First, the elephant in the room – it’s the middle of July and I’m only just now getting around to sharing my summer reading recommendations. But you know what? If President Obama can share his summer reads at this late point in the season, so can I! (We have more than just our timing in common – two of his recommendations are also on my list.)
Like with last year’s summer reading guide, I wanted to share a couple of authors that write consistently amazing beach reads. I know it can be hard to track down copies of popular new releases at the library. I’m still waiting on several things that I put on hold at the library at the beginning of the summer! Hopefully having a list of authors whose books all make for good summer reading will help you to find at least a couple of things to read on your next vacation! I haven’t included authors who I mentioned in last year’s but I still recommend all of them, too!
I’ve also rounded up 22 specific books, both new and old, that make for great summer vacation reads. I’ve separated them by genre because I know not everyone finds the same sort of reads to be relaxing. I usually read a lot of contemporary fiction and romances in the summer but this summer I’ve read almost nothing but non-fiction. Go figure.
Emily Henry is writing the best classic beach reads right now. Beach Reads (full review here) was one of my favorite books that I read last summer and her latest, People We Meet on Vacation, has gotten rave reviews and is currently burning a hole in my nightstand. I’d describe her books as non-cheesy romcoms for a discerning millennial audience.
Beatriz Williams is the queen of historical fiction in my opinion. Her books feature strong female characters and explore aspects of history that are often a little bit ignored. I fell in love with her work last year when I read Her Last Flight (full review here) and I’m just about to dive into her latest book, Our Woman in Moscow.
Full disclosure – I didn’t love Beth O’Leary’s first book, The Flatshare, although I know was in the minority. But The Switch (full review here), about a grandmother and granddaughter who switch homes and lives, captured my heart. It was great on audio, too (who doesn’t love British narrators, right?)! I just got her newest book, The Road Trip, at the library and it is giving off major When Harry Met Sally vibes.
Anthony Horowitz is an incredibly prolific writer. He writes books across a number of genres and is a screenwriter as well. But my favorites of his work are his modern takes on the classic mystery genre – it’s exactly the kind of stuff Agatha Christie would be writing if she were still alive. He’s currently writing two series that I love.
The Magpie Murders series (full review of the second book in this series, Moonflower Murders, here) is about an editor who is called upon to serve crimes related to her most famous author’s work. This series is currently being adapted for TV and I’m so excited.
The Hawthorne and Horowitz series (full review of the second book in the series, The Sentence is Death, here) is about an author (a satirized version of Horowitz himself) who pairs with a former police detective to solve crimes. The next book in the series, A Line to Kill, will be out October 19th so you’ve got plenty of time before then to catch up on the series!
Laura Dave does it all – she writes contemporary fiction, romances, and now thrillers! The Last Thing He Told Me (full review here) is her latest book and it’s a fast-paced page-turner of a thriller but it’s not a scary or stressful read at all. I’ve also loved her recent-ish romcoms Hello, Sunshine and Eight Hundred Grapes.
Riley Sager is the perfect author for you if you like your thrillers to be a little more creepy, scary, and twisted. Final Girls (full review here) is my favorite of his books that I’ve read so far and his latest book, Survive the Night, sounds super retro and terrifying.
The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes by Elissa Sloan
Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing by Allison Winn Scotch
Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing (full review here) is the only semi-political book on this list and it’s a good one! Our heroine Cleo is a single mom, Senator, and presidential hopeful struggling through a phase where nothing in her life is going according to plan. Read this book to feel a little more in control of your own life.
The Lion’s Den by Katherine St. John
The Lion’s Den (full review here) is a poolside read written with Bravo lovers and soap opera fans in mind. It’s improbable and strange and it all takes place on a yacht in the Mediterranean so you’ll get the bonus of a vicarious vacation. Once you read that, pick up St. John’s second book, The Siren. I’m a third of the way through and it’s a similarly wild ride.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
The House in the Cerulean Sea (full review here) was hands down one of my favorite books of 2020. If 2021 has hit you hard, read this book to pick you up and restore your faith in humanity. (And no, I’m not overselling it.)
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Malibu Rising is a book that I haven’t read yet, but only because I know I’ll be so sad when it’s over and I have to wait two years for another Taylor Jenkins Reid book. She is one of my favorite authors of all time and you really can’t go wrong with any of her books. This one is set in the ’80s and is about a bohemian family living in Malibu. Doesn’t that sound good??? Even the cover just screams summer.
Lovely War by Julie Berry
Lovely War (full review here) is a strange and wonderful mix of Greek mythology and WWI historical fiction. It’s bittersweet and beautiful and the kind of book you won’t be able to put down until you get to the very end. It’s also great on audiobook – who doesn’t love British narrators!
The Girl in White Gloves by Kerri Maher
The Girl in White Gloves (full review here), a fictionalized look at the life and times of Grace Kelly, is a glamorous and transportive read. It’ll make you feel like you were right there during Hollywood’s Golden Age. Even though I just read it last year, I’m already tempted to re-read it.
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
Great Circle is one of those books that I guarantee will be on every year-end list of the best books of 2021. It’s a dual timeline book about a female aviator (à la Amelia Earhart) and the actress who is cast to play her years later in a movie about her disappearance. I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet and I’m just kicking myself because I’m know I’m going to love it. Don’t be like me – go read this book ASAP so you’ll know what all the hype is about!
Mysteries, Thrillers, and Science Fiction
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
President Obama and I agree – Project Hail Mary (full review here) is one of the best new books of the year. It’s heartwarming and funny in a way that science fiction rarely is. The buddy cop plot line is the best part and the race to save the universe is a close second. I’ve yet to talk to anyone who has read this book and hasn’t loved it.
In the Quick by Kate Hope Day
In the Quick (full review here) is science fiction for those who don’t necessarily always enjoy science fiction. It’s about a young female astronaut and is loosely based on Jane Eyre (although you can enjoy it without ever having read Jane Eyre). Plus, the cover is beautiful so it’ll look great lying around in the background of all of your vacation pictures!
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
Klara and the Sun (full review here) is the second book that President Obama and I both recommend for your summer reading. It’s literary fiction (the only piece of literary fiction on this list because to me that’s just not the vibe I’m looking for on vacation) meets science fiction and will leave you with a ton of feelings and just as many questions as answers.
Falling by T.J. Newman
Falling (full review coming soon!) is hands down the best thriller I’ve read in years. It’s like Speed on an airplane. You’ll be hooked from the very first sentence. But don’t just take my word for it – I just loaned it to a friend and she read it in one sitting on a Sunday afternoon.
Grown by Tiffany Jackson
Grown (full review here) is a Young Adult thriller that didn’t get nearly the buzz it deserved when it was first released. It has some very adult themes and, IMO, doesn’t read very young adult-y. A good read for those interested in grooming and other forms of abuse that young women face in the music industry.
Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein
With the Tokyo Olympics just months away, Head Over Heels (full review here), a romance between two former Olympic gymnasts and current Olympic coaches could not be more timely. I feel bad for author Hannah Orenstein that the Olympics were canceled last year and the timing of this book’s release ended up being a little off. I’d love for her sake if we could give it a comeback this summer!
It Had to Be You by Georgia Clark
The Idea of You by Robinne Lee
The Idea of You (full review here) is the kind of book I never expected to love. Steamy fan fiction about a fictionalized version of Harry Styles having an affair with the mom of one of his young fans? I know how it sounds, but it’s perfection. Trust me.
While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory
Jasmine Guillory is one of the best romance authors writing right now and I know While We Were Dating will be no exception. It’s part of a series but the books can be read in any order. Heads up – these books feature some fairly spicy scenes – I know that’s a plus for some people and a drawback for others!
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
One to Watch (full review here) was one of my top 10 favorite books of 2020. It’s a look at what it might be like if The Bachelorette featured a plus-size suitress. If I didn’t manage to convince you to read it last summer, will you please, please give it a try on your next vacation? The representation is next level, the characters are all so lovable and relatable, and no prior knowledge of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette is required to love this book.
Eat a Peach by David Chang
I often gravitate towards foodie memoirs when I’m on vacation and Eat a Peach by Momofuku chef David Chang (full review here) is one of my favorites. You’ll learn what it takes to ideate and run a restaurant empire and also benefit from Chang’s reflections on mental health and his experience growing up in the US as an immigrant.
The Chiffon Trenches by André Leon Talley
The Chiffon Trenches (full review here), a memoir from former Vogue creative director and America’s Next Top Model judge André Leon Talley, made waves when it was first published because of what he wrote about his former friend and boss Anna Wintour. That kind of gossip is on full display, but the book is much more than that. I especially enjoyed hearing his unique perspective on being a Black gay man in the highest echelons of society around the world.
You don’t have to be a fan of The Sound of Music to enjoy Julie Andrews’s memoirs, Home and Home Work (full reviews here). Anyone will enjoy reading her exceptionally candid accounts of her life. Home covers her life from birth through her move to LA to film Mary Poppins. Home Work picks up there and goes through the late ’80s. Come for the Mary Poppins anecdotes, stay for the juicy details about Andrews’s jet setting life.
I hope you’ve found one, two, or ten books on this list to add to your summer reading list! And wherever you’re reading this summer – on a faraway beach, by your neighborhood pool, or just in a cozy chair at home – I hope you are having fun, because summer (and reading) should be fun!
PS: Did you notice there’s one book in the cover photo for this post that didn’t make it onto this list? 👀 This is the problem with taking blog post photos before I finish all my reading. Sorry, Shep. I just couldn’t do it.