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15 Best Beach Reads of All Time for Summer

These are the best beach reads of all time, since many, if not most, of us have limited space on our Summer reading list. It's so important to pick the best beach books you can't put down.

I sifted through my Goodreads list of hundreds of beach read books and tried to focus on which books best met the criteria that I think makes for great beach reads: light, escapist, immersive and intriguing. I personally feel that, when you are looking for the best books to read on vacation, you want to be really engaged in what you are reading but also don't want beach reading with triggers or anything too heavy.

So, based on that criteria, I personally recommend the below beach read books as the best beach reads of all time. I hope they give you a great mental vacation!

Best Beach Reads of All Time

  1. American Royals
  2. Beach Read
  3. Cover Story (My top beach read of 2022!)
  4. The Grace Kelly Dress
  5. The Guest List 
  6. The Happy Ever After Playlist
  7. The Last Thing He Told Me (My favorite book in 2021!)
  8. The Mother-in-Law
  9. The Perfect Couple (My favorite Elin Hilderbrand book!)
  10. Pretty Things
  11. Queen Bee
  12. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (The one book I recommend to everyone.)
  13. Sex and Vanity
  14. Summer Wives
  15. The Unhoneymooners

Read these books in my Summer Reading Challenge.

American Royals by Katherine McGee

New York Times Bestseller

Why it's a great beach read: It's a totally escapist, hypothetical book about royals ruling over America.

American Royals is a blogger and Bookstagram favorite to add to your Summer reading list. It’s the story of modern-day America if George Washington became king instead of the first president.

It’s light, with a lot of romance and all of that royal family drama that will allow you to escape from reality. It's a fun and light beach read that many will enjoy, especially if you liked the Crazy Rich Asians series and/or To All the Boys I Loved Before series and/or the Netflix show The Crown.

It will also get you prepared for the new sequel, Majesty.


Beach Read by Emily Henry

Why it's a great beach read: The title says it all!

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A list of the best beach reads of all time wouldn't be complete without the one that's titled Beach Read. In this popular Emily Henry book, a rom-com writer and another writer spend the Summer at neighboring beach houses, where they challenge each other to write a book that's opposite of their norm.

As they battle the demons in their pasts and struggle in their careers, they also go on cute little "research projects" (a/k/a dates) that keep the Summer romance afloat.


Cover Story by Susan Rigetti

Why it's a great beach read: It's the most perfect mix of Inventing Anna, The Dropout, and Catch Me If You Can, and you will NOT be able to put it down!

Cover Story is my top beach read pick for 2022. It follows the diary entries of a naive young woman who becomes a ghostwriter for a glamorous daughter of a foreign mogul living at the Plaza Hotel in New York.

But there's a trail of lies, fraud, and stolen identities and a shocking ending that will leave you furiously turning the pages on the beach questioning everything you just read.


The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz

Why it's a great beach read: It's an addictive, heartwarming, light beach read and page-turner about generations of women and a wedding dress.

The Grace Kelly Dress is an addictive page-turner about three women and one dress inspired by one princess - Grace Kelly. It's one of my favorite books to recommend to women looking for a lighter read that still has a heart and keeps you really engaged.

Each of the three women has a special story tied to the Grace Kelly dress. First, there's the seamstress, who is creating a replica of the dress for a rich bride with a handsome brother. Then there's Raquel a/k/a "Rocky" -- a non-traditional modern bride who has inherited her mother Joan's (the third woman) wedding dress, which she does not want to wear.

These three women's stories come together beautifully as the reader learns of the love and heartbreak the dress holds.

At the end of the day, The Grace Kelly Dress is a heartwarming book about celebrating individuality and tradition at the same time that will make your heart swell as you compulsively turn the pages on the beach.

And for more like this, check out my favorite Grace Kelly books, including pictures of her childhood home and a replica of her wedding dress.


The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Why it's a great beach read: It's a super satisfying locked door mystery taking place at an island wedding that will keep you guessing.

  • New York Times Bestseller
  • One of the New York Times best thrillers of 2020

In The Guest List, someone is dead at a coastal Irish island wedding, but the reader doesn't know who or why until reaching the end. It's the kind of book where everyone has a secret and a connection to each other.

Although the setting is moodier than a traditional beach read may normally be, it still feels very beachy, yet intriguing at the same time.

Related post: Book Club Questions for The Guest List


The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jiminez

  • USA Today bestseller
  • Publishers Weekly bestseller
  • Featured on NBC, NPR, PopSugar, Entertainment WeeklyForbesBusiness Insider, Bustle, Oprah.com
  • Goodreads Choice Award Finalist for Best Romance
  • SheReads Award Best Romance of 2020
  • Buzzfeed, Best Summer Romances of 2020
  • BookBub, 20 of the Best Romances of 2020
  • The Nerd Daily, Most Anticipated 2020 Titles
  • Goodreads, 28 of the Hottest Romances of 2020
  • Bookpage, Most Anticipated Romance of 2020
  • Insider, Best Romance Books of 2020
  • SheReads Best Romances of 2020
  • Frolic’s Best Books of 2020

Why it's a great beach read: It's a beloved rom-com that's not too over-the-top and is destined to make you feel good.

I'm not huge on rom-com's personally, but The Happy Ever After Playlist was simply A DELIGHT, with very consistently positive reviews. It was totally a "Bookstagram made me do it" book for me.

Two years after Sloan's fiance dies, she finds a dog, who helps her find happiness again, only to learn the dog belongs to a rock star, who wants him back.

You can guess where this leads based on the title. So, we've got a cute couple, including a rock star, and a dog. What more can we ask for?! Naturally, forces like fame tug on their relationship, and there's a bit of emotion too as you yearn to see what becomes of Sloan, Jackson, and Tucker.

I powered through this one and it left me with all the feels. It's one of the best light beach reads that just makes you feel good.


The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

  • #1 Instant New York Times Bestseller
  • BEST BOOK OF SUMMER SELECTED BY * VOGUE * USA TODAY * ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY * CNN * TOWN & COUNTRY * PARADE * BUSTLE * AND MORE!

Why it's a great beach read: It's a page-turning, heart-pumping, satisfying mystery you can read in one day.

The Last Thing He Told Me is Reese's book club pick about man who disappears after leaving a note to his new wife: "Protect her" -- his 16-year-old daughter. When his boss is then arrested for fraud and FBI agents appear at her home with questions, she realizes her husband may not be who she thought he was.

She and her rebellious stepdaughter pursue the truth about his past while attempting to build a new future, in this suspense-filled tale of twists and turns that will keep you guessing.

For more, read my full review of The Last Thing He Told Me.


The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

• People Magazine's "People Pick"
• Entertainment Weekly's "MUST List"
• O Magazine’s "15 Best Beach Books of the Year So Far"
• "Best Book of April": Bustle,  Refinery29,  Cosmopolitan
• Woman's Day's "27 Fiction Books of 2019 to Add to Your Reading List ASAP"
• BookBub's "Biggest Books of April"
• PopSugar's "30 Must-Read Books of 2019"

Why it's a great beach read: It's a family mystery that draws you in and keeps you yearning to figure out the ending.

The Mother-in-Law was the perfect mystery book, and I would highly recommend it as a Summer beach read. In the beginning, we learn that Lucy’s mother-in-law has died and, although it seems like a suicide, there may be more behind her death.

The Mother-in-Law then unfolds many decades of events in these family members’ lives, and the reader learns how they arrived at the present and what caused the death of The Mother-in-Law.

It was never too dark or sinister, but rather it delves into complex emotions and family dynamics, with twists throughout.

I purchased it for my own mother-in-law (an avid thriller and mystery reader) and she thought it was one of the best beach books!


The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER 

Why it's a great beach read: It's a "death at a wedding" book that delivers, with an unpredictable ending and the escapist "rich people problems" that characterize many of Hilderbrand's books, which are always the best books to read on vacation.

Elin Hilderbrand has done it again! The Perfect Couple truly transports the reader to beachy Nantucket in this "death at a wedding" mystery. As you try to solve whether the death was an accident or murder (and if so, whodunnit?), you also learn the secrets of all the major players. So much drama and intrigue!

The bride and groom may not be the "perfect couple" after all, but this is the "perfect" book for a day in the sand and one of the best beach reads of all time. And it gets extra bonus points because I did not correctly guess this ending.


Pretty Things by Janelle Brown

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER 

Why it's a great beach read: It's luxurious and has so many twists that you won't be able to keep count.

Pretty Things lives up to the hype as one of the best beach books! It has more twists than you can count and ends with tons of suspense, reminiscent of Girl on the Train.

Yet, it's not a traditional thriller. It's more of a literary suspense book about struggling to overcome your past and how your past influences who you become.

A young female con artist follows the path of her fraudulent mother in order to pay for her mother's cancer treatments. She embarks on a new con opportunity through a family she knew in the past, but that's only the beginning. The connections between the families are deep and twisted, as the reader learns throughout the book.

You won't be able to put this top beach read, as you dive into the dark world of wealth and privilege. And you will be left with the age-old question, as presented in the classic The Great Gatsby: Are humans bound to keep making the mistakes of their pasts?


Queen Bee by Dorothea Benton Frank

Why it's a great beach read: It's a page-turner that's as sweet as a popsicle and has Southern Charm to boot for your beach reading.

Queen Bee was a quick and light read about a Southern mom and her two adult daughters (one of whom is a beekeeper) coming into their own. 

The beekeeper is immersed in the lives of the single dad next door and his two young sons, while the other sister is dealing with a husband who, shall we say, changes.

In a distinctly Southern way, these three women get overly involved in fixing the relationships of the dad next door as well as the married sister.

I loved the arc of the characters, as well as the little facts and blurbs about bees mixed into this light beach read.  Queen Bee is charming and funny, and it makes me smile every time I think about it.


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Why it's a great beach read: It shares salacious pop culture, Hollywood glamour, and intriguing characters.

New York Times Bestseller

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a book I actually read on the beach myself, and years later, I can still recall how immersive an experience it was on that lazy, hazy day, solidifying it's status as one of the best beach reads of all time.

It's the beloved old Hollywood life story of the famous actress Evelyn Hugo and her infamous seven husbands. But, trust me when I say that's only the beginning. There's a surprising twist in the main narrative of the novel that will hook you into this gossipy guilty pleasure. It's a crowd-pleasing book I most highly recommend to everyone because everyone loves it.

For more, read my full review of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.


Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan

Why it's a great beach read: It's an escapist, glamorous retelling of a classic with island vibes.

New York Times bestseller

From the author of the Crazy Rich Asians series, Sex and Vanity is a book set in Italy retelling the classic A Room with a View and making for a great, light beach read.

It begins on the super luxurious Italian island of Capri, where half-Asian Lucie sees George and instantly decides she can't stand him. Soon enough, as Lucie's feelings change and she tries to deny actually liking George, she spins a web of deceit involving her family, her fiancé, and the co-op board of her Fifth Avenue apartment building.


Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER 

Why it's a great beach read: It's filled with the escapist drama of the rich and famous on an exclusive island, with some added mystery.

Sometimes a book just suits you. I really felt that way about Summer Wives. This "soap opera historical fiction" book (I made up that genre) reminded me of so many great books:

Need I say more?! As far as I am concerned, Summer Wives doesn't need a review or a summary. If you like the above books, just do it! It's definitely one of the best beach reads of all time.


The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

  • THE INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!
  • Named a “Must-Read” by TODAY, Us WeeklyBustleBuzzFeedGoodreadsEntertainment WeeklyPublishers WeeklySouthern Living, Book Riot, Woman’s DayThe Toronto Star, and more!

Why it's a great beach read: It's a super popular enemies-to-lovers rom-com with a Hawaiin setting.

The Unhoneymooners is one of my all-time favorite love stories and it's an overwhelmingly beloved book by so many. It was definitely a "Bookstagram made me do it" book for me.

Again, I'm not usually into romcoms, and I can be really critical if they become too cheesy or unrealistic. But, this one delivered in ways that were light and fun.

It's an enemies-to-lovers trope about what happens when a surprisingly hilarious sequence of wedding events ends with the maid of honor attending the Hawaiin honeymoon in place of the bride and groom with her sworn enemy -- the best man.

If you like romantic comedy movies of the late 1990s and early 2000s, I think you will like this for your beach reading.


Those are the best beach reads of all time. I hope they are the best books to read on vacation for you!

Shop this full Summer reading list on Amazon now.

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Dara

Tuesday 14th of July 2020

I started listening to Pretty Things. I definitely would say The Unhoneymooners would make a great beach read!

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