OK, let's get this out of the way up front: any book you want to read at the beach is a great beach read! Though a lot of the books that tend to be marketed as so-called "beach reads" often include some kind of romantic, steamy, make-sure-you-hydrate-because-things-are-getting-hot-in-here, plot lines, these are not the only books that make ideal beach buddies. If you're into historical fiction, true crime, memoir, young adult, or thriller, there are countless fantastic reads that will grab your attention, fully absorb you, and help you while away the hours laying out on a beach chair and soaking up the sun. And if you do want to read a romance, that's amazing, too. Everyone should read what they want to read.
Personally, I'm in the mood right now for books where romance isn't the driving plot point. (I'm sure that will change in a few weeks.) But right now, I'm just looking for a story that I can spend a long, lazy afternoon with — whether it's a hilarious essay collection, an emotional novel, an enlightening memoir or a terrifying YA horror — and all of the below books are perfect fits. Leave some space in your beach bag — you're going to need it for these 13 new books:
'Who Is Vera Kelly?' by Rosalie Knecht
It's 1962, and Vera Kelly is struggling to make rent and blend into the underground gay scene in Greenwich Village. She's working night shifts at a radio station when her quick wits, sharp tongue, and technical skills get her noticed by a recruiter for the CIA. Next thing she knows she's in Argentina, tasked with wiretapping a congressman and infiltrating a group of student activists in Buenos Aires.
'Calypso' by David Sedaris
David Sedaris is back with a new essay collection, Calypso. Just as hilariously acerbic and witty as he's always been, Sedaris explores mortality after the death of his sister and with his father's advancing age. Pieces on his family's beach house, his friendship with a fox, and the results of one particularly nasty stomach virus while on tour will leave you laughing — and maybe even shedding a tear.
'Florida' by Lauren Groff
The short stories in Florida span characters, towns, decades, even centuries, but Florida — its landscape, climate, history, and state of mind — becomes its gravitational center: an energy, a mood, as much as a place of residence. As Groff explores threats that are physical, emotional and psychological in nature, she draws the reader in to a world both shocking and recognizable.
'Summer of Salt' by Katrina Leno
Georgina Fernweh waits with growing impatience for the tingle of magic in her fingers — magic that has been passed down through every woman in her family. Her twin sister, Mary, already shows an ability to defy gravity. But with their eighteenth birthday looming at the end of this summer, Georgina fears her gift will never come.
'Alone Time' by Stephanie Rosenbloom
In Alone Time, Stephanie Rosenbloom considers how being alone as a traveller — and even in one's own city — is conducive to becoming acutely aware of the sensual details of the world in ways that are difficult to do in the company of others. Alone Time is divided into four parts — Paris, Istanbul, Florence, New York — all explored in a different season, in a single year.
'A Place For Us' by Fatima Farheen Mirza
Shaping up to be one of the biggest books of the summer, A Place For Us unfolds the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, gathered together in their Californian hometown to celebrate the eldest daughter, Hadia's, wedding. The book is ultimately a reckoning of parents who strove to pass on their cultures and traditions to their children; and of children who in turn struggle to balance authenticity in themselves with loyalty to the home they came from.
'So Close to Being the Sh*t Y’all Don’t Even Know' by Retta
In So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y’all Don’t Even Know, Parks and Recreation star Retta takes us on her not-so-meteoric rise from roaches to riches, sharing tales from her upbringing by strict Liberian parents to her obsession with Hamilton and a truly gorgeous designer handbag — all done in the hilarious, conversational, relatable voice she is known for from her social media accounts and beyond.
'Number One Chinese Restaurant' by Lillian Li
Number One Chinese Restaurant is another page-turning family saga, this time surrounding The Beijing Duck House in Rockville, Maryland. Not only a beloved setting for hunger pangs and celebrations; it is its own world, inhabited by staff who have been fighting, loving, and aging within its walls for decades. When disaster strikes, this working family’s controlled chaos is set loose, forcing each character to confront the conflicts that fast-paced restaurant life has kept at bay.
'There There' by Tommy Orange
Tommy Orange's debut novel There There follows is a relentlessly paced multigenerational story about violence and recovery, memory and identity, and the beauty and despair woven into the history of a nation and its people. It tells the story of 12 characters, each of whom have private reasons for traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow.
'The Optimistic Decade' by Heather Abel
Framed by the oil shale bust and the real estate boom, by protests against Reagan and against the Gulf War, The Optimistic Decade takes us into the lives of five unforgettable characters and is a sweeping novel about idealism, love, class, and a piece of land that changes everyone who lives on it — told through a utopian summer camp and its charismatic leader with good intentions that go terribly wrong.
''End of the Rope: Mountains, Marriage, and Motherhood' by Jan Redford
In the tradition of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, this funny and gritty debut memoir follows Jan Redford as she grows from a nomadic rock climber to a mother who fights to win back her future. While her husband, an extreme alpinist and her climbing buddy, logs forests and dreams of distant peaks, Jan has children, and takes on a wife’s traditional role. Over the following years, however, she pursues her own dream, one that pits her against her husband: Attending university and gaining independence.
'The Cheerleaders' by Kara Thomas (July 31)
For mystery thriller fans, The Cheerleaders is the beach book for you. There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook. First there was the car accident. Not long after, the murders happened. Then the suicide. That was five years ago. Now the faculty and students at Sunnybrook High want to remember the lost cheerleaders. But whatever happened five years ago isn’t over. There are no more cheerleaders in Sunnybrook, but that doesn’t mean anyone else is safe.