It’s not summer vacation without something good to read. If you’re looking for the best beach reads for those long days on the sand, check out this list of recent and upcoming releases to find the best summer books for 2019 in a variety of genres, from literary fiction to spine-tingling thrillers.
Disappearing Earth, Julia Phillips
Set on Russia’s remote Kamchatka peninsula, Disappearing Earth begins with the mysterious disappearance of two little girls. The novel explores how the community responds, with insights into the local culture set against a backdrop of the region’s natural beauty.
What People Are Saying: “Phillips, a Brooklyn resident and Montclair, N.J., native who lived in Kamchatka for two years, immerses readers in this region. It’s in the rich, humane characterizations; the plot’s gentle surprises; the reminders of the past; the rendering of the landscape.” – Entertainment Weekly
Recursion, Blake Crouch
If you enjoy summer books with lots of twists and turns, slip Recursion into your beach bag. Neuroscientist Helena Smith is working to create a way for humans to retain their most precious memories, even in the face of dementia—but things go awry when people start being driven mad by false memories.
What People Are Saying: “Crouch effortlessly integrates sophisticated philosophical concepts—such as the relationship of human perceptions of what is real to actual reality—into a complex and engrossing plot. Michael Crichton’s fans won’t want to miss this one.” – Publishers Weekly
The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls, Anissa Gray
In The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls, the lives of three sisters are thrown into turmoil when the oldest sister and her husband are arrested. This family saga will keep you glued to the page.
What People Are Saying: “Anissa Gray’s debut novel … examines … cracks in the familial glass, giving readers a gripping and sharp story about what it takes to hold a family together when everything is falling apart.” – USA Today
Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault, Cathy Guisewite
The cartoonist behind the classic comic strip Cathy has just released a collection of essays, Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault, that capture the ups and downs of womanhood and aging. Guisewite’s warm and humorous collection touches on everything from caring for parents in their 90s to dealing with mixed feelings about her own body.
What People Are Saying: “It’s a collection that isn’t likely to appeal to readers who were never ‘Cathy’ fans (Ack!), but the author offers a new way to savor the humor of her classic comic-strip character. ” – Kirkus Reviews
The Old Drift, Namwali Serpell
Weighing in at nearly 600 pages, this sprawling, genre-bending novel will keep you engrossed for your entire summer vacation. The Old Drift spans more than a century in the intertwined lives of three families in Zambia.
What People Are Saying: “Namwali Serpell’s vibrant, intellectually rich debut novel … is a multigenerational saga, stretching from the late 19th century to the near future, but the family tree gets so knotted that it complicates matters of legacy and inheritance. It is a story particular to Zambia, but also fiercely concerned with how all our lives will be remade by technology, which Serpell suggests is just old colonialist wine in new bottles.” – The Washington Post
Ayesha at Last, Uzma Jaluddin
Ayesha at Last is hardly the first modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice, but it feels fresh thanks to its charming characters and unique setting in a Muslim-Canadian community. Romance brews between Ayesha, a schoolteacher who’s not interested in an arranged marriage, and Khalid, who expects his mother to find him a bride but can’t seem to stop thinking about Ayesha.
What People Are Saying: “Scheming aunties, headstrong cousins, sweet grandparents, Pakistani-Canadian masala, and good old-fashioned romance are just the right ingredients for a delicious and entertaining novel.” – Kirkus Reviews
My Lovely Wife, Samantha Downing
The two main characters in My Lovely Wife live a seemingly ordinary life in the suburbs, complete with good jobs and a couple of kids, but there’s a dark secret at the heart of their marriage: their predilection for murder. You won’t be able to put this disturbing thriller down.
What People Are Saying: “In Downing’s skillful hands, My Lovely Wife takes several wild turns, each bleaker than the last, and its sturdy construction (strong characters, deliberate pacing) bolsters the insanity.” – Entertainment Weekly
Biloxi, Mary Miller
In Biloxi, 63-year-old Louis McDonald finds himself in a rut after his wife leaves him and his father passes away—but things start to change after he adopts a mutt named Layla. This insightful and gently funny tale is one of the year’s best summer books for dog lovers.
What People Are Saying: “Miller’s charming and funny novel grows complicated in a hilarious sort of way, a way that you don’t want to examine too closely, with con men and drunkards, minor story lines that go nowhere, and all kinds of implausible twists and turns. But the ride is so much fun that you’d be a spoilsport for demanding that it all add up.” – Star Tribune
Out East: Memoir of a Montauk Summer, John Glynn
The memoir Out East captures a summer in the Hamptons as told by a young man struggling with loneliness. Glynn writes movingly about the friends who share a rental house in Montauk and the evolution of his own sexual identity.
What People Are Saying: “This group of friends receive each other in all the Montauk messiness, from early morning runs for coffee to long conversations on the roof. They drink together, philosophize together, go to the beach together, admire each other and watch each other make terrible decisions. While reading this book, you are ultimately grateful that they have each other and are reminded of the precariousness of the emotional inner life that undulates just beneath the surface, even for people who look as though they have it all.” – BookPage
The Island of Sea Women, Lisa See
Looking to “dive” into a fascinating historical novel? Try The Island of Sea Women, which follows two best friends living on Korea’s Jeju Island as they learn to work in the ocean as part of a group of all-female divers. Their lives are upended by World War II, the Korean War, and everything after.
What People Are Saying: “A stupendous multigenerational family saga, See’s … latest also provides an enthralling cultural anthropology highlighting the soon-to-be-lost, matriarchal haenyeo phenomenon and an engrossing history of violently tumultuous twentieth-century Korea.” – Booklist Online
The Truffle Underground: A Tale of Mystery, Mayhem, and Manipulation in the Shadowy Market of the World’s Most Expensive Fungus, Ryan Jacobs
Truffles are one of the world’s most sought-after luxury ingredients, but most foodies have no idea just how much effort and intrigue go into getting those delicious fungi onto their plates. In The Truffle Underground, an investigative journalist digs into the surprising crimes and corruption at the heart of the truffle industry.
What People Are Saying: “This deeply researched and eye-opening account of the lengths people will go for wealth, gratification, and a taste of the prized fungus will captivate readers.” – Publishers Weekly
The Overdue Life of Amy Byler, Kelly Harms
After three exhausting years as a single mom, Amy Byler jumps at the chance to spend the summer in New York City when her estranged husband asks to spend some time reconnecting with their kids. The Overdue Life of Amy Byler provides a fun, vicarious getaway for overworked moms everywhere.
What People Are Saying: “A laugh-out-loud funny, pitch-perfect novel that will have readers rooting for this unlikely, relatable and totally lovable heroine, The Overdue Life of Amy Byler is the ultimate escape—and will leave moms everywhere questioning whether it isn’t time for a #momspringa of their own.” – New York Journal of Books
Lot, Bryan Washington
Many of the interconnected short stories in Lot, the debut collection from a promising young writer, are told from the point of view of a biracial young man who’s keeping his sexuality a secret from the rest of his family. Other stories capture a panoply of diverse characters across the city of Houston.
What People Are Saying: “Perhaps the most important character in Lot is Houston itself, and Washington does a brilliant job making the city come to life in all its imperfect glory. His book is an instant classic of Texas literature, but it’s more than that—it’s a stunning work of art from a young writer with immense talent and a rare sense of compassion, and one of the strongest literary debuts in several years.” – NPR
The Au Pair, Emma Rous
As she’s going through her late father’s belongings, Seraphine Mayes finds a mysterious family photo, taken on the day she and her twin brother were born: her mother, holding only one baby. Where was the other twin, why did their mother kill herself later that day, and why did their older brother’s au pair flee the scene? The Au Pair takes the reader on a twisting, turning journey to find the answers.
What People Are Saying: “The ambiance of Summerbourne and the family that inhabits it, from the folly to the gardens to the old gardener who speaks of fairies, adds that gothic touch to what might otherwise have been a generic family-mystery thriller. A modern gothic suspense novel done right.” – Kirkus Reviews
The Farm, Joanne Ramos
The Farm, one of the year’s most buzzed-about books, tackles the idea of surrogate pregnancy taken to a chilling extreme. The “farm” of the title is a retreat where wealthy clients pay to house the women carrying their unborn children. Though the surrogate mothers are paid generously, they’re also strictly monitored and unable to leave the retreat. The book has drawn comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale.
What People Are Saying: “Some novels are born with book club DNA, great narratives that can also spur energetic discussions. Debate will rage around the treatment of the young women at the Farm, but the novel’s complex melange of personalities brings a somewhat improbable story stirringly to life.” – NPR
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More from SmarterTravel:
- 11 Funny Books to Read on Your Next Trip
- 7 New Books You Can Download at the Airport
- 8 Best Travel Books and Their Real-Life Destinations
Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.
We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
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