for the big screen, also starring Gal Gadot...

Publication Date: November 1, 1937
mystery crime mystery thriller

The Great Gatsby (1925)
F Scott Fitzgerald

What It's About: Alternate covers of this ISBN can be found here and here.

James L.W. West III to include the author’s final revisions and features a note on the composition and text, a personal foreword by Fitzgerald’s granddaughter, Eleanor Lanahan—and a new introduction by two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward...

Publication Date: April 10, 1925
classics books i own school

The Enchanted April (1922)
Elizabeth von Arnim

What It's About: A notice in The Times addressed to 'Those Who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine' advertises a 'small medieval Italian Castle to be let for the month of April'. Four very different women take up the offer: Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot, both fleeing unappreciative husbands; beautiful Lady Caroline, sick of being 'grabbed' by lovesick men; and the imperious, ageing Mrs Fisher...

Publication Date: January 1, 2015
classics italy historical fiction

A Room With A View (1908)
E M Forster

What It's About: 'You love the boy body and soul, plainly, directly, as he loves you . . .'

Lucy has her rigid, middle-class life mapped out for her until she visits Florence with her uptight cousin Charlotte, and finds her neatly ordered existence thrown off balance.

Her eyes are opened by the unconventional characters she meets at the Pension Pertolini: flamboyant romantic novelist Eleanor Lavish, the Cockney Signora, curious Mr Emerson and, most of all, his passionate son George...

Publication Date: May 17, 2011
classics romance historical fiction

The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)
Oscar Wilde

What It's About: Oscar Wilde's madcap farce about mistaken identities, secret engagements, and lovers entanglements still delights readers more than a century after its 1895 publication and premiere performance. The rapid-fire wit and eccentric characters of The Importance of Being Earnest have made it a mainstay of the high school curriculum for decades...

Publication Date: February 14, 1895
plays classic drama

Emma (1815)
Jane Austen

What It's About: Older editions of this ISBN can be found here and here.

The culmination of Jane Austen’s genius, a sparkling comedy of love and marriage

Beautiful, clever, rich—and single—Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others...

Publication Date: December 23, 1815
classics classic physical tbr

Best Summer Beach Books to Read on Vacation

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