27 Uplifting Beach Reads That Deserve a Spot in Your Tote Bag This Summer
If you love getting lost in an unforgettable book, then you understand the magnitude of the anticipation for beach-read season. Sure, we read books all year long, but there's something special about basking in the sun while devouring a page-turner to the backdrop of ocean waves. Beach reads can encompass anything from a swoony romance to a twisted, captivating thriller, or even a gut-wrenching memoir. However, we'd be lying if we said we didn't sometimes wish there was a vault that shelved only feel-good, uplifting narratives — or at least guaranteed happy endings. It's summer! We want to feel alive and happy, and not have the urge to hide under our beach towels in terror. If you can relate, browse through our uplifting beach-read list ahead.
You can't go wrong with a Jasmine Guillory novel, but her 2018 release titled The Proposal hits it out of the park (literally — the main characters meet at a baseball game) when it comes to feel-good beach reads. Instantly, readers will become infatuated with and lost in the complicated love story that is Nikole Paterso and Carlos Ibarra. (PS If you love this book, Guillory's The Wedding Date series follows the love stories of different characters, and it's a real sexy treat.)
The Truth and Other Hidden Things
If book characters could meet IRL, we have a feeling Lea Geller's protagonist Bells Walker would be BFFs with Lady Whistledown. With two kids and a baby on the way, Bells and her husband uproot their city lifestyle for something a little more rustic out in Hudson Valley. With lots of time on her hands, Bells starts a blog under the pseudonym County Duchess where she dishes about mom life and, of course, delivers the piping hot town gossip. The Truth and Other Hidden Things explores exactly that: the truth and other hidden things — or people.
Love at First Like
Hannah Orenstein's Love at First Like follows sisters Eliza and Sophie Roth as they try to financially save their beloved jewelry shop nestled in the heart of New York City. After a late-night drunken mistake, it seems as though Eliza has found the answer: pretend she's engaged and use it for the store's financial and popularity gain! With a ring, a date, and half the wedding planned, Eliza realizes she's just missing one important piece: a fiancé. Enter regal entrepreneur Blake. As the lies start to pile up and deadlines approach, Eliza is in a big pickle. Of course, it also doesn't help she's falling in love with someone else, too.
Single State of Mind
In her follow-up to It's Not Okay, Andi Dorfman is back and better than ever in her second book, Single State of Mind. Laugh along as Dorfman recounts some of her most hilarious, memorable, and cringey encounters from her first year in the New York dating scene, which may or may not take her cross country.
You Had Me at Hola
Jasmine Lin Rodriguez and Ashton Suárez are desperate to nail their onscreen romance, you see, as both of their reputations are in jeopardy. However, their initial run-in doesn't go over all too smoothly. In fact, it's such a disaster that they begin rehearsing outside of the studio. As their love continues to strengthen and bloom on set, it also does so in real life. You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria will have you hooked until the very last page.
After being diagnosed with cancer, Vicki decides to move to Nantucket for the summer with her two children, younger sister, and close friend. All the women are facing their own crises, but when the sexy beach local is thrown into their chaotic world, everything seems a little less crazy. Elin Hilderbrand's Barefoot will take you on a bit of an emotional roller coaster, but the ending is well worth the read.
They say things happen in threes, and it couldn't be more true for the sisters in Susan Mallery's California Girls. Finola's husband has left her for a younger, megapopular superstar; Ali's fiancé calls off their wedding, but sends his brother to do all the dirty work; and Zennie is carrying her best friend's baby, because she's single AF, and why not? With a high-strung mother, they'll need to lean on each other. As they say, nothing is stronger than blood.
With the Fire on High
In her YA novel With the Fire on High, Elizabeth Acevedo explores the world of teenager Emoni Santiago, who dreams of becoming a chef while she spends her days tending to her daughter and abuela. Treat your food and book appetite with this cherishing, inspirational read.
Travel to the sunny paradise that is Key West in Priscilla Oliveras's newest release, Anchored Hearts. It's been years since Alejandro Miranda and Anamaría Navarro were in the same city, let alone in their close-knit hometown where nothing goes unnoticed. When Alejandro returns to heal from an injury, everyone is on board to get the couple back together, including their nosy Cuban families, but is it too late?
As seen in Younger, Marriage Vacation by Pauline Turner Brooks introduces Kate Carmichael, an affluent woman who appears to have it all, but has always held remorse regarding the person she could have been, had she followed her real dreams. On a quick trip to attend a wedding of old friends, Kate reevaluates her life and jets off in discovery of the woman she could have been, and possibly still could be.
A satire like no other, Mateo Askaripour's Black Buck introduces Darren, college student by morning and clever Starbucks barista by evening. Upon meeting New York up-and-up tech CEO Rhett Daniels, Darren's life changes exponentially and he goes from making lattes to being the only Black salesman at Rhett's elite company. Feeling provoked to "reinvent" himself, Darren starts going by "Buck," and it's all downhill from there. Buck is on a quest to bridge the gap of color and inequality in his office while still managing to kick butt at his job.
Summer at Tiffany
In the summer of 1945, best friends Marjorie Jacobson and Marty Garrett leave their sorority house at the University of Iowa for a chance at the high life in New York City. Written by the woman who experienced it all firsthand, Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart, relives the tale of the first two women to work as pages on the sales floor at Tiffany & Co. From the fashion and diamonds to the celebrity customers and old-timey NYC setting, this book is a yummy beach-read delight.
The Girl He Used to Know
Readers who were captivated by the characters in Before We Were Strangers and The Light We Lost will enjoy The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves. College sweethearts Annika Rose and Jonathan Hoffman thought their relationship could survive anything, but then life happens and they part ways, only to be reunited 10 years later by chance (ahem, sound familiar?!). The feelings are there, and dang, are they strong, but they'll have to work through the past to have a shot at a future.
Sex and Vanity
You might know Kevin Kwan from his blockbuster hit Crazy Rich Asians. His most recent novel, Sex and Vanity, follows Lucie Churchill, daughter of an American-born Chinese mother and New York-bred father. While on vacation with her fiancé, Lucie runs into George Zao, aka her hot vacay fling from a few years prior, who she secretly never got over. George is back and he's here to stay, and more importantly, he's in love with Lucie, but she's already spoken for — or is she?
Chantel Guertin pens a modern-day approach to a romp book in Instamom. Instagram influencer Kit Kidding is all about hashtags, curated posts, aesthetically pleasing filters, and snapping the perfect photo angle. With no kids in the mix, she's free to do whatever or whoever she wants, except when that whoever turns out to be a single dad with a 8-year-old daughter. Will MacGregor is everything she's not, but it works. Is a rebrand really worth a shot at true love?
Park Avenue Summer
In Park Avenue Summer, fictional protagonist Alice Weiss has her eyes set on being a big-time photographer, and finds herself one step closer to her dream job after securing a gig as assistant to Helen Gurley Brown, Cosmopolitan's first-ever woman editor in chief — true story. While a job in the magazine industry might seem glitzy and fabulous, that's far from the case once Alice steps through Hearst's revolving doors. Renée Rosen weaves an impeccable tale of historical fiction that illustrates a very vivid glimpse into what life was like in the '60s, especially for women like Alice and Helen.
The Wangs vs. the World
Jade Chang's addicting read The Wangs vs. the World follows Charles Wang and his immigrant family as they plummet down their mountain of wealth and popularity after a big financial crisis hits. Desperate, the family embarks on a cross-country road trip, leaving their home in sunny Los Angeles for upstate New York where Saina, the family's eldest daughter, resides.
The Lost and Found Necklace
In need of a feel-good beach read? Look no further than Louisa Leaman's upcoming novel, The Lost and Found Necklace. Ready to settle down with her boyfriend, Jess Taylor must first complete her grandmother's one dying wish: obtain a necklace that is a family heirloom and is rumored to cast love spells for the Taylor women. Jess hunts down the necklace, but the only problem is she has to go on a date with someone else in order to bring it back home. Wary about its special power, she agrees, but it's only a matter of time until she finds out whether the rumors are true . . .
The Authenticity Project
What do a recovering addict, a social media influencer, an artist, and a cafe owner have in common? They've been communicating to each other via a spiral notebook. Fans of Netflix's Dash & Lily will love Claire Pooley's The Authenticity Project, which follows a very similar story line detailing a gaggle of strangers who are brought together after leaving personal anecdotes in a green spiral-bound notebook. When they go to meet IRL, their hidden identities are unearthed, as well as their thoughts and feelings towards each other.
In West Mills
De'Shawn Charles Winslow's In West Mills centers around Azalea "Knot" Centre, a soon-to-be mom who can't fathom giving up her two favorite things, moonshine and men, and her neighbor Otis Lee Loving, a problem-solving guru. The folks of West Mills are an opinionated bunch, and when Knot's predicament begins to be too much for Otis to handle, the situation — and secrets — begin to spiral out of control.
Two strangers in dire need of a place to stay. One flat. What could go wrong? In Beth O'Leary's The Flatshare, Tiffy's tight budget doesn't give her enough wiggle room for the flat of her dreams and Leon, who works the night shift, only needs a place to rest during the day. They'll never be there at the same time — it's the perfect plan. As days go by and they communicate via Post-It notes, tensions (more like sparks) begin to rise.
Don't Make Me Turn This Life Around
This Won't End Well author Camille Pagán pens a funny yet oh-so-relatable narrative in her forthcoming novel Don't Make Me Turn This Life Around. In hopes of regaining her sanity and inner happiness, cancer survivor Libby Ross-Velasquez gathers up her family and flees to their vacation safe haven, Vieques, an island off Puerto Rico. struggling to grasp the positives in life, Libby instead analyzes the "supposed-tos," which all go to haywire when a tropical storm hits.
Felix Ever After
Stonewall Honor Book award-winning author Kacen Callender delivers an incredible, uplifting coming-of-age story in Felix Ever After. His last name may be Love, but that's far from any kind of romantic connection he's ever experienced before. Felix wants nothing more than to fall head-over-heels in love, but being Black, queer, and transgender hasn't helped his chances. After transphobic posts surface at a summer camp, Felix takes things into his own hands and soon begins a journey of self-love and self-discovery, and he may or may develop a few crushes along the way.
The Book of Two Ways
It's the announcement no passenger ever wants to hear: prepare yourself for a crash landing. Life literally flashing before her eyes, Dawn Edelstein finds herself thinking about Wyatt Armstrong, who she hasn't seen in 15 years. Dawn survives but can't shake her thoughts and feelings about Wyatt. She has two choices: either return home to her family or travel to the one place she knows Wyatt would be, the same place her career ended. Bestselling author Jodi Picoult examines a character's biggest "what if" in her awe-inspiring book The Book of Two Ways.
Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life
Searching for an uplifting, easy-breezy book with a zest of rawness and a punch of sarcasm? Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life should be your next read. Adulthood is hard, especially when you're self-treating your depression and anxiety and running two of the most-watched television shows. TV exec Tara Schuster knows a thing or two about crashing and burning and chronicles her journey to self-love, growing up, and why it's more than OK to buy yourself the f*cking lilies.
Hey Ladies! by Michelle Markowitz and Caroline Moss will give you the belly laughs for days. The novel, which reads like a string of bottomless conversations and gossip bits, follows the lives and literal conversations of eight best friends over the course of one year. We guarantee this book is unlike anything you've ever read before: it's told solely through emails, texts, DMs, and every other social media platform you can think of.
People We Meet on Vacation
Beach Read author Emily Henry's People We Meet on Vacation centers around Alex and Poppy, strangers turned best friends turned strangers again. Fixed on righting the wrongs in her life, Poppy invites Alex to reinstate their week-long summer vacation tradition. Somehow, he agrees, and the pressure is on.