5 beach reads to brighten your summer 

Photo of summer reading list
Sarah Runyan/Staff

Related Posts

When the summertime heat gets overwhelming and the scent of sunblock fills the air, it is almost certainly time for a trip to the pool or beach. Surfing, swimming and catching the sun’s rays are staple summer activities, but an afternoon laying on the sand is certainly not complete without a fun, lighthearted beach read. 

The quest to find the perfect beach read is not an easy one. However, when you can find literature that practically exudes salt water and ice cream, a typical day at the beach becomes all the more gratifying. These five exuberant books encapsulate summer vibes and almost demand to be read by the ocean; each novel is sure to serve as a fantastic addition to your beach bag this summer. 

“Malibu Rising” by Taylor Jenkins Reid 

“Malibu Rising” is undeniably the book of the summer. Set in 1980s Malibu, it follows the Riva family, by no means an ordinary bunch — Nina Riva and her three siblings are the children of the famous singer, Mick Riva. From the first few pages, it is revealed that Nina’s annual end-of-the-summer party will be in flames by the end of the night, igniting a sense of mystery that will entice readers to finish “Malibu Rising” in just one sitting. 

Though Jenkins Reid is perhaps best known for her prior novels, “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” and “Daisy Jones & The Six,” “Malibu Rising” is arguably her best work. And given how well it encompasses lively moments during the summer (surfing, driving down the Pacific Coast Highway and, of course, attending large parties thrown by celebrities), it is more than fair to say that “Malibu Rising” is the perfect beach read, especially for a trip to Malibu. 

“Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz 

Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s classic young adult novel “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” has charmed readers for almost a decade with its poetic writing and lovable characters. Packed with heart, this coming-of-age novel depicts the lives of two boys, fittingly named Aristotle and Dante, who question their identities and the world around them. The two teenagers meet in El Paso during the summer of 1987 at a community pool and, following a few swimming lessons, they become fast friends and develop a connection that grows stronger throughout the novel.

Both breathtaking and incredibly thought-provoking, this novel is a summer read that authentically captures the torment and beauty that accompanies the end of adolescence. Though at times, the novel may be a more emotional beach read, its vivid depictions of summer are more than enough to warm your heart on a sunny day by the pool. 

“We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart 

E. Lockhart’s “We Were Liars” has consistently been a mainstay of summer beach reading since its release in 2014. Though the young adult novel is best read without any pretension surrounding its plot, it should be said that “We Were Liars” is not what readers will expect. Under the guise of a beachy young adult novel, something sinister lurks within the narrative of its protagonist, Cadence Sinclair Eastman, and her wealthy family. Both suspenseful and puzzling, “We Were Liars” is not a typical lighthearted beach read. However, its setting on a private island, summer aesthetic and mysterious tone combine to form an excellent page-turner for the beach; “We Were Liars” is the perfect book to read in a single day.

“The Unhoneymooners” by Christina Lauren 

Romantic comedy lovers, look no further than Christina Lauren’s “The Unhoneymooners.” Christina Lauren, the shared pen name for best friends and co-authors Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings, bridges an enemies-to-lovers relationship with a grand trip to Maui; what more could you ask for? When Ami and Dane’s wedding ends in a food poisoning fiasco, Ami sends her twin sister Olive on a nonrefundable honeymoon to Maui with the only other person in the wedding party that was unaffected — her archnemesis, Ethan. What follows is a humorous, yet admittedly cheesy narrative full of beach-themed excursions and incessant banter that will light up anyone’s summer afternoon.

“People We Meet on Vacation” by Emily Henry 

Emily Henry has perfected the art of writing a beach read. Having written a book literally entitled “Beach Read,” she is certainly aware of what it takes to craft a narrative that accompanies ocean waves. Her 2021 novel, “People We Meet on Vacation,” succeeds in this regard by documenting the summer vacations of two best friends, Poppy and Alex. Both warmhearted and witty, this romantic comedy is a fantastic beach vacation read. Or, better yet, “People We Meet on Vacation” is the ideal book for an afternoon lounging at home; the novel’s entertaining depiction of vacations is enough to make even landlocked readers feel as if they have embarked on a grand summer adventure. 

Sarah Runyan covers literature. Contact her at [email protected].