My Favorite Summer Beach Reads

July 21, 2018
best beach reads

To me, sitting by the pool with a piña colada and my Kindle is pure bliss.

And every time I plan a beach or pool vacation, I get stoked about loading up my Kindle ahead of time with the perfect books, re-reading one of my faves, and discovering a new obsession.


The best beach reads...what to load onto your Kindle for the beach or pool

At the beach or pool, I’m pretty much “leave me alone, I’ve got important reading to do!”  Sometimes I make an exception for some tunes (like my 15 full albums you have to listen to at the beach), but mostly it’s just me, my drink, and my Kindle—a.k.a. my life partner.

But while my reading tastes run the gamut in the real world, my beach reads tend to be strictly in the a few genres…partly because I don’t need to be sobbing uncontrollably on my pool lounger, as can happen with more serious fare.

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How I pick the best beach reads

These are not just my favorite books (though some of these would be included on that list).  Instead, similar to my list of favorite airplane books (and yes, there’s some overlap), these tick all the boxes for chillin’ by the pool:

  • Lighter/fun (not a lot of major angst or stakes)
  • Zippy dialogue
  • Kick-ass main characters and dudes to fall in love with
  • Easy to read on a Kindle in the sun, and you can pick them up and put them down without totally losing the thread.

One disclaimer before we jump in…don’t get hung up on the cover art, particularly for the romances!  Because I read them on a Kindle and some aren’t done by massive publishing houses, the cover art can be kind of cheesy.  It doesn’t affect how great the book is 🙂

You might also like:  The Best Books I Read in 2019

Mixed bag, with an emphasis on funny

The Royal We – Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

If you follow the British royal family at all, this one’s for you.  It’s not a romance, entirely, but it’s certainly romance-y…but also funny, great dialogue, a tiny bit of maybe satire.  It’s basically thinly-veiled (fictional) telling of the romance of Bex and Nick (a.k.a. Wills and Kate), and is at times funny, real, and occasionally sad.

But happy and fun overall.  Bex’s story shows the highs and crazy lows of being involved with the royal family and that it might be worth it for true love.  I first read this on the beach in Costa Rica and could NOT put it down!

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? – Mindy Kaling

I often struggle with loving memoirs, particularly comedic ones…without the tone of voice, facial cues, and timing that comedians use well, the writing can sometimes feel forced and like they’re trying waaaaay too hard.  I haven’t gotten around to reading her second memoir yet, but Mindy’s first book is ridiculous, amusing, and generally quite charming.

She’s one of those celebrities that makes you feel like she’s one of those friends you want to sit down and day drink with until everyone’s stories get increasingly insane and hysterical.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – Jenny Lawson (a.k.a. The Bloggess)

Rewind about 6-8 years to when I actually had time to read blogs (man, gotta get back there), and I was obsessed with The Bloggess.  She is laugh-til-you-cry absurd, and I fell in love with her writing through posts like the advent of Beyonce the giant metal chicken and Beartrum Higglebottoms.

But per the last entry, comedic memoirs are super hit-and-miss for me, so I approached her first book with some trepidation.  I really loved it, though, and highly recommend.  I haven’t had a chance to read her second, Furiously Happy, yet, but have heard great things.

Garlic & Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise – Ruth Reichl

Ruth Reichl is one of the most famous food critics in the U.S., and of all her books (that I’ve read) this is my favorite.  It’s about when she became the New York Times food critic, and then all the disguises and subterfuge involved in being able to go to restaurants without them knowing who she was.

Add to that Reichl’s absolutely stunning actual food descriptions (including parts of her actual reviews), and I was totally obsessed with this book.

Bitter is the New Black:  Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry A Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office – Jen Lancaster

Yeah, that’s a mouthful.  I’ve read a lot of Jen Lancaster’s writing and I loved a lot of her early work, but her first and second memoirs (Bright Lights, Big Ass) are definitely my favorites.

She’s appropriately biting and funny about her (I’m assuming slightly-hyperbolic) shallowness and out-of-control consumerism, and (rather like The Bloggess) has a great way with dialogue.

You might also like:  The 10 Best Books I Read In 2020

best beach reads

Series to sink your teeth into

If you’re obsessed with labels, I’d classify most of these as urban fantasy with some romance.  But these are all really hard to classify because they skate across genres—mostly they’re just FUN.  These also happen to have kick-ass female heroes, but that’s largely accidental…nothing against dude heroes at all!

The Promise of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles Book 1) – Amanda Bouchet

My newest obsession…I read the first two books probably a year ago, but the third wasn’t out yet so now I’m reading all three together.  Weaving together regular fantasy world-building, some strong Greek mythology threads, a great main character, and ratcheting up the stakes each book in a believable way vs. everything being about saving the world, I’m totally digging this series.

Not sure yet whether the third book is the last one or if it’s a longer series.

Magic Bites (the first in the Kate Daniels series) by Ilona Andrews

I luuuuurve this series.  Set in Atlanta in the near-distant, somewhat dystopian future where magic and tech battle for supremacy, this features a totally kick-ass main character and my #2 male literary true love.  Add in great world-building, believable character development, and dialogue that constantly makes me smile, and this is a winner.

Priceless (Rylee Adamson book 1) – Shannon Mayer

In writing this, I just realized that I never finished the last couple books in this series, so that’s going on my to-do list.  Not only do I love the main characters in this series, but the supporting cast is ridiculous and delightful.  These books go down easy, and you could plow through a big part of the series (currently I think 10 books?) in one beach vacation.

Like many of the others here, this has a great strong main character, interesting world, and totally sucks you in.

You might also like:  Long-Term Sailing Life + Romance Novels: An Interview with Author Liz Aldenbest beach reads

Contemporary Romances

Act Like It – Lucy Parker

Fun, charming, and lovely.  That’s this book in a nutshell.  The main characters are relatable, flawed, funny, and have great chemistry.  When I finished it I was bummed because I felt like I could have read it for like another 5 hours.

Bet Me – Jennifer Cruisie

Similar to the last one, this is charming, fairly light (great for people who like their romances less graphic), and has super fun dialogue.  While the premise is a bit of a stretch, it doesn’t matter because the book makes you buy in completely.  Minerva and Cal are so cute and believable.

The Bride Quartet by Nora Roberts

These have been favorites for years.  The books follow four lifelong best friends who go into business together planning and creating weddings, and about their relationships with each other and the men in their lives.  What I love about these is that the romances are great, but the women’s friendships are front-and-center in the series as well.

The first book is Vision in White, though I think my favorite might be Savor the Moment (book 3) or Happy Ever After (book 4).  You can read them in order or separately, it’s up to you (though obviously spoilers on previous books…).

The Hooker and the Hermit – Penny Reid

For the non-rugby folks among us, hooker is a rugby term… 🙂

I’m a sucker for a good sports romance, and the chemistry and dialogue between Ronan and Annie are fun and real-feeling.  And what can I say, I can’t pass up a big, hot, flirty, good-hearted handsome athlete.  This is the first in a series, but all can be read standalone.

Knowing the Score (London Legends Book 1) – Kat Latham

See above re: being a sucker for good sports romances.  And despite knowing pretty much nothing about rugby, I’ve oddly been drawn to a couple rugby athlete-focused series.  The romance here is both sweet and hot, the relationship progression believable, and great dialogue.

Idol (VIP series book 1) – Kristen Calliahan

This one has a little bit more drama and moody romance development in it, but I found Libby and Killian’s relationship quite compelling and natural.  I mean, who can resist the bad boy rocker?? 🙂  It’s sweet, funny, and sexy, and I couldn’t put it down.

Before Jamaica Lane – Samantha Young

This is one of my favorite contemporary romances, part of a great series but the first that I read and still my favorite.  Nate and Olivia’s story absolutely grabbed my heart and gut…I was so invested.  There is some angst here towards the end, but it’s worth it for how great this book is (and has a happy ending, obvs).

best beach readsWhat are your beach read faves??  I’m always looking for new recommendations, so hit me up in the comments!!

Other inspiration for your next beach adventure:

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My Fave Summer Beach & Pool Reads | fun & light books for the beach or pool, from comedy to romance to fantasy...the things that keep me company at the pool | best beach reads #books #beach #vacay

Comments (4)

  • Patricia

    July 25, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    What a good list! I’ll have to be adding some of these to my must read list. Bitter is the New Black definitely looks good!

    1. Jessica

      July 25, 2018 at 9:48 pm

      It’s so great, and I realized I hadn’t read it in ages…it’s now on the must-read list again for me!

  • Kristin In Motion

    July 25, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    Great list! I’ll be adding some of these to my goodreads to remember for the future!

    1. Jessica

      July 25, 2018 at 9:48 pm

      Yes!! Let me know what you think!

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