We recently asked subscribers to the BuzzFeed Books newsletter to tell us the one book we should read this summer. Their recommendations offer something for everyone — from literary fiction to romance and beyond. Happy beach reading!
1. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
The Sinclairs seem to have it all — the private island, golden sunsets, bountiful friends, food, and summer fun — until a tragic accident changes everything. Fifteen-year-old Cadence is left to piece together what happened, though her PTSD leaves mysterious gaps in the story. No one seems to know quite what happened or why everything is falling apart. What we do know is that this "perfect" family is anything but that.
2. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
I'm about to finish Crazy Rich Asians and it's a great summer read. If you've ever wanted a peek into the wealth, attitudes, and lifestyles of the .01%, this book will suck you in from the beginning. Rachel travels to Singapore for the summer with her boyfriend to meet his family; however, she isn't aware of his family's beyond-immense wealth. What happens to her and the descriptions of their extravagant lifestyle will suck you in from the start. And quick — read it before the movie comes out!
3. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
A disabled man and his caretaker fall in love and endless sad, funny, fluffy, and heartwarming moments ensue. So, yeah — perfect for the beach!
4. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Yaa Gyasi’s ambitious debut novel Homegoing follows two half-sisters in 18th-century Ghana and the lives of their children, their children’s children, and so on. One sister is kidnapped and sold into slavery in America, while the other, the wife of a slave dealer, remains in Africa. Each chapter follows a new generation of their descendants, making the sweep of history feel both vital and personal, and showing clearly how the evil of racism poisons all that it touches for hundreds of years to come. An important, riveting page-turner filled with beautiful prose, Homegoing shoots for the moon and lands right on it.
5. The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz
The Spellman Files is about a family of private investigators. Isabel, their daughter, wants to leave the family business and gets into more trouble than she anticipates. It's the perfect beach read because it's light and funny with just the right amount of mystery.
6. The Lake House by Kate Morton
I've been waiting to read Kate Morton's The Lake House since it came out because I knew it would be the perfect beach read. Her books are always mysterious and interesting, and there are always fantastic plot twists. I know that I'll fall in love with the story the way I always do with her novels. As an added bonus, it's no small tome, making it perfect for a long day when I don't want to carry as many diversions with me.
Modern Romancereads like a funny textbook with references to real research on dating in today's world compared to past generations. I recommend this book to all of my friends who are dating — because knowledge is power — but to everyone else as well because the subject is interesting and leads to great discussions. On top of that it is an easy read which makes it great for the beach. Enjoy!
8. Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
I'm sure you'll get a lot of recommendations for this book because it's getting tons of (deserved!) buzz. This book give you the best of two classic "beach read" tropes. It's a family drama that will suck you in, distract you from your own drama, and perhaps remind you that you don't have it so bad. And because the book deals with two sets of middle age hipster parents and their teenage offspring in Brooklyn, it also gives you a great coming-of-age narrative with a dash of nostaglic romance. The book also offers realistic, diverse perspectives from young and old, male and female, gay and straight, white and POC characters — a rarity! And f you're looking for more of an exotic locale with similar intriguing dynamics, check out Straub's other popular novel, The Vacationers.
9. The Last One by Alexandra Oliva
Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of their endurance. Something calamitous happens while they're out there, but being cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. So when they do stumble across it, they just assume it's part of the game...
10. The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
The Guest Room starts with a bachelor party gone terribly wrong: two people dead, two Russian strippers on the run, two marriages left teetering on the rocks. And then there's the law. Who's to blame and why did it all happen? The action fluctuates between the women on the run, those on the chase, and those left behind to pick up the pieces. This is a page-turner that's not only a great story but feels like it's pulled right out of today's headlines.
11. Land of Shadows by Rachel Howzell Hall
I would follow Detective Elouise Norton literally anywhere — into a seedy crime scene, stinky sex dungeon, grocery store, the mouth of an active volcano — I don't care. This chick gets👏shit👏done👏. And her whole crime-solving spree starts in Land of Shadows, where a presumed suicide case unravels into something much more sinister. I won't spoil any more — but Rachel Howzell Hall and Elouise Norton are my KWEENS 🙌👑🙌
13. Dust Lands: Blood Red Road by Moira Young
In a bleak, dystopian future, Saba sets out to rescue her brother after their family has been torn apart. Saba is a fierce fighter, cunning and determined to survive. Through battles, romance, and treks across the wasteland, the Dust Lands books kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I definitely recommend them to anyone who liked The Hunger Games.
14. Food Whore by Jessica Tom
Imagine Devil Wears Prada with a gourmet twist: Tia Monroe gets the chance of a lifetime when a legendary New York Times restaurant critic lets her in on a career-ending secret: He's lost his sense of taste and asks her to serve as his palate, ghost-writing his reviews. In exchange for her services, she gets amazing meals, a designer wardrobe, and the ultimate foodie prestige. It's a dream job until the lies build up and Tia sees the critic for who he really is. The food writing is mouth-watering and the plot keeps you on your toes!
15. The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob
Why is Amina's father talking to dead people on his porch? And how might it be tied to a family trip they took to India 20 years prior? Amina's quest for answers requires her to delve into her family's past — a disastrous, haunting, and hilarious undertaking that makes for one of the most entertaining and rewarding reads I've come upon in the past decade. You'll be hooked — and utterly delighted — from the very first page.
16. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
A dark secret threatens to expose the best and worst in everyone tied to the estate at a thriving plantation in Virginia in the decades before the Civil War. From the first to the last, this book is fascinating — you never know what will happen next! The descriptions are so real, the events so interesting, and the characters quickly feel like your best friends. Read this first-rate book; you won't be disappointed!
17. As Close to Us as Breathing by Elizabeth Poliner
There are so many great characters in this wonderful book about love and loss, family and forgiveness, and an immense tragedy and its aftermath.
18. Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
I return to this book every couple of years because it always leaves me beaming. Coffeeshop owner and freshly lovestruck Cornelia Brown seems to have everything going for her — until her life becomes entwined with newly motherless 11-year-old Clare Hobbs. These characters have become like family to me; their story is timeless, the writing is beautiful, and Love Walked In should definitely be in everyone's life.
19. The Pier Falls by Mark Haddon
A collection of short stories that amaze and scare the crap out of you? Yeah, The Pier Falls by Mark Haddon has it all: literary horror, sci-fi, fairy-tale craziness... I waffled between devouring it in large chunks and being too freaked out to continue. Highly recommended. 5 stars out of 4.
—Joyce Hennessey, Alabama
20. Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile
When Charley and her 11-year-old daughter relocate from LA to an 800-acre sugarcane farm in rural Louisiana, they're woefully unprepared for the challenges — and people — they'll face there. Yes, the going gets tough, but Charley and Micah just get tougher. Having grown up in Louisiana, I loved how lushly Natalie Baszile renders the culture and landscape of my home state. This book is a rich and affecting sweet escape — the perfect summer read!
21. Heartburn by Nora Ephron
Go figure that the woman behind classics like Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally also penned the perfect summer novel. Heartburn is the hilarious story of a woman in a failing marriage. That may seem like an oxymoron, but given all the sharp commentary, delicious recipes thrown in, and easy-breezy length — what's not to love!?
22. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
The customers at Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour books store are even weirder than the books. They never really buy anything, instead checking out strange titles from the strangest reaches of the shelves. What's actually going on? You'll have to buy (or check out) this book to find out. And this is one easy, mesmerizing read that will hold your attention 'til the very last word!
23. The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani
This is such a great read, equal parts joyful and sorrowful, about a boy and a girl who grow up on the same mountainside in Italy but never meet until they're in their teens. Then they each moved to America, separately and for different reasons, living out their lives over 5–10 years with chance meetings. They finally come together and...let's just say there were a number of scenes that made me cry. This is definitely one of my favorites.
24. Pym by Mat Johnson
Omg. Pym. It's Pym. You *have* to read Pym. Yes, it's a little weird — an eccentric ex-professor embarks on a swashbuckling adventure to track down the exotic island central to Edgar Allan Poe's only novel — BUT this thing will also make you cackle and grin like all get-out. Buckle up, 'cause you're in for a wild ride.
25. Lazaretto by Diane McKinney-Whetstone
On the evening of President Lincoln’s assassination, Meda, a young black housemaid, gives birth to a child fathered by the master of the house but is wrongly led to believe that the baby died, setting in motion a complex web of lies and longings. Heartbroken, Meda becomes a surrogate mother to two white boys from the nearby orphanage, whose disparate paths eventually bring both to the Lazaretto, a (real) Pennsylvania quarantine hospital. When the Lazaretto is put on lockdown, its trapped inhabitants are forced to untangle the fragile threads that have led them all there.
26. Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
An orphaned 10-year-old turning a profit on the dangerously hot habanero peppers she grows in her makeshift closet greenhouse is pretty much destined for greatness, right? Yes. And a book written as much tenderness and heart as Kitchens of the Great Midwest is destined to be one your favorite books of the year, right? Yes again! Reading the story of budding culinary ingénue Eva Thorvald's many-splendored and -struggled life filled me with a joy unlike anything I've encountered in a long while. This is truly a special book.
27. The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar
A psychologist takes one of her most fragile patients into her own home and starts treating her from there — what could possibly go wrong? I read this with my book club last summer and am reading it on my own again this year. I can't wait to dig back into the twisted histories, secrets, and heartaches of these very complex and compelling characters.
28. The Pelican Brief by John Grisham
Two Supreme Court justices have been assassinated and a young law student is targeted for the brief she's preparing about the case. She's hunted down along with the one person she can trust, a reporter looking for his big break. Together they must piece together the puzzle pieces to figure out what the hell is happening. The perfect fast-paced, incredible adventure to really get your heart rate up.
29. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
For summer I liked to be whisked back in time, and historical fiction is the way to go. Perfect beach read? Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys. It takes place in New Orleans circa 1950s, where our protagonist, Josie, has to deal with scandal, murder, and gangsters! All while trying to get OUT of the French Quarter and get into college and away from a brothel and her mother. The characters are so colorful and I know I will be reading this again and again!
30. Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend
With the narrative grace of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and the enterprising spirit of any great historical adventure novel, Enchanted Islands is a beautiful and bewitching thing to behold. It's the story of Frances Conway, an incisive yet ordinary Midwesterner dispatched to the Galápagos Islands with her Naval officer husband at the brink of Word War II. Only on the islands, of course, do Frances and her husband discover the secrets of each other's pasts, while struggling to survive and carry out their mission all the same. I felt a familiar comfort every time I picked this book up and returned to Frances's narration — Enchanted Islands is a true pleasure to read.
31. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
My summer reading list is extensive, since this is the best time for me to catch up on all the books I've been stockpiling over the past year. But the one I'm looking forward to the most is Don Quixote. I just got back from a trip to Spain, and Cervantes is huge in Madrid. I've also loved the musical (Man of La Mancha) since I was 14 so, now, coming off the heels of my trip, I'm super excited to finally sit down and conquer Quixote!