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14 perfect summer beach reads for 2021

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Summer may be drawing to a close, but there's still plenty of time to pick up a new beach read. With the extra time on hand, there's nothing better than picking out a book to escape into. 

What makes a great beach read?

If summer is about getting away from it all, then the summer beach read is about helping take you there. The perfect beach read is an easy page-turner that still has substance. Vacation is the perfect time to contemplate, after all.

Culled largely from the ranks of Amazon's best-selling books, these 13 recommended beach reads will have you hooked. The picks are all available for purchase through Amazon, and all boast four-star ratings or higher on the site. Most were newly published within the past year, and all are available in hardcover and for the Kindle e-reader. (Check out these waterproof Kindle e-readers to make these summer beach reads truly beach-safe.)

Looking for the perfect complement -- and companion -- to your summer vacation? Read on to find out what to read. Listed prices are current as of publication.

"The Guest List: A Novel" 

The Guest List: A Novel

This Reese's Book Club pick, written by Lucy Foley, is a murder mystery set at a wedding on an island off the coast of Ireland. The book is filled with intrigue and revealed secrets. You'll meet the bride, the groom, the plus one, the best man, the wedding planner, the bridesmaid and more, but don't get too attached -- before you know it, one of them will turn up dead in "The Guest List."

"The Guest List: A Novel" (Kindle Edition), $5

"The Guest List: A Novel" (Hardcover), $12

"The Last Thing He Told Me: A Novel"

The Last Thing He Told Me
Simon & Schuster via Amazon

Months before the latest tale from Laura Dave ("The Divorce Party") was published, Reese Witherspoon and her production company snapped up the rights, and Julia Roberts signed on to star in its series adaptation for Apple TV+. So, yes, "The Last Thing He Told Me" has juice. It's the story of a woman, her teen step-daughter -- and a husband who goes missing. Vogue called the novel "light and bright, despite its edgy plot."

"The Last Thing He Told Me: A Novel" (Kindle Edition), $14

"The Last Thing He Told Me: A Novel" (Hardcover), $16


untamed by glennon doyle
The Dial Press via Amazon

Glennon Doyle's "Untamed" still holds strong as a bestseller since its release in March 2020. Her No. 1 New York Times bestselling memoir has had celebrities from Reese Witherspoon to Oprah Winfrey raving, with millions of copies sold. This emotional page-turner tells the empowering story of Doyle's self-discovery. Find out what happens when she leaves discontentment behind in favor of living her truth.

"Untamed" (Kindle Edition), $15

"Untamed" (Hardcover), $14

"Project Hail Mary"

Project Hail Mary
Ballantine Books via Amazon

Is there a genre that's more escapist than sci-fi? If you're looking for an out-of-this-world trip this summer, then "Project Hail Mary" may be your ticket. The new novel by Andy Weir, best known for "The Martian," is about a man who wakes up on a spaceship with no idea why he's there, or who he is. Fortunately for humankind, he comes to learn he's not exactly unqualified for his station (he's an astronaut) or his mission (to save the Earth). Like other books in this rundown, "Project Hail Mary" is bound for Hollywood: Ryan Gosling is set to star in the big-screen version.

"Project Hail Mary" (Kindle Edition), $15

"Project Hail Mary" (Hardcover), $14

"Seven Days in June"

"Seven Days in June"
Grand Central Publishing via Amazon

This new novel by Tia Williams ("The Accidental Diva") seems custom-made for beach readers. "Seven Days in June" is set not only in the summer, natch, but also the world of books. The tale of two authors reconnecting after a long-ago, teenage fling was hailed as "[o]ne of the most anticipated romance novels of the summer" by Oprah Daily.

"Seven Days in June" (Kindle Edition), $14

"Seven Days in June" (Hardcover), $17

"Malibu Rising: A Novel"

Malibu Rising
Random House via Amazon

"Malibu Rising" is the latest novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Reid previously offered up one of 2019's best beach reads in "Daisy Jones & the Six," a faux oral history of a faux 1970s music supergroup. This time out, Reid spins a story that's set primarily in 1983, and concerns a Southern California family, a house party -- and a raging wildfire. Praised Publishers Weekly: "This page-turning indulgence hits the spot."

"Malibu Rising" (Kindle Edition), $14

"Malibu Rising" (Hardcover), $17

"The Guncle"

The Guncle
G.P. Putnam's Sons via Amazon

This new novel by Steven Rowley ("Lily and the Octopus") was named one of the Washington Post's "[f]eel-good books to brighten your summer." In it, Patrick, known to his young niece and nephew as Gay Uncle Patrick, or GUP, unexpectedly becomes the caretaker to the two tykes. "Rowley's depth and humor will warm even the most jaded hearts," the Post judged.

"The Guncle" (Kindle Edition), $15

"The Guncle" (Hardcover), $21

"The Chosen and the Beautiful" 

Tordotcom via Amazon

In "one of 2021's must-read novels," per Bustle, author Nghi Vo ("The Empress of Salt and Fortune") reimagines "The Great Gatsby" from the perspective of Jordan Baker. In F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, Jordan is a white southerner who is Nick Carroway's love interest. In "The Chosen and the Beautiful," she's a queer Vietnamese adoptee. "Did we mention the book also mixes in magical realism?" USA Today asked. (USA Today did -- and the book does.)

"The Chosen and the Beautiful" (Kindle Edition)

"The Chosen and the Beautiful" (Hardcover)

"The Other Black Girl: A Novel"

The Other Black Girl
Atria Books via Amazon

This debut novel by Zakiya Dalila Harris is generating tons of buzz. An Amazon editors' pick as a Best Book of June 2021, "The Other Black Girl" draws from Harris' former workaday life at a top publishing house. Billed as a thriller, the novel tells the story of Nella, a 26-year-old editorial assistant at (wait for it) a top publishing house. Nella is the only Black staffer in the otherwise all-white team until Hazel comes on board -- and complications ensue. "Harris's writing propels you forward through the story," the New York Times said.

"The Other Black Girl" (Kindle Edition), $13

"The Other Black Girl" (Hardcover), $13

"The Ugly Cry: A Memoir"

The Ugly Cry
Viking via Amazon

The first non-fiction read in this rundown, "The Ugly Cry" is Danielle Henderson's story of growing up, as the book's publisher puts it, "Black, weird, and overwhelmingly uncool in a mostly white neighborhood in upstate New York." Henderson, who was raised by her grandmother, is a TV writer ("Maniac") and podcaster ("I Saw What You Did"). Her memoir is, the Associated Press declared, "powerful and energetic."

"The Ugly Cry" (Hardcover), $15

"The Ugly Cry" (Hardcover), $20

"People We Meet on Vacation"

People We Meet on Vacation
Berkley via Amazon

Author Emily Henry literally wrote the book on beach reads -- or, one of them at least: Her 2020 entry, "Beach Read," was a New York Times bestseller. The novelist returns this summer with "People We Meet on Vacation," about two longtime friends, Alex and Poppy, who resume their once-annual ritual of summering together. The Wall Street Journal called out Henry's "laugh-out-loud funny" dialogue. 

"People We Meet on Vacation" (Kindle Edition), $10

"People We Meet on Vacation" (Paperback), $10

"Tiger Girl and the Candy Kid: America's Original Gangster Couple" 

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via Amazon

No, true-crime tales are not for streaming binges only. "Tiger Girl and the Candy Kid" is a tome by veteran author Glenn Stout about Jazz Age baddies Margaret and Richard Whittemore, aka the "original gangster couple" of the book's subtitle. Stout's work is one of the New York Times' picks for best new true-crime books to read for summer 2021. "Stout has done more than simply chronicle the couple's crimes," Tina Jordan wrote for the Times. "He has tried to understand what motivated the Whittemores."

"Tiger Girl and the Candy Kid" (Kindle Edition), $15

"Tiger Girl and the Candy Kid" (Hardcover), $16

"Crazy Rich Asians"

Crazy Rich Asians
Anchor via Amazon

A classic beach-reading experience demands a classic beach read -- or two. Here's the first pick from this bucket: Kevin Kwan's mammoth 2013 hit, "Crazy Rich Asians." Whether you're re-reading the novel for the 100th time, or reading it for the first time (after seeing the hit movie for the 100th time), you'll be swept into the craziness that is the romance of Rachel Chu and Nick Young.

"Crazy Rich Asians" (Kindle Edition), $10

"Crazy Rich Asians" (Paperback), $7.48

"Valley of the Dolls"

Valley of the Dolls
Grove Press via Amazon

This is our second pick for a classic beach read. Jacqueline Susann's passionate, and passionately written, "Valley of the Dolls" was first published in 1966. Set in the post-World War II New York City, it's a tale of three young women with big dreams, and occasionally big drug problems. Summed up Nancy Bachrach once for NPR, "'Valley of the Dolls' is a zipper-ripper that has been called trashy, tawdry, glitzy, lusty, sordid and seamy -- and that's just the beginning of its appeal." 

"Valley of the Dolls" (Kindle Edition), $10

"Valley of the Dolls" (Paperback), $14

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