Think of two beloved smells of summer: the scent of the ocean air, muddled with sunscreen and sunshine, and the crisp, fresh aroma of a brand new book.
As the days grow longer and the temperature soars higher, many take the opportunity to set up their out-of-office reply and head to the beach.
If that includes you, you’ll want to pack a book, or two or three, alongside your swimsuit and flip-flops.
From gripping mysteries that have you searching for the next twist and turn, to funny and poignant memoirs that challenge you to dig deep and think critically, the hottest season of the year offers a vast variety of promising books.
Here, 17 best-selling summer reads to pack in your beach bag.
’Queen Bee’ by Dorothea Benton Frank ($13.99; amazon.com)
This fiction book debuted as No. 2 on the New York Times best-seller hardcover list in late May, thanks to impressive character development and a feel-good theme set in South Carolina’s low country. Be prepared to giggle to yourself as you navigate the dynamic relationships the characters have with love, friendship and each other.
’Searching for Sylvie Lee’ by Jean Kwok ($17.48; amazon.com)
Though this literary fiction read was only released in early June, it has already landed a spot on the “Today” show’s #ReadingWithJenna book club list. This probably isn’t a surprise to you if you read Jean Kwok’s earlier New York Times best-seller, “Girl in Translation.” What can you expect now? A dazzling display of the unique bonds among women, mothers and daughters. It’s a suspenseful read detailing what happens when the oldest daughter in a Chinese immigrant family disappears.
’The Murder List’ by Hank Phillippi Ryan ($18.98; amazon.com)
While some readers like brainless romantic books for the beach, others prefer gripping thrillers, like this new release. In this psychological suspense page-turner, you’ll follow the journey of law student Rachel North in Boston. While her life seems to be going perfectly — she’s married to an impressive man, on her way to a successful career — everything is about to change. Soon, she’ll be fighting for, well, her life. Hooked yet?
’Naturally Tan: A Memoir’ by Tan France ($11.62; amazon.com)
Fess up: Is one of your guilty pleasures Netflix’s “Queer Eye”? If so, you won’t be able to put down this heartfelt and relatable memoir from star Tan France. He masterfully details what it was like to grow up gay in a traditional South Asian family in South Yorkshire, England, which few people of color called home. He details how he discovered his style and his voice, and eventually came out to his family at the age of 34. As he puts it: “The book is meant to spread joy, personal acceptance, and most of all understanding. Each of us is living our own private journey, and the more we know about each other, the healthier and happier the world will be.”
’A Stranger on the Beach’ by Michelle Campbell ($19.59; amazon.com)
This mystery is best described as a mix between “Strangers on a Train” and “Fatal Attraction,” making for the kind of story you simply can’t put down. Here’s a preview: Caroline has a lovely beach house with her husband, but their marriage is falling apart. Suddenly, a stranger-bartender appears in her life, and the two start a romance. But not all is fair in love and war — and especially not in obsession.
’Subconscious Power: Use Your Inner Mind to Create the Life You’ve Always Wanted’ by Kimberly Friedmutter ($17.74; amazon.com)
Here’s the short list of the star-studded rave reviews this new read has earned: Mike Tyson, Jennifer Hudson and Martha Stewart. As a celebrity hypnotherapist and coach, Friedmutter teaches readers how to overcome their fears, build confidence, release anxiety and realize their dreams. She draws from her training in hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming to help others get through the tough stuff in life, without letting anything hold them back.
’Hungry’ by Jeff Gordinier ($12.99; amazon.com)
If you would happily describe yourself as a foodie, you’ll devour this fascinating new release that looks at food through an entirely different — and enlightened — lens. As a food critic, Gordinier spent four years following the every move of René Redzepi, the mastermind behind Noma, continually named one of the best restaurants in the world. As Gordinier explores Denmark and other regions of the world, he’ll describe what it’s like to fully engage every sense, from taste to texture — and beyond — in our meals. As the name suggests, you’ll definitely be hungry to read more.
’Three Women’ by Lisa Taddeo ($16.20; amazon.com)
There’s much to explore in sexuality, and women who were willing to be vulnerable and candid about their desires make this book work. Fascinated to learn more about what happens behind (or in front of) closed doors, this journalist spent eight years following three American women and their sexual explorations. From a suburban Indiana homemaker whose husband won’t kiss her, to a 17-year-old high school student in North Dakota who is attracted to her married English teacher, to a restaurant owner in the Northeast whose partner likes to watch her have sex with men — and women — prepare for an intense, eye-opening read.
’Waisted’ by Randy Susan Meyers ($18.36; amazon.com)
This internationally best-selling author is back with a provocative and compelling novel that’s technically fiction but discusses a topic most can relate to: anxiety over our waistlines. We join a group of seven women enrolled in an extreme weight loss documentary, who get more than they bargained for once they meet up with the producers. From mothers who are hyperfocused on their weight to a woman who worries her marriage will be over if she doesn’t drop some pounds, they all get a surprise when the filming transforms from light-hearted entertainment to “The Truman Show.”
’Drive-Thru Dreams: A Journey Through the Heart of America’s Fast-Food Kingdom’ by Adam Chandler ($17.98; amazon.com)
If you were a fan of “Super Size Me” and “Fast Food Nation,” this book is pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum. Though author Adam Chandler doesn’t defend the nutritional value of Happy Meals and jumbo soft drinks, he does argue that the history of this industry offers a reflection of a century of American culture. As he walks you through economic realities, political identities and blue-collar roots, you might want to order some fries to go along with this page-turner.
’It’s Great To Suck at Something: The Unexpected Joy of Wiping Out and What It Can Teach Us About Patience, Resilience, and the Stuff that Really Matters’ by Karen Rinaldi ($17.10; amazon.com)
The editor of the Harper Wave book division knows a thing or two about perfection. Or more importantly, how so many people strive to be the best of the best, and lose track of the lessons learned along the way. In fact, she argues that failure is an option — and perhaps not a bad one. Using notes from literature, science and philosophy, she’ll have you nodding along to this honest, hilarious and engaging self-help book.
’Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language’ by Amanda Montell ($17.11; amazon.com)
Women are far more likely to use the word “like” in conversation to fill a void. Other words are deemed as aggressive when coming from a woman’s mouth — but not a man’s. In this book, reporter and feminist linguist Amanda Montell deconstructs our language as we know it, using history, science and popular culture to to explore insults, cursing, gossip, catcalling, grammar and pronunciation patterns. You may find yourself rethinking your word choices once you wrap up this nonfiction superstar.
’Game Changers: What Leaders, Innovators and Mavericks Do to Win At Life’ by Dave Asprey ($20.56; amazon.com)
Over the past five years, Dave Asprey has interviewed biochemists, meditation experts, business visionaries and a plethora of fascinating leaders via his hit podcast, “Bulletproof Radio.” After chatting with Daniel Amen, Arianna Huffington and Dan Harris, to name a few, he’s ready to share his insights in a statistical analysis of his conversations. You can expect to learn about 46 science-backed “performance laws” that can help you perform to your highest potential, in and out of the office.
’The Night Before’ by Wendy Walker ($18.36; amazon.com)
Considering an estimated one in five couples meet online these days, if you’re single, you probably have an online dating profile. And if so, consider yourself warned, since this thriller explores the worst-case scenario, when lead character Laura goes on a date with a man from an app — and disappears. As her sister Rosie tries to track her down, you’ll be captivated, and possibly terrified to swipe right. It’s already received major kudos from Pop Sugar and Publisher’s Weekly, and was selected as Goodreads’ Most Anticipated Mystery and Thriller for Spring 2019.
’Thirst: A Story of Redemption, Compassion, and a Mission to Bring Clean Water to the World’ by Scott Harrison ($16.18; amazon.com)
Though this October-released nonfiction read is a little older than other picks on our list, if you haven’t picked it up, now is the time. It goes beyond a business how-to book and creates a poignant, eye-opening glimpse into the planet’s dire need for drinkable, clean water. As the founder of the nonprofit Charity: Water, Harrison shares his philosophy, background and path to creating one of the most successful nonprofits ever. All of the net proceeds from the sale of this book will benefit communities in need of H2O globally.
’Izzy in el Mareo’ by Danielle Ledezma ($7.99; amazon.com)
Currently an Amazon best-seller in the single women fiction category, this tale of a 23-year-old American gal who takes a job at a resort in Mexico is impossible to put down. You’ll quickly realize she’s running away from her out-of-control life in Houston, and now will be challenged to adapt to a new language and culture. It’s a true coming-of-age story that might remind you of your own early 20s, when life was just beginning — and you were first learning to open up your heart.
’Mrs. Everything’ by Jennifer Weiner ($16.80; amazon.com)
With a cult following, New York Times best-selling author Jennifer Weiner is back to make you laugh, cry and sigh at yet another promising work of fiction. You will follow two sisters born in the 1950s — Jo and Bethie — who grew up in a “Dick and Jane” household. Each takes on her role of rebellious tomboy or goody-good girl, and they chart their own paths, overcoming tragedies and celebrating triumphs along the way.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed price at the time of publication.