7 Fantastic Beach Reads for Your Next Vacation

While some go to the beach to frolic in the waves or hunt for seashells, you go there to read. Yes, you, who comes to the shoreline bearing nothing more than a satchel full of books and a comfortable chair from which to read them.

If you’re anything like us, your trove of writerly treasures includes a tantalizing mix of epics, suspense thrillers, intriguing nonfiction, and even the odd history or two, anything that’ll suck you in and leave you dizzy once you’re finished.

Though you may already have an arsenal of new reads picked out for your next beach day, why not give some of our favorites a look? They run the gamut from easy breezy to downright intense and are sure to make the perfect companions for a sunny day.

The Beach by Alex Garland

If your ideal beach read involves a ton of suspense, then The Beach by Alex Garland may just be the book for you. Set against the lush backdrop of Southeast Asia, the novel follows Richard who, upon receiving a mysterious map to “the Beach” from a fellow tourist, goes off on a quest to find the lagoon it identifies. The spot, as it turns out, has been a subject of traveler lore for decades, drawing hundreds to its hidden location off the coast of Thailand. Though Richard eventually finds the modern-day paradise, the community he stumbles upon there is anything but utopian. Thrilling and deliciously trashy, this page-turner is bound to keep you entertained on a lazy summer day.

438 Days by Jonathan Franklin

For those adventurous fellas in the bunch, we’d heartily recommend 438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea. As the title suggests, the book tells the tale of the longest documented survival of someone set adrift at sea. That someone is captain Salvador Alvarenga, who managed not only to endure 14 months navigating the uncharted waters of the Pacific but lived to share his story with journalist Jonathan Franklin. From the initial storm that sent him seaward to the unimaginable lengths he was willing to go to survive, this story’s a nail-biter from start to finish and isn’t one to be missed.

Downriver by Heather Hansman

The Green River runs westward from the glaciers of Wyoming to the desert canyons of Utah. It snakes through ranches, cities, towns, mountains, and national parks, all the while providing water to over 33 million people. This necessary and vital source of life also happens to be under attack by overuse, poor regulation, and climate change. That’s the argument made in Downriver anyway, a somewhat unconventional beach read that sees reporter Heather Hansman telling the river’s story as she paddles from its source to its confluence, stopping along the way to speak to those who depend upon it most. Both lyrical and humorous, it’ll make you think and, hopefully, make you act.

Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia by Christina Thompson

Historical nonfiction meets mystery novel as writer Christina Thompson probes the depths of the Pacific. Specifically, she tracks the movements of the very first folks to settle the islands of the remote Pacific, a vast triangle that stretches from Hawaii to New Zealand to Easter Island. How did these intrepid adventurers make it across the sea with no modern day technology? How did they tame the land and cultivate a life out of these far-flung destinations? To find out, she speaks to linguists, historians, biologists, and other experts who have spent their lives trying to figure out the secret history of one of the most captivating regions in the world.

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

Wanna dig into a classic for your next beach read? Then you may want to give Cannery Row a go. This sliver of a Steinbeck novel centers on Cannery Row, a real-life street lined with sardine canneries in Monterey, California. Drawing on the experiences of those who lived there during the Great Depression, Steinbeck crafts an intimate portrait of the tight-knit community, made up of marine biologists, factory workers, seafolk, store owners, and various other wayward citizens. The writing is dazzling, rich in detail, and supremely evocative, especially when Steinbeck allows himself to linger on descriptions of the sea. A potentially great pick for those in search of something slim that’s packed to the brim with excitement.

Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky

Perfect for wide-eyed travelers, Atlas of Remote Islands is exactly what it sounds like — a detailed collection of islands that remain untouched by the hands of mankind. It’s a fascinating read, as much for its gorgeous writing as for the many maps that accompany the descriptions. Rooted in historical records and scientific reports, this is a must-read for those eager to learn more about the world around us. Plus, it’ll inspire some pretty intense wanderlust that may or may not ever get sated.

Calypso by David Sedaris

The beach read for guys who hate cheesy beach reads, Calypso is a hilarious, dark, and poignant book set against the backdrop of Sea Section, the author’s Carolina Coast vacation home. For fans of Sedaris, this memoir will hit all the right buttons as it features plenty of his iconic observational humor. For those new to the writer, the book still delights, as it navigates the tricky waters of middle age with equal parts tenderness, frustration, and gut-busting laughter. Though Sedaris imagined Sea Section would be a slice of Heaven free of his normal, everyday anxieties, what he discovers is something so innately human it hits like a sucker punch: It truly is impossible to take a vacation from yourself.

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