Imagine yourself lounging on a white sand beach or by a crystal clear pool. Odds are good that, along with a frozen drink and swaying palms, your blissful vision involves a juicy paperback book. Beach reads are a special kind of prose. Sometimes fiction, sometimes fact, they usually pack a lot of drama between their covers and earn even more hype. Sometimes it seems like everyone is reading the same title at the same time! Think of The Goldfinch in 2014 or every Stephen King novel ever produced.
This year, we combed the industry lists to bring you 10 highly-anticipated titles from 10 female writers. Some are first-time novelists; others have long filled your bookshelves with their works. All are diverse, moving and capture the spirit of the beach read with their outlandish characters, globe-spanning plots and gripping stories.
Now sit back, relax, and don’t worry if you get a little sand and salt water between the pages. These are the titles you must tackle between now and Labor Day.
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The Girls by Emma Cline: Considered one of the year’s hottest new releases, The Girls takes you to the summer of 1969 when a teenaged Evie Boyd runs away from home to join a cult. Dream-like in its details, Cline’s tale will transport you back to your own adolescence and all its hazy, romantic melodrama.
The Clasp by Sloane Crosley: The Clasp is Crosley’s first attempt at fiction after two best-selling essay collections, and it’s a glorious one—chronicling the reunion of a group of college friends at another’s high-society wedding. Count on lots of laughter and bittersweet poignancy.
Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn: Sisters Margot and Thandi battle threats to their community and their tenuous relationship while growing up in poverty behind the curtain of a beautiful resort. First-time novelist Dennis-Benn weaves a tale set in sun-soaked Jamaica that will break your heart even as you fall in love with the paradise setting.
The After Party by Anton DiSclafani: Joan and Cece grow up to navigate adulthood in much the same way they did their youth: Joan, a narcissistic It Girl, destroys everything in her path, while sidekick Cece cleans up both their messes. This heart-breaking story is full of beautiful descriptions as light and fanciful as champagne bubbles.
LaRose by Louise Erdrich: A tragic accident tears apart–and simultaneously unites–two families living near a Native American reservation in late ’90s North Dakota. Present-day revenge and justice mingle with the rich history of the characters’ ancestors and will give your next beach trip some emotional heft.
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren: This debut memoir follows the geobiologist through her quietly remarkable life as an observer of nature’s most mundane heroes (dirt, for instance). With her lab partner and best friend, Bill, Jahren traverses the globe and the tiniest spaces in the human heart. You’ll never look at trees the same way again.
The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden: Follow Harlan through some of the greatest moments of the 20th century as he travels from rural Georgia to Harlem during its renaissance to Jazz Age Paris to the concentration camps of Hitler’s Germany. The context is heavy; Harlan’s spirit is all light.
Problems by Jade Sharma: If a heroin habit can’t destroy Maya, the ends of her marriage and her affair surely won’t either. Problems is darkly funny and filled with characters you’ll wish you didn’t like so much.
Modern Lovers by Emma Straub: What happens when the teenage children of old college friends all start dating each other? Their parents—by now entrenched in their midlife crises—start to remember who they used to be when they all started dating each other.
The Nest by Cynthia d’Aprix Sweeney: An auto accident might deplete the Plumb family of their long-awaited trust fund, but it also manages to bring 4 squabbling siblings back together after years of animosity and eccentricities.