Sun, sand, surf — and books — make for an unbeatable combination. These beach reads, which are actually set on the beach, are perfect for when you’re relaxing at the seashore, lake or cottage — or just dreaming of being there. And we’ve thrown in some oldies, but goodies too!
The beach: The south of France
The book: You know the old saying: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. This Golden Age mystery follows a woman living in England in the 1940s, who escapes her unhappy marriage when a wealthy stranger leaves her a mysterious inheritance; and to find out what it is, she travels to the south of France where she discovers she’s inherited an enchanting villa overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Her life, instantly transformed from gray and gloomy to glamorous, takes a deadly twist when challengers to her newly gained fortune begin to emerge.
The beach: Second World War-era Nassau
The book: Beyond the beautiful beaches, Bahamas in 1941 is a hotbed of spies, traitors, and probably the most infamous couple of the age, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, who nearly brought the British monarchy to its knees five years before. A tale of the rise and fall of a Royal couple, stakes in the Caribbean paradise become deadly when an ugly, and even treasonous, secret is revealed beneath the glitter of Wallis and Edward’s marriage.
The beach: Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard
The book: It’s 1969, and times they are a-changing. In America, Ted Kennedy crashes a car on Chappaquiddick and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to land on the moon. And like their country, the Levin family of Nantucket undergoes its own dramatic upheaval during that historic and heated summer when everything changed.
The beach: Cape Cod
The book: A breezy coming-of-age story with a throwback to late ’80s nostalgia. Set in the publishing world of New York and the beaches of Truro, a summer vacation community on Cape Cod, The Last Book Party tells the story of a young aspiring writer as she tries to find her voice among the island’s famous authors.
5. EAST END (Park Row) by Jason Allen (2019)
The beach: The Hamptons
The book: A stunning water-front home in the Hamptons becomes the scene of tragedy when a billionaire’s lover dies and he attempts to cover it up. Scandals, secrets and substance abuse among the ultra-wealthy, as well as the culture clash with the locals they employ, makes for entertaining lounge chair reading.
The beach: Siracusa, Sicily
The book: Just how well do you know your friends, or for that matter your own partner or children? This stunning and unputdownable psychological thriller is about a couples’ vacation that goes horribly wrong when two families travel to the seductive, ancient Sicilian town of Siracusa, set on the sun-drenched coast of the Ionian Sea.
The beach: Australia’s Great Barrier Reef
The book: At 49, Boston neuroscientist Anna Fergusson, finds herself at an undesired crossroad when the funding for her research lab dries up. Acting on a whim, she rents a small cottage on Australia’s Turtle Island, with a vague notion of writing a book. On the island, which is teeming with wildlife, seabirds and nesting Green turtles, she finds not only literary inspiration, but true love — and a chance to begin again.
8. MAINE (Vintage) by J. Courtney Sullivan (2011)
The beach: Maine
The book: It’s summer and the livin’ is anything but easy. This lively tale about secrets, irrational love, and sibling rivalry — along with a generous dose of family dysfunction — follows the lives of three generations of women who return to their family cottage on three acres of beautiful beachfront property in Maine. From the bestselling author of Commencement.
The beach: Nag’s Head, North Carolina
The book: Four women who became fast friends at a southern university in the 1960’s plan a reunion at a beach house thirty years later in hopes to reclaim the magic of those early years, before a cruel betrayal sent them adrift.
The beach: Coastal South Carolina
The book: The low country’s marshy and difficult to navigate waters is the perfect backdrop for the traumatic events, complicated relationships and tragic lives of the Wingo family. The book, an instant bestseller, hit the silver screen in 1991, starring Nick Nolte, Kate Nelligan and Barbra Streisand.
The setting: The Straits of Florida, Cuba
The book: The sea is very much a character in this short novel, the last major work of fiction by Hemingway published during his lifetime. Considered one of his most famous works and awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1954, the book tells the story of Santiago, an aging Cuban fisherman, who struggles with a giant marlin far off the coast of Cuba.
The beach: Brighton, England
The book: While the title refers to a confectionery traditionally sold at seaside resorts, the story follows a not-so-sweet group of gangsters in this murder thriller set in a British seaside town in the 1930s.
The beach: Isle of Skye, Scotland
The book: Selected as No. 15 on the Modern Library’s list of 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century, Woolf’s philosophical modernist classic is about the Ramsay family and their visits to an old beach house on the Isle of Sky.