USA, Massachusetts, Nantucket Island, Sun chair on sandy beach
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The Summer Reading List to End All Summer Reading Lists

Jul 02, 2017

If you hate to be seaside (or lakeside or poolside or anything -side) without a book in hand, you’ve landed in the right place. Here, great beach reads recommended by notable authors and experts. See the full list of the books at

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The Stranger In The Woods, by Michael Finkel

“Fancy a few back-to-nature days roughing it in the New England woods? How about decades? Finkel mines the true story of Christopher Knight, who spent 27 years camping alone in the oft-unforgiving Maine wilds. How did he survive? Not by being neighborly. A lightening-fast read. Nothing is simple about Knight’s life. Writing about it is even more complicated.”

Matthew Quick is the New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook. His latest novel, The Reason You’re Alive ($18,, will be published on July 4.

To buy: $16,

A Tortoise for the Queen of Tonga, by Julia Whitty

“The title alone begs that this brilliant collection of short stories be read. I read Tortoise for the Queen of Tonga beachside in 2015. The stories are emotional, unique, riveting, imaginative, and at times have an otherworldly feel. The titular story is told from the perspective of a tortoise who is the companion to the Queen of Tonga. From captive orcas to an appearance by Charles Darwin, Whitty’s writing is something to behold.”

Ann Kidd Taylor is the co-author of Traveling with Pomegranates, which she wrote with her mother, Sue Monk Kidd. Her latest novel, The Shark Club, will be published on June 6 ($17,

To buy: $11,

The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson

“This experimental and heady memoir is accessible enough to qualify as a summer read, but pithy enough to satisfy any time of year. The book chronicles the parallel narratives of the author’s first pregnancy and her partner’s gender transition, alongside ruminations and quotes on gender, motherhood, and myriad other subjects. It manages to be deeply intellectual but also intimate and moving. In my opinion, this book should be required reading for everyone, as it illustrates and deepens the urgent conversations being had around gender and sexuality. Why not pick it up this summer?”

Zinzi Clemmons’ debut novel, What We Lose, will be published on July 11 ($15;

To buy: $9,

Spaceman of Bohemia, by Jaroslav Kalfar

“What better time than the summer—with its endless daylight—to read a book set in the pitch-blackness of space? I loved Jaroslav Kalfar’s charming debut novel, Spaceman of Bohemia, in which a Czech astronaut named Jakub Procházka—the country’s very first—leaves his wife behind to go on a dangerous solo mission to Venus. In the process, he meets a strange alien creature, and runs into a few unforeseen difficulties. That description doesn’t do the book any kind of justice: It’s also an astute exploration into marriage, family, ambition, and being alone. I loved it.”

Rachel Khong’s debut novel, Goodbye, Vitamin,will be published on July 11 ($18,

To buy: $14,

The Animators, by Kayla Rae Whitaker

The Animators is completely absorbing. It dives into the world of animation, using a symbiotic friendship to keep us turning the pages. Mel and Kisses are an unforgettable duo, as they fail and succeed together, fight and make up. This novel is complex and irresistible, and it balances light with darkness perfectly to ask us what it means to live a creative life.”

Danya Kukafka’s debut novel, Girl in Snow, will be published on August 1 ($17,

To buy: $18,

Made for Love, by Alissa Nutting

“I love authors who aren’t afraid to break rules, and there’s no rule breaker out there quite like Alissa Nutting. Made for Love traffics in my favorite kind of humor: it’s dark, absurdist, and terrific fun. If spending some beach time with a feisty wife trying to escape her cyberstalking tech mogul husband by bunking up with her father (and his sex doll) in a senior citizen trailer park sounds like your jam, then this book is for you. And who wouldn’t want to be seen sunbathing with this cover?”

Courtney Maum is the author of I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You and the chapbook Notes from Mexico. Her most recent novel, Touch($7,, is out now.

To buy: $18,

Marjorie Morningstar, by Herman Wouk

“Love stories make for wonderful beach reads, and this book is one of the funniest and most heartbreaking I have ever read. Bring tissues!”

Laurie Gelman’s debut novel, Class Mom ($17,, will be published on August 1.

To buy: $10,

Three Junes, by Julia Glass

“I fell in love with Three Junes in 2002 just after it won the National Book Award and it made me an instant Julia Glass fan. Since then, I’ve read and loved her other four novels, but summer after summer, I find myself returning to Three Junes to spend time with an old friend. Besides writing endearing characters that are so fully formed you almost expect them to step from the page, Glass also brings scenes so vividly to life that I found myself squinting at descriptions of Greece’s sharp sunlight and feeling nostalgic for places I’d never been. The Scottish McLeod family—with their secrets and betrayals, longings, and heartbreaks—will engage and delight you. And if you become a fan, you’ll be happy to know Julia Glass is releasing another novel, A House Among the Trees, this June.”

Bianca Marais’s debut novel, Hum if You Don’t Know the Words ($17,, will be out on July 11.

To buy: $9,

Defending Jacob, by William Landay

Defending Jacob is a compelling page-turner about a district attorney whose son is accused of murder. As the novel plunges into a provocative family drama, Landay asks, 'What is a man willing to do for his family? And what is he willing to do to find the truth?' His answers are surprising and touching. You’ll find this one impossible to put down.”

Laura Dave is the author of Eight Hundred Grapes and The First Husband. Her next novel, Hello, Sunshine ($17,, will be out on July 11.

To buy: $10,

Not Working, by Lisa Owens

“Written in uncanny vignettes, this novel is about a woman who has just quit her office job in pursuit of a passion she has yet to find. The resulting inertia and lack of routine push her to confront who she is and her relationships with others. Anybody who has a separate loose outfit for driving (‘I need to be comfortable on the road,’ she keeps insisting) or has said regrettable things to family members after too many wines will relate to our heroine as she finds her place in the world.”

Balli Kaur Jaswal is the author of Inheritance and Sugarbread. Her next novel, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows ($19,, will be published on June 13.

To buy: $14,

The Inn at Lake Devine</i?, by Elinor Lipman

“Set in the summer of 1962, this beguiling gem of a romantic comedy is about the relationship between Jews and gentiles, a segregated inn in Vermont, and 12-year-old Natalie Marx’s sense of justice during a turbulent time in America. Lipman is brilliant with dialogue and characters and can spin a provocative tale that still manages to feel punchy and light. One of my favorite novels of all time.”

—Emily Giffin is the New York Times bestselling author of Something Borrowed and Where We Belong. First Comes Love was published in June 2016 ($11,

To buy: $10,

Into The Wild, by Jon Krakauer

“A page-turning, real-life mystery about a young man's tragic journey to find himself. As vivid as it is broadly thought-provoking, Into The Wild is an intimate story of one person's struggle against nature and with himself, but the questions raised are universal. At times it will make you contemplate hitting the open road yourself, while at others it will leave you praying that the ones you love always stay on the beaten path.”

—Kimberly McCreight is the New York Timesbestselling author of Reconstructing Amelia, Where They Found Her and, most recently, The Outliers ($11,

To buy: $9,

Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks

“I first read this book the summer after college, as I traveled through Europe on a Eurail pass with my best friend from high school, and I can just about remember on which youth hostel sofa, which train compartment, which hot riverbank I read each scene. Part love story, part mystery, part aching historical journey, Birdsong explores the territory of France before, during, and after the First World War, and the effect of apocalypse on the human spirit. Like the best of summer reads, it absorbs you utterly until the ending hurls you to a drunken, extraordinary stop. You won’t want to start anything else for a long time.”

—Beatriz Williams is the author Along the Infinite Sea; her latest work, A Certain Age ($18,, was published in June 2016.

To buy: $10,

How to Talk to a Widower, by Jonathan Tropper

“Tropper went on to huge acclaim with his subsequent novels, but this one, about a young widower who has to reboot his life (complete with a teenage stepson), remains my favorite. His humor is sharp as ever, and his voice and storytelling are both poignant and real. I remember reading this book over sunny summer afternoons in a New York City dog run, and my lucky dog got to linger with his pals much longer than he usually did. I loved the book so much that I immediately read all of Tropper’s backlist and then sent him a fan email. Fortunately, he didn’t find me crazy or overly fawning, and (begrudgingly on his part?) we became friends.”

—Allison Winn Scotch is the New York Timesbestselling author of six novels, including In Twenty Years ($11,

To buy: $15,

Seating Arrangements, by Maggie Shipstead

“This novel is set on a beach and features lots of cocktails and simmering family resentments. It's a page-turner with a WASPy bite. Andrea Barrett's Ship Fever is another favorite. It’s a collection of historical short stories about scientists and naturalists. How is that a beach read, you may be asking? It's so gripping and moving you'll forget you're at the beach (I promise).”

—Anton DiSclafani is the author of the nationally bestselling novel The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, as well as The After Party ($18,

To buy: $11,

The Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher

“This novel about a strong woman and her complicated family was published years ago, but I reread it every summer because it's full of seashells and flowers and the sense that all will be well in the end. I also love One for the Money by Janet Evanovich. I grab all of Evanovich’s mysteries because they’re laugh-out-loud funny. Also, it’s pretty nice to spend time with handsome, dangerous Ranger and gorgeous good cop Morelli, the two sexy men in bounty hunter Stephanie Plum’s turbulent life. In one wild moment, when her book came with stickers with their names, I put them on the back bumper of our SUV. My husband is Morelli, the good guy. I’m Ranger. No one has mentioned it yet.”

—Nancy Thayer is the author of 28 novels, including The Island House ($18,

To buy: $11,

The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth Von Arnim

“Simply the most perfect holiday read imaginable, The Enchanted April begins with an advertisement in The Times addressed to 'Those Who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine.' Four very different English women answer the call, to spend the month of April in a miniature Italian castle. The stay begins with squabbles over the best rooms and muted resentment about precedence. But they soon find the sunshine and surroundings begin to work in strange ways—thawing hearts and binding affections. If ever there was a book to convince you that a good holiday is the best medicine for the soul, it is this one, and as you would expect from the author of Elizabeth and her German Garden, the plants and flowers that grow around the castle are as lovingly rendered as the characters within. Read it on a vine-draped balcony with a glass of Chianti in your hand and feel your tensions drain away.”

—Ruth Ware is the author of the psychological crime thriller, In A Dark, Dark Wood ($10, The follow-up, The Woman in Cabin 10, was published in July 2016.

To buy: $9,

Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes

“Summertime is the perfect time to go armchair traveling, and what better tour guide than Frances Mayes? I can’t believe it’s been almost 20 years since Mayes wrote of traveling to Italy from San Francisco following the dissolution of her marriage. In the Tuscan village of Cortona, she discovers a broken down villa she painstakingly restores and names Bramasole, and eventually the solace of cooking and gardening mend her broken heart. Finding a new love and partner in her enterprise makes Mayes’ journey all the sweeter.”

—Mary Kay Andrews is the author of 24 novels, including The Weekenders ($12,

To buy: $10,

The Valley of the Dolls, by Jacqueline Susann

“The ultimate summer novel for me is, and will always be, Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann. This iconic novel tells the story of three friends, all trying to make it in the entertainment industry, who claw their way to the top with the help of each other, various celebrities they meet along the way, and of course, their beloved 'dolls.' Although it was originally published in 1966, it still manages to shock, even today."

—Brenda Janowitz is the author of five novels, including The Dinner Party ($7,

To buy: $8,

The Vacationers, by Emma Straub

"A good beach read is something engaging that isn’t too taxing on the brain. I love Faulkner. Faulkner is not a beach read. The best book I’ve read in the last year is The Vacationers. It’s about a family trip to Spain, and everyone has issues. It’s funny, sad, and poignant. I think it’s the perfect book. But there are so many! Maine, by J. Courtney Sullivan, is a drama set in a family’s old summer house. The Night Cir­cus, by Erin Mor­genstern—oh, gosh, it was like a drug. And Euphoria, by Lily King—it’s based on Margaret Mead and her work in Papua New Guinea in the 1930s and has one of the best love triangles."

Elin Hilderbrand is the author of 16 novels, including The Matchmaker, ($7,

To buy: $9,

Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen

"It’s a great romance. You have a true story of a strong woman, Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen was her pen name), living on the land, but then there’s also a dramatic love affair. In July, a new book is coming out that reminds me of Out of Africa—Circling the Sun, by Paula McLain. It is set in the same time period and is about Beryl Markham, who, like Blixen, defied her well-to-do European family. She was an aviator, and—coincidentally—was involved with the same man, Denys Finch Hatton, whom Blixen was. That ties the stories together."

Sara Nelson is the editorial director for

To buy: $17,

Tourist Season, by Carl Hiaasen

"Hiaasen is a South Florida native, and this was the first book he wrote as a solo author. It’s fast-paced and has a lot of dark humor. You shake your head at these outrageous things that go on in the novel, and then, a week later, something just like it appears on the news here. Another Florida writer I love is Les Standi­ford. His book Last Train to Paradise is a nonfiction page-turner (yes) about developer Henry Flagler in the early 20th century and the building of a railway from Miami to Key West, which made it possible to hop to Cuba."

Mitchell Kaplan is the owner of the Books & Books bookstores in South Florida and a cofounder of the Miami Book Fair International.

To buy: $11,

Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter

"If you want to escape a little bit, this is your book. It takes place near Cinque Terre, in Italy, and starts out in 1962, when an innkeeper meets a beautiful, dying actress. He falls in love with her, and then it goes back and forth in time. It has Italy; it has Hollywood; it has a sweeping scope. All of these great threads come together in a really entertaining way. I also go back to an old favorite: The Buccaneers, by Edith Wharton. But if you watch the habits of Goodreads users, peo­ple like beach reads that are gripping without any emotional stress. Confessions of a Shopaholic, by Sophie Kinsella, is popular."

Elizabeth Khuri Chandler is the editor-in-chief of Goodreads.

To buy: $11,

Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple

"Semple was a writer for Arrested Development and Ellen, so you know this book is comical. It’s about a girl who gets all A’s in middle school, and her family promises her a reward. She wishes to go to Antarctica. But the mom has a social phobia and doesn’t want to deal with it. It’s great for the beach because much of it is written as e-mail correspondence, so you can read it in short bursts. You won’t lose your place if you put it down to go snorkeling. Of course, if you’re visiting us, I’d recommend the quintessential Hawaii, by James A. Michener. But it’s 937 pages, so download it to an e-reader."

Aaron Garsombke is the manager of fun at the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas on Kauai.

To buy: $11,

Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson

“Brilliantly plotted and utterly original, its 520 pages whiz by and leave you craving more.”

Maria Semple, author of the witty Where’d You Go, Bernadette ($15,

To buy: $28,

Lessons in French, by Hilary Reyl

“A perfect beach read: slim, sexy, and young at heart. There is so much tenderness and wit in this debut novel; it will make you nostalgic for your year abroad even if you never had one.”

Joanna Hershon the author of A Dual Inheritance ($7,

To buy: $7,

Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro

“This intense and haunting love story is not your typical beach read, but I say it belongs in the beach bag because it’s absolutely riveting from the first page to the last.”

Karen Thompson Walker is the author of The Age of Miracles ($10,

To buy: $15,

The Boy, by Lara Santoro

“Because even if you’re reading something quickly on a beach it might as well be a riveting, erotic account of how a little crush can blow one busy mother’s life apart...”

Emma Donoghue is the author of the best-selling Room and the short-story collection Astray ($26,

To buy: $25,

The Terra-Cotta Dog, by Andrea Camilleri

“Part of a series, it’s a funny, charismatic detective story about an Italian police inspector, Montalbano, who is wise, determined, and, above all, a passionate lover of well-made food.”

Erik Larson, author of the nonfiction blockbuster In the Garden of Beasts ($10,

To buy: $12,

The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love, by Kristin Kimball

“A hard-driving journalist gives up her career when she falls in love with a farmer and farming.”

Jeannette Walls is the author of The Glass Castle, Half Broke Horses, and The Silver Star ($26,

To buy: $15,

Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri

“I think books of short stories are perfect for a beach read; you can read a story, have a piña colada, read another story, snooze a little . . . These stories are gorgeously written and full of humanity.”

Melanie Benjamin, the author of The Aviator’s Wife ($17,

To buy: $9,

The Chill and The Underground Man, by Ross Macdonald

“For a classic crime novel read, try any of the masterpiece noirs by Ross Macdonald. My personal favorites are The Chill and The Underground Man.”

Jonathan Kellerman, author of more than 30 novels, including Guilt ($8,

To buy: $15 each,

The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters

“It has everything I adore in a race-to-the-end story—a crumbling English mansion; a chilly, doomed romance; and the creepiest, most chilling ghost story. You’ll need the heat of the sun to convince you you’re not at the top of a midnight-haunted staircase.”

Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean and the YA novel What We Saw at Night($18,

To buy: $11,

The Chaperone, by Laura Moriarty

“I loved traveling from Wichita to New York City in the summer of 1922 with a young, obnoxious Louise Brooks and her chaperone, Cora Carlisle, who uncovers her own secret past there.”

Ann Hood, author of the haunting The Obituary Writer ($16,

To buy: $11,

The Odyssey, by Homer

“For me, The Odyssey is the ultimate beach read. As I read it by the ocean in Australia, the story really came to life: I could see the water, feel the sun, hear the waves that wafted Odysseus onward in his journey to meet his destiny.”

M.L. Stedman, author of the best-selling novel, The Light Between Oceans ($10,

To buy: $15,

Jim the Boy, by Tony Earley

“A quiet, graceful coming-of-age novella set during the Depression.”

Thrity Umrigar, author of The Space Between Us, and five other books, including The World We Found ($6,

To buy: $13,

Goodbye for Now, by Laurie Frankel

“A computer simulation lets people communicate with their loved ones, after they’ve died.”

Jamie Ford, author of Songs of Willow Frost ($8,

To buy: $7,

Kim, by Rudyard Kipling

“When we think ‘beach read’ we do not, perhaps, think first of books published in 1901, but this one totally qualifies. Kipling’s classic is pure adventure and charm, and according to some, it’s the first spy novel.”

Robin Sloan, author of the gleeful mystery Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore ($10,

To buy: $5,

The Demonologist, by Andrew Pyper

The Demonologist, about a professor of Milton using his knowledge of the underworld to try to save his daughter’s life, is both a chilling page-turner and a psychological study of a tormented man.”

Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Chalice ($10,

To buy: $10,


Drinking With Men, by Rosie Schaap

Drinking With Men is a gorgeously written, moving, brilliant memoir about finding community and family, and the beach is the perfect place to fall in love with Rosie Schaap.”

Kate Christensen, author of six novels and the memoir Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites ($10,

To buy: $10,

Mary and O’Neil, by Justin Cronin

“Before Justin Cronin scared the hell out of us with his ripping good vampire saga—The Passage and then The Twelve—he gave us a book that was tender and moving and beautiful: Mary and O’Neil. In that novel in stories, Cronin writes about love—between parents and children, between siblings, between lovers—with a wisdom and humor that’s rare.”

Chris Bohjalian, author of the best-selling novel The Sandcastle Girls ($9, and The Light in the Ruins ($9,

To buy: $15,

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson

“I could be happy reading almost anything at the beach, but it’s a rare book that takes my mind off the trouble of getting there. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand kept me happy through a tedious delay at the airport, a six-hour flight, a long line at the rental car desk, and a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam.”

Annie Barrows, author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society ($7, and the Ivy and Bean series of children’s books.

To buy: $15,

Love Water Memory, by Jennie Shortridge

“This is a moving story told by a wonderful writer. It explores truth and love and reminds us that the people around us have helped form who we are, but in the end, the person we are capable of becoming is up to us.”

Garth Stein, whose three novels include the beloved The Art of Racing in the Rain ($9,

To buy: $16,

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed

“This memoir, of Strayed’s solo three-month trek across the Pacific Coast Trail, is a page-turner and an easy read, and that’s what matters at the beach. But it’s so much more. The writing is raw and vivid, Strayed is a warm and indomitable human being, and her story of loss and redemption is deep and honest and true.”

Susan Cain, author of the nonfiction best-seller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking ($16,

To buy: $10,

Legends of the Fall, by Jim Harrison

“Jim Harrison’s novella Legends of the Fall has everything one could want in a story. It is astonishingly rich, exquisitely written, and can be read in an afternoon.”

Kevin Powers, author of the powerful novel, TheYellow Birds ($15, amazon).

To buy: $6,

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