It’s been awhile since I’ve written a book recommendation post, and since the beginning of the year, I’ve read 28 books, about one fourth of which were audiobooks via LibroFM. And in the hopes you’re taking a summer vacation soon, I’ve rounded up the best beach reads that I’ve read this year—would love to hear what you’re enjoying, too, in the comments.
Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson
This book is everything you’ve heard and more: An irreverent and at times, not-so-lighthearted social commentary of the top 1%, Pineapple Street is a multi-narrator novel that examines the extreme wealthy. Wills, trust funds, prenups, and characters named Cord and Darley—if you love a good peek into the upper echelon of elite NYC society, this book is for you.
All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover
There’s a certain formula to Colleen Hoover’s books that I think makes them particularly digestible in that you know you’re getting exactly what you expect: girl falls in love with boy, boy marries girl, then marriage falls apart (or some variation of). All Your Perfects follows suit. In this case, the lynchpin of Quinn and Graham’s future is having a baby, and much of the struggle they face throughout is infertility (trigger warning to those who want to avoid reading about such sensitive topics). This book—which follows two timelines and is ultimately a portrait of a difficult marriage—is raw, real and heartbreaking at times.
The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn
Kate Quinn can do no wrong. I fell in love with her over The Alice Network, but other works like The Huntress and The Rose Code secured her in my mind as one of the best historical fiction authors of her generation. The Diamond Eye follows real-life Ukrainian librarian Mila Pavlichenko who goes on to be one of the deadliest snipers of World War II, dubbed “Lady Death.” It was a unique perspective on the war you don’t often get to read about, at least not in American literature.
The Friends We Keep by Jane Green
Evvie, Maggie and Topher have been a trio since college in a small British town, then they go their separate ways after graduation and each finds their way into a different pattern of problems. One becomes a modeling sensation and is plagued by disordered eating, the other enters a semi-abusive relationship, and the third tries to come to terms with life as a gay man in New York. It’s a classic coming-of-age tale that takes place across three decades—with the three of them coming together again for their 30th reunion—and I loved the ride.
It Starts With Us by Colleen Hoover
Spoiler alerts ahead for those who have yet to read It Ends With Us. This sequel picks up with Lily Bloom pregnant, divorced, and juggling the weight of having an abusive ex as the future father to her daughter and the promise of new romance. Nothing is ever easy for the heroines of Hoover’s books, and Lily finds herself constantly at odds with her desire to be with Atlas Corrigan while raising her daughter civilly with Ryle, her coparent. Trigger warning: domestic abuse.
Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica
If you’re looking for a mystery, anything by Mary Kubica will generally scratch the itch. Local Woman Missing is a multi-narrator psychological thriller that follows a young girl trapped in the basement of her captors and a family who have also lost a child. Whether or not the missing kid is one and the same becomes a central theme in the novel as everyone in the small town is suddenly cast as a suspect.
The Idea of You by Robinne Lee
This classic B.R.A.D. (beach read after dark, iykyk) has become a re-read favorite of mine, and it gets even better with each read. A 40-year-old, well-respected art gallery owner falls in love with the leader of her teenage’s daughter’s favorite boy band, and what follows is a transcontinental romance that would make anyone swoon.
Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby van Pelt
I put this one off for so long because the premise—a 70-year-old widow at an aquarium in Washington state befriends a giant Pacific octopus, the escape artist Marcellus, living in one of the tanks—sounded a tad silly to me. That could not have been further from the case; this book was positively breathtaking and had so many layers and nuance, as it also wove in the stories of her late son Erik, who died decades before as a teen, and 20-something Cameron who shows up in her aquarium and throws her life for a loop. I’ve heard it’s also great by audiobook as Marin Ireland narrates.
This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub
I’ve never loved a book by Emma Straub, and yet I pick them up every time a new one drops because they get so much hype. I’m glad I broke the cycle with This Time Tomorrow, as this one—one of the best books I’ve read in the past year—earned all the praise and more. Alice wakes up the morning after her 40th birthday as a 16 year old again; the year is 1996, and her dad is still alive. After celebrating her 16th birthday all over again, she eventually returns to present day—and slowly begins to crack the case on what allows her to travel back, seeing this as a way to bring her dad back to live, however temporary. This is not your classic time travel tale, and as someone who lost her father last year, I so deeply felt this book and the desire to have a piece of a departed parent back at any cost.
Three Sisters by Heather Morris
The third book in the Tattooist of Auschwitz series, this piece of historical fiction tells the story of a real set of sisters—Livia, Magda and Cibi—who were all torn away from their family in Poland in World War II and come to find each other in Auschwitz. Morris’ stories are not for the feint of heart as, after spending years interviewing her protagonists’ surviving family members, she describes in great detail exactly what those inhumane conditions were like. And yet, she tells these stories as if she were there. Note: You don’t have to have read the first two books to pick this one up, as while they have overlapping real-life characters, the stories themselves aren’t necessarily connected, but I highly recommend everything this author writes.
The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica
Sadie is new to her small coastal Maine island when her neighbor is found murdered. She takes it upon herself to investigate the murder as she falls deeper into a web of deceit and mystery. While this admittedly was not my favorite Kubica, I found the twist at the end unexpected and indulgent nonetheless. It’s set to be a Netflix original one of these days, and if that does happen, you know I’ll watch it.
Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
You’ve probably seen the Hulu show, or at least the hype surrounding Daisy Jones, but I had to finally read it before watching. I’m a big fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s storytelling, but this was a departure from her normal style as it’s written in a long-form interview with the band known as the Six and its lead singer, Daisy Jones. Once you get into the flow of that style, you’ll be pulled into a psychedelic 70’s world of drugs, sex and rock ‘n roll. Trigger warning: domestic abuse, drug abuse.
Georgie All Along by Kate Clayborn
I grabbed this one because of the cover—yes, I’m that reader—but the cover was far more than the novel itself, which was a bit flat and very slow-paced. Twenty-something Georgie Mulcahy moves back to her hometown in Virginia after her boss, a Hollywood star, decides to retire. Mulcahy discovers a book (she annoyingly refers to as “the fic” throughout) that she wrote in high school and decides to make up for lost time by checking off everything on the list of what is essentially a teenager’s bucket list.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
A young adult read you might want to pick up for your teen this summer, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is the first in a trilogy that follows teen sleuth Pip as she spends her senior year Capstone project trying to crack the unsolved mystery of a murdered teen Andie Bell and her alleged killer Sal Singh five years prior.
Wrong Place, Wrong Time by Gillian McCallister
It took me some time to get into the flow and pacing of this book—it wasn’t until 30 percent that I was finally somewhat invested—despite it being hailed as one of the top novels of last year. In the end, I’m happy to report I loved it, though. A unique take on a crime-filled thriller, McCallister carefully weaves together a story as the narrator goes backward in time trying to undo a crime her son has yet to commit. If you start this and feel frustrated with the pacing, take my word for it and stick with this novel—you’ll be glad you did.
The Villa by Rachel Hawkins
After tearing through Reckless Girls last year, I knew I’d try anything else Hawkins wrote, and while not quite as good, The Villa was equally indulgent—with a big twist at the end. Another dual-timeline novel, The Villa flits between the summer of 1974, when a devastating murder took place at an Italian villa, and the present, when mystery writer Emily Sheridan and her bestie, self-help guru Chess, spend the summer at the site of the crime.
In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner
There are books you like but immediately forget the ending, and there are books you LOVE that you’ll sing from the rooftops and make everyone you know read. In the Wild Light falls in the latter category. Written by a Nashville lawyer and author, this beautifully told young adult read follows a pair of teens who come from devastating circumstances in a small town in Eastern Tennessee (e.g. poverty, drug addiction) and are both given the opportunity to leave town and attend a private boarding school in the Northeast. Many readers have compared it to John Green’s Looking for Alaska, but I think Zentner’s eloquent writing is in a class of its own. Read. This. Book.
The Farewell Tour by Stephanie Clifford
This cover drew me in, and while I give it 5/5 enthusiastic stars, light chick lit it is not, so don’t think this is a lighthearted pool read when you’re looking for something fluffy. Water Lil, a Honky Tonk star who rose to national popularity in her 40s, has a past she’s never reckoned with, and her farewell tour seems a great time to do just that. A dual timeline novel—present day on Lil’s domestic tour, grappling with alcohol abuse and the final days of her vocal chords, and her life growing up in an abusive family in Walla Walla, Washington—this book is a blistering look at what it’s like to be a woman in the recording industry. I loved it and can’t wait to read more by Clifford. Trigger warning: domestic abuse, alcoholism, sexual assault.
These audiobooks will have their separate reviews in a future blog post, but here are the audiobooks I’ve listened to this year through my LibroFM subscription and Audible when not available on Libro:
- Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
- A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backman
- Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow
- Vanderbilt by Anderson Cooper
- The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
- Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
- Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
- Less by Andrew Sean Greer
What are you reading at the beach or by the pool this summer?