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What Kind of Beach Read Do You Need?




As we find ourselves in the thick of the summer, our readers' advisory team has been getting a ton of readers asking for the perfect book to take to the beach. 

But that request raises the question... what IS a beach read, anyway? It could mean something different to everyone—so we've come up with some categories of recommendations that will help you figure out what kind of beach book you're looking for. 

Suggestions for your ideal book if...

Your brain needs a break.

Sometimes even your reading needs a vacation from real life—some fun, clever, escapist books that don't make you work too hard.


The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Thursday Next is a book-jumping British detective who delves into famous literature, literally. Readers get to meet their favorite characters face to face in the first book of this impossibly clever mystery (and then continue on to the next half-dozen in the series).

The Single Undead Moms Club by Molly Harper
Vampires in the PTA! This is the ninth installment of Harper's Half-Moon Hollow series, but you can easily pick it up at any point and enjoy this delightfully fluffy paranormal romance.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
This list wouldn't be complete without a great summer romance, and Albertalli's latest is our favorite so far. It's a young-adult story of twins coming of age and coming to terms with their sexuality, their moms, their futures... and the desire to date a "chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire." Irresistible.

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew
A graphic novel that's a classic superhero tale, an origin story for the Green Turtle, and a love song to comics of the past—and a quintessential adventure story, too.


You want to get lost in a story.

Suspenseful books that you just can't put down—thrillers, absorbing tales, science-fiction with great world-building —are perfect for the beach. 


Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Heads up, Harry Potter fans -- this  one's for you. Cho creates an immersive magical world that's in critical danger and needs to be saved... but the hero or heroine isn't immediately clear.

A Separation by Katie Kitamura
Secrets permeate every page of this compelling, character-driven novel about a woman who's separated from her husband. When he goes missing, she travels to Greece to search for him, and finds far more than she ever imagined.

Gangsterland by Tod Goldberg 
When a hit man working for the Chicago mafia botches a major job, he goes undercover... as a rabbi. Dark, funny, and a total page-turner.

The Cotton Malone series by Steve Berry
These action-packed historical thrillers follow the adventures of a former Justice Department operative, Cotton Malone. The series takes readers to far-flung places and times—and the books all work as standalones, too.


You want to maximize your reading time.

The beach can be the perfect place for serious nonfiction read or a thick novel that you'd never have time for otherwise. Look at what happened when Lin-Manuel Miranda took that biography of Alexander Hamilton on his beach vacation a few years ago... 

dark money

Dark Money by Jane Mayer
This didn't win NYPL's Bernstein Award for nothing. It's a big, important, serious book about the flow of money from right-wing billionaires into politics and power—but it's also written so well that it flies by like a page-turner. 

Barkskins by Annie Proulx
An epic novel that begins in 18th-century France and sweeps through multiple continents and generations over the course of 700+ pages. Proulx's writing is luminous, and the unforgettable characters make it worth the trip.

One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik the Massacre in Norway by Asne Seierstad 
There's never a real "right time" to read a devastating story about a tragedy, but this book is just as insightful as it is brutal, and it's well worth your time. 

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
A perennial librarian favorite, this fascinating novel about a hacker trying to trace stolen gold from World War II weighs in at 1,152 pages.


You want a good laugh.

Self-explanatory, right? Funny books are great beach books. Just don't drop your e-reader in the ocean because you're cracking up.

issa rae
bad man

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae
The success of Rae's TV show, Insecure, is giving new life to her 2015 collection of essays about growing up. It's sweet, quick, and laugh-out-loud funny.

This Book Is Full of Spiders by David Wong
A novel that asks the eternal question: Can watching too many zombie movies trigger the zombie apocalypse? 

The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death by Colson Whitehead
Yup, THAT Colson Whitehead! The award-winning novelist also wrote this surprisingly amusing, moving book of participatory journalism about playing in the World Series of Poker. 

The First Bad Man by Miranda July
Racy and funny, this novel about love in all its forms gives new meaning to the idea of "quirky" characters.


You want a book with a beach on the cover.

Let's get literal, right? And it makes sense: You're on a beach, so you want to read about other people also on a beach. (This category is also perfect for those of us who can't actually get to a beach but want to pretend we're on vacation.)

summer girls

Here’s to Us by Elin Hilderbrand
Hilderbrand is arguably the queen of actual beach reads, with super-popular standalone books and series set on Nantucket. This novel looks at the aftermath of the suicide of a celebrity chef, as his current and former wives converge on his beach cottage.

The Island House by Nancy Thayer
A heartwarming story about a professor choosing between two very different men, also set on the shores of Nantucket.

The Summer Girls by Mary Alice Monroe (and the rest of the Lowcountry series)
This popular series traces the lives of three sisters, summoned home by their grandmother to their family house on a South Carolina island.

Sunshine Beach by Wendy Wax
HGTV meets summer romance! Three friends who lost their life savings in a Ponzi scheme decide to renovate a seaside hotel in the Florida Keys.


Want more recommendations for your own summer reading? Email us for personalized suggestions, ask us on Twitter, listen to our podcast, and take a look at our Staff Picks on NYPL's Recommendations page.


Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!


Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.

Great caper books for belly laughs

No one can beat Donald E Westlake for making a reader smile. Try any of the Dortmunder books or if one has a weird name, try that. You won't be disappointed.

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