Beach Reads for Every Kind of Mood

By Carrie McBride, Communications
July 16, 2021
illustration of woman reading on the beach, Life magazine cover

NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 1258783

Whether you're actually headed to the beach this summer or you're just able to carve out some reading time for yourself—preferably on a shady bench, a hammock, or a slouchy chair—we hope you find a book that will take you away on a mental vacation, at least for a few hours. A good "beach read" can mean something different to everyone: a thrilling mystery, an engrossing novel, a sweet romance, a captivating nonfiction title, an emotional memoir, and much more. Here's wishing you find the perfect book to suit your mood—some suggestions are below, and we also invite you to check out our Summer Stack Picks .

If you're in the mood to see The Stepford Wives turned on its head, check out:

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The Husbands by Chandler Baker

When Nora meets a group of high-powered women whose husbands' are supportive unlike her own, she discovers that the women use an unorthodox method of couples’ therapy that has transformed their lives—one that is worth killing for.

If you're in the mood to revisit (someone else’s!) Gen X childhood, check out:

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The Ugly Cry: A Memoir by Danielle Henderson

Growing up Black, weird and overwhelmingly uncool in a mostly white neighborhood in New York where she lived with her grandparents, the author, with humor, wit and deep insight, shares the lessons she learned from her childhood, upending our conventional understanding of family.

If you’re in the mood to root for a hot mess protagonist, check out:

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Skye Fallingby Mia McKenzie

When a 12-year-old girl tracks her down during one of her brief visits to Philadelphia, claiming to be “her egg,” Skye, a loner and egg donor, decides that it might be time to actually have a meaningful relationship with another human being, which is easier said than done.

If you're in the mood for a warm, funny read about heavy things, check out:

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The Guncle by Steven Rowley

When Patrick, or Gay Uncle Patrick (GUP) for short, takes on the role of primary guardian for his young niece and nephew, he sets “Guncle Rules,” but soon learns that parenting isn’t solved with treats or jokes as his eyes are opened to a new sense of responsibility.

If you've finally run through all your true crime podcasts and are in the mood for an absorbing true crime read, check out:

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The Babysitter: My Summers With a Serial Killer by Liza Rodman and Jennifer Jordan

Documents the co-author’s childhood summer experiences in 1960s Cape Cod under the care of a friendly neighbor, who years later was discovered to be the infamous serial killer of numerous women. The chilling and unforgettable true story of a charming but brutal psychopath through the eyes of a young girl who once called him her friend.

If you’re in the mood for a gossipy story about a fictional rock duo, check out:

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The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

Accepting a contract from a fledgling record company, a talented music artist in early 1970s New York endures racist responses to her activism, before a reunion interview decades later reveals explosive secrets.

If you're in the mood for a side of armchair travel with your cozy mystery, check out:

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Murder in an Irish Bookshop by Carlene O'Connor

Overwhelmed by her duties training the new town gaurd while planning her wedding, Siobhán visits a discriminating new bookshop in town before becoming embroiled in the murder of a visiting author who had infamously insulted the work of another writer.


If you’re in the mood for a story about the dark side of adolescence, set at an all-girls British private school, check out:

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The Divines by Ellie Eaton

Piecing together memories from her teen years at an elite English boarding school, Josephine gradually exposes a violent secret explaining why the once-prestigious institution abruptly closed in disgrace.

If you're in the mood for a dark, procedural detective story not set in a city, check out:

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The Killing Hills by Chris Offut

Agreeing to secretly help his sister, the new sheriff, investigate her first murder case, Mick Hardin, a combat veteran now working as an Army CID agent, tries to stay under the radar as he attempts to head off further murders while preparing for the birth of his first child.

If you're in the mood for a mix of Gothic,  sci-fi, Afrofuturism, and folklore—and you also like surprises—check out:

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Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

Fleeing from the strict religious compound where she was raised, Vern, in the safety of the forest, gives birth to twins, and to keep her small family safe, unleashes incredible brutality far beyond what a person should be capable of.

If you're in the mood for a modern romance and don't mind a bit of time travel, check out:

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One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

Cynical August starts to believe in the impossible when she meets Jane on the subway and forms a crush on her. Jane is a mysterious punk rocker who is literally displaced in time from the 1970s and is trying to find her way back. 

If you're in the mood to find out if you've accidentally joined a cult, check out:

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Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell

What makes cults so intriguing and frightening? What makes them powerful? The reason why so many of us binge Manson documentaries by the dozen and fall down rabbit holes researching suburban moms gone QAnon is because we're looking for a satisfying explanation for what causes people to join, and more importantly, stay in extreme groups. We secretly want to know: could it happen to me? Amanda Montell's argument is that, on some level, it already has . . .

Summaries provided via NYPL’s catalog, which draws from multiple sources. Click through to each book’s title for more.