My favorite thing about a vacation (specifically, a beach vacation!) is all of the reading time. There is nothing better than the feeling of having nothing to do, nowhere to be, no real responsibilities… just sitting in the sunshine and losing yourself in a great book, preferably with a tropical drink in hand. It is the perfect escape from reality and something I so enjoy. I am heading to Harbor Island with a bunch of friends next weekend and am thinking just as carefully about the books I am planning to pack as I am about my outfits.
You will notice that I actually (shocker alert) did not include any thrillers on this list. I tend to prefer happier books on vacation and read a mix of lighter reads, historical fiction, young adult, etc. All of these books are page turners FOR SURE, but none of them are scary. This is a mix of favorite books to read from over the years (I wanted to include a mix of old and new as I tend to focus on new releases for my monthly lists, but I know I have a lot of library readers so placing holds is easier with older books!). So here we are…. some new, some old… all of them, perfect for a beach vacation!
25 Great Books to Read on a Beach Vacation
These are in no particular order, just a list of favorites from over the years that I think would be the absolutely perfect books to read at the beach or on vacation. Consider this my summer reading master list. From fast paced page turners to sweet love stories, I’ve got you!
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This is one of my all time favorite books. I think it would be such a fantastic summer read if you have not already read it. It is glamorous and glitzy, with plenty of heartache (+ happiness too) in between. I found it unputdownable, and though I read it long ago and passed it onto a friend (I forget who!), it has stuck with me and I often think about buying another copy just to have and re-read again. It is an absolute favorite and such an escape! If you have not read this book yet (it is from 2018), I implore you… it is an absolute must-read! Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org
People We Meet on Vacation, by Emily Henry
I loved this book. I am not a big romance person but could not get enough of this book and these characters. When I was doing the podcast, we even had Emily Henry on to talk about it. She is, for the record, a total gem of a human – I would love to be friends with her IRL, which of course makes me want to read all of her books. This is a fun love story with deeply likable and relatable characters. I read this while in Palm Springs (my first post lockdown vacation last year), where (a total coincidence, I didn’t know going into it) the book was set. Now I want to try to match my books to my vacation, it was fun reading a place while actually being there. Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org.
Malibu Rising, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
We love Taylor Jenkins Reid! I think she may be the only author I give repeats to on this list, she is probably my favorite for lighter beach reads as her novels are so transportive, usually from an error, and usually involving wealthy and glamorous celebrities of some sort. This one (set in Malibu) is about a family of favorite siblings (who have dealt with more than their fair share of hard times too) in the eighties. There is Nina, the talented surfer/super model, her brothers Jay and Hud (one is a champion surfer, the other, a photographer), and their little sister. Kit. There is drama and glamour galore, all the fixings for a perfect beach read! Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org.
In A New York Minute, by Kate Spencer
This was another one of those romance novels that had me thinking, “hmm, maybe I do like romance after all?” But it is so much more than a romance novel, it is (in my eyes) a love story to New York, especially being young in New York City, which I was, long ago! If you have moved out of New York and find yourself missing it, this is the book for you. I loved every minute of this. It is the perfect escape to New York.
It starts with one of those bad days that we have all had (you are laid off from your job – sweating on the subway – your dress rips!), with a believable and relatable yet swoon-worthy meet-cute, and then turns into a hilarious/embarrassing story and ultimately yes, a love story. I adored this. It didn’t hurt that it is written by Kate Spencer (co-host of Forever 35, one of my favorite podcasts!). Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org.
Cover Story, by Susan Rigetti
I was having scammer fatigue (blame it on all the scammer related TV… Inventing Anna, WeCrashed, The Dropout) so wasn’t sure what I would think of this but I absolutely loved it. This is such a fun book! It’s Anna Delvey, mixed with a little bit of Caroline Calloway? I said this in last month’s reading list but I think that this book is going to be 2022’s prime beach read.
Lora Ricci is a naive college student, struggling to make ends meet… attending NYU and interning for ELLE. When she meets glamorous clean-energy heiress Cat Wolff, the two form a highly unlikely friendship… with Lora ultimately dropping out of NYU, moving in with Cat at The Plaza Hotel, and going to work as her ghostwriter. Chaos ensues… you feel so much secondhand anxiety for Lora. I really do think that this is going to be one of the most popular summer reads this year. Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org
Sister Stardust, by Jane Green
A little bit of historical fiction, but the fun kind! It felt a little bit like a mashup of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones and the Six. Think of an older (wiser) woman telling her story of her younger (wilder, irresponsible) years in sixties London (and Morocco!). Claire is from a small town outside of London. She has a difficult relationship with her stepmother, she struggles with her weight, she has no idea what she’s doing with her life. A chance encounter leads her to Morocco and suddenly she’s befriended a group of incredible musicians, fashion designers, and artists. She befriends the magnetic, ethereal Talitha Getty (falling a bit in love with her in the process), but the glittery life is not as it seems. Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org
She Regrets Nothing, by Andrea Dunlop
This book is a fun trainwreck, in the best way possible. When Layla Lawrence is orphaned at just 23 years old, her cousins show up at her funeral. The only thing is, she didn’t even know she had cousins! There’s Liberty who is 5 years older, plus the twins – Leo and Nora… living a glamorous life in New York City. Turns out, Laila is from an incredibly wealthy Manhattan family but Laila’s father had become estranged from his parents and moved to the midwest before Laila was born. Laila up and moves to New York, living with her cousin Nora…but all that glitters is not gold. She makes every possible mistake, recklessly social climbs, and relentlessly pursues the lifestyle she feels she was so unfairly denied. Again, a trainwreck in the best way possible: I could not put it down! Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org.
The Chrystie Affair, by Nina De Gramont
Another fun (and very imaginative!) historical fiction read. I really enjoyed it – much more than I thought I would, if I am being honest – it ended up being quite the page turner for me! In case you weren’t familiar with the backstory, Agatha Christie disappeared for twelve days back in 1925 (just after her husband had requested a divorce). Upon being found in a hotel, she simply stated that she didn’t remember what happened. This is an imaginative (fictional!) look at what could have happened during those twelve days. It is clever and smart and told (interestingly enough) from the perspective of her husband Archie’s mistress: Nan O’Dea. The clincher is that Nan does not seem to love Archie. So why destroy his marriage? Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon!
The Blue Bistro, by Elin Hilderbrand
This is my favorite Elin Hilderbrand book (and we all know that Elin Hilderbrand is the queen of the beach read!!!). I really love that it is set in a restaurant (having grown up in a restaurant and literally worked every single job possible, I will read anything set in a restaurant!). Adrienne Dealey has spent her professional career bouncing around luxe destinations, working in hotels. After a particularly bad breakup (her ex took all her money), she heads to Nantucket for the summer with one objective: make money.
She manages to snag a job as the assistant manager at Nantucket’s fanciest restaurant – during the restaurant’s last summer. She falls hard for the boss/owner Thatcher Smith. But what the heck is going on between his co-owner, Fiona!? Honestly, in reading it, I would have thought Elin had spent much of her life working in restaurants, her research and attention to detail was that good. This is my ideal summer read! Order it on Amazon or Bookshop.org.
The Idea of You, by Robinne Lee
I had to include this, on the off chance that any of you have NOT read this book as it was a massive Bad on Paper podcast (we did it as a book club pick in the early days and had Robinne on as well). Something tells me that is highly unlikely but oh my – if you have not read it, drop what you are doing and fix that immediately. It took me a little while to come around on this (the idea of a 40 year old falling in love with a 20 year old felt gross to me) but my friend Becca wore me down.
The plot is very fun and steamy (and somehow believable, despite the he writing (and descriptions of Solene’s outfits) is all so good that I just gobbled it up! A (very chic, divorced, French) mother takes her teen daughter to a (thinly veiled) Harry Styles concert. Somehow, they find themselves in love. Highly recommend, also did you see it is going to be made into a movie starring Anne Hathaway? Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org
Olga Dies Dreaming, by Xochitl Gonzalez
I actually listened to this one as an audiobook (it was wonderful and felt more like a performance than a reading) and cannot tell you how much I enjoyed it! It tackles so many important issues (AIDS, sexuality, Puerto Rican culture and history), but is packaged as a lighthearted, fun book about a wedding planner, her many suitors, and her closeted politician brother. And it IS (at times!) light and fun, while also being serious. Both/and. I really loved it. This is a very complicated family story. Brother and sister Olga and Prieto (both doing great things in New York: Prieto is a congressman and Olga is one of New York City’s top wedding planners) were abandoned by their mother, a radical anarchist. They struggle to balance their social ambitions with the sadness over their absent mother, all in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org
The Knockoff, by Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza
This is another classic beach read (in my opinion) and will always be an absolute favorite of mine; especially as I spent such a long time working for a fashion start up (there were definitely some funny parallels) and of course, because I always wanted to work for a magazine when I was young! Imogen returns to work at Glossy (a fashion mag) after taking 6 months off for health reasons and finds everything has changed. Eve (her former assistant, straight out of Harvard Business School!) has been put in charge and is hell-bent on digitalizing the magazine – something that’s necessary for the magazine to survive, but she’s doing it all wrong and without any sensitivity.
The authors do a great job capturing the difference between the old guard of print media and the young new generation of digital media. Does Imogen pack it up and get out of there, or adapt and learn how to tweet!? I couldn’t put it down, I absolutely loved it. It’s fresh, funny, and smart… if you work in fashion or digital media it’s an absolute must! Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org
City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert
I loved this book so much and still think about it often. Elizabeth Gilbert is just… a genius. The depths of her writing blow me away, everything she’s done is so different! (And she seems incapable of not writing a New York Times bestseller, ha ha). The book follows Vivian Morris (a 19 year old Vassar dropout) to New York City, through ups and downs and middle age all the way until she’s 89 years old. She moves to the city to her aunt Peg’s house, where she takes up costume design for glamorous showgirls… spending most nights out on the town . When she makes a terrible mistake her whole world implodes and she faces ruin but ultimately lands on her feet. This is the story of female friendship, of female sexuality, of redemption… and so much more. I could not put it down. Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org
American Royals, by Katharine McGee
Just do yourself a favor and order this whole series as it is just. so. good and the third one is about to come out. Imagine if after the Revolutionary War, George Washington became the king and not the president. And then, fast forward to modern day and write a book about the teenagers set to rule the palace. There’s Princess Beatrice (the heir), and her twin brother + sister Jefferson and Samantha. It’s deliciously good (reminiscent of the cast of The Thousandth Floor in the best way possible. Samantha is the wild child, Jefferson is the dreamy prince that every girl wants. We also get to know the two girls vying for Jefferson’s heart: manipulative Daphne, and down to earth Nina. Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org
Party of Two, by Jasmine Guillory
I love all of Jasmine Guillory’s books but this one is my favorite. Olivia’s just moved to LA to start her own law firm. While staying in a hotel on her first night in town, she chats up a handsome man at the hotel’s bar. When she gets up to her room, she realizes she hadn’t recognized him: she’d been talking to senator Max Powell. This gives her a laugh at first but when they reconnect at a conference a few weeks later, sparks fly and soon they are falling in love. But can Olivia handle the spotlight?
I love the famous person dates regular person trope, I loved Olivia as a character (she’s smart and funny and ultra relatable), and I liked that the characters were my age… sometimes reading romance novels about twenty-somethings depresses me a little bit. It was realistic, it was sexy, it was fun, smart… can’t recommend it enough! Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org.
The Light We Lost, by Jill Santopolo
Some books just haunt you and this one broke my heart. Just thinking about it makes me all teary again! It’s about a young woman, torn between the dreamy (but flighty!) love of her life from her younger years and her stable, loving husband. There’s Gabe, who she meets in college. There’s an instant spark. They move in together and are so perfect together but their dreams take them in opposite directions. Gabe becomes a photojournalist (heading to the Middle east) while Lucy pursues a career and a life in New York.
The book spans 13 years, in which time Lucy marries someone else and has children. It’s romantic and cripplingly sad at times and will 100% stick with you after you read it. I’m not trying to make anyone cry at the beach, but if you haven’t read this yet, you’ll love it. It’s a great summer read. Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org
Matchmaking for Beginners, by Maddie Dawson
This was one of my top top books from 2018 and it would make for an absolutely fantastic summer read! All Marnie wants is an ordinary life. The minivan, the picket fence, etc etc. She’s engaged to the man of her dreams and is on track to have everything she ever wanted. Then she meets Blix Holliday (her fiance’s eccentric great-aunt, a matchmaker living in Brooklyn). Blix and her hit it off, but Blix is dying. Marnie’s marriage ends up combusting after two weeks and in a great twist, Blix leaves her Brooklyn brownstone to Marnie (not her nephew or anyone else in the family).
The building is filled with oddball but endearing, very lovable friends of Blix’s; and Marnie learns that maybe she’s the perfect person to follow Blix’s matchmaking footsteps. I actually sobbed at the end of this book – it’s so sweet, so heartwarming, just so perfect. Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org
Head Over Heels, by Hannah Orenstein
If you are looking for something feel-good and happy where the ending is tied up in a bow, this is your book! I wasn’t initially so sure about a romance story about gymnastics but I loved this. There’s a redemption story (I love when a character gets her act together and finds her passion… falling in love along the way), a powerful friendship between the female characters, and the coaching dynamic was very sweet and heartwarming. Avery is a former gymnast whose career was ended at the Olympic trials with a devastating injury.
Since then, she’s never been able to get her act together… dropping out of college and never really figuring out her passion. When she’s brutally dumped by her quarterback boyfriend, she returns back to her hometown, desperate for a fresh start but unsure what that will look like. Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org
Next Year in Havana, by Chanel Cleeton
I liken to the Cuban version of The Dollhouse (another favorite). It alternates between modern day and 1958 right before/during/after the revolution. It’s the story of Elisa (growing up very wealthy in Cuba during the Batista era – her father, a sugar baron) and Marisol – her granddaughter. Marisol sets foot in Cuba for the first time in her life at age 31 to scatter the ashes of her beloved grandmother. She gets to know the city, she meets an alluring man, and she uncovers some huge secrets that her grandmother had been hiding.
The author’s description of Cuba is so perfect that it made me feel like I was right back there. (I went several years ago and it was a favorite trip). If you’ve been to Cuba, it will make you nostalgic, if you haven’t, you’ll still enjoy it. Highly recommend! Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org
Love and Other Words, by Christina Lauren
One of my favorite page turners! I will start by saying how much I love Christina Lauren. Christina Lauren is actually two friends, and they are one of my favorite authors. Anything new they have out, I will always pre-order. This one is a little bit reminiscent of The Light We Lost (also on the list!), though less heartbreaking. What happens when childhood sweethearts reconnect after ten years apart? I love a high school to adults saga.
Macy is ambitiously working on her career as a pediatrics assistant while planning her wedding to an older, financially secure (but terribly boring) man. Everything unravels when she runs into Elliot, her first love. We don’t really understand why they were ever apart to begin with (this will come out later). Everything dissolves and he’s all she can think about. Honestly, this book is an emotional rollercoaster in the best way possible. There’s a horrible secret (there always is!) that comes out and a twist. It kept me up all night and is the perfect beach read – just make sure you don’t have any distractions! Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org
The Chiffon Trenches, by André Leon Talley
I get so jealous any time I see a friend reading this and it is brand new to them. It’s one of my all time favorite fashion memoirs (A New York Times bestseller for a reason!) and André did not hold back on spilling the tea. The book chronicles André’s rise from growing up in the Jim Crow South to moving to New York and working under Andy Warhol at Interview Magazine. From there he wound up at WWD, moved to Paris, then back to New York to Vogue.
This book is positively dazzling. When it was over, I felt really sad to leave his glittery world.. Besides all of the glamour and fashion it also tackles some more serious (and timely things) like racism: the reason André left WWD and Paris was a terrible racist incident with a publicist at YSL. It’s simultaneously a frivolous distraction but also a really important book. I absolutely loved it. I have a book hangover upon finishing it! Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org.
Get a Life, Chloe Brown, by Tallia Hibbert
I was utterly charmed by this. If you’re one to judge a book by its cover it looks like it’s going to be YA or a cheesy romance. And while it is a very sweet romance, it’s so much more than that! It’s a complex romance and WHOAH there are some very steamy sex scenes. Definitely not YA.
Chloe Brown is chronically ill – after getting pneumonia years ago she has fibromyalgia and is always tired and sick. She’s close with her family but was abandoned by her boyfriend + friends when she got sick. But she has a plan and an utterly adorable to-do list… to help her literally, “get a life.” Things like “do something bad,” and “have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.” Redford “Red” Morgan is Chloe’s superintendent, but also an artist with some pretty heavy emotional baggage. The two initially hate each other (think The Hating Game) but ultimately fall for each other. Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org
With the Fire on High, by Elizabeth Acevedo
This will remain one of my favorite Young Adult books of all time and was a great summer read… I read it on a yoga retreat in Sag Harbor several years ago. When I opened up the book, I was surprised (and a little bummed) that it was YA. Was this going to be another fluffy high school romance? (It is, sort of – but it’s so much more than that). It’s about a teen mom Emoni growing up in Philly, living with her grandmother and daughter Emma.
The book opened up talking about why she gave her daughter a “white” name, and how she hoped it would open up more chances for her. The book is so sweet but all I could think about for so much of it was how privileged and lucky my own high school days were. Emoni is working multiple jobs, dealing with racial bias (and bias + stares for having had a child so young) all while trying to juggle the usual high school stuff (friend drama! boys! school work! applying to college!) Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org
Big Summer, by Jennifer Weiner
I LOVED THIS BOOK – a perfect summer idea! There are some fun parallels to my own life (the main character is an influencer + it’s set partially in New York City (where I lived for 15 years) and partially in Cape Cod, (where I grew up). It’s the story of two (very different) girlfriends fixing their friendship. Daphne is a plus size influencer who grew up in New York in a working class family and had a scholarship for everything. She’s making ends meet nannying and running her Instagram.
Meanwhile, her former best friend Drue is one of those people who has just had everything come easy to her: she’s rich, pretty, and newly engaged. She’s also a bit of a mean girl. The two reunite for her wedding and you think you’re getting a cute girlfriends redemption friendship story but then there’s a big mystery. I loved it! Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org
The Royal We, by Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks
This is now, an absolute classic. I have been thinking about it a lot lately and kind of want to re-read it just for fun? Or beg Heather and Jessica for a third book (the sequel is excellent too!). This one will always and forever be an absolute favorite book of mine. I never hold onto books after I read them but this has earned a permanent place on my shelf as I love it so much. I am not a big re-reader but have read it twice (and it’s long!)
It’s basically Kate Middleton fan fiction in the best sense of the word. It’s the story of an American girl (Bex) who meets the man of her dreams (Nick) who just happens to be the prince of England. It follows them all the way through college and afterward, through breakups, an engagement, the crazy royal wedding party, and more. It’s juicy and fun and I could NOT put it down!!! The perfect summer read if by chance you have not already read it! Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org
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