Get in here, I have arrived to tell you about 2021 must-read beach reads! Believe it or not, in this intro I am not going to debate at length what exactly a beach read is, but I am going to give you this quick, loose definition that I used to come up with this list. The 2021 must-read beach reads I’ve shared here are: 1) page-turners you can/will want to read quickly; 2) relatively light in terms of subject matter; and 3) very entertaining — gripping, even!
Practically speaking, this meant that genres I included were: romance, chick lit, cozy mysteries, and thrillers. But not every exciting, buzzy 2021 release in these genres made the list. For example, I decided to leave off Jennifer Weiner’s latest book That Summer, even though its title is very beachy and Weiner is a chick lit staple. That’s because the central storyline is about sexual assault.
My definition of a beach read might be totally different than yours, and that is perfectly okay! I am cautiously optimistic, however, that there are 2021 must-read beach reads on this list that almost everyone will enjoy. From highly anticipated follow-ups by best-selling thriller authors such as Paula Hawkins to debut self-discovery tales about queer Black women like Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers, there’s a type of beach read here for all types of beach readers.
Fatal Fried Rice by Vivien Chien
The latest installment in this cozy mystery series set in a Chinese restaurant features, of course, murder. Lana, who’s accomplished in the business side of the restaurant but not so much the cooking, is taking a cuisine class. One day, she shows up and finds her instructor dead! Now she has to find the killer and clear her name.
It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake by Claire Christian
This novel of self-discovery is about Noni, a 30-something bisexual woman at the end of a decade-long relationship. Deciding to focus on herself for once in her life, she embarks on a pleasure-seeking trip throughout Europe. The result is a story full of joy, humor, and sex positivity.
A Game of Cones by Abby Collette
This mystery takes place in a picturesque village’s fancy ice cream parlor run by Bronwyn. When the town gets wind of a big mall a developer is planning, Bronwyn is worried. But after the developer is found dead, every small business owner, including her, is a suspect.
Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall
Single bisexual mom Rosaline has just landed a spot on the country’s beloved baking reality show. It’s just in time to hopefully save her from financial ruin. Little does she know, she’s about to find herself in a love triangle with two competitors: Alain, suave but secretly nasty, and Harry, uninformed but sweet.
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Described as a combination of The Devil Wears Prada and Get Out, this debut novel is about Nella, a 26-year-old publishing assistant and the only Black woman at her company. That is, until Hazel arrives. But as the office drama turns more sinister, this thriller will leave you guessing what will happen next.
People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
Poppy and Alex are opposites-attract childhood best friends who spend most of the year apart. They always get together for a trip every summer — until two years ago, when everything got ruined. When Poppy convinces Alex to resume their tradition, can she make it right? And is it possible they’ve been in love this whole time?
Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron
Reena’s true love is making bread. When her dad arranges for his employee to move in across the hall to set him up as her perfect Muslim husband, she is not impressed. But Nadim loves her bread and is even willing to pretend to be her fiancé to enter a couples video cooking contest. Could it be a match, despite Reena’s misgivings?
Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin
This romcom is inspired by You’ve Got Mail. Here, the competing businesses are halal restaurants, and the heroine Hana runs a podcast and works at her family’s restaurant. But then the listener from her podcast she’s become friends with turns out to be the rival restaurant’s owner!
Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala
Lila is helping out at her family’s Filipino restaurant when her ex-boyfriend, a nasty food critic, dies of what looks like poisoning. This is only moments after a confrontation with Lila. It could happen to anyone! Suddenly, instead of focusing on saving the restaurant, Lila is busy with a murder investigation.
Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie
Almost-40-year-old Skye is living a carefree life with nothing to tie her down when a 12-year-old shows up at her door. The kid tells Skye she is one of the “eggs” Skye donated to make money in her 20s. As Skye attempts to form a meaningful relationship, things get awkward. She realizes the girl’s aunt is a woman who turned her down when Skye asked her out.
First Comes Like by Alisha Rai
Number three in Rai’s modern love series, First Comes Like features YouTube beauty vlogger Jia and Dev, a Bollywood-turned-Hollywood star. Someone recently used Dev’s name to catfish Jia. When Dev finds out and suspects who might have faked his identity, he’s happy to do some fake dating to smooth things out. But can the fake offline romance turn into something real?
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Taking place over 24 hours in 1980s Malibu, this novel is about the famous Rivas siblings and their annual summer party. By midnight, the party is out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion has burnt to the ground and all the secrets are out.
Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
Grace is an overachiever finishing a PhD. In an uncharacteristic turn while on a girls’ trip to Vegas, she gets married to a woman she just met. Grace then decides to hit pause on her controlled life and spend the summer in New York with her “wife,” whose name she only recently learned.
Anne of Manhattan by Brina Starler
Calling Anne of Green Gables fans! This romance is an updated adaptation set in New York City where Anne, Diana, and Gilbert are attending grad school. When Anne and Gilbert are paired with the same thesis advisor, they grudgingly move from arch-rivals to some semblance of peace. But as Anne discovers Gilbert has betrayed her to get ahead, she’s convinced that she was right all along not to trust him.
Lucky by Marissa Stapley
Lucky is a talented con artist. After all, she and her boyfriend just pulled off a million dollar heist. Until everything falls apart and she finds herself alone and broke. When she discovers the lottery ticket she bought on a whim is a winner, she is faced with an impossible dilemma. If she cashes it in, all her problems are solved. If she cashes it in, she’ll be discovered and arrested.
Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Santanto
This quirky, self-consciously absurd novel is part thriller, part romcom, and part celebration of Chinese Indonesian mothers and daughters. After Meddy Chan accidentally kills her blind date, she turns to her mom and aunties for help. Cue ensuing chaos! In particular, attempting to hide the dead body ends up with it inside the cake cooler at a billionaire’s wedding, which the Chan family business is planning.
Summer Fun by Jeanne Thornton
Gala is a directionless young trans woman obsessed with the ’60s band The Get Happies. She writes letters to the band’s lead, trying to find out why they broke up and never released their album Summer Fun. Soon the story of The Get Happies and Gala’s own are intertwined.
Where the Grass is Green and the Girls Are Pretty by Lauren Weisberger
Two sisters each have their own version of a perfect life: Peyton is a renowned morning show host with a Princeton-bound teen daughter. Skye is a stay-at-home mom in a ritzy suburb with a daughter poised for film school. One little lie to a college application causes a scandal — and the perfection comes crashing down.
The Cannonball Tree Mystery by Ovidia Yu
In Ovidia Yu’s latest installment in her Crown Colony series set in Singapore, Su Lin is shocked to find the body of a horrible family member who has been trying to blackmail her behind a cannonball tree. When even more fortuitous deaths occur, Su Lin is forced to investigate whether someone is really killing people for her benefit.
Which 2021 must-read beach reads are you most excited about? Are you going to stick with a tried and true beach read author like Taylor Jenkins Reid or strike out with a debut by Jesse Q Sutanto?