24 Books We Can't Wait to Take to the Beach This Summer
Here are the new titles that we're throwing in our beach bags.
We ask you, once again, to consider the Beach Read: What is it? No one is lugging all 1,200-plus pages of The Power Broker (except me, one time) out onto the sandy shores of their favorite spot; they need to be relatively slim, immensely engrossing, but breezy enough to put down when your friend drags you into the water for a dip, and, generally speaking, not a bummer. We've picked 24 new titles to complement a day spent outdoors, maybe with a cold one nearby, because no beachside excursion is complete without a good book to block out the sun.
READ MORE: The Best Books of 2021 (So Far)
Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard
If you've been keeping up with the swiftly growing biological field of plant communication (and who isn't???) you've probably heard of Suzanne Simard, whose work studying the inner lives of trees has captured the attention of millions of TED viewers, been the subject of a beautiful New York Times profile, and inspired James Cameron's Avatar. Simard's first book introduces us further to a complex interdependent world that exists below our feet and above our heads, challenging preconceived notions of how plants live, grow, and communicate.
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
After escaping a sinking ocean liner in 1914, young Marian Graves discovers a love for flying planes, embarking on a lifelong quest, Amelia Earhart-like, to circumnavigate the globe. A century later, actress Hadley Baxter is cast to portray Marian in a film about her mid-flight disappearance, and the parallel narratives of the women weave themselves together into an epic tale spanning a hundred years.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Andy Weir took us all to space and back with The Martian, and he's set to do it all again with his latest book, which follows an amnesiac astronaut who wakes up from cryogenic sleep, his fellow crew members dead, knowing he has an apocalyptic mystery to solve far in the outer reaches of space whose answer will affect the survival of humanity.
The Siren by Katherine St John
Summer, a tropical Caribbean island, a film set, and some of Hollywood's most notorious and alluring stars already sounds like a recipe for a steamy, intriguing plot, but when you add a publicly unstable actress, a producer fleeing scandal, and a manipulative personal assistant to the mix, as well as a hurricane brewing offshore that traps the entire film crew on the island, you've got yourself a beach read that'll keep the pages flipping long after sunset.
The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz
If Stephen King tells you something is "insanely readable," you listen. In this crime thriller, a professor and novelist plagued with writer's block becomes intrigued by his arrogant student's idea for a book. Years later, he learns that his student had died and steals the idea for his own, publishing a book that turns into a hit—except someone seems to know that the plot was plagiarized, taunting him while he digs into his former student's identity.
Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean
In the first book in Emiko Jean's new series, Japanese American teen Izumi doesn't feel quite at home in her tiny, mostly white, Northern California town; to make things more confusing, she learns that her father is the Crown Prince of Japan and visits the country to meet him, only to feel not totally welcomed there either, overwhelmed by the million things she's expected to learn practically overnight to "prove" that she's "Japanese enough" to wear her princess crown.
The Housewives: The Real Story Behind the Real Housewives by Brian Moylan
For those already obsessed with the Real Housewives universe, Brian Moylan's saga of the reality TV show's history and behind-the-scenes curios is a no-brainer. For those who don't understand what all the fuss is about, picking up this critical text might just be the thing that gets you hooked.
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Nella is the only Black woman at the (of course) overwhelmingly white publishing house where she works, until finally another Black woman, Hazel, gets a job there too. At first thinking they could be friends, bond, and commiserate with each other, Nella becomes the target of a threatening, shadowy campaign to get her to leave, but the full picture of what's really going on isn't revealed until the final twist of this novel by Zakiya Dalila Harris, a former editorial staffer at Knopf/Doubleday.
Rememberings by Sinéad O'Connor
This memoir from the Irish singer who became infamous (and blacklisted) after tearing up the pope's photo on Saturday Night Live is as characteristically unfettered as they come. As time has passed, the broad cultural judgment about O'Connor has been revised, positioning 2021 as the perfect time to hear from Sinéad herself about her troubled youth in Dublin, rise to fame, and fallout for taking a controversial political stance on national TV.
With Teeth by Kristen Arnett
A play on the sinister energy of We Need to Talk About Kevin, Arnett's followup to 2019's Mostly Dead Things tracks a mother working from home who lives in fear of her worrisome young son, who transforms over the years from an ill-tempered boy into a vicious teen. Resentful of her absent wife, she attempts to keep things together by herself until her son's bad temperament erupts into violence, tearing a rift in their idyllic queer life.
Walking on Cowrie Shells by Nana Nkweti
One of the stories in Nana Nkweti's debut, genre-blending short story collection is about a zombie outbreak in West Africa and the weary public relations person who tries to spin it into something less sinister. From this, to mermaids and more realistic tales of a graphic novelist or a pregnant woman, Walking on Cowrie Shells will constantly surprise you with its cleverness.
Slipping by Mohamed Kheir
In this fictionalized travelogue of Egypt with a splatter of magical realism, journalist Seif visits the secretly surreal destinations of the country in a post-Arab spring world, guided by a man with exhaustive knowledge of these special locations. Together, they witness unbelievable phenomenons, like giant corpse flowers raining from the sky and a section of the Nile River where one can walk on water.
The Maidens by Alex Michaelides
Edward Fosca is Cambridge University's handsome and charismatic professor of Greek tragedies, the muse of a secret society of female students known as the Maidens. Therapist Mariana Andros is also convinced that Fosca is a murderer, after one of the Maidens is found dead on campus. Fans of dark academia and Donna Tartt's The Secret History will be drawn to Mariana's obsessive attempt to prove Fosca's guilt, even at the cost of her own life.
Questland by Carrie Vaughn
When literature professor Dr. Addie Cox is contacted by an eccentric billionaire to lead a mercenary strike team to infiltrate his high-tech Dungeons & Dragons-inspired theme park island, she's puzzled to say the least. That is, until she learns that all communication into the island has been blocked off by a force shield, believed to have been activated by the project's head designer—who happens to be Addie's ex-boyfriend.
Survive the Night by Riley Sager
College students Charlie Jordan and Josh Baxter don't know each other—they met at the campus ride board looking to carpool on the long road home to Ohio. Josh claims he's traveling back to visit his sick father, but his increasingly shady demeanor and refusal to let Charlie peek into his trunk cause her to believe she might be sharing a ride with the notorious serial murderer known as the Campus Killer.
The Brilliant Abyss by Helen Scales
Helen Scales' latest work of nonfiction—The Brilliant Abyss: Exploring the Majestic Hidden Life of the Deep Ocean, and the Looming Threat That Imperils It is the full title—defogs the marine life hidden in the the deepest and darkest parts of the ocean, making the case that these rarely seen creatures and ecosystems affect us surface dwellers more than we think. Those curious about a book about oceanic conservation while you're at the ocean, this will definitely do the trick.
Bubble by Jordan Morris; Sarah Morgan
For something more engaging than page after page of big blocks of text, try a graphic novel. Bubble, based on the fictional comedy podcast, satirizes the modern gig economy in an alt-universe where wild monsters threaten humans in the titular Bubble, society's safe zone, and an app crops up for people to sign up to hunt them down—for cash, of course.
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker Chan
After Zhu, a young girl in 1300s China, becomes orphaned and alone, she adopts her late brother's identity to take over his destined "greatness," something not afforded to her being born a woman. If this sounds sort of like Mulan, you're on the right track; this literary fantasy reimagines the rise of the Ming Dynasty's founding emperor through a queer, feminist lens.
Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder
Already one of our favorite books of the year, Rachel Yoder's debut novel is about a mother, simply known as Nightbitch, who starts succumbing to ferality and believes she's quite literally turning into a dog two years after putting her art career on hold to take care of her son, who joins in her "doggy games," while her husband travels during the work week. It would be a shame to reveal much more than this about the plot, but join the Nightbitch bandwagon now: It's being developed as a star vehicle for Amy Adams to go fully unhinged.
Virtue by Hermione Hoby
When Luca becomes disillusioned with an internship at an elite magazine whose heyday is long over, he becomes infatuated with a wealthy white couple who invite him along to their beach house over the summer. He revels in insinuating himself into their lives, but when tragedy strikes back in the city, Luca is forced to reckon with his own privilege, the dangers of complacency, and his place in a rapidly changing world.
The Bachelor by Andrew Palmer
When he returns to his hometown to house-sit for a friend, the narrator of Andrew Palmer's novel gains an unlikely obsession: ABC's The Bachelor, which he catches one night while flicking through channels on the TV. Recovering from heartbreak and dipping multiple toes back into the dating pool texting women and going on weird group outings, his life gradually starts to resemble a reality dating show until he's not sure where reality stops and "reality" begins.
Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy
From the author of 2020's gorgeous Migrations comes a similarly earth-shattering tale of humanity's influence on the natural world. When two twin sisters arrive in the Scottish highlands determined to reintroduce a pack of gray wolves onto what was once their native soil, the sisters, the wolves, and the land appear to be thriving. But when a farmer is found dead, they know where the citizens of the nearest town will lay blame—and they also know that it was no wolf that killed him, but a human.
Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So
Anthony Veasna So's debut (and tragically posthumous) story collection traces the lives of Cambodian-American refugees in Southern California after escaping the devastating genocidal reign of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, but by no means has Afterparties been deemed a bummer. Early reviews have celebrated just how funny, insightful, and sharp these short stories are, from a young writer whose gift will be remembered through these pages.
A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins
The Girl on the Train author is back with her first novel in four years. When three women are drawn into the murder investigation of a man they all have mysterious connections to—a grief-stricken aunt, a suspiciously nosy neighbor, and a one-night-stand who was the last person to see the victim alive—they all appear to have the motive to do this man harm. But which of them, if any, did it, and how far would each of them go to enact revenge?