Bring on the beach reads of summer 2021! Our intrepid correspondent Abbie Martin Greenbaum is sharing her annual curated list. Here’s what we suggest if you’re in search of the best beach reads of every kind – including mysteries, memoirs, light-hearted essays, historical fiction and romance books – for your holiday vacation this summer 2021. If thrillers are more your speed, catch our list of the best new summer 2021 legal, medical, psychological, sci-fi and spy thrillers here.
what are the best beach reads of summer 2021?
Summer is almost here, which means we are getting ready for vacation. And you know what that means: “beach reads!”
And we’re not talking about just any old book that crosses our paths. Because summer is a precious and fleeting time best spent outdoors, with friends, soaking up the sun. So we get a little ornery when it comes to summer reading lists. In summer of all seasons, we don’t want to waste our time (or the space in our suitcases) on books that are not worth the effort.[white_box]
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We want novels that hook us from the very first line. They can be romances, thrillers, or fantasy, but they have to be impossible to put down. Ditto with non-fiction. If there’s a memoir, essay collection, history or biography that makes it onto our recommended beach reading stack, it’s got to be fun, gossipy and bubbly.
Save the slow burns for winter – we want something well-paced and satisfying as we listen to the crash of the waves as our summer reading soundtrack.
24 of the best beach reads for summer vacation 2021
Here are our picks for the most promising beach books coming out over the next few weeks, including great reads in fiction and non-fiction. Click order (or pre-order!) on any of these, and then pack your bags. And let the summer reading begin!
1. While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory.
The best-selling author returns with While We Were Dating, another steamy summer romance and perfect beach book for summer 2021, this one set in the power precincts of Los Angles. Ad ad man and an up-and-coming actress are assigned to work on a joint project, and sparks fly. But when the opportunity comes to turn their real-life fling into something more for the Hollywood spotlight, will he be content to play the background role in her life? Or could he be the leading man she needs to craft their own Hollywood ending?
BUY NOW: $19.86.
2. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry.
After her extremely successful Beach Read, the author is back with another book that sounds equally perfect for the waves and easily makes the list of the best beach vacation reads of 2021. In People We Meet on Vacation, opposites attract. Especially when it comes to best friends Alex and Poppy. In spite of their differences, they take a magical vacation together every year. Or at least, they used to. After a night that changed everything, they haven’t spoken for two years. But when Poppy asks Alex if he would like to take one last vacation with her, he agrees. Maybe it’s not too late to make things right.
BUY NOW: $12.78.
3. That Summer by Jennifer Weiner.
The author of Big Summer is back with another novel that deserves a spot in your beach bag. That Summer centers on Daisy Shoemaker, a woman in her mid-40s who is dissatisfied with her suburban life despite having her own business, a beautiful home and a lovely family. Then out of the blue, she starts receiving misdirected emails meant for a woman named Diana Starling, whose email address is just one punctuation mark away from her own. Intrigued, Daisy becomes curious about the road not taken. But when she and Diana meet in person, she discovers that their mix-up may not have been a mistake after all.
BUY NOW: $17.58.[white_box]
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4. One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston.
In the follow up to her charming debut Red, White & Royal Blue, in One Last Stop the summer romance focuses on August, a pessimistic 23-year-old woman new to New York City to prove to herself once and for all that magic – and magical romances – don’t exist. But then she falls hard for Jane, a woman she spots on her subway commute. The only issue? It turns out that her new crush object is lost in time, and has inexplicably traveled to the current day from the 1970’s. So, maybe magic does exist after all.
BUY NOW: $12.23.
5. Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney.
In the debut novel Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry, we meet Quinn – a maker of lists. She takes comfort in writing down all her thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears. But when an anonymous account posts one of her lists on Instagram, she’s met with a challenge: face a list of her greatest fears, or face the consequences when her entire journal is put online. She’s going to have to act quickly if she wants to avoid public humiliation – and just maybe she’ll change her life along the way.
BUY NOW: $14.30.
6. Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean.
Tokyo Ever After is the story of Izumi Tanaka, who hasn’t always had it easy. Raised by a single mother, she’s one of the few Japanese Americans in her small, white suburban town. She hasn’t always felt like she fits in. Then she makes a life-changing discovery: her dad is the Crown Prince of Japan… which makes her a Princess. But when she travels to Japan to assume her royal identity, she finds that there are new challenges waiting for her. Wherever she goes, she feels caught between two worlds.
BUY NOW: $15.99.[white_box]
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7. Where the Grass Is Green and the Girls Are Pretty by Lauren Weisberger.
In Where the Grass is Green and the Girls are Pretty, the author of The Devil Wears Prada and When Life Gives You Lululemons returns. Two sisters seem to have it all: Payton has a seat at the anchor desk of the most-watched morning show. Skye, her sister, is a stay-at-home mom living in a glitzy suburb. Max, Payton’s daughter, is Princeton-bound. Until one small lie brings all of their perfect lives crashing down.
BUY NOW: $22.49.
8. The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton.
Mysteries are always among the best beach vacation reads, and 2021 is no different. There are several great “who-dunnit” series debuting this season. For example, the debut novel The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels is set in the Victorian era. And it introduces “a secret sorority of lady thieves.” Things heat up when one finds love with a dashing assassin while she works to take down a murderous pirate.
BUY NOW: $14.49.
9. The Perfume Thief by Timothy Schaffert.
In The Perfume Thief, a 72-year-old, queer American expat perfumer with a criminal past teams up with her 20-year-old roommate and a French singer to outmaneuver the Nazis in WWII Paris. The publisher proclaims that it’s “A Gentleman in Moscow meets Moulin Rouge.” We are All. In.
BUY NOW: $22.54.
10. The Break-Up Book Club by Wendy Wax.
The author of My Ex-Best Friend’s Wedding returns with a charming 2021 summer romance book about four women who meet regularly in a historic carriage house turned bookstore for their book club. While all of them are facing different kinds of struggles, reading, friendship (and the occasional glass of wine) prove to be stronger than any challenge that confronts them.
BUY NOW: $11.99.
11. The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews.
The “Queen of the Beach Reads” is back this summer with The Newcomer. After she discovers her sister Tanya dead on the floor of her fashionable New York City townhouse, Letty is certain she knows who did it. Suspecting her sister’s ex, she hits the road with her four-year-old niece. Following a clue left by her sister, she checks into a motel in a Florida beach town. Where romance and danger lurk in equal measure.
BUY NOW: $19.28.
12. Family Reunion by Nancy Thayer.
In Family Reunion, a longtime Nantucket resident is trying to make the best of a lonely summer after her best friend skips town for a cruise. She decides her seventieth birthday may be the perfect occasion for a much-needed family reunion. Meanwhile, her granddaughter is fresh out of college and fresh off a broken engagement. The summer promises to be a chance for both of them to make a new start.
BUY NOW: $19.72.
13. The Summer of Lost and Found by Mary Alice Monroe.
Perhaps one of the few beach reads that addresses the global pandemic head-on, in The Summer of Lost and Found, the topic is love in the time of COVID-19. Love triangles, to be specific. In the end, it turns out that a quarantine summer can hold more meaningful lessons than opportunities lost. Summer can still be full of wonder, and the “exotic” can live in our own backyard.
BUY NOW: $16.80.
14. The Summer Job by Lizzy Dent.
In The Summer Job, Birdy takes a job at a Scottish Highlands hotel that her world class wine-expert friend ditched suddenly. And doesn’t let on that she’s not who she says she is. Can she survive a summer pretending to be someone else?
BUY NOW: $14.40.
15. Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala.
In Be Dazzled, we meet Raffy. Who has a passion for bedazzling. Not just bedazzling, though. Also sewing, stitching, draping, and pattern making. Determined to make his mark at the year’s biggest cosplay competition, he’s dismayed to learn that his fiercest competitor is his ex-boyfriend, Luca. When they’re forced to collaborate, Raffy has to deal with self-doubt – and his unresolved feelings.
BUY NOW: $16.19.[white_box]
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16. To Sir, with Love by Lauren Layne.
In To Sir, With Love, two thirty-somethings meet on a blind dating app. Only to realize that their online chemistry is nothing compared to their offline rivalry.
BUY NOW: $14.49.
17. Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon.
From the acclaimed author of Everything, Everything and The Sun is Also a Star comes a dazzling new romance: Instructions for Dancing. Evie has a supernatural talent. When she looks at a couple, she sees a vision of how their romance began – and how it will end. As she grapples with these new visions, she takes refuge in dance classes, and particularly in her tango partner X. X and Evie are total opposites. He is daring and adventurous, whereas she has been made cautious by what she sees in the world. But maybe their new connection will help her see that love is worth the risk.
BUY NOW: $15.81.
18. It Had to Be You by Georgia Clark.
The author of the rollicking The Bucket List returns with It Had to Be You, a witty romantic comedy about a wedding planner, her unexpected business partner, and their coworkers in a series of linked love stories. Liv Goldenhorn has owned a wedding-planning business in Brooklyn with her partner Eliot for 20 years. When Eliot unexpectedly dies, he leaves half of the business to his girlfriend, who turns out to be Liv’s worst nightmare. This is a bouncy and fun read about “second chances, secret romance and steamy soul mates.”
BUY NOW: $
19. Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall.
BUY NOW: $13.99.
20. Playing the Palace by Paul Rudnick.
Playing the Palace is a new boy-meets-boy romance – where one of them just happens to be the Crown Prince of England. A sweet royal romance that’s made in tabloid heaven, this charming novel is pure escapism. If you loved Red, White & Royal Blue, this one’s for you.
BUY NOW: $13.99.
21. Summer on the Bluffs by Sunny Hostin.
The View cohost Sunny Hostin has penned a novel set in Oak Bluffs, the beach community where the upper echelon of Black society has spent their summers for generations. In Summer on the Bluffs, the godmother of three sisters, “Ama,” announces plans to give the house to one of them. Suddenly, it’s on. They all desperately want to win the deed to the house in this idyllic place. But each one has a secret that could get in the way of their inheritance. If you love Martha’s Vineyard (and who doesn’t?) this one is a must-read.
BUY NOW: $22.49.
22. Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand.
In Golden Girl, novelist Vivi dies in a hit-and-run and ascends to the Beyond, where she learns she has three “nudges” to influence events on earth. Her three grown children have their problems, but secrets in her latest novel could reflect badly on her, too. In this touching, scenic story, we learn what it is to let go and let life go on.
BUY NOW: $21.99.
23. The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo.
The Chosen and the Beautiful, a modern reinvention of The Great Gatsby, is sure to be a game changer. This time the story is told from the perspective of Jordan Baker – a Vietnamese adoptee, who may or may not have some hidden magic up her sleeve. Follow along as Jordan is immersed in a world of glamor, opulence and mystery, and has to make her way through the Jazz Age of the 1920’s.
BUY NOW: $23.99.
24. Seven Days in June by Tia Williams.
In Seven Days in June, Eve and Shane are both famous writers, and sparks fly when they run into each other at a literary event. But what the public may not know is that fifteen years earlier, the two of them were madly in love – for one week. All these years, they’ve been writing to each other through their books, and now it may be time for them to confront their unfinished feelings.
BUY NOW: $22.99.
25. Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala.
The first installment in a new mystery series and one of the best beach vacation reads of 2021, Arsenic and Adobo centers on Lila Macapagal. As she makes her debut, Lila is having a hard time. She has just moved home after a terrible breakup when she is put in charge of saving her Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant. When a confrontation with her ex-boyfriend – who just happens to be a food critic – ends with his mysterious death, things go from bad to worse. Lila is the primary suspect. If she wants to get out of this mess , she’s going to have to take matters into her own hands.
BUY NOW: $13.35.
26. The Coldest Case by Martin Walker.
mystery series set in southwest France,
27. The Husbands by Chandler Baker.
28. Under the Southern Sky by Kristy Woodson Harvey.
29. London’s Number One Dog-Walking Agency by Kate Macdougall.
London’s Number One Dog-Walking Agency is the memoir of a young woman who started her own business as a dog walker for London’s busy, well-heeled dog lovers. A true love letter to London, dogs, and the process of growing up.
BUY NOW: $23.49.
30. Craigslist Confessional by Helena Dea Bala.
In the essay collection Craigslist Confessional: A Collection of Secrets from Anonymous Strangers, a disillusioned DC lobbyist posts an ad on Craigslist promising to listen, anonymously and for free, to whatever the speaker felt he or she couldn’t tell anyone else. Emails flooded her inbox, and she listened. Within months, she quit her job and dove into listening full time. These are some of the stories she heard.
BUY NOW: $17.47.
31. The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel.
In The Secret to Superhuman Strength, the wry comic author of Fun Home turns her attention to exercise and fitness fads in one of the best beach reads of 2021. What could possibly be worthy of satire in such a heady milieu? Well, join her journey from Jack LaLanne in the ’60s (“Outlandish jumpsuit! Cantaloupe-sized guns!“) to “the existential oddness of present-day spin class.”
BUY NOW: $18.72.
32. Yearbook by Seth Rogen.
In Yearbook, the actor, writer, producer, director, entrepreneur, and philanthropist known for Superbad and Pineapple Express has penned a hilarious collection of personal essays and true stories that will likely get him in a bit of trouble for divulging.
BUY NOW: $17.38.
33. Madhouse at the End of the Earth by Julian Sancton.
We close our list of the best beach vacation reads of summer 2021 with an icy tale from the South Pole. Meticulously researched and realized, with a deep novelistic flare, Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica’s Journey into the Dark Antarctic Night reconstructs the action-packed survival story of an early expedition to the South Pole. Amundson, Cook and an inexperienced, undisciplined crew, on an ill-fated ship, imprisoned in the Antarctic ice and darkness.
BUY NOW: $24.22.
the best beach reads of summer 2021
That’s our take on what books to read as the best beach reads of every kind – romance, historical fiction, essays, memoirs – for summer vacation holidays 2021. What’s at the top of your list, dear reader?
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Abbie Martin Greenbaum grew up in New York City and currently lives in Brooklyn, where she drinks a lot of coffee and matches roommates together for a living. At Oberlin College, she studied English and Cinema, which are still two of her favorite things, along with dessert and musical theater. She believes in magic.