Pack your sunscreen, swimsuit, flip-flops and summer beach reads: Warm weather is here, and it’s time to head to the beach. Every type of vacation requires some reading material. Setting off on a solo road trip? You need a book to keep you company. Taking one of the best couples vacations in America with your boo? It’s the perfect opportunity to relax with a novel. Camping at one of the best national parks in the U.S.? There’s nothing better than falling asleep reading under the stars. Whatever your vacation situation, our list of recent releases and perennial bestsellers has you covered. Pro tip: For the ultimate relaxing summer afternoon, pair your book of choice with some suds from one of the best craft beer breweries in America.
Best summer beach reads for 2017
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
It might come off as fluffy at first, but don’t be fooled into thinking Moriarty’s thriller is mere chick lit. The reader meets single mom Jane as she drops off little Ziggy for his first day of kindergarten. Fellow moms Madeline and Celeste seem as polished as the picture-perfect small town they live in at first glance, but Jane soon learns that everyone has secrets—domestic abuse, rape and bullying all crop up in the plot. HBO also recently adapted the novel for television, adding a star-studded cast that includes Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley.
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
Best known for her biting poetry, Lockwood shows her prose chops in her new comedic memoir. Her best material comes from her family. Lockwood's father is a priest taken to lounging around the house in underwear so old, it’s nearly see-through; her mother took her to anti-abortion rallies as a child but loves a good dirty pun. The giggle-inducing book not only details the author's fascinating coming-of-age story, but also reveals how Lockwood developed her literary worldview.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
This 800-plus page epic is no light, breezy read: It’s an emotionally devastating tale of friendship, trauma and loneliness. The story starts when four friends—Jude, JB, Willem and Malcolm—arrive in New York City after college, full of ambition and eager to start their new lives. The story takes a turn, however, when the author hones in on Jude’s mysteriously dark childhood. The acuteness of his suffering—both past and present—not only consumes Jude’s life, but irrevocably changes the lives of his pals.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Atwood’s subversive dystopian novel has been enjoying a renaissance of late, thanks to both the current politcal climate and the new Hulu series. But before you watch Elizabeth Moss take Offred to the small screen, read (or re-read) the breakthrough 1985 novel. Atwood sets her story in the not-too-distant future so the quasi-religious totalitarian regime seems all the more realistic. With most women unable to conceive children, the state forces the few who remain fertile to become Handmaids who bear the children of powerful commanders. It’s a chilling tale that reads like a horrifying warning.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Whitehead’s much praised novel takes the metaphorical underground railroad—the network of activists who helped slaves escape the South—and turns it into a literal train heading north. His formidable prose lends some allegory and fantasy to Cora’s escape from a Georgia plantation, but doesn’t detract from the bald-faced historical horrors of slavery. Cora’s yearning for freedom, equality and respect proves as moving today as it was in her time.
The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
If you consider a weekend camping trip going “off the grid,” wait until you read Finkel's book about the North Pond Hermit, a man who lived alone in the remote Maine woods for 27 years. Christopher Knight first made headlines in 2013 when he was caught robbing the kitchen of a summer camp. Finkel secured exclusive interviews with Knight at Kennebec County Jail to write this biography of the man, the myth and the legend—and find out what the hermit learned over 10,000 days spent alone.
The Bed Moved by Rebecca Schiff
Readers who aren’t ready to tackle a big project might be better suited to this collection of 23 short stories on everything from death to sex to aging parents to sluttiness. Schiff’s dark sense of humor and scathing wit makes every subject comic, though you might be left pondering the deeper themes after you stop laughing.
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse. She is also black. A white supremacist family doesn't take kindly to this, and forbids her from touching their baby. When the baby suddenly stops breathing in front of her, she hesitates just a moment too long and tragedy strikes. After the family sues, the jury, the judge and the reader must confront their own prejudices to understand who is really at fault here.
Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper
At 83, Etta sets out on one last great adventure: the 3,232-kilometer journey from her home in Saskatchewan to the ocean (that’s 2,008 miles for us Americans). Did we mention she’s walking there, with only a few pieces of chocolate and a rifle for supplies? Her husband Otto awakes to find her note but can't go after her—Russell, their neighbor, vows to go in his stead. And James? You'll have to pick up a copy to find out who he is.
The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian
Sleepwalking is inherently mysterious: Often, the subject doesn’t even know what he or she did while unconscious. Bohjalian’s novel taps into that eerie quality. After known sleepwalker Annalee Ahlberg goes missing, her children must try to puzzle out where she went, what she did and why she only seems to wander when her husband is away.