What To Read This Summer – The Ultimate Books To Throw In Your Beach Bag

From new publications to perennial feel-good fiction, these beach-side companions will punctuate your ocean dips and sunbathing sessions rather nicely.

Picture this. Your out of office is on (aggressively on. You may as well have written please hesitate to reach out to me), you’ve got a few days off and the forecast is a full house of fat yellow suns, so you decide to take yourself off down the beach to read your book. Instant mental health boner, right?

The gentle lapping of the waves, the sand in between your toes, the vitamin D, the uninterrupted sunshine and plot twists, the obligatory Calippo vs Magnum vs overpriced Mr Whippy conundrum. Gah, there is no escapism so pure, so ingeniously simple as unfurling a new buzzy book whilst lounging by the seaside like a sun-kissed siren on the rocks.

There is no escapism so pure, so ingeniously simple as unfurling a new buzzy book whilst lounging by the seaside

As for the reading material, anything goes when it comes to easy breezy beach reads but there are certain balmy novels we gravitate towards at this time of year. Light-hearted (for the most part), unputdownable, fast-paced thrillers, true-to-life memoirs and juicy contemporary romances – those are the kind of stories we are all too glad to share with our SPF 50.

From new publications to perennial feel-good fiction, these beach-side companions will punctuate your ocean dips and sunbathing sessions rather nicely.

The Summer Job – Lizzy Dent

Want to escape real life for a while? Run away with Birdy Finch, a messy heroine who blagged her best friend’s identity to land her dream job. A hot new voice in contemporary fiction, Lizzy Dent’s heartwarming debut will have you honking with laughter. Fans of Fleabag, Bridget Jones and Bridesmaids will gobble up this highland (mis)adventure in no time at all. Purchase through here.

Ruthless Women – Melanie Blake

Glitz, glamour, drama, humour and suspense, Melanie Blake’s Ruthless Women has it all in spades. Hailed the hottest book of 2021, it’s sure to be the addictive page-turner you need in your life after a long and horny lockdown. If you like your beach reads on the raunchy side, dive headfirst into this bonkbuster. Purchase through here.

You Have A Match – Emma Lord

A modern take on the Parent Trap trope, You Have A Match follows the story of Abby Day, who discovers she has a secret Instagram influencer sister. The pair hatch a plan to meet up at a summer camp to get to know each other and unravel this big juicy family secret. If you’re hankering for some feel-good fiction, this coming-of-age story will make for the perfect deckchair sidekick. Purchase here.

The Road Trip – Beth O’Leary

From the queen of beach bag reads herself, Beth O’Leary’s latest novel is the bookish summer staple you can’t miss. With echoes of Normal People, you’ll have no problem inhaling it in one sunny sitting. Just make sure you’ve secured a spot close to the sea to cool off after the sexy south of France scenes dabs forehead. Purchase through here.

Open Water – Caleb Azumah Nelson

A tender and ambitious debut novel about the relationship between two young black artists. At once an intimate love song to black artistry and a powerful exploration of race, masculinity, loss and trauma, Open Water is dripping with an elegant rhythm all of its own. If you loved Normal People, you’ll adore this delicately crafted masterpiece about love and all its nuances. Purchase through here.

Seven Days in June – Tia Williams

If you like your romances on the raw and gritty side, send your heartfelt thanks to Tia Williams. In Seven Days in June, we’re introduced to two writers who reunite at a literary event 15 years after they shared a whirlwind romance, only they’re pretending they don’t know each other. Cue the undeniable sexual tension. Not only is SDIJ sexy as hell, Williams’ writing manages to shift effortlessly between light-hearted interactions and sensitive subject matter with effortless tact. A sappy and predictable romance this is not. Its deliciously witty dialogue, fully realised characters and deft handling of love, race and second-chances will stay with you long after summer. Purchase through here.

Miss Benson’s Beetle – Rachel Joyce

Margery Benson, a socially awkward forty-something teacher, and Enid Pretty, a yellow-haired bombshell in a hot pink suit, form an unlikely duo in this intoxicating tale of female friendship, rebellion and self-discovery. The two women leave 1950s Britain on an expedition to New Caledonia to find the elusive golden beetle Margery’s father taught her about in her childhood. Enid Pretty is everything Margery hates and the last person she’d want assisting her on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure but as the two share the setbacks and successes of this hilarious jaunt, it turns out they make quite the team. Purchase through here.

The House on Fripp Island – Rebecca Kauffman

Slap on a fresh layer of SPF and have your cocktail of choice within reach because once you start reading this, you’re not moving until you finish it. For 336 glorious pages, Kauffman treats us to a family saga of epic proportions. This is the ultimate tell-a-friend book you’ll be waxing lyrical about all summer long. Purchase through here.

Malibu Rising – Taylor Jenkins Reid

From the best-selling author of Daisy Jones & The Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo comes Malibu Rising – a juicy riptide of a book about four famous siblings and their epic annual end of summer house party. What could possibly go wrong? By midnight the party will descend into drug-fuelled chaos, by morning, the family mansion will be engulfed in flames. A fast-paced, unputdownable family drama, destined to be read with a beachy backdrop. Purchase through here.

Beach Read – Emily Henry

One look at the cover and you’d have every reason to believe this is a fun and flirty summer read with absolutely zero chance of making you weep into your Mr Whippy. Is there another name for that? Yes: wildly led astray in the best possible way and texting your friends at 1am with a message that simply reads: “I will never read again. F*cking sobbing”, just about covers it. It’s not A Little Life howling bad but it’s raw and it’s honest and the lump in your throat will have to come out somehow.

Two authors, who also happen to be frenemies and beach house neighbours, are struggling with writer’s block. January is a happy-ever-after romance author, Gus is a serious literary fiction author. So, they decide to take on the challenge of writing their respective genres to see who gets published first which requires hanging out (a lot) and learning to be vulnerable with one another. With whip-smart dialogue, unforgettable main characters and all the tongue-in-cheek hilarity, it has everything the title promises and more. Purchase through here.

Girl A – Abigail Dean

TW: child abuse, childhood trauma

A gripping psychological thriller and a searing portrait of survival, Girl A is a haunting pitch black novel, punctuated with moments of life-affirming humanity. It tells the story of an eight-year-old girl named Lex, one of eight Gracie siblings, who escaped from her parents’ House of Horrors after years of abuse. When her mother dies in prison, naming Lex as the executor of the will, she must contact her surviving siblings and work out what to do with the house they in which they all suffered. Lex’s resilience in the face of such harrowing devastation will stay with you for a lifetime. Purchase through here.

Animal – Lisa Taddeo

The debut novel from the author of the bestselling phenomenon Three Women is written with the same signature intensity and truth. The stories that Taddeo couldn’t tell in Three Women find a place here in this cleverly constructed thriller, albeit through a fictive filter. Sure, lend to a friend to discuss in-between mouthfuls of chips and glugs of house white but ask for it back. Purchase through here.

That Summer – Jennifer Weiner

A novel about the transformative power of female friendship? We’re in there like swimwear. From the boss of beach reads, Jessica Weiner, That Summer is a story about surviving our pasts, confronting our futures and the sustaining bonds of friendship. Purchase through here.

Threadneedle – Cari Thomas

Anna’s Aunt has always warned her of the dangers of magic. Its twists. Its knots. Its deadly consequences. Now Anna counts down the days to the ceremony that will bind her magic forever. Until she meets Effie and Attis. They open her eyes to a London she never knew existed. A shop that sells memories. A secret library where the librarian feeds off words. A club where revellers lose themselves in a haze of spells. But as she is swept deeper into this world, Anna begins to wonder if her Aunt was right all along. Is her magic a gift … or a curse? Thread Needle is the perfect YA fantasy for anyone hankering for a summer of magic. Purchase through here.

The Other Black Girl – Zakiya Dalila Harris

Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella is tired – tired of being the only black employee at Wagner Books, tired of the micro-aggressions and tired of the marginalisation. So, when newcomer Hazel joins the company, Nella is thrilled to have another black woman on the team until she becomes the rising star and undermines her role. Then the menacing notes start appearing on Nella’s desk advising her to leave her job unless she wants bad things to happen…

The twists and turns will blow your mind. Expect the unexpected. Purchase through here.