Ah, sunny California. Whenever I think of summer — or a great summer read — I can't help but imagine the swaying palm trees, sandy beaches, and blue skies of Cali. So when I make up my list of summer reads at the beginning of the season, I always make sure that one or two will have me dreaming of a California getaway, either on the open road or by the beach. From the glamorous days of Old Hollywood to the modern city of delicious food trucks, books that allow you to get totally swept away by the bold and bright lives of Cali's residents is my idea of an ideal beach read.
Whether you're looking to inspire your own IRL travels this summer or you just want to lose yourself completely in a far off place during a staycation, these 11 books set in California will definitely add some much-needed sunshine to your summer TBR stack. From YA rom-coms to historical fiction and everything in between, you'll be sure to find the perfect read to add to your beach bag, tote bag and carry-on over the next few months of lazy warm weather days with ample amounts of sunshine.
'The Way You Make Me Feel' by Maurene Goo
When joker Clara Shin takes one prank too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn't so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. Clara quickly discovers that taking this summer seriously might mean leaving her old self behind.
'The Bookshop of Yesterdays' by Amy Meyerson
Miranda Brooks grew up in the stacks of her eccentric Uncle Billy's bookstore, solving the scavenger hunts he created just for her. When he dies and leaves her Prospero Books it comes with one final scavenger hunt. She soon finds herself drawn into Billy's past, revealing a history that Miranda's mother has kept hidden — and the secret that tore her family apart.
'The Midnights' by Sarah Nicole Smetana
Susannah Hayes has never been in the spotlight, but she dreams of following her father, a former rock star, onto the stage. But when he dies unexpectedly her dreams shatter. While Susannah struggles with grief, her mother uproots them to a new city. There, Susannah realizes she can reinvent herself however she wants. But Susannah is not the only one keeping secrets, and soon, harsh revelations threaten to unravel her life once again.
'Another Side of Paradise' by Sally Koslow
In 1937 Hollywood, gossip columnist Sheilah Graham’s star is on the rise, while literary wonder boy F. Scott Fitzgerald’s career is slowly drowning in booze. But the once-famous author, desperate to make money penning scripts for the silver screen, is charismatic enough to attract the gorgeous Miss Graham, a woman who exposes the secrets of others while carefully guarding her own.
'Sometime After Midnight' by L. Phillips
In a Los Angeles club, Cameron and Nate meet. But when Nate learns that Cameron is heir to the record label that destroyed his father's life, he runs away. The only evidence of their connection is a photo Cameron snaps of Nate's Sharpie-decorated sneakers. When Cameron sets out to find the owner of the shoes, the internet falls for the modern fairy tale and the two soon become entwined in each other's lives.
'The Dirty Book Club' By Lisi Harrison
M.J. Stark moves to a small California beach town hoping to start over. But she is left to fend for herself, with only the company of her elderly neighbor Gloria. When Gloria suddenly moves, she leaves an invitation to a secret book club. Curious, M.J. accepts and as she and the three other members bond over bestsellers, they learn that friendship might be the key to rewriting their own stories.
'Starry Eyes' by Jenn Bennett
Best friends-turned-enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets. But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together. What could go wrong?
'The Kiss Quotient' by Helen Hoang
Stella Lane comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases— a job that has given her way less experience in the dating department than the average 30-year-old. It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. She needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan.
'The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles)' by Amy Spalding
While her friends have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby Ives has stayed focused on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands an internship at her favorite boutique, she’s thrilled to take her first step into her dream career. But she doesn't expect to fall for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez.
'The Girls in the Picture' by Melanie Benjamin
It is 1914, and 25-year-old Frances Marion has left her husband and her Northern California home for the lure of Los Angeles, where she is determined to live independently as an artist. There she makes the acquaintance of actress Mary Pickford. The two women hit it off instantly, their kinship cemented by their mutual fever to create, move audiences to a frenzy, and start a revolution.
'Almost Impossible' by Nicole Williams
When Jade decided to spend the summer with her aunt in California, she thought she knew what she was getting into. But nothing could have prepared her for her annoyingly cute neighbor, Quentin. When he learns Jade plans to spend her summer hiding out, Quentin is determined to give Jade days worth remembering. But when rumors come to light, Jade knows Quentin has a secret — and she’s determined to find out what it is.