15 Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List | For the Beach and Beyond

open book on beach towel next to sunglasses

Whether you are looking for the perfect book to relax with, or one to keep you entertained on long car rides to summer vacation spots (please travel safely this year!), I hope you find some books that pique your interest below.

It’s important to note that I haven’t read every book on this list so please don’t be upset if I steer you in the wrong direction. These are the books I’ve personally added to my must-read list this summer.  Some of these picks I selected to try and better myself. Others are for when I need an escape. While a few books are just mindless fun because our lives are stressful enough right now.

Also, I always love receiving book suggestions. If you have any great book recommendations please leave them in the comment section below – thank you!

book cover "The Henna Artist"1) The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

Genre: Historical Fiction

I just finished this one and quite enjoyed it.

A woman is able to leave her poor background and work her way up to be a sought-after henna artist for the wealthy women in Jaipur in the ‘50s. She is ambitious and reaping the benefits of her popularity. When a younger sister appears out of nowhere, the henna artist does not want her career to be veered off track because her reputation is everything.  Numerous events happen that might change her path.

book cover "A Good Neighborhood"2) A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

Genre: Fiction 

Another book I had the pleasure of reading recently. It’s very timely as race and class are prominent themes in the book.

A white family has just finished building a mansion in one of the better neighborhoods in their community. Unfortunately, their construction has led to the slow death of a beloved tree in their backyard neighbor’s yard (a family who happens to be black). A lawsuit follows which could be problematic for the secret relationship between the two neighbors’ teens.  

Book cover "The Great Believers"3) The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

Genre: LGBTQ Fiction

I’m a little ashamed of my lack of knowledge about the AIDS epidemic our country faced in the ‘80s. This book helped me understand more about the major impact it had on the homosexual community and the injustices they had to deal with when trying to receive medical care. 

The book’s main character is a gay man in a monogamous relationship with his boyfriend in Boystown, Chicago. Their close friends are just starting to get diagnosed and are dying at alarming rates. His career at an art gallery gets exciting when a woman contacts him about making a donation of extremely valuable artwork. Part of the book takes place in Door County when he travels there to talk with the woman.  

The other main character’s story takes place thirty years later as she travels to Paris in an attempt to find her daughter she lost to a cult for a number of years. There might even be a grandchild involved.  She thinks back to those years when AIDS was taking everyone she loved. 

book cover "I'm Still Here"4) I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

Genre: Autobiography

I’m still listening and learning as a white woman and trying to do what I can for the Black Lives Matter movement. I can’t wait to dig into this book. 

This memoir focuses on the author’s experiences growing up being Black, Christian, and a female in a white world. I’m especially interested in the tools offered in the book for how to deal with racism. Many reviews say that this is a must-read book for everyone.

book cover "Big Friendship"5) Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman

Genre: Non-Fiction

A funny book about how two friends have been in each other’s lives for ten years through the ups and the downs. It reminds you to value your friendships and offers advice on how to preserve them over the years. Just like a marriage, you have to invest energy into making a true friendship last.

Now more than ever, we might need this advice since we haven’t been able to see our friends in-person. 

book cover "Pretty Guilty Women"6) Pretty Guilty Women by Gina LaManna

Genre: Mystery

This was a fun read for me, I liked how the book was written. A great, easy summer read for those looking for a little thrill.

Someone has been murdered on the night of the rehearsal dinner during a lavish wedding weekend. Numerous women confess to the murder.  

The story takes us back to the beginning of the weekend and showcases each of the women and offers a little bit of each of their backgrounds. The relationships between the women are complicated and a few twists will keep you interested.   

book cover "Afterland"7) Afterland by Lauren Beukes

Genre: Science Fiction

A departure from what I usually read, the description both terrifies (it might hit a little too close to home – ha!) and interests me. 

Women must figure out a way to keep the human species alive after a pandemic (see what I mean?) kills off most of the men. A woman wants to protect her son so she dresses him up like a girl to run from people who would use him for reproduction or other various purposes.

book cover "The Vanishing Half"8) The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Genre: Fiction

Bookstagrammers who I follow have LOVED this book.

Identical black twin sisters run away at the age of sixteen and end up having completely opposite lives as adults. One sister is back in her hometown with her black daughter while the other twin passes for white alongside her white husband. Will secrets be revealed when the sisters’ daughters connect?

book cover "Fair Play"9) Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live) by Eve Rodsky 

Genre: Self-Help

I don’t normally read self-help books but this one intrigued me (plus it was one of Reese Witherspoon’s book club picks!). 

The author offers a new way of dividing up household tasks between spouses. It acknowledges that women often take on more of these tasks and provides a solution for balancing out the workload. This “game” takes into account that each partner’s time is equally valuable. Part of the solution involves each partner taking sole ownership of a task. You can reshuffle the tasks as needed. 

I thought it was a very interesting perspective and I definitely agreed with many points the book made. Unfortunately, I don’t know if the game itself would necessarily work for my family. It doesn’t seem extremely efficient. But reading this book did lead to interesting and thoughtful discussions with my spouse. Possibly a perfect book choice if you have a long family car ride in your future this summer.

book cover "The Guest List"10) The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Genre: Mystery

A celebrity couple is getting married in Ireland. But the wedding doesn’t go as planned. Groomsmen start drinking, bridesmaids are jealous, and toasts get awkward. To top it off someone ends up dead.


book cover "Beach Read"11) Beach Read by Emily Henry

Genre: Romance

Two authors who are both suffering from writer’s block end up spending the summer living in neighboring beach houses. They decide to try and write for each other’s genre to shake them out of their ruts. 

If you want a cute, sweet romantic story for your next beach read this probably should be your selection.

book cover "Happy and You Know It"12) Happy & You Know It by Laura Hankin

Genre: Fiction 

I just started this book and I can tell it would be a great summer book pick. 

A young woman was replaced in her band right before they got famous and now she sings for a mommy-and-me playgroup of wealthy NYC women. Maybe the Instagram-perfect mommies don’t have it all together as they seem to.

book cover "Rage Against the Minivan"13) Rage Against the Minivan: Learning to Parent Without Perfection by Kristen Howerton

Genre: Non-fiction Parenting Advice

A humorous book about letting go of trying to be perfect and why you should stop comparing yourself to other parents. 

The author has experienced infertility, adoption, and divorce. She is also a mother to both black and white children. The book includes advice on how to talk to your children about race.

book cover "The Knockout Queen"14) The Knockout Queen by Rufi Thorpe

Genre: Fiction

Two neighbors form an unlikely friendship. The teens are a tall, beautiful, athletic, girl who desperately wants to fit in and a closeted homosexual who dates men he meets online. After an act of violence, their relationship will be changed forever. 


book cover "Florence Adler Swims Forever"15) Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland

Genre: Historical Fiction

Based on a true story, a family’s summer in the 1930s leads to many secrets and lies. One daughter is training to swim across the English Channel while another daughter is on bedrest with a high-risk pregnancy. To add to the stress, the father decides to take in an immigrant from Nazi Germany. How far will the family go to protect one another after a tragedy?

If you are looking for even more recommendations, here is my summer reading list from last year.

Also, please check out my personal blog for more book recommendations. I review four books a month.  

Mehgan recently moved back to Wisconsin and is taking advantage of all Madison has to offer! She graduated from UW-Madison in Family and Consumer Science Education and taught high school for five years before becoming a bridal store manager/wedding planner. Currently mom to her extremely active toddler Cora (March 2017), sweet baby Autumn (September 2018), and large Goldendoodle Benny (January 2010), Mehgan is relishing the opportunity to stay at home for the moment. Reading and blogging on her personal blog (www.PlanningForKeeps.com) takes up any spare moments she can steal during naptime. Mehgan can't wait for summer when camping, zoo outings, and trips to Door County will be on the agenda.


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