The Best Beach Reads of Summer 2018

Everything's beachy when you've got the perfect book in tow.

best beach reads of summer 2018

Whether you’re beach-bound, setting sail, or just cooling off on the porch with an iced tea, we’ve got the perfect reads for your summery settings. From effervescent and wry novels to nuanced stories of upheaval and social justice, this guide to the most rapt summertime reads will keep your literary life easy and breezy, even when the weather isn’t.

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

Meg Wolitzer’s latest is a modern social novel that delves into the charged relationship between Greer Kadetsky, an undergrad, and Faith Frank, a Gloria Steinem-esque feminist speaker, as Greer comes into her own burgeoning involvement in women’s empowerment circles. Following Greer, her boyfriend Cary, and the tumultuous ensuing years in Greer’s corporate feminist realm, The Female Persuasion is a powerful complement to summer’s hush. (Riverhead, April 3)

 

Swimming Between Worlds by Elaine Neil Orr

Set during the tension of the Civil Rights Movement, Swimming Between Worlds is a distinctly Southern coming-of-age novel. Tracing the paths of Gaines Townson, a young African American man, Tacker Hart, a North Carolina football hero turned disgrace, and Kate Monroe, a young woman seeking to find the truth in disturbing letters left to her, Orr’s novel brings us squarely into a fraught societal moment as these three dynamic characters reconcile their pasts with their prospective futures. (Berkley, April 3)

 

A Lady’s Guide to Selling Out by Sally Franson 

Braiding influences of Mad Men with The Devil Wears Prada, Sally Franson’s electric debut follows Casey Prendergast, a former idealistic English major and current ad exec, as she crisscrosses the country to partner literary writers with upmarket brands. Watching her icons compromise throughout her journey, Casey’s forced to confront the humanistic cost of success and what she’s learned from her own romantic entanglement with one of her authors. (Dial Press, April 10)

 

The Pisces by Melissa Broder

From the Twitter personality and author of So Sad Today comes an irreverent yet divinely serious novel that brings us into 38-year-old Lucy’s life, fresh from a breakup as she heads to Los Angeles to house- and dog-sit for her sister. Chronicling Lucy’s disastrous Tinder dates, illuminative group therapy sessions, and her nightly meetings with a young, charming swimmer, Broder delves into questions of love—whether Lucy has it, wants it, or even needs it. (Hogarth, May 1)

 

Do This For Me by Eliza Kennedy 

Raney Moore is a lawyer with everything going for her, from her partnership at a leading NYC firm to her happy family and oblivious sense of contentment. But when accusations of her husband’s infidelity arise, Raney’s life turns upside down, suffused with rage, regret, and the resettlement of her kids in a rundown Brooklyn townhouse. Showing there’s more to the world than the expected hum of daily life, Do This For Me is an uproarious, poignant read. (Crown, May 15)

 

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel 

Looking behind the staid orchestral façade, The Ensemble reveals the thrum and drama of the Van Ness Quartet: Jana and Brit, the first and second violinists, Daniel, the cellist, and Henry, the viola player. From their initial rocky start to the seismic swing of heart-stopping failure and frothy success, the group remains intertwined through their careers and the intensity of their shared art. Riveting and cutthroat, The Ensemble is a novelistic look at lives made and shattered in concert. (Riverhead, May 15)

 

The Glitch by Elisabeth Cohen 

A hilarious debut pitch-perfect for the sandy months, The Glitch introduces us to Shelley Stone, a TED-talking Silicon Valley CEO and mom who has it all under control—or so it seems, until someone claiming to be a younger Shelley appears, bringing a massive glitch into Shelley’s overworked existence. Her overwrought brain can’t help but wonder: is she finally buckling under pressure? Told with a voice by turns brainy and riotous, Elisabeth Cohen has given us one of the most memorable characters in new fiction. (Doubleday, May 22)

 

The High Season by Judy Blundell 

A resident of Long Island’s North Fork, Ruthie surrenders her Long Island Sound-adjacent house each summer in order to keep her family’s life financially afloat. But when wealthy widow Adeline Clay moves into Ruthie’s house, she takes more than her share, ingratiating herself into Ruthie’s circles and even with Ruthie’s ex-husband. Facing mutiny at home and in the office, Ruthie must fully cast herself into this summery drama to claim what’s hers. (Random House, May 22)

 

When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger 

Miranda Priestly’s ex-assistant Emily Charlton is an image consultant in Hollywood, but she’s recently been losing clients, and she needs a big break, stat. Enter Karolina, a supermodel turned senator’s scandalized wife, and Miriam, a prestigious lawyer and supermom who links Karolina and Emily. Together, the three women navigate the social barbs in Greenwich, Connecticut and reveal the truths—and lies—that simmer just below the glittering surface. (Simon & Schuster, June 5)

 

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang 

For 30-year-old Stella Lane, math’s always been the universe’s unifying factor—after all, her work is rooted in algorithmically predicting customer purchases. The job might’ve earned her more money than she can possibly spend, but the tradeoff is that she’s got less love-life experience than most. Until she hires Michael Phan, a Vietnamese-Swedish escort assigned to help Stella conquer her dating apprehension. As they grow closer, their no-nonsense partnership starts making sense, underscoring for Stella that love might be the most reliable logic of all. (Berkley, June 5)

 

Florida by Lauren Groff 

The blisteringly humid Sunshine State is a fitting backdrop for Groff’s signature, artful fiction. Spanning centuries, characters, and narratives, Florida shows us the worlds of exhausted mothers, starving sisters abandoned on an island, and a graduate student’s inexorable slide into homelessness. Through these voices—witty and wise, recurring and fearful—Groff gives us a perfect collection for a summer read, or truly any season at all. (Riverhead, June 5)

 

Visible Empire by Hannah Pittard 

After the catastrophic crash of Chateau de Sully, a plane shepherding Atlanta residents home from Europe, the city changes. Unmoored lovers, husbands, children, and wives are faced with the daunting challenge of remaking their worlds. From a newspaper editor considering reconciling with his estranged wife to 19-year-old Piedmont Dobbs, a student denied admission to an integrated school, the city now hinges on this sudden moment of uncertainty amid the growing urgency of the Civil Rights Movement. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June 5)

 

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir 

Truly a novel for our high-pitched, obsessive reality TV times, The Book of Essie is a captivating novelistic narrative of family, fame, and religion, unfurling the story of the 17-year-old daughter of an evangelical preacher and the secret pregnancy that threatens to blow their world—and juggernaut reality show—apart. (Knopf, June 12)

 

Tell Me No Lies by Adele Griffin 

Set against the neon pop vibe of late-80s Philadelphia, Tell Me No Lies takes a look at the flutters and terrors of that first great love. Lizzy Swift boldly emerges from her nerdy chrysalis, tentative to spark something with Matt, her erstwhile crush, and befriend the school’s enigmatic senior transfer student, Claire, who introduces her to the hum and thrill of downtown clubs and Philly’s vibrant art scene. As Lizzy wrestles with conundrums of art, passion, and first love, we fall for her contemplative voice. (Algonquin Young Readers, June 12)

 

When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri 

When Katie, a Kentucky transplant with a traditionalist streak, meets New Yorker Cassidy, a self-assured woman effortlessly sporting a men’s suit, we’re rewarded with an incisive, rom-com-infused look at gender norms and the value of knowing who we are within the greater world—from the boardroom to the bedroom, and everywhere in between. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, June 19)

 

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin 

All We Ever Wanted ushers readers into glittering Nashville society through the storylines of Nina Browning, a middle-class woman elevated into a life with a wealthy tech entrepreneur and a brainy son, and Tom Volpe, a struggling father working to raise his daughter Lyla into a better life. After an errant photo snapped at a party threatens to wrest the town apart, Giffin’s characters must confront their true selves and find the courage to live with genuine intention. (Ballantine, June 26)

 

Lady Be Good by Amber Brock 

Atmospheric and captivating, Amber Brock’s Lady Be Good is a sweeping epic wrapped up in the humming debauchery of nightclubs stretching from New York to Miami, and all the way to steamy Cuba. With the story of Kitty Tessler, the clever daughter of a self-made man who’s succeeded wildly in the hospitality world, and her struggles with matters of friendship, love, and loyalty, Brock’s crafted an idyllic complement for summer relaxation. (Crown, June 26)

 

Playing with Matches by Hannah Orenstein 

In lockstep with our Tinder-heavy times, Playing with Matches delves into the wilder side of modern love. After falling out with her fiancé, fledgling matchmaker Sasha Goldberg finds herself spinning toward a Southern writer, with just one problem: she’s already set him up with one of her clients. Addictive and zinging, this novel will have your Tinder matches languishing as you rush to the end. (Touchstone, June 26)

 

The Last Cruise by Kate Christensen 

All aboard for drama on the high seas! The Last Cruise embroils us in the antics and strife of the guests board the Queen Isabella, a 1950s-era ocean liner taking one final voyage in the thoroughly modern 2000s. From a journalist to an overtired sous-chef, to the below-deck crew and a prominent violinist, there’s no shortage of surprise, either port or starboard. (Doubleday, July 10)

 

The Occasional Virgin by Hanan al-Shaykh 

Bold and fearlessly written, The Occasional Virgin brings the past roaring back to two 30-something women, Huda and Yvonne, as they seek restoration on the Riviera. Tarrying between the weight of heritage and religious tradition—Christian for Yvonne and Muslim for Huda—and the pull of their contemporary professional identities, the women must delve deep into their search for ultimate fulfillment. (Pantheon, July 10)

 

The Late Bloomers’ Club by Louise Miller 

Winsome and charming, The Late Bloomers’ Club features Nora, the proprietor of the Miss Guthrie Diner, as she pours coffee and slings donuts to her customers. But when Nora’s life is shaken by the news that she and Kit, her wild younger sister, stand to inherit the home of cherished local “cake lady” Peggy Johnson, Nora—along with the whole town—must make some tough choices about loyalty, cashing out, and what it means to do the right thing. (Pamela Dorman Books, July 17)

 

Mary B by Katherine J. Chen 

Recasting what you think you know about a Jane Austen classic, Mary B retells the iconic Pride and Prejudice tale from Mary Bennet’s not-so-prim perspective. Underscoring that sometimes it’s the quietest wallflowers who have the most to say, Katherine Chen’s fiercely independent Mary relishes her abundant inner life even as her wittier, prettier sisters chase their own destinies—and her imaginative humor will enliven summer’s most languid readers. (Random House, July 24)

 

The Shortest Way Home by Miriam Parker 

Emphasizing the mix of risk and glory in making a massive change, The Shortest Way Home shows what happens when Hannah, a nearly-graduated grad student, jettisons the trappings of a seemingly perfect life to rescue a flailing winery. Settling into a postcard-perfect cottage, making new friends, and mingling with William, the winery owners’ striking son, Hannah’s forced to confront her own expectations in order to craft the life she really wants. Humorous and heartfelt, it’s the ideal escapist read for a sweltering afternoon. (Dutton, July 31)

 

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras 

Strung between the influences of a lush, gated community, the harsher reality outside those walls, and the looming terror of Pablo Escobar’s brutal reign, Fruit of the Drunken Tree brings us into the lives of Chula, a privileged and inquisitive girl, and Petrona, a hopeful yet desperate young woman hired as Chula’s family’s live-in maid. Woven through with mesmerizing prose and alternating perspectives, this debut will keep you captivated. (Doubleday, July 31)

 

Horse by Talley English 

A plainspoken and wholly original novel, Horse braids together the lives of Teagan, a girl abandoned by her father and left adrift on her family’s farm, and Ian (short for Obsidian), a willful and stubborn horse also deserted by Teagan’s father. Threading themes of love and loss, enduring connectivity, and the reluctant creep of forgiveness into a stunning narrative quilt, Horse enchants as only the best summer debuts do. (Knopf, August 7)

 

The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher 

The Shakespeare Requirement tells the tale of Jason Fitger, the new head of Payne University’s English department. But before he can relish his promotion, Jason’s already fending off contenders. From the budget-controlling dean who’s sleeping with Jason’s ex-wife to the Economics Department, which always seems to have Jason’s wing in its crosshairs, nothing seems safe. Ribald and wild, this spirited satire is the perfect close-out to summer’s lit-happy end. (Doubleday, August 14)

 


Featured Image: Matt McCarty

About Jesse Aylen

Jesse Aylen

JESSE AYLEN is a New York City-based freelance writer, editor, and digital content consultant. When not immersing himself in scads of memoirs and essays, he’s likely tinkering with his website, www.aylenwrites.com.