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15 Buzzy Books to Pack in Your Beach Bag

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Ah, summer reading. What some consider the best time of year to be a reader, summer is undoubtedly reading season. Even if you’re not taking a vacation (or staycation, at that), there is an indescribable air to the summer months that you can loosen up a bit and read whatever you want. Much of the year is spent on serious reading and “project books” (my name for that special kind of book you’re planning on finally reading or tackling for the first time), but summer is for beach reads, leaving you to read your adrenaline-fueled thriller, hot romance novel, and dishy tell-all nonfiction book ripped from the headlines.

That’s exactly the kind of approach you should take when packing your vacation bag or tote for your nice staycation reading outside under a tree. And what better book to pick than one of the ones everyone is talking about? The books in this list of the best buzzy beach reads to clear your schedule and read has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a magical fantasy, a tightly plotted thriller, or a memoir people won’t stop talking about, there is a book here for you. And without further ado, 15 buzzy beach reads for your vacation.

Beach Reads for Summer 2022

Book Lovers by Emily Henry book cover

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Queen of the bookish romance novel Emily Henry is back with another swoonworthy love story you won’t want to miss. In this enemies-to-lovers steamfest, competitive literary agent Nora Stephens can’t compare to the heroines her authors pen in irresistible tales. Traveling to a quaint North Carolina community to be with her sister should be a relaxing break for Nora, if she doesn’t keep running into moody book editor extraordinaire Charlie Lastra. Yet something about each other draws them together. Will Nora finally be heroine of her own love story?

Constructing a Nervous System by Margo Jefferson book cover

Constructing a Nervous System by Margo Jefferson

This innovative book by Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Margo Jefferson follows hot on the heels of her acclaimed memoir, Negroland. In Constructing a Nervous System, Jefferson offers a lyrical autobiography in fragments, such as poems, songs, and meditations on psychology. Together, the pieces build towards a transcendent Modernist-esque memoir that speaks to Jefferson’s experience as an artist, critic, and author.

book cover of Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen; illustration of young Asian woman tipping down sunglasses which are reflecting a red shopping bag

Counterfeit by Kristin Chen

Asian American lawyer Ava Wong has the life that should satisfy her, but she feels a tug at what might have been if she hadn’t played by the rules. When Ava encounters her old roommate, Winnie Fang, she gets pulled into Winnie’s world of high-stakes finance. Winnie recruits Ava to help her import and sell counterfeit designer handbags that are the spitting image of the real thing. What could possibly go wrong? You’ll find out in this electric thriller everyone is talking about.

Haven Emma Donoghue Book Cover

Haven by Emma Donoghue (August 23)

Each new book by Room author Emma Donoghue is cause for celebration. Her latest, Haven, takes place in 7th century Ireland. It’s there that a charismatic leader sets out with two other men to start a novel version of life according to God. Their new home? A remote island whose only population is thousands of birds. Today we know this true-to-life island as Skellig Michael, but it’s through Donoghue’s signature style that the past comes alive.

book cover of Her Majesty’s Royal Coven

Her Majesty’s Royal Coven by Juno Dawson

When they were teens, four girls signed on to Her Majesty’s Royal Coven, a secret government department established by Queen Elizabeth I. Decades later, the country is still recovering from civil war among witch factions. One of the original four, Helena, now ranks as High Priestess of the Coven, but life has pulled her three colleagues in different directions. Now they face the threat of a powerful warlock who might upend everything about the HMRC. Can the original four team up to stop the destruction of the HMRC? You’ll race through this fun, queer read with amazing worldbuilding to find out.

Honey and Spice book cover

Honey and Spice by Bolu Babalola (July 5)

This is going to be the romance you hear about all over this summer. Bolu Babalola’s debut novel, Honey and Spice, has an unforgettable heroine: spirited and observant, college student and radio show host Kiki Banjo knows how to avoid tricky things like romantic relationships. But soon she finds herself kissing Malakai Korede, the man she’s previously branded as “The Wastemen of Whitewell.” Together, Kiki and Malakai form a fake relationship to save their reputations on campus. But behind closed doors, is Kiki and Malakai’s connection as fake as they think?

A Hundred Other Girls book cover

A Hundred Other Girls by Iman Hariri-Kia (July 26)

A Hundred Other Girls is being marketed as a read-a-like for those who loved The Devil Wears Prada, and it’s not hard to see why. You’ll cheer on Iman Hariri-Kia’s heroine, Noora, as she tries to get closer to turning her writing dreams into reality after getting a coveted position as the assistant to a legendary yet aging-out-of-relevance editor-in-chief at influential Vinyl magazine, who Noora grew up idolizing. Witty and winning, A Hundred Other Girls announces a new writer of immense gifts.

book cover of The Island by Adrian McKinty

The Island by Adrian McKinty

This propulsive thriller just keeps upping the stakes with each passing page. Heather is a massage therapist; new wife to Tom, a physician very much her senior; and step mother to Tom’s two teens. Taking Heather and the kids along to a conference in Australia, Tom plans a relaxing time for everyone. When a group of rough men invite Tom, Heather, and the kids a chance to explore a remote island, they jump at the chance. Their choice haunts them as things quickly spiral out of control after a car accident. The Island is action-packed and unputdownable.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston Book Cover

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

The much-anticipated next novel from Red, White & Royal Blue author Casey McQuiston has arrived, and you don’t to miss it. This queer YA love story follows Chloe Green in the aftermath of being kissed by her rival Shara Wheeler. But before Chloe can process the kiss, Shara disappears, leaving behind three very different people who she kissed. To find Shara, each of these unlikely friends band together to bring her back by solving Shara’s cryptic clues. Fun and flirty, this is the perfect YA romance you need.

book cover of Night of the Living Rez: Stories by Morgan Talty, pastel font over illustration of night sky seen from the forest floor

Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty (July 5)

The buzz could not be higher for Morgan Talty’s debut short story collection. Talty weaves together 12 linked stories about contemporary life in a Penobscot community in Maine. Each of Talty’s memorable stories are shot through with palpable emotion, unforgettable characters, and, quite often, humor. If you only read one short story collection this year, make it Night of the Living Rez.

The Palace Papers Book Cover

The Palace Papers by Tina Brown

From Tina Brown, former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, this is the dishy, tell-all beach read about Great Britain’s royal family you’ve been waiting for. If you woke up early to see the royal weddings, followed the Megxit drama, or love The Crown, this book is for you. Based on years of research and countless interviews with players close to the center of the Windsor’s game, The Palace Papers is as eye opening as it is page turning.

Portrait of a Thief book cover

Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li

Capers make such great beach reads. This caper thriller stars an ambitious Harvard senior, Will Chen, employed by a Chinese benefactor who wants Will to steal back Chinese artifacts from the Harvard museum. To do it, Will needs to put together a cracker jack team of talent to pull off the heist. Not only is this novel funny, it’s a thoughtful commentary on Colonialism, identity, nation-wide trauma, and the problematic complexities of embodying the American Dream.

Siren Queen by Nghi Vo book cover

Siren Queen by Nghi Vo

For some, Hollywood is the place of dreams. But for aspiring actress Luli Wei, it holds more nightmares. Set in pre-Code Hollywood, Siren Queen immerses readers into the complex, fantastical world of show business as seen through the eyes of an unforgettable protagonist. Soon Luli realizes that the villains on screen are less vicious than the ones she tackles every day. With the studios wanting to capitalize on her name and face, Luli learns the glitz and glamor of that world comes at a cost: blood magic. Can her ambition and talent shepherd her through this dark world? You’ll be racing through this one to find out.

The Swell Book Cover

The Swell by Allie Reynolds (July 19)

If you’re looking for beach reads, it doesn’t get any beachier than The Swell. In Allie Reynolds’ gripping novel, surfer Kenna Ward’s boyfriend drowned, causing her to go on hiatus from surfing. Then she gets an invite to a wedding between Kenna’s best friend, Mikki, and a man who is part of a secretive group of elite surfers. Traveling to a remote Australian beach for the wedding, Kenna becomes immersed in the surfing world again. But when person after person goes missing, it’s clear there’s something more going on. Prepare to clear your schedule for this Agatha Christie-esque book.

When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill book cover

When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill

In the Mass Dragoning of 1955, hundreds of thousands of women grew wings, a tail, and the ability to fly. And fly they did, away from all they knew. The shocking event left Alex curious about her aunt, who turned, never to be seen again. Now Alex searches for answers amidst the new normal. Feminist, thought-provoking, queer, and built in a world that feels real, When Women Were Dragons is a must-pack book for your vacation.

So there you have it: the best beach reads to reach for this summer. Want more great new 2022 reads? Check out Book Riot’s coverage of all things books here:

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