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10 best beach reads for summer 2021, according to Goodreads

Among the most anticipated books coming out this summer is debut novel “The Reading List” and memoir “Somebody’s Daughter.”
Woman lies on the beach reading a book
These are 10 beach reads that are among the most popular with Goodreads members this summer.agrobacter / Getty Images

Beyond beach towels, swimsuits and sunscreens, one of the staples of summer is the “beach read.” Its name doesn’t tell you the full story, however. Yes, it’s a book you take with you to the beach, or even by a pool or lake. But otherwise and in terms of genre and themes, it’s harder to define a beach read. These reads can range from the breezy (like last year’s appropriately named “Beach Read”) to the thrilling (like the also aptly titled “A Stranger on the Beach” from 2019).

Generally, when most think of beach reads, they think of romances, thrillers and fiction featuring an emotional journey, explained Suzanne Skyvara, the VP of editorial and marketing at Goodreads, which has seen a shift in what’s popular over the past two summers — Skyvara said murders and thrillers were especially big with readers in 2021 while there was an increased interest in horror throughout last year. The modern beach read is a fairly recent invention — in 2016, The Guardian traced the term back to the 1990s. And, traditionally, beach reads have been seen as “superficial” and oftentimes dismissed as less serious compared to other fiction, especially from men, as Vulture pointed out in 2019.

“No matter what the topic, though, a beach read needs to be a page turner. It’s compelling and easy to read, the kind of book that you don’t want to put down because you have to find out what happens next,” Skyvara said. “It’s not hard work — you’re on vacation, after all.”

Ahead of the official start of summer — which arrives on Father’s Day, June 20 — we consulted Goodreads to find out about the most anticipated beach reads that will be released between June and August. Goodreads filtered its list based on how many times members have saved these books on their digital “want to read” shelves. These books are also “all getting strong early reader reviews,” according to Skyvara.

Best beach reads coming out this summer, according to Goodreads members

You can pre-order the following books now — we’ve included the expected release date for each beach read below along with its average rating from Goodreads reviewers.

1. 'House of Sticks' by Ly Tran

  • Early reviews on Goodreads: An average 4.51-star rating over 93 ratings
  • Expected release date: June 1

In this coming-of-age memoir, author Ly Tran recounts how her family immigrated from Vietnam to Queens when she was a child, along with their troubles trying to make ends meet. As she grows up, Tran also faces pressure to fit in at school and her father’s temper as he slowly becomes increasingly paranoid.

2. 'Somebody’s Daughter' by Ashley C. Ford

  • Early reviews on Goodreads: An average 4.44-star rating over 169 ratings
  • Expected release date: June 1

Ashley C. Ford’s debut memoir follows her growing up in a complicated relationship with her mother and father who’s incarcerated — and she doesn’t know the details of his imprisonment. Ford tries to find love elsewhere throughout her adolescence — including with a boyfriend who her mother disapproves of. After he assaults her when the relationship ends, she finally finds out why her father is in prison.

3. 'The Other Black Girl' by Zakiya Dalila Harris

  • Early reviews on Goodreads: An average 3.86-star rating over 789 ratings
  • Expected release date: June 1

This debut novel follows 26-year-old Nella Rogers, who is the only Black employee at publishing house Wagner Books. Isolated, Nella befriends Hazel, a new employee who is also Black and starts sitting next right to her desk. As the two are only beginning to bond, “a string of uncomfortable events” led to Hazel becoming a favorite at the office, while Nella is left behind. Then, Nella starts finding mysterious messages left at her desk — and becomes obsessed with finding out what’s (and who’s) behind them.

4. ‘Malibu Rising’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid

  • Early reviews on Goodreads: An average 4.29-star rating over 2,569 ratings
  • Expected release date: June 1

This book comes from the author of bestsellers “Daisy Jones & The Six” and “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.” Taking place back in 1983, the story follows the Rivas family over the course of one night, at sister Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party. Siblings Nina, Jay, Hud and Kit are well-known throughout Malibu, especially as the children of famous singer Mick Riva. But at the party, each sibling is facing drama of their own — including Nina’s tennis pro husband leaving her and Kit inviting an unexpected guest. And in the morning, the Riva mansion will end up in flames.

5. ‘The Maidens’ by Alex Michaelides

  • Early reviews on Goodreads: An average 3.83-star rating over 1,494 ratings
  • Expected release date: June 15

From the author of bestseller “The Silent Patient,” “The Maidens” is a murder mystery focused on therapist Mariana Andros who becomes fixated on a secret society of women at Cambridge University (the titular maidens) when one member is found murdered. Mariana suspects that Greek tragedy professor Edward Fosca — who is a favorite of students at the school, especially by The Maidens — is the murderer. But soon, Mariana’s quest becomes an outright obsession that starts spiraling out of control.

6. ‘Survive the Night’ by Riley Sager

  • Early reviews on Goodreads: An average 3.85-star rating over 488 ratings
  • Expected release date: June 29

This novel is the latest launch from the author, who has already published five thrillers including bestseller “Final Girls.” Set in November 1991, it’s centered around college student Charlie Jordan who finds herself on a drive home to Ohio with a virtual stranger, Josh Baxter, after meeting at a campus ride board. Charlie is looking for an escape after the murder of her best friend, a victim of a murderer dubbed “The Campus Killer.” On the ride, Charlie starts to distrust Josh, wondering if he’s actually the killer haunting the college.

7. ‘Razorblade Tears’ by S.A. Cosby

  • Early reviews on Goodreads: An average 4.51-star rating over 71 ratings
  • Expected release date: July 6

This novel follows Ike Randolph, who has been out of jail for 15 years and hasn’t had as much as a speeding ticket since being incarcerated. Ike finds out that his estranged son Isiah has been murdered along with white husband, Derek. To seek revenge for murder, Ike unexpectedly teams up with Derek’s father, Buddy Lee, who also has a criminal past his son was ashamed about.

8. ‘We Are the Brennans’ by Tracey Lange

  • Early reviews on Goodreads: An average 4.22-star rating over 97 ratings
  • Expected release date: August 3

“We Are the Brennans” follows 29-year-old Sunday Brennan who, after causing a drunk driving accident, returns home to New York. Sunday packed up and left her family and high school sweetheart five years ago with almost no explanation. Trying to rebuild her life, a man from Sunday’s past resurfaces, threatening her family’s pub business in the process, and she starts to find out more about the secrets her family have been keeping for generations.

9. 'The Reading List' by Sara Nisha Adams

  • Early reviews on Goodreads: An average 4.44-star rating over 59 ratings
  • Expected release date: August 3

This debut is centered around two strangers who form a friendship through a list of library books. Mukesh, a widower, is worried about his granddaughter who spends her days reading alone in her room. Anxious teenager Aleisha is working at her local library through the summer when she finds a list of books to read (books she’s never heard of) in the back of a copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which she decides to read one by one. When Mukesh shows up at the library looking to connect with his granddaughter through books, Aleisha gives him the list, which has been helping her get through her painful home life. As the story unfolds, “two lonely souls” start to bond over the books.

10. 'Paradise: One Town's Struggle to Survive an American Wildfire' by Lizzie Johnson

  • Early reviews on Goodreads: An average 4.63-star rating over 16 ratings
  • Expected release date: August 17

This nonfiction option comes from San Francisco Chronicle reporter Lizzie Johnson. Johnson was there when the town of Paradise went up in flames — the wildfire, called Camp Fire, would become known as the deadliest in California’s history. The book gives an account of what happened, including information based on public records and phone calls, and how residents tried to stop the fire as it engulfed the town.

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