Are you looking for the best beach reads of all time? Check out these summer reads for a chilling beach experience.
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This post originally published in the summer of 2018 and is updated with new global summer reads for 2019.
Why You Need The Perfect Chilly Beach Read
Most days living in Florida I feel like I am melting. The windows steam up every morning and the parched lizards start moving slower.
The scorching heat makes beach visits daunting.
Even sitting by the pool is a challenge. This frying an egg–aka me–on the pavement scenario is problematic. My favorite past time involves summer books, a cool drink, and The Uncorked Librarian in a lounge chair.
How do you make these hot days bearable? Book to beach is like wine to Christine. There is, of course, only one solution: more alcohol! Well, frothier drinks at least and maybe more engaging books. Like the best beach reads of all time.
In fact, what if the book gave you the chills? What if the book was SO good, you forgot that you were melting?
I’m talking shivers like when you watch Riverdale (Season 2) before bed.
Or even better, what if you read about ice skating and the winter while roasting outside?
Or how about getting your head sawed off and cryogenically frozen?
Ok, maybe not that one, but what if?
Would you chill out this summer with a good beach book?
I asked my favorite bloggers, bookstagrammers, and Goodreads friends for their best beach reads ever that will help you chill out and beat the summer heat. Throughout this eclectic list, I dare you to not find a few great summer books with a cooler theme.
Also discover uncorked twists with global summer reads scattered throughout each genre.
The Best Beach Reads Of All Time:
Chill Out With A Good Book This Summer
Adult Summer Reads
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
Beach Reads Submission By Haley Gibson of Backpacking Bookworm
Cool Of With A Rain Shower
It’s raining. Not just a light drizzle. That heavy November downpour that soaks you through and has you shielding your eyes as you run for cover. The kind that kids chase, looking for the deepest puddle. On the way home from school, 5-year-old Jacob wants to race his mum home. It happens in seconds.
The squeal of breaks.
The slam of his body.
His final breath.
On this day, Jenna Gray’s world is turned upside down. Unable to cope in the town where she is constantly reminded of the tragic accident, she moves to an isolated cottage in Wales. She struggles to live with her uncontrollable grief, but after finally adjusting to a simple way of life, she starts to see a possible future in this quiet little town. That is until the past re-surfaces and she finds herself back in the middle of the nightmare. A nightmare with life-changing consequences…
An Intense Beach Reads Thriller
Whenever someone asks me to recommend the best beach read ever, I immediately answer I Let You Go by Clare Macintosh.
In terms of thrillers, this I Let You Go has the most unexpected twists and turns. Many thrillers follow a similar structure: a few decoys with usually one major twist. Macintosh, however, goes 5 steps further, leaving readers stunned with her multiple revelations.
The characters are realistic and identifiable, the storyline has been expertly constructed and the use of 1st, 2nd and 3rd person narrative add to the increasing intensity of the story.
What better way to cool down in the summer than with a beach book set in winter with biting winds and chilly temperatures? Not to mention the events in this book are sure to get that spine-tingling. I Let You Go is my recommended must-read summer book.
Handle With Care by Jodie Picoult
Submission By Elle of Elle Louise
An Unfair Tale Of Two Ice Skaters
Handle With Care debuted at number 1 on The New York Times Best Seller list in 2009.
One of the best summer reads, Handle With Care focuses on a mother and father and their two daughters. Willow is diagnosed at birth with Type III Osteogenesis Imperfecta, sometimes called ‘Brittle Bone Syndrome.’ The eldest daughter loves ice skating, whilst Willow who has OI, can only dream of going out onto the ice; one fall can shatter more bones than you can even name.
Living in America, the health care expenses for such an illness can easily rack up. Worrying about covering the expenses, Charlotte—the mother—finds a solution. A wrongful birth lawsuit will give complete financial stability for her daughter since her ob-gyn didn’t tell her that her daughter would be born severely disabled.
But, if Charlotte goes through with this, she will have to stand up and sue her ob-gyn, who also happens to be her best friend. She will have to tell everyone, including her daughter that she would have terminated the pregnancy had she known about the Osteogenesis Imperfecta in advance.
What Would You Do?
Written in the diary-style typical for Picoult, Handle With Care is an emotionally quizzing novel that explores family arguments, teenage mental health, feuding friendships and the fine line of medical ethics.
I constantly found myself asking ‘what would I do?’ and to this day I haven’t been able to decide. What I do know is this is a great novel which I could read over and over again. This is an ethical and captivating beach read with an icy backdrop. If you love Jodi Picoult, check out her other books on TUL→
A Few More Chilling Adult Fiction Summer Reads You May Love With An TUL Twist:
What could make for a better beach read (of all time) than a story about a hard cold, bitchy boss? You know that I love my books set in places, and Manhattan is the ultimate location for a freshly minted grad to start as an assistant for a snooty high fashion magazine. Sounds a bit like Super Girl to me…
Laugh along with your typical Hades workplace experience as Andrea questions if the job of her dreams is killing her soul and if her boss is evil. Duh, it is.
If you watched the movie, you know what all the hype is about for Murder On The Orient Express. One of my favorite summer reads, this mystery won’t quite chill you to the bone but will instead leave you mistrusting everyone and their intentions.
Samual Ratchett lies dead in his cabin–his body pierced with relentless knife wounds–on the infamous train, The Orient Express. The killer is, of course, still on the train, and no one is safe. Can Detective Hercule Poirot solve the mystery before it’s too late?
One of the chilliest best beach reads of all time has to be The Godfather. Now if you happen to drink a Godfather (that my husband loves) while reading it, that helps chill you out too.
Anyone else Italian-American and terrified that they will find a horse’s head in their bed? Yea, me neither.
This summer read doesn’t need a lot of explanation, but follow along with the mafia underbelly in New York as the Corleone family wheels and deals…and bullies and kills.
My apologies now, but I basically add Good Omens to all of my book lists because it is pretty much considered one of the hottest stories of 2019. Or should I say coldest with the Antichrist and Armageddon coming?
Summer reads are those that make you think, give you a wickedly good storyline, and are well-written by famous authors. Watch the battle for good versus evil with a sweet and naive angel and a kind-hearted and fiery devil. Find witches, love, and friendship. Read More→
I remember reading Emma Cline’s The Girls and thinking what the actual f*ck. Taking place in California in the 1960s watch as a gaggle of girls gets sucked into one creepy cult. Freedom is not all that it is cut out to be.
A psychological thriller, fall into the mindset of the leaders and the girls. See if you are entranced enough to kill. The Girls is a brilliant summer read.
Nonfiction Beach Reads You May Love With An TUL Twist:
Capote’s In Cold Blood is not your typical best beach read type kind of suggestion, but if you want engrossing horror, this nonfiction title is for you.
In 1959, two-ex convicts robbed and brutally murdered four members of the Clutter family. Capote investigates and reconstructs the story, bringing what later became controversial humanity to the killers. Read More→
The Best Beach Reads Of All Time:
Science Fiction Summer Reads
Artemis: A Novel by Andy Weir
Beach Reads Submission By Steffen Heinrich
Y’all, Space Is Cold
Cool down in the frozen wastes of space!
This is a fun and breezy (not literally, infinitesimal atmosphere) summer read that starts in humanity’s first and only colony on the moon.
In this near-future vision, Artemis is a relatively new settlement and mainly the playground of the rich elite who pay big money to travel from Earth and play tourist. It’s largely lawless, with a few sizable corporations and various nationalistic trade unions running the show.
The story follows Jazz, a young and tough Artemisian woman, who has a head for business and a knack for landing in trouble. One of the working-class poor who inhabit and labor in the colony, she struggles daily to survive. Using her intellect and ambiguous moral compass, Jazz is on a constant lookout to make it big.
After accepting a job with an enormous payoff, things quickly begin to go sideways and Jazz becomes embroiled in a much larger scheme with the various factions vying for control of Artemis.
Finding herself in a tight spot between mafia-style cartels and the cabals, pursued by a hitman as well as a vigilante lawman, Jazz must piece together the puzzle while navigating a myriad of dangerous obstacles using her guile, sarcastic wit, and the power of science to try and save the day.
Enjoy The Frigid Vastness With A Gin & Tonic
I loved reading this novel on my sunny deck with a refreshing gin and tonic to hand while imagining the frigid vastness of our solar system and the struggles of life in a lunar colony. Artemis delivers for anyone with even a passing interest in science or space, or just some light political intrigue and a good heist. Sounds like the best beach read of all time to me…
The frenetic pace of Andy Weir’s writing, along with his light and humorous style, combine for a wild and entertaining ride through this caper of a novel.
Widely praised for his previous novel, The Martian, Weir has done it again in Artemis with his mix of action, clever problem solving and scientific principles. Even when he delves into technical explanations and the scientific aspects of the colony, it is done with care to be easily understood and enjoyed. So take that one small step this summer, and leap into a cool book that’s out-of-this-world fun.
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Best Beach Reads Of All Time Submission by Erica Næss of Naessessary Escape
Creepy Vegan Cults With Hymns Will Give You Goosebumps
Margaret Atwood has received attention in recent years due to the television adaptation of her novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. If you liked that series and/or read the book, then The Year of the Flood is a good summer read for you.
This post-apocalyptic novel is part of Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy. Although published after Oryx and Crake, it is more of a companion piece than a sequel, so it’s not necessary to have read the other book first.
The novel is set in a world in which corporations have taken control of science and technology with terrible consequences for both humanity and the rest of the planet.
At this point, a manmade plague eliminates most humans, and we are following two of the female survivors, Toby and Ren, who were once part of a group called God’s Gardeners. The God’s Gardeners are kind of like a vegan cult with hymns and saint’s days.
A Take On Climate Change?
The flood in the title is a figurative one, and the setting of the novel is somehow both alien and all too familiar.
Disturbing hybrid creatures roam around, such as wolvogs and creepily intelligent pigs called pigoons. This may seem a bit science fiction, but Atwood has always insisted that all of her dystopian novels are rooted in reality; they are either things that have happened or are plausible extrapolations of things that could happen.
Considering we live in a world where many people still deny climate change, and in which corporations have so much control, Atwood’s dark vision actually seems plausible.
However, what is great about good dystopian fiction is that it isn’t the creatures that are the scariest; the biggest threat the protagonists face is from other people – men in particular. In this way, we can see the connection to the Handmaid’s Tale. Although the novels are very different in terms of setting, what they have in common is an exploration of the ways in which men threaten or control women.
Summer Reads Not To Miss:
Romance Beach Books
Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas
Top Beach Reads Submission by Korri K. of My First Homelands Have Been Books
Chill Out While Steaming Up, Romance-style
Devil in Winter (2006) by Lisa Kleypas is the perfect historical romance summer read perfect for chilling out and steaming up.
In 1843, shy, stuttering wallflower Evangeline “Evie” Jenner stands to inherit a fortune from her father’s gambling club. She just has to escape from her abusive relatives and a forced marriage with her unscrupulous cousin.
The scandalous libertine Viscount Sebastian St. Vincent needs an infusion of cash so Evie approaches him with a shocking proposal: marriage. She gains control of her life, he gains a fortune, and no love is lost between them…
Or is there? Evie & Sebastian warm up to each other during a frigid carriage ride to Gretna Green.
I love seeing Evie come into her own and Sebastian learn the value of work and his wife. Their blossoming romance is a treat to read during any season but it helps to have a pool or the ocean to cool off in after reading their love scenes. One of the best romantic best beach reads ever? You bet.
The Best Beach Reads Of All Time:
Global Books & Historical Fiction Novels
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Submission by Jennia, Bookstagrammer
A Chilling Death Sentence
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent is the result of years of extensive research and a decade long fascination with Icelandic figure, Agnes Magnusdottir.
In 1828, Agnes and two others are found guilty in the murders of two men, one of whom had been her employer. As retribution for her part in this crime, she is sentenced to death by beheading.
Kent uses a masterful blend of historical records, local folklore and gossip, and fiction to create a story that takes a deeper look at the motives, history, and lives of those involved.
While awaiting her execution, Agnes is sent to live on an isolated farm with a family ordered to foster her. The close quarters of the farmstead increase the tension felt by both Agnes and the family, where the entire household hears every expelled breath or stifled cough.
The lack of privacy is keenly felt during Agnes’ sessions with her chosen counsel, the inexperienced but increasingly sympathetic Reverend Toti. As a result, the entire family and their servants are drawn into Agnes’ story as she gradually begins to tell more about her past and the events that led up to the night of the murders.
Feel The Icy Snow With An Icelandic Winter
The story becomes more compelling and the characters more intertwined as the Icelandic winter approaches, bringing with it months of treacherous cold and snow. Vivid imagery is used to describe the various deaths or hardships that have occurred because of past winter weather and life in a harsh and remote landscape. In a way, the characters are all fighting for survival.
Kent effortlessly weaves in descriptions of historical activities and social customs without breaking the natural flow of the story.
Burial Rites is written primarily in the third person, with only Agnes’ side told in first-person narrative, giving her words a feeling of immediacy and raw emotion. Like other fictional accounts of past women murderers who may have been too quickly found guilty, Agnes is given some much-needed humanity through the voice lent to her by Kent.
Burial Rites is certainly a best beach reads of all time that shouldn’t get overlooked. Read More→
Royally Roma by Teri Wilson
Submission by Jess of From Me to You..Video, Photography, and Book Reviews
A Cooler Roman Holiday
After feeling beaten down by his own royal responsibilities, Niccolo (Nico/Mano) the heir to the Lazaretto throne decides on escaping his gilded cage by pretending to be someone else when he meets Julia. Julia is an American tour guide living in Rome, who is running from her own notorious past and is in the midst of pulling her life together when she meets Niccolo.
Their attraction is instantaneous and is blooming into something more by the minute. Yet when Niccolo’s “quick getaway” turns into something a whole lot more and into a bigger fiasco then he originally planned.
Can he return to his “real” life, after all, is said and done? Or will he be able to change his life for the better with the help of Julia by his side?
Contemporary Romance Perfect To Get Your Mind Off The Heat
Okay, truth time…people have said this novel is a modern retelling of the classic Audrey Hepburn film ‘Roman Holiday,’ and though I have heard of it, I have never watched it. I really didn’t know what it was about.
The banter between Niccolo and Julia reeled me in. Together they seemed to light up each page as you learned about their unusual meetup and budding romance. Though both resisted the possibility of something more between them, it seemed like fate wanted them together.
I recommend Royally Roma 100% to anyone looking for a quirky contemporary summer read.
A Few More Chilling Global Summer Reads You May Love With An TUL Twist:
Set against the fall of Afghanistan’s leaders and during Soviet occupation, we learn about friendship, survival, and betrayal. A chilling story with some hard to swallow scenes, readers will still fall in love with the simplicity and innocence of kite flying and redemption in a time of death and destruction. An unlikely summer read, The Kite Runner is both captivating and insightful, making for a strong global bestselling title. CW for rape.
Meet Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s number one lady detective. Precious is smart, fun, and endearing while at the same time trying to solve mysteries set in a gorgeous backdrop.
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is one of the best beach reads of all time because the title not only transports you to Africa, but the series will last you all summer long. Not quite a cozy mystery, McCall Smith adds culture and a feminist flair. You won’t shiver or shriek, but I also think that parts of the African continent are hotter than where I am. Comparatively, I am cooler.
I don’t know about you, but hostage situations chill me to the bone. Set in South America, watch as terrorists take over a ritzy, private opera birthday party. In a weird turn of events, the hostages and terrorists build relationships and empathy for each other–some even falling in love.
You know that the outcome can’t be good, and the story is more sad and unnerving than terrifying. I love Ann Patchett and champion any of her novels as the best beach reads, ever.
The Best Beach Reads Of All Time:
Young Adult Summer Reads From TUL
Find Yourself Chilled To The Bone With Gore Galore
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll is a haunting YA and equally gripping adult-appropriate graphic novel with five short stories full of gothic, macabre illustrations. If you are laying out on the beach, get ready for a bone-chilling book. Warning, don’t snack while reading this one. Truly, Through the Woods is my best beach read of all time if you want to be scared.
Skin becomes the vessel for worm-like babies, bad dreams can kill, and there is a plethora of ghosts, murderers, and chopped up body parts. Most important: do not walk through the woods late at night. In reality, there is no escaping the inevitable doom regardless of precautions.
Most appealing to this excellent debut graphic novel is the intentional use of colors and details or lack thereof. Carroll draws humans without eyes, sometimes using grayed out beady holes. Darkness lurks beneath their skin. Sound a little Neil Gaiman-esque?
Intensely claw-like hands tear through the pages. Colorful scenes of normalcy and innocence add to the irony that nothing is ordinary and sane. Throughout the novel, red smears across the pages and integrates all five stories. The drippy illustrations and blood add to the horror-like quality of the book.
I do not recommend reading Through the Woods home alone or late at night. I am a wimp. Teens and adults who love macabre art will find pleasure in this book. Add this title to one of many perfect top summer reads and consider it equally chilling for an early Halloween celebration.
Walt Disney Meets Travis: A Chilling Tale
Noggin by John Corey Whaley is unlike any other young adult novel out there, and even better: it is perfect for adults. Remember our innovative buddy, Walt Disney? …when he died… Ahem. Cough, cough. Feeling chilled to the bone, yet? Yet? …if you catch my drift.
Noggin is a coming of age story with a science fiction twist. Sixteen-year-old Travis’ body is dying of cancer. He signs up for an experimental procedure that may one day bring him back to life. Doctors saw off Travis’ his head and freeze it for five years. Savage, scary, and scientifically cool, literally.
When Travis wakes, he has a different body. However, Travis still loves his teenage girlfriend, Cate, who is now 21 and engaged to someone else.
Much of the story focuses on Travis coming to terms with his rebirth and his determination to win Cate’s heart, which is at times a frustrating obsession to witness. Especially curious to this plot, Whaley chooses not to focus on religion, heaven, or the afterlife.
Love Obsession, Cold Hearts, And A Moral: Maybe Don’t Freeze Yourself?!
In the end, with tears in my eyes, I found myself wondering if I would want to come back or if I should just enjoy the moments before dying. Would I have a better appreciation for life or would I fall back into old habits?
Clearly, Travis had not considered all of the repercussions but could he possibly even fathom the changes? He distinctly remembers his best friend coming out right before the procedure, but now that friend has a girlfriend. Life is not as he left it.
Most relatable and nostalgic to adult readers is Travis’ love story. Nothing else matters to Travis but Cate.
Remember adolescence and falling in love?
I hate to admit it, but I was the center of my own love life until I grew up and become more like Cate: self-aware, selfless, and independent. I enjoyed reliving teen love.
Lastly, do not expect Noggin to end in the most predictable or satisfying way. The ending is fitting of Whaley’s style and morals. Plus, this is one of the best beach reads ever because you imagine yourself frozen. Or is that just me?
Noggin is a National Book Award Finalist.
Looking for the best beach reads of all time? Why not break all of your rules and try Twilight?
I am not going to lie: I could not resist this series. Sexy vampires and werewolves, cheesy teen romance, and scenes that crack you up? Plus, Washington is cold and cloudy AF. Why not imagine yourself there freezing cold and drinking a coffee instead?
Find out what happens when a vampire falls in love with a human. Read More→
If you love Twilight, you’ll enjoy these other vampire books, romances, and series.
Phew, are you cooled off? Did you find your next top beach read?
Have you read any of these titles? What books do you consider to be the best beach reads of all time?
Headed to the beach? Check out my friend, Kathy’s, Beach Packing List for a fabulous beach day.
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