The Best Summer Beach Reads of 2019 (for all that free time 😂)

best summer beach reads best summer beach reads

Clearly whoever invented the term “Beach Reads” did not own small children. Parents don’t read at the beach ‘cause we’re too busy keeping our kids alive. So the ideal beach read for us is one that’s interesting enough to sustain multiple interruptions. But there are all kinds of ways to create your own “beach” and sneak in a few minutes for reading. I make mine by challenging the kids to a game of hide-and-seek; then I hide in the bathroom with the door locked and sit in the tub with a book, blocking out the chorus of “Mommy? Mommy? Where are you, Mommy?”

So wherever you find your personal “beach,” here’s what you’ll want to read once you get there…

Evvie Drake Starts Over
by Linda Holmes

best summer beach reads

Entire years can go by where I forget to read happy books. So I was excited to break that sad streak with this novel by NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. Evvie is a sharp-witted woman who falls for Dean, a retired baseball player who “always smells like freshly cut grass.” They build a genuinely rich relationship full of fairly relatable complications like parental riffs, career concerns, and house renovations. Did I mention it gets steamy? And it takes place in coastal Maine and has dogs and baseball, so it checks off all kinds of prerequisite summer boxes. This definitely deserves the real estate it takes up in your tote bag.

Skinny Dip
by Carl Hiaasen

best summer beach reads
Swipe any old Carl Hiaasen novel from your dad’s bookshelf or a garage sale and you’re in for a good time. A long-time columnist for the Miami Herald, Hiaasen once said he doesn’t even need to make up the plot lines for his comic-crimes because he just rips all his stories from the Florida news. Skinny Dip is a fun one to jump into if you’re new to his writing. It opens with our protagonist Joey swimming for her life after being thrown off a cruise ship by her smarmy husband, Chaz. When Joey teams up with a retired cop to take revenge on Chaz, the joy she has in tormenting her husband is infectious.

City of Girls
by Elizabeth Gilbert

best summer beach reads

As a fairly well-behaved person, I always love to hear about an alcohol-fueled romp! It’s fun to get lost in City of Girls by Ms. Eat Pray Love, aka Elizabeth Gilbert, because the first half is all about being a young and careless showgirl in 1940’s New York. The second half of the novel is a little more sober, as Pearl Harbor looms in the background, but is equally as vibrant and absorbing. The writing flows like champagne and you’ll want to borrow the feather boa from your daughter’s dress-up box to jump right into the story.

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy
by Jenny Odell

You don’t realize you need to relearn How to Do Nothing until you remember that we’re all trying to do everything. This book might not seem like a summer read unless you view it through a self-help lens. Jenny Odell is an academic offering advice on the best ways not to be sucked into our phones like a bunch of Black Mirror characters. She doesn’t prescribe quitting social media cold turkey—let’s get real—but instead focuses on how to make the most of it: community building, maintaining friendships, the occasional mom meme. Your vacation is the perfect time to read this book, when you have time away from work to evaluate how you want to really use your time online and offline.

The River
by Peter Heller

Summer is the best time to read a thriller, since the sunshine can balance out the gloom and gore. College best friends Wynn and Jack embark on a leisurely canoe trip down the Maskwa River in Canada, where they spend their days fishing and reading cowboy paperbacks. It’s a sweet friendship, and the writing has a timeless charm (save for one mention of Drake). When a wildfire makes its way across the forest, an unexpected urgency is added to the journey. Then a face-off with a murderer turns it into a case of man versus nature versus man. There’s a slow burn to this intense backcountry adventure and city slickers will appreciate the outdoor escapism.

Fleishman Is In Trouble
by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

If you want to pull your weight in any book-related conversation this fall, pick up Fleishman Is In Trouble. Journalist Taffy Brodesser-Akner, known for her immersive celebrity profiles, gives it her all in this bold portrait of marriage and divorce. Every single sentence is a one-two punch, with densely-written observations of Manhattanites, the publishing industry and parenting; all the characters are vivisected to within an inch of their lives. The author’s greatest trick, though, is spending the bulk of the novel describing the marriage through the husband’s point of view. Think of it kinda like if John Updike’s Rabbit, Run had been written in 2019 by a woman who was cool enough to share a smoke with Gwyneth Paltrow.

Mrs. Everything
by Jennifer Weiner

You’ll be a book club hero if you suggest Mrs. Everything for next month’s pick. Spanning decades and told through the alternating narrative of two sisters, Jo and Bethie who grew up in 1950s Detroit, Jennifer Weiner explores gender norms, and the complex relationship between women. Despite the sweeping storylines, the book has an easy-paced flow and you won’t want to put it down.

The Mother-in-Law
by Sally Hepworth

Mother-in-laws are having a moment right now. If you’re watching Big Little Lies every Sunday night just to see what insults Meryl Streep will throw at the “Monterey 5,” you’re not alone. Her mother-in-law character is a nightmare. And, well, the mother-in-law in The Mother-in-Law makes Meryl look like a real peach. The second Lucy meets her husband’s mother, Diana, she knows something is up with this woman. Fast forward to five years into her marriage, when Lucy is left to pick up the pieces after Diana’s mysterious death. This is a tale of domestic suspense in the truest sense, aka perfect reading if you’re looking for a multi-layered whodunnit.

The Friend Zone
by Abby Jimenez

The Friend Zone features a hunky leading man, a sassy heroine, and about a dozen curse words per chapter. What’s not to like? Just be warned that this is not your typical light and fluffy romance. The friends-to-lovers story between Kristen, a dog product entrepreneur, and Josh, a fireman, deals with serious themes of chronic illness and infertility. Jimenez tackles those issues with grace, though, and you’ll definitely be seeing some form of this story on the big screen in two years, likely starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Hemsworth.

Sunset Beach
by Mary Kay Andrews

You know summer has officially started once you pick up a Mary Kay Andrews novel. A beach read that literally has beach in the title, the cover of the book is deceptively cheery. You’ll think you’re about to get swept up in a modern romance replete with long sunset strolls and low-stakes drama. Nope. Instead, you’re going to be absorbed in the gripping story of a down-on-her-luck athlete, her colorful lawyer father, and a decades-old missing persons mystery. Buckle up.

Toby Lowenfels is a writer and mom of three in Nashville. Follow her daily musings at @tobyfels.