If there is one thing I love about summer it is catching up on my summer beach reads. Today I wanted to share with you 20 book ideas for stocking your beach bag this summer and that can provide a perfect escape during the summer months. While I lean heavy toward the chick lit genre in the summer, I am mixing in a few unexpected additions that I think you will equally enjoy in the thriller and historical fiction categories.
Be sure to connect with me on my Author Profile on GoodReads and you will find my book is listed there too! I would be ecstatic if you became a fan of my writing and would love to see my book listed as something you might be reading in 2013.
As always, if you are looking for a little inspiration this new year, be sure to check our MomAdvice fan page for a weekly check-in on what everyone is reading each week on our Facebook Fan Page. I hope you will swing by on Fridays and share about the books you are working on or request recommendations with one another. So far it is a huge success and I have gotten a few new ideas for my own stack!
Just as a reminder, I read many more books than are just featured here, but try to feature the ones that are my absolute best picks of the month here. If you want to read more, please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! You can find me right here and I am always happy to connect with people there too! There is nothing more motivating than seeing what other people are raving about and my to-be-read pile continues to grow with all of my new friends on there! In fact, many of the books featured are ones that I have found through my friends on GoodReads.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
“What Alice Forgot,” opens with Alice sprawled on the floor of the gym after she has fallen and hit her head after passing out in a spinning class. Alice is certainly perplexed by this because she has never gone to the gym and certainly would never do a spinning class. Her main concern is for her unborn baby when she wakes up and she is anxious for her husband to meet her at the hospital to help calm her down. Everyone seems to know her and everyone looks so different to her, that she is beginning to wonder what is going on. When Alice’s sister, Elizabeth, arrives at the hospital, she has to break it to Alice that she is not pregnant, she is not 29, she has three children, and she is in the middle of a custody battle and divorce with her husband.
Alice has, in fact, lost her memory over the last ten years and what faces her is heartbreaking and unpleasant. People don’t even seem to like her. Friendships she thought she had do not exist. Neighbors avoid her. She can’t remember ever having any children. And the one person she thought loved her the most can’t stand to even speak to her.
As Alice comes to terms with the person she can’t remember becoming she is faced with many terrible truths about herself as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. Will it be too late to repair the damage that has been done and if her memory returns, will she still long to be the woman she was ten years ago.
I absolutely loved this book as I love all books that explore the what-if’s in life. This one had me laughing and even a little teary-eyed as Alice goes through the journey of discovering who she has become and how to capture the innocence of a girl in her twenties and in love.
Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen
High-school sweethearts Julie & Michael have left behind their small town and are in pursuit of living a life better than their modest upbringings and achieving the American dream. When Michael decides to start a sports drink company, neither of them could ever expect how quickly his business would takeoff or what it would be like to be millionaires. As money is introduced into their life, their marriage begins to crumble as Michael is increasingly unavailable due to the success of his company and the separation that exists as a couple begins to grow apart.
The book opens as Michael has a near-death experience and Julie, a successful party planner, is called to the hospital to be with her husband. Michael begins acting strangely and tells Julia that he has made the decision to give all of his money and company away. Julie is stunned, as she has begun the process of filing for a divorce from her husband, and will lose half of the estate and money if he gives everything away. Michael pleads for Julie to give him just one chance.
This book then delves into the complex relationship that they share and how their marriage began to fail as they began to rediscover one another again once their fortune is taken out of the equation.
I went into it expecting a simple piece of chick lit, and it developed into one beautiful story! Perhaps it is not life-altering, but sometimes a girl just needs a good love story that renews her feelings about love and what is important in life. It offered everything I love in a book: great characters, a beautiful love story, a fabulous friendship between two women, and great humor interjected throughout the story. It really was so much more than I could have hoped for!
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Victoria Jones was a child that has been unloved and unwanted by many. After going from foster care home to foster care home, she finally find someone who loves her whole-heartedly and wants to adopt her as her own. Elizabeth is a dream mother to this wounded child. She spends hours teaching Victoria the Victorian names and meanings for flowers and how to care for them. These lessons t later become the tools that she must employ to share her feelings and find work later in her life. Through a traumatic turn of events though, Elizabeth never adopts Victoria and at eighteen she is declared emancipated with no money, nowhere to go, and no one who loves her.
Victoria makes her home in the local park, sleeping in the grass at night, and even begins to plant her own garden in the park. When a local florist happens upon Victoria and her talent for flower arranging, she is hired on the spot to help with her small floral shop. Word soon gets around about Victoria’s talent for arrangements, carefully chosen & arranged based on their Victorian flower names and what they mean for their recipients.
When Victoria runs into a floral vendor who happens to be someone from her & Elizabeth’s past, she must decide if she can ever move forward from the secret that she is harboring in her heart and if she can ever feel and find love again.
The story switches from Victoria’s childhood to her time now as an adult. It never is confusing, but outlines the heartbreaking story of a difficult childhood and why Victoria would have such difficulties as an adult.
It is so surprising that this is Diffenbaugh’s first novel as she writes with experience and description that you rarely find in a debut novel. I have no doubt you will love this book as much as I did!
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I love when I read a book and feel my real life slipping away from me. Gone Girl was a book that sucked me from the very first page and offered one of those amazing journeys as a reader.
Without giving the plot away the story begins with Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Amy has carefully wrapped gifts and is making the perfect breakfast for her husband when she suddenly disappears one seemingly ordinary morning. Nick is quickly under suspicion since he appears completely unemotional with the news of his wife’s disappearance and has no real explanation for his whereabouts when Amy has disappeared. Clue after clue points to Nick and the police begin building a case against him. It leaves the entire town and those closest to Amy wondering what Nick has done to Amy.
Of course, with all good stories, things aren’t always as they appear and this story will take the reader on great plot twists that they will never suspect coming. Although, I found the ending of this book to be a bit flat and it didn’t wrap up the way I had hoped, I still believe this is one of the best thrillers I have read this year.
Editor’s Note- This book contains graphic scenes, language, & violence.
Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon
If you are looking for another great chick-lit escape, Wife 22 offers a fresh and modern-day perspective on finding love that I think you will really enjoy.
Alice Buckle is a typical middle aged mother who has found herself in a funk in her marriage. While Googling the search term, “happy marriage,” she suddenly receives an opportunity in her email to take part in a marriage survey. Since she is struggling in her marriage, she find this to be a fun and anonymous way to share about her marriage without judgement. She takes on the anonymous survey as, “Wife 22,” and finds herself completely engrossed in taking the survey and writing the answers to the questions. As she engages daily in the interaction with the researcher, their playful banter starts to turn into something that Alice never expected.
This modern day love story of love lost and love found again is one that you will really love. What adds to the charm of this book is the social media thread of viewing Alice’s friend’s Facebook status updates at the beginning of the chapters, the Facebook chats she engages in, and of course the emails back and forth between herself and the Researcher.
A solid ending to this story really pulls all the layers together beautifully. As an aside, there is an Appendix at the very end of the book that provides the questions that were asked of Alice when completing the survey. I wished I would have had those to help me pull the answers together more fully.
Arranged by Catherine McKenzie
This book made my top ten list this past year, simply because it is deliciously fast-paced chick-lit at its finest.
Anne Blythe seems to have everything. She has sold her first book, has a fabulous life, and fabulous friends. When it comes to being lucky in love though, she can’t seem to ever find the right guy. novel. After her best friend announces her engagement and her latest relationship ends, she decides to take a risk and contact a dating service in hopes of finding the perfect match. Upon her first appointment with the dating service though, she realizes that it is not a dating service at all, but a matchmaking service for an arranged marriage.
Once she starts the process, there is no turning back and Anne finds herself traveling to a Mexican resort where she will meet and marry (all in the same weekend) her “perfect,” guy.
This book has great twists and turns that you will really enjoy and after devouring this book in a mere day, I can’t recommend it enough for a fun reading escape!
I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
Sometimes you just want to sit down with a good chick lit book and laugh. As always, Sophie Kinsella delivers a funny, charming, and hilarious book that will be perfect to tackle for your summer reading!
When Poppy Wyatt begins showing off her family heirloom engagement ring to all of her friends at a hotel reception, her ring ends up missing, amid the chaos of the fire alarms going off at the hotel. Not only is Poppy lost without her ring, her phone is stolen during the chaos with the number she has given the hotel staff to use to contact her if they do discover her ring.
When she spots a cell phone on top of a trash can, she gives that phone’s number out to the hotel staff, in hopes someone will find her engagement ring and call her on it. Of course, the phone belongs to someone and with that first call, Poppy’s life is turned upside down when businessman Sam Roxton begins chatting and texting Poppy.
The book is back to Sophie’s roots of hilarity that made her infamous Shopaholic series so delightful. I really enjoyed this cute modern day love story and I think you will too!
Labor Day by Joyce Maynard
Joyce Maynard is quickly becoming one of my new favorite authors and I found her book, “Labor Day,” to be a delight to read with great twists and character build that had me thinking about the book long after the pages were shut.
Henry is the narrator of this story and tells the story through his thirteen year-old eyes of a Labor Day weekend that changed his and his mother’s entire life. The strange story begins as he stands in a drugstore browsing the aisles, where he is approached by a man who asks if he can catch a ride home with him and his mother. The man appears to be injured, but seems harmless enough to catch a ride back with them. Henry doesn’t know it, but Frank is actually an escaped convict who is wanted for murder and is being searched for. His mother, Adele, is divorced and isolates herself from society, but offers to let Frank stay there for a few days as his injuries heal, in exchange for help around the house.
An unlikely relationship blossoms between the three characters and Frank quickly begins to fill the voids of a partner that Adele has always wanted in her life and the father that Henry wishes he had. Whether it is the simple act of dancing with Adele in the kitchen or throwing a ball with Henry, he fills those voids that they both have been missing. All of this would be perfect provided Frank wasn’t an escaped felon, but living in hiding is not a new thing for Adele, and both she & her son become quickly swept away with Frank.
The story telling in this is so vivid, despite the idea feeling a bit far-fetched, that I found myself rooting for a happy ending with the family that Adele & Henry have desired. As it seem is customary with Maynard’s books, a thoughtful twist is thrown in at the end that can lead to your own thoughtful reflection on what you would do in this situation.
Editor’s Note: Sexuality is in this book, as it is told through the eyes of an adolescent boy.
Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson
If you are looking for a psychological thriller that will have you guessing until the very last page what is happening, then I have the book for you. This is the best thriller that I have read this year and can hardly believe that it is the author’s first book.
Every single day Christine wakes up not knowing who she is, where she is, and who her husband is. It is the same scenario every day as she makes her way to the bathroom, where pictures are layered upon the mirror that explain who she is and who her husband is. Each day she must go through the heartbreaking discovery that she has had a terrible accident that has caused her to have permanent amnesia. People she thinks are alive have died. She can’t remember if she is a mother. She doesn’t know why she doesn’t have any friends. Some days she wakes up and she believes she is in her twenties and cannot even recognize the woman who looks at her in the mirror.
When Christine begins meeting with a doctor, he encourages her to begin journaling each day to help jog her memory of what has been happening in her daily life. As each day opens, Christine opens her journal and begins to read and as she reads, she begins to discover that the life that she is leading might not be all that it seems to be. As Christine becomes more and more aware of her story and begins to challenge the information that her husband is feeding to her about what has happened, the reader is left wondering if Christine is obsessing about details because she can’t really recall them or if the stories she is hearing are even real?
If you read one thriller this year, let it be this one. I promise you, it is truly amazing and will leave you stunned when you read the final pages. I can’t wait to read more from this author.
something borrowed by emily giffin
Rachel & Darcy have been best friends their whole lives. Darcy is the beautiful one and is the friend that is always hogging the spotlight, while Rachel has always been content to be in Darcy’s shadow, concentrating on her studies in school. As Rachel is out celebrating her thirtieth birthday with Darcy, her fiancée Dex, and their other friends, she finds that she drinks a tad more than she normally would and finds herself in a predicament that changes the outcome of her life.
That night, when Dex graciously offers to see Rachel home, one thing leads to another and they find themselves having an affair that neither one of them bargained for. Writing it off as a one night stand, Rachel decides that she will try to forget that the encounter ever happened.
Thinking that Dex likely had too much to drink too, she is stunned when Dex admits that he has had feelings for Rachel for a long time.
As the two of them try to resist each other, Rachel is forced to complete the duties as the maid of honor to Darcy, and help her with the decisions for her wedding to Dex. Rachel is consumed with guilt while Darcy continues to be consumed with herself and is oblivious to what is happening.
Told from Rachel’s perspective, you begin to sympathize with Rachel and the challenges that she has had to live with to be friends with a person like Darcy. As she reflects on childhood incidents and the way that Darcy has made her feel, you can’t help but to sympathize for her and root for her to be with Dex.
The twist is such a good one at the end and while it is more of the chick-lit genre, this book is more about the friendships and the dynamics within a friendship than anything else! I am so glad that I finally read this and dived into the sequel, “Something Blue,” as soon as I finished it.
Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
This book was an unbelievably fun adventure that chronicles the life of two best friends from the time they are children until they are grown women. It goes through each decade, the hair, the pop culture references, and the politics that are happening as they are growing up.
Kate & Tully are as opposite as friends can be, but they are both outsiders in their own ways. Kate is a bookworm and shy while Tully has been uprooted to a new school and feels unloved by her mother. Regardless of their differences, they become fast friends whose lives become quickly entwined.
As they get older, new issues face them. Tully is career-driven and hungry for a job as an anchorwoman. Kate, on the other hand, is more laid back and unsure of her life goals. Kate really just longs to be with someone while Tully ends up with the someone she longs to be with.
In some ways the book was predictable, in others, it reminded me of the chick flicks I love to see with my girlfriends. I laughed out loud and I cried a little bit too. It was just an all-around fantastic read!
I gave this gift to my girlfriends for the holidays because it is just one of those books that you can’t not share!
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
This book takes you on a journey that is beautifully told of the time in China and in the US during the Japanese invasion of Shanghai and happens to be one of my favorite Lisa See books of all time.
Pearl & May are sisters who deal with many of the insecurities and rivalry that most sisters endure. Pearl is studious and responsible while May is beautiful and has the ability to get her way in any type of situation. Both girls are living a life of privilege and are unaware of the poor and less fortunate. The girls enjoy the good life and are able to afford their lifestyle thanks to modeling for advertisements that help afford them what their family needs.
This all takes a turn when they discover that their father is in deep debt. In order to pay off his debts, he arranges for a marriage and marries off the girls to a set of brothers residing in the United States. They are expected to make the journey to the US and fulfill their father’s debts.
Getting to the United States proves to be more challenging than either sister bargained for as the invasion of Shanghai happens at the same time they are to be heading on the boat.
To say that this journey to the United States is epic, would be a small understatement. The girls endure incredible tragedy, untold brutality, and a journey that they never dreamed they would ever endure.
The story, above all else, is about sisters. Sisters that love each other in spite of it all…and sisters that would do anything for one another.
There is a sequel to this book and you can find my review of that here!
Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger
From the author of, “The Devil Wears Prada,” is a great read following a normal everyday couple and what happens when fame comes knocking.
Julian & Brooke live a relatively idyllic life as both have focus on their careers. Julian works a day job, but has high hopes of one day becoming a famous musician. Brooke, his wife, is his number one fan who works two jobs to help support her husband’s struggling career as he tries to break into the record industry. They both hope that he will one day become famous and do what he loves so much. Of course, the old adage, “Be careful what you wish for,” really rings true when Julian finally becomes the rock star he has always wanted.
While Julian is whisked off and surrounded by a PR team and record executives looking to boost his image and get him mentioned in tabloids, Brooke is left wondering what this will all mean for her and their marriage. When a scandalous picture is taken of her husband with another woman at Chateau Marmont, Brooke must decide if she can truly believe Julian or if the pressure from fans and the people he surrounds himself with have become too much.
As she struggles to continue doing her job while still supporting Julian and being there for all of the events that are happening in his career, Brooke now finds herself, at times, lonely and practically single. With every obstacle placed in front of their marriage, the reader is left wondering if any marriage could survive the fame and scrutiny of the public.
A heartbreaking and real look at fame and how it could alter a relationship, this is a little more than your typical chick-lit! Lauren Weisberger delivers another great new read filled with pop culture references and many cameos from some of your favorite celebrities!
One Day by David Nicholls
The concept for Nicholl’s book is a genius one that I loved from start to finish. It chronicles the lives of two friends, Dex & Em, over the course of twenty years and each chapter begins a new year on the same exact day. It begins with what seems like a romantic relationship in 1988 and then each year jumps into a new place of their friendship and what is happening that year with them.
You began the journey with Dex & Em when they are in college and each of them is dreaming big for what they have in store for their future. You then go along on the journey as Dex lives off of the wealth of his family, as Em is stuck in a dead end job, as Dex finds fame, as Dex loses fame, and as Em finally begins living her dream. To say more than this would give it all away, but know that as a reader of the book, you get to glimpse into the lives and evolution of how we change as people as we grow older.
The relationship with Dex & Em is at times endearing and at times exasperating. Em puts up with a lot as Dex falls down a slippery slope in the world of Hollywood. It is a, “When Harry Met Sally,” love story that I simply could not put down.
The ending was a shocking one, that may disappoint some readers, but it did not take away from the story for me. Because of the ending, try to avoid reading any reviews of the book until you have finished it so you can draw your own conclusion on this book!
The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain
I have never read a book by Diane Chamberlain, but if this is any indication of her writing style, I am permanently hooked on this author.
This book focuses on a sixteen year old girl who has lost her mother and seems to be very alone in the world. She works as a waitress and waits on the table of a handsome young man who sweeps her off of her feet. Despite their age difference, he seems to be very taken with her and she is head over heels in love with him.
He makes a confession that he is on a mission to release his sister from jail for a wrongfully accused crime. He asks her to partner with him and his brother to free their sister from jail. All she will have to do is to sit with the senator’s wife, whom they plan to kidnap, as bait to get the local senator to agree to release their sister.
The crime goes completely wrong and forever alters the path of CeeCee Wilkes. She is forced to change her identity and lives with a horrible secret of what has happened during that fateful night that she assisted with the kidnapping.
This one had me on the edge of my seat and I could not put it down until I knew what had happened. It is one of the best books that I have read in a long time and I would highly recommend it!
These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf
If you have not read The Weight of Silence, be sure to check out my review on Heather Gudenkauf’s first novel. Gudenkauf is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors and her second novel is filled with suspense, fabulous plot twists, and a great storyline that I devoured in just two days! Her books, to me, are like a really suspenseful movie and what I was so fond of in Jodi Picoult’s earlier books.
Allison Green was not the typical teenager, but a golden child who excelled at everything she ever did. Straight A’s, beautiful, and a strong soccer player, she seemed to have everything going for her. In a mistake that would forever alter her existence, and even cause her parents to disown her, Allison Green is accused of murder and spends five years serving a ten year sentence. Her reputation is marred forever, but it isn’t the only reputation to be marred.
Allison’s sister, Brynn, was constantly in the shadow of her sister and never got any attention from her parents. Living in a small town and having your sister accused of murder is social suicide for Brynn, who has lost all of her friends because of her sister’s mistake. When Allison is released early for good behavior, she is the first to be called by Allison. Brynn won’t take her calls and finds the new existence she has created at college once again is clouded by her sister’s past.
The two sister’s worlds are about to collide as the secret of one little boy threatens three families and the reader will be shocked at the twisted web that Gudenkauf successfully spins, weaving an unlikely set of characters together and a suspenseful satisfying ending that will leave you begging for more!
Defending Jacob by William Landay
I am not interested in legal thrillers, but my girlfriend recommended this book to me and I am so thankful she did. This is one of the best thrillers I have read since Before I Go to Sleep, and left me hanging on the edge of my seat for the entire book.
Andy Barber has been a district attorney for over twenty years. He is well respected and knows how to command the courtroom. When a murder happens at his son’s school, he is among the first on the scene and is ready to help bring vindication to the murderer.
What Andy never suspects is that his own son is the one who is charged with the murder. Andy is removed from the case when all clues begin to point towards his son. Andy doesn’t want to believe that his son could commit such a heinous crime, but as mounting evidence points towards Jacob, he is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Does he hide the evidence he finds that he knows that the police might be after or let the justice system decide the fate of his child?
Part family drama, part thriller, I could not put this book down. My heart ached for this family who is now ostracized from their friends and coworkers, while the other part of me ached that Jacob would be proven guilty of the crime. The reader will be taken on a wild ride from start to finish with this book. It is a twisty ending that will leave you breathless.
Whatever you do, add this deeply moving book to your list. I highly recommend this read for book clubs because it gives readers a chance to think what they might do to protect their child.
Editor’s Note: This book contains violence and graphic language.
Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch
If I had to give my vote to one of my all-time favorite chick lit books, “Time of My Life,” would be among my absolute favorites.
In this book, Scotch tackles an the what-if question that many of us ask ourselves- what if I had held on to the one that got away? Jillian Westfield seems to have it all: a loving lawyer husband, a beautiful baby girl, and a gorgeous home in Westchester County, N.Y. While she has it all, she also is run down and covered in spit-up when she disocvers that her old boyfriend, Jackson, is getting married. The day after a chi-clearing massage, Jill wakes up and finds herself seven years in the past, giving her the chance to revisit her life with Jack in Manhattan, when she worked as an advertising executive.
The grass is always greener on the other side, and Jillian discovers what life would be like if she had never met her husband and had gone down the other path in life instead. Fast-moving and beautifully written, this is a definite must-read to add to your beach bag!
Great-Aunt Sophia’s Lessons for Bombshells by Lisa Cach
Grace Cavanaugh is working religiously on proving her Women’s Studies dissertation thesis that beauty only leads to unhappiness. She figures what better subject for her dissertation could there be than her great-aunt Sophia, a former B-movie star? Now eighty-five and facing surgery, Sophia has asked Grace for her to come and stay with her for the summer.
Grace soon discovers that rather than a frail and aging starlet, Great-Aunt Sophia is happily holiding cord in a Pebble Beach mansion, that seems to captivate everyone in her presence. To make matters worse, she wants to focus on making Grace into the bombshell she never was and starts Grace on a strict regime of carbs, updating her wardrobe, and learning to talk like a lady. To practice she must practice her new feminine wiles on on two of them in the house and see what results.
Newly unleashed desires—and the discovery of a closely held family secret threaten everything that Grace has always believed about being a woman.
While slightly predictable, this is a sexy book with a better developed plot than your typical Harlequin-type romance. This one offers a fun escape into a love triangle that would be perfect for your summer reading!
Editor’s Note- Sexuality
The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen
The most recent indulgence in my beach reading bag has been this fantastically wonderful escape in Sarah Pekkanen’s latest novel, “The Best of Us.”
If you happen to be in the 35-year old range like me, you will appreciate the college flashbacks with music and discussion of that time their life and, with nothing to do but lay on the beach, there is plenty of time to reminisce about their former life. But as a powerful hurricane bears down on the island, turmoil swirls inside the villa, forcing each of the women to reevaluate everything she knows about her friends—and herself.
This is a fantastic read from one of my favorite chick-lit authors. This is definitely one to add to your beach bag this summer for a fun escape!
Editor’s Note: Sexuality
Not enough great reads for you? Check out our Books section of our site for monthly recommendations and ideas for making reading a priority again in your busy mom life!
Disclosure: All of the links above are affiliate links and are provided so you can locate the books quickly and easily. Feel free to order a book, but we encourage utilizing the library system and buying me a latte instead. Then we both would be really happy and we could have our own little book club together! Wouldn’t that just be so much more lovely? Happy Reading!
Tell me, what’s YOUR favorite beach read? Anything I should be adding to my beach bag for the summer? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!