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32 Best Beach Reads for the Perfect Escape

Summer is practically built on great beach reads. So sit back, grab your sunglasses and relax with a good book.

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Engaging beach reads for pure escapism

When it comes to picking the best beach reads, we all want books that will sweep us off our feet and help us detach from reality a little. We scoured the shelves to bring you titles that are the perfect summertime distractions and that you won’t be able to put down—from swooning romances to laugh-out-loud comedies to heart-racing thrillers. Psst … you don’t need to wait until your next official vacation to read one of these summer books. These beach reads are perfect anytime you want to lose yourself in a book.

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How we chose the best beach reads

This curated list of beach reads includes selections from Reader’s Digest book editors (look for the “Reader’s Digest Editor’s Pick” seal), fan favorites that raked in rave reviews, anticipated novels that have tons of buzz and critically acclaimed bestsellers from readers’ favorite authors. (C’mon, who doesn’t love an Emily Henry novel?)

Once you’ve read them all, you can find more gripping titles from our lists of favorite travel books, romance novels, best books of all time, young adult novels, fantasy novels and historical fiction. And if that’s not enough, we’ve rounded up books like The Summer I Turned Pretty and tips on how to read Elin Hilderbrand books in order and The Summer I Turned Pretty Books in order. Make some space on your bookshelves, because you’re about to mark dozens of books TBR.

Looking for your next great book? Read four of today’s bestselling novels in the time it takes to read one with Reader’s Digest Select Editions. And be sure to follow the Select Editions page on Facebook!

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1. Beach Read by Emily Henry

Release date: May 18, 2020

Can we kick off a list of the best beach reads with anything other than Emily Henry’s 2020 rom-com? While not the spiciest book on the list, Beach Read practically vibrates with sexual tension and a few much-anticipated steamy scenes. (Older teens might love the novel, but we wouldn’t call it appropriate for your 11-year-old.) The plot goes like this: Romance author January isn’t sure if she believes in love anymore. Literary fiction superstar Gus is deep in the muck of writer’s block. So when the two end up at neighboring beach houses for the summer, they make a pact to help each other get out of a rut. Their witty banter and angsty pasts give way to pure heartwarming romance as the summer unfolds.

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2. Only Love Can Hurt Like This by Paige Toon

Release date: April 25, 2023

Not all great beach reads are effervescent from beginning to end. If you love an emotional story à la Colleen Hoover or Jojo Moyes, you need to snag a copy of Only Love Can Hurt Like This—it’s the May Reader’s Digest Book Club pick! After a heart-shattering breakup with her cheating fiancé, Wren flees the U.K. for the summer. She ends up smack dab in the middle of Middle America, where the corn grows higher by the week as she slowly opens her heart to the widowed farmer next door. It looks like a breezy summer fling until you realize her love interest is harboring a devastating secret.

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3. Same Time Next Summer by Annabel Monaghan

Release date: June 6, 2023

No matter how old you get or how far away you move, there’s no forgetting your first true love. But Sam doesn’t want to remember Wyatt—how he looked into her soul, how his hand felt on her body or, primarily, how he broke her heart. Now that she’s engaged to steady, predictable Jack, she can’t imagine it any other way. Then again, when she and Jack spend the weekend at her family’s old beach house, and Wyatt shows up next door, she has to wonder why her heart won’t stop thumping at the thought of her high school sweetheart. Same Time Next Summer has all the makings of an iconic summer read. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for the book-to-movie adaptation.

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4. Summer Reading by Jenn McKinlay

Release date: May 16, 2023

What makes Jenn McKinlay’s Summer Reading one of the best new books of 2023? Let us count the ways. There’s the sunny setting of Martha’s Vineyard. A comedic meet-cute on the ferry to the island. Vacation vibes throughout, topped with a hot summer fling between a librarian and a chef. And did we mention that wholesome sibling bond that will warm hearts? But this novel also goes beyond ticking all the “summer reading” boxes. The book includes themes of familial love and grief, plus sensitive neurodivergent representation.

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5. Camp Zero by Michelle Min Sterling

Release date: April 4, 2023

Heads up: Camp Zero is no summer camp adventure. Set in snowy northern Canada in the not-so-distant future, it’s a dystopian thriller perfect for fans of postapocalyptic page-turners like Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. But sci-fi stories can also make excellent beach books, especially if they’re as intensely transportive as this one. The journey begins when Rose arrives at Camp Zero, an off-grid community for climate change refugees and researchers. But of course, the camp’s illustrious architect has an agenda of his own. What is his ultimate plan, and who can Rose trust in this strange new place? Michelle Min Sterling’s latest book brilliantly explores how gender, class, home and power intersect on a rapidly warming planet.

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6. The Cuban Heiress by Chanel Cleeton

Release date: April 11, 2023

This summer, escape to 1934 and climb aboard the Morro Castle, a luxury cruise ship carrying New York’s rich and wannabe rich to Havana. In The Cuban Heiress, the lives of an heiress and jewel thief intertwine as they realize someone wants one of them dead. As the ship goes out to sea, the noose seems to tighten. Who can you trust, and will justice be served in the end of this thriller?

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7. The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

Release date: Jan. 3, 2023

Rachel Hawkins’s riveting summer read takes place in an Italian villa with a gruesome past. Emily and Chess were childhood best friends. Now writers in their 30s, they decide to reconnect by joining up for a girls trip in Orvieto, a dramatic walled city clinging to the Umbrian cliffside. Emily is fascinated and inspired by the history of murder in the villa. Perhaps it could be the seed for her next novel? But now Chess is also interested, and the more Emily learns, the tenser their reunion gets. Don’t forget the sunscreen, because this scintillating mystery book will absorb your attention for hours.

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8. Confidence by Rafael Frumkin

Release date: March 7, 2023

Craving a cheeky satire for your next summer read? Rafael Frumkin’s Confidence belongs in your beach bag. Ezra and Orson are modern-day con men. Their brains—and yes, sometimes their bodies—have been connected ever since they first met at a camp for troubled teens. Thanks to a shiny new wellness venture, they’re now poised to sink their teeth into the bank accounts of Silicon Valley moguls and celebrities. This dark comedy dazzles with themes of capitalism, crime and the magnetism of the American Dream.

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9. Silver Alert by Lee Smith

Release date: April 18, 2023

A road-trip romp in the Florida Keys? Sounds like summer reading fare. Lee Smith’s Silver Alert isn’t a romance that will make you weak in the knees. It isn’t a fast-paced thriller that will make you wonder if that bead of sweat on your brow is from the sunlight or adrenaline. Instead, it’s a sweet, charming friendship story about an octogenarian’s last hurrah with anyone who’s willing to tag along—even if that is his dying wife’s manicurist.

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10. Now You See Us by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Release date: March 7, 2023

Mysteries and crime books make fun beach reads too! Meet Corazon, Donita and Angel. They’re Filipino domestic workers eking out a living in glitzy Singapore. And when a murder is committed in their network, they decide it’s up to them to get to the bottom of it before an innocent housekeeper or caregiver takes the fall for a crime she didn’t commit. Though Now You See Us explores serious themes of racism and classism, it’s threaded with heartwarming friendships and good humor.

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11. The Celebrants by Steven Rowley

Release date: May 30, 2023

Already named one of Buzzfeed‘s “Most Anticipated LGBTQ+ Books of 2023,” The Celebrants is also a delightful poolside or beachfront vacation. Funny, tender and achingly nostalgic, Steven Rowley’s latest follows five college friends who reunite periodically to throw themselves “living funerals.” At first, it was funny, but now the group’s antics feel like depressing portrayals of all they haven’t accomplished—at least, not yet. The book opens on the most recent reunion, which is about to get heavy as one of the friends reveals he needs support for what will be his toughest year yet.

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12. Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Release date: May 3, 2022

Even the cover of this Emily Henry romance will have you dreaming of a plane ride or beach day long enough to let you devour the story in one go. As the title suggests, this delightful book was made for bibliophiles. Book Lovers is the story of a whip-smart literary agent and a mysterious book editor who can’t seem to escape each other—even during their summer vacation away from the city. The enemies-turned-lovers trope has never been so enchanting.

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13. James Patterson: The Stories of My Life by James Patterson

Release date: June 6, 2022

Summer reading doesn’t have to be all rom-coms and flights of fancy—after all, reading is important for your brain. Find a balance between frothy paperback novels and intense literary titles with James Patterson‘s fascinating autobiography. Despite the fact that it’s nonfiction, it promises to be a doozy of a beach read—all action, ambition and celebrity, with nary a saccharine story in sight. The book will detail how one small-town boy from upstate New York grew to become one of the best-known writers in the world.

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14. The Bodyguard by Katherine Center

Release date: July 19, 2022

If your perfect beach reads are sizzling romance novels mixed with laugh-out-loud foibles and a dash of fast-paced action, The Bodyguard is calling your name. In a storyline that author Jodi Picoult has called “unequivocally delightful,” professional bodyguard Hannah Brooks must pose as shadowy superstar Jack Stapleton’s girlfriend on a trip back to his childhood home. This easy, breezy romp might easily become one of the best books to read at the beach this year.

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15. The Family You Make by Jill Shalvis

Release date: January 11, 2022

Heads up: If you love The Family You Make, you’re in luck! It’s the first of a new Jill Shalvis series. And though this particular plot is set in snowy ski country, the warmth of the characters’ connection makes it a delightful summer read as well as a great Christmas book. When two strangers get caught in a blizzard, one of them calls home with an impulsive lie that he believes will be his deathbed tale. But when the two live to see another day, they must unravel the truth from lies, and real romance from false pretense, without pushing each other away.

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16. The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark

Release date: June 21, 2022

Psychological thrillers can make great beach reads. In The Lies I Tell, a con woman and the woman whose life she might have ruined forge an unlikely friendship. As their relationship deepens, both question their motivations—and their notion of what justice for the past might mean for the future. This twisty, mind-bending domestic thriller will stick with you all summer long.

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17. Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan

Release date: June 7, 2022

Annabel Monaghan’s debut adult novel Nora Goes Off Script follows Nora Hamilton, a romance channel screenwriter whose husband has just walked out of her life. In a mischievous act of revenge, she turns her tragedy into a romantic movie screenplay. But when that screenplay gets picked up for the big screen and she’s thrown into the world of celebrities like Leo Vance—aka the “Sexiest Man Alive”—life goes a little off-script.

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18. Lucy Checks In by Dee Ernst

Release date: Aug. 16, 2022

Lucy Giannetti’s life and career implode after she takes the fall for a high-profile love affair in Lucy Checks In. Desperate and alone, she travels to France to work at the Hotel Paradis, a rustic and rundown inn. But is it possible to begin a brand-new life at the age of 49? Can she find romance, friendship and happiness so far from home? Add this one to your beach bag to find out!

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19. My Summer Darlings by May Cobb

Release date: May 17, 2022

This riveting crime book follows a trio of wine-loving Texas women who want nothing more than a little excitement in their lives. In walks new-in-town Will Harding to quench their thirst. But as each woman’s relationship with Will sizzles, they become more detached from one another and entwined with the mysterious man’s edgy, deadly motives. With My Summer Darlings, prepare for a sexy sizzle of a beach read!

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20. The Tobacco Wives by Adele Myers

Release date: March 1, 2022

Before the proverbial ink had even dried, The Tobacco Wives topped bibliophiles’ must-read lists for 2022. It also landed on our roundups of the best historical fiction books and best books written by female authors. The coming-of-age story about a North Carolina dressmaker investigating her town’s powerful elite will get your heart pounding and mind swirling on any summer vacation. It’s the perfect escapist read to entertain, inspire and feel empowered to make changes once you leave your beach towel.

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21. Fake by Erica Katz

Release date: Feb. 22, 2022

If you’re looking for mystery books to read on the beach this summer, Erica Katz delivers. In Fake, protagonist Emma Caan creates copies of famous artworks. One day, an art collector whose work she has created for years shows up and introduces himself. He’s rich—filthy rich. And he’s asking her to take on a side hustle that could change her life forever. Of course, things go wrong, but along the way, Katz escorts readers through a dazzling rotation of high-society fetes and venues. It’s a fun, breezy romp through an underground world dripping with gold.

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22. Gilt by Jamie Brenner

Release date: June 21, 2022

From the author of Blush comes another luscious summer sizzler for your list of beach reads. In Gilt, you’ll burst onto the scene of a high-society family of jewelers with something to hide. When family outcast Gemma Maybrook decides to return to the flock to take back what’s hers, sparks will fly. From the concrete jungle of New York to the sun-drenched streets of Provincetown on Cape Cod, author Jamie Brenner takes her readers on a summer adventure.

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23. One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

Release date: March 1, 2022

The perfect beach reads should take you places—preferably beautiful, romantic vacation destinations. In the case of One Italian Summer, prepare to land at the sophisticated Hotel Poseidon in Positano, Italy. There, a woman grieving the loss of her beloved mother begins to question everything: Her marriage. Her happiness. Her purpose. But when a woman like her mother (only decades younger) befriends her, a magical, transformative journey begins. This book will transport you in more ways than one, and it makes a great mother-daughter book to read together on vacation.

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24. The It Girl by Ruth Ware

Release date: July 12, 2022

In The It Girl, bestselling author Ruth Ware tackles an Oxford campus whodunit. A decade after the crime, Hannah Jones has finally moved on from the murder of her sharp-tongued college friend, April. But when a journalist shows up with clues that suggest the wrong man went to jail, Hannah reconnects with her college crew to figure out what happened. And as in most Ruth Ware novels, secrets are revealed as a dangerous game begins.

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25. The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

Release date: March 15, 2022

In The Sun Down Motel, Simone St. James gave readers a delightfully creepy noir fiction masterpiece, and in The Book of Cold Cases, she does it again. With a story reminiscent of the best Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie chillers, a true-crime blogger named Shea gets the chance to meet an acquitted murder suspect in the latter’s dark mansion. This is spine-tingling summer reading that will make you want to turn on all the lights—or read in broad daylight by the pool.

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26. Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li

Release date: April 5, 2022

If you’re looking for books by Asian authors, pick up Portrait of a Thief. Reminiscent of Ocean’s Eleven and Baby Driver, this action-packed yet contemplative heist will have your mind reeling until the last paragraph. The premise is simple: A tight crew of Chinese American students is offered a job: steal back precious Chinese artwork lifted from Beijing generations ago. Grace D. Li’s slick storytelling, combined with touching portrayals of identity, home and friendship, makes a delicious, moving summer read.

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27. A Brush with Love by Mazey Eddings

Release date: March 1, 2022

Mazey Eddings’s debut novel, A Brush with Love, is the fresh, breezy breath of air your beach bag needs. Charming protagonist Harper lives with anxiety. And ambition. It’s hard to know where one ends and the other begins. That’s why she swears she won’t slip up and topple carefully laid plans even when romance stares her in the face. But when she and “just a friend” Dan spend more time together, can Harper stay the course?

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28. The Counselors by Jessica Goodman

Release date: May 31, 2022

If the blood-splattered swimsuit on the cover isn’t enough to warn you, we’ll say it: This one’s an edge-of-your-seat horror book that will keep you riveted until the end. The Counselors is the story of three best friends who spend the summer before college as camp counselors. When a body turns up in the lake, lies fly and lifelong friendships fray. So who saw what? Who is telling the truth? And who will solve the mystery first?

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29. The Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner

Release date: May 10, 2022

In Jennifer Weiner’s beach read The Summer Place, a family wedding at an old Cape Cod beach house goes haywire when lovers are unmasked, lies bloom into full-fledged rumors and intimate secrets spill out into the open. With romance, comedy and a poignant display of humans in all their messy forms of love, Weiner has again offered the world a perfect summer beach read.

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30. Husband Material by Alexis Hall

Release date: Aug. 2, 2022

If Alexis Hall’s last great LGBTQ book gave you a major book hangover, you’ll fall head over heels for the next chapter. A follow-up to the author’s beloved Boyfriend Material, Husband Material follows Luc and Oliver into the next season of their relationship. But how many weddings must they attend before Luc drums up the courage to propose?

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31. One Night on the Island by Josie Silver

Release date: Feb. 15, 2022

What would you do if you arrived at your vacation rental and realized it had been double-booked by an insufferable (albeit handsome) stranger? That’s the premise of Josie Silver’s romantic hit One Night on the Island. Cleo Wilder has escaped to the Irish wilds to recharge alone on her 30th birthday. Mack Sullivan booked the same charming cottage for a soul-searching retreat. Unfortunately, their trips aren’t quite as solo as they’d hoped. Readers will find this cozy summer romance delightful from the beach, the campfire or a sunny corner of the house.

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32. The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Release date: July 19, 2022

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau offers a beautiful blend of historical fiction, feminism, romance and sci-fi. The summer read is set in dreamy 19th-century Mexico, where Carlota lives isolated in a luxury estate under the watchful eye of her father. When a handsome stranger arrives and throws everything off-balance, she awakens to uncomfortable truths—and blossoming passions. If you’re looking for books by Latinx authors, this is a perfect summer choice.

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Leandra Beabout
Leandra Beabout writes for Reader's Digest and a variety of national lifestyle, wellness and travel publications and brand websites. She covers all things books and words for Reader's Digest, and when she's not on deadline, you can find her curled up with a new novel or planning her next trip.