30 Best Beach Reads for Summer

What could be better than sitting on the beach with your toes in the sand? Relaxing with a good book in your hands! These beach reads, many inspired by the water, are the perfect addition to your summer packing list. They'll entertain, empower, and enliven your trip with their rich stories and memorable lessons.  Whether you like to relax with a cold-blooded murder mystery or a heart-warming romance (or anything in between), we've got you covered with these beach books for your summer vacation. So settle in to your beach chair, put your sunnies on and enjoy the read! 

Captivating Non-Fiction

  1. Endurance by Alfred Lansing follows the true story of Ernest Shackleton's journey to cross the Antarctic continent in 1914. This book will have you on the edge of your seat and thankful for the summer heat as you read about this crew's daring expedition.
  2. Gilded: How Newport Became America's Richest Resort by Deborah Davis is a truly fascinating look into how Newport, Rhode Island became the summer playground of the most elite families in America. Davis peeks into the opulent heritages of families like the Vanderbilts, Kennedys, and Astors in this extravagance-laden read.
  3. You won't believe the heart-pounding deep sea mystery detailed in Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson is a true story. After discovering a World War II German U-boat off the coast of New Jersey in 1991, an elite team of divers risk their lives to discover the truth about the lost enemy submarine and its crew.
Summer Scenery

  1. The Beach Trap by Ali Brady is a great pick if you're looking for an easy read with some emotional depth and heartwarming moments. This book follows two women, half-sisters, who are leading very different lives as they navigate new love and renovations on their family beach house.
  2. If your idea of summer break includes camp counselors, s'mores, and lake swimming, The Lake by Natasha Preston is the perfect book to set the mood for your trip. Esme and Kayla are back at their childhood camp as counselors-in-training, but together they're hiding a secret about what really happened there years ago.
  3. Nobody does a great beach book like Mary Kay Andrews. The High Tide Club is a fast and fun read to throw in your pool bag. Set on the Georgia coast, the story centers on Brooke Trappnell. a struggling Savannah lawyer hired to help an eccentric heiress protect her private island and make amends with her oldest friends. The book entertains with a blend of friendships, coastal scenery, murder mysteries and humor.
  4. Set in a North Carolina beach house, Beach Trip by Cathy Holton tells the sometimes funny, always relatable, and frequently heartwarming story of four lifetime friends who leave their very different lives behind them for a week to reunite for a beach vacation.
 Hit Movie and TV Inspiration

  1. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks is a classic for a reason, following the decades-long love story of Noah and Allie. The movie based on the book, starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams will have you swooning, but don't forget the tissues!
  2. The TV series based on Liane Moriarty's book Big Little Lies takes place off the coast of California. This broody, dramatic show follows the lives of several different women as they all participate in the cover-up of a murder. The original book, set in Australia, is a true page-turner that takes an in-depth look into things like violent relationships, sexual assault, and bullying.
  3. Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey is the first book in the Peachtree Bluff series, introducing the saga of three sisters and their mother as a secret from the past threatens to upend their family. A television series based on the North Carolina-inspired series is in production for NBC.
 Seaside Mysteries & Thrillers

  1. The ultimate seaside mystery from the queen of Whodunits herself, Dame Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None will leave you with chills. Set against an idyllic British seascape, a group of strangers realize that they all have hidden secrets that somebody has uncovered, and that they're disappearing one by one.
  2. While not a particularly hot and summery read, Ruth Ware's The Woman in Cabin Ten will still give you all the cruise vibes. Reporter Lo Blacklock is given the chance of a lifetime to climb about a luxury cruise liner setting sail on the North Sea. All is going well until she witnesses a woman being thrown overboard into the dark water below. Now she must figure out who's responsible before she falls victim too.
  3. If you're looking for a great summertime thriller and mystery, The Guest List by Lucy Foley checks all the boxes. A luxurious wedding set on a private beach, mysterious guests with hidden pasts, and a body washed up on shore will keep you on the edge of your beach chair.
  4. They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall is another great pick for your summer vacation. Set on a private island off the coast of Mexico, seven travelers find themselves facing mysterious accidents as they slowly realize they might have been summoned under false pretenses.
 Laugh Out Loud

  1. The Summer Job is a relaxing and easy read from breakout author Lizzy Dent that sets a perfect vacation scene at the Highland Scottish Hotel. A somewhat floundering Birdie attempts to fake her way through a summer of pretending to be a sommelier for the hotel's discerning guests, and hilarity ensues.
  2. Tourist Season is Carl Hiaasen's first novel, set in the 1980's in South Florida. It's full of dark humor and quirky characters, and follows reporter turned private eye, Brian Keyes, as he investigates a series of bizarre murders.
  3. In None of This Would Have Happened If Prince Were Still Alive by Carolyn Prusa, busy mom Ramona discovers her husband is having an affair as a Category 4 hurricane makes its ways toward her hometown of Savannah. Full of humor and heart, this debut novel follows Ramona through forty-eight hours as she tries to escape the storm (with the class guinea pig in tow) and decide whether to save her marriage.

 Historical Fiction

  1. Set in Australia in 1926, The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman tells a heartbreaking story of two lighthouse keepers who discover that an infant in a boat has washed up on their beach along with a dead man. They know they should turn the baby over to authorities, but their desperation to become parents forces them to make a decision that will change their lives forever.
  2. Mr. Peacock's Possessions by Lydia Syson will set the perfect summer scene on a remote island in New Zealand in 1879. A family of settlers suddenly must deal with the arrival of a ship carrying six Pacific Islanders, and the secrets they carry.
  3. Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan Henry is inspired by the ill-fated steamship Pulaski, the luxury ship departed Savannah with many elite residents on board and exploded off the coast of North Carolina in 1838. This page-turning story blends present and past timelines, as a history professor curates an exhibit of artifacts from the Pulaski and sets out to discover the truth about the ship's passengers after disaster struck.

  1. You'll likely see Happy Place by Emily Henry in many beach bags this summer! Newly turned ex's Harriet and Wyn are trying to navigate their new circumstances while hiding their breakup from friends on their annual trip to the coast of Maine.
  2. It can be a lot of fun to discover local authors from wherever your vacation takes you. If you are checking out the beaches of North Carolina, Nicholas Sparks' novels are a great choice. Nights in Rodanthe is a steamy romance about second-chance love.
  3. The sun won't be the only thing making you sweat if you bring a copy of A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand along on your beach vacation. This steamy read, set in Nantucket, explores the chemistry building between mom and artist Claire, and billionaire Lock Dixon. Forbidden romance, opulent galas, this book has it all!
  4. Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune is not only a great love story, but also a heartwarming exploration into the relationship between a mother and daughter. Set at a lake in Toronto, this book is an easy and heartwarming story to read by the water.
 Fantasy Favorites

  1. The Mermaid the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall is a great beach read if you are looking for some fantasy mixed with real-life themes. On board a pirate ship, a little girl escapes to start a grand adventure that involves rescuing a mermaid.
  2. If you're looking for a truly unique beach read, consider The Deep by Rivers Solomon, which is based on the song "The Deep" by rap group Clipping. It tells the story of the water-breathing descendants of pregnant African slave women who were thrown overboard by their owners and their struggle to survive and hold onto their memories.
 Book Club Favorites

  1. Where the Crawdads Sing is a poignant and beautiful tale by Delia Owens set along the North Carolina coast. It tells the story of a girl who grows up in isolation and suffers the consequences of being the odd one out. A favorite of book clubs all over, this novel will stay with you long after your vacation is over.
  2. Beach Music by Pat Conroy is a heart-wrenching family saga set amidst the stunning backdrop of the South Carolina low country. Looking for peace in Rome after tragedy and betrayal, Jack McCall returns home to Charleston after learning of his mother's illness. He reunites with his dysfunctional family and fractured group of childhood friends, facing his painful past and the secrets that haunted his wife. Spanning generations and continents, the book reveals the bonds of family and power of forgiveness, as Jack searches for the truth that can heal his wounds and set him free.
  3. This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger is an epic story centered on four orphans who run away after a terrible crime, escaping in a canoe from the banks of the Gilead River in Minnesota. The group journeys through a summer during the Great Depression, bringing them into the path of many others looking for hope and redemption. Their adventure is full of heart and will remind you of the tales of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.
  4. Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt is a moving story of friendship, loss, hope and the magic of the sea. Marcellus the octopus knows more about people than visitors to his aquarium could imagine, including the heartbreak of the cleaning woman named Tova. Marcellus is determined to help Tova discover the truth about her son's disappearance before it's too late, so she can find finally joy in the future.
 No summer vacation is complete without a page-turning book. Whether you're traveling to the beach, a lakeside retreat, or heading out on a cruise, these books will put you in the mood for sun, swimming and fruity drinks. Just make sure to leave plenty of room in your suitcase for more than one, because you won't be able to put these down. 

Kelsey Caldwell is a realtor and freelance writer from Charlotte, NC. She and her husband are parents to two amazing kids, a puppy, and rabbit.