Seas the day with these perfect summer novels

Hannah Herbst

Art courtesy of Calla McBride


An idyllic beach day: rays of sunshine bouncing off mirrored sunglasses, waves crashing in the distance and sand under a frayed and faded striped towel. The only thing missing? A good book in hand! As the school year comes to a close, you may think books are merely a relic of the past. However, these page-turners will convince you otherwise.     



The Vacationers, Emma Straub

Set on the sparkling blue coast of Mallorca, this book provides an ample escape from dry, hot Marin summers. In this novel, a Brooklyn family undergoes severe turmoil and seeks reprieve on a vacation of their own. As secrets are revealed, drama abounds. It’s a realistic family vacation in every way and a perfect getaway if you can’t experience one of your own.

(Image courtesy of Goodreads)


Beautiful Ruins, Jesse Walter

Similar to “The Vacationers,” “Beautiful Ruins” is a literary escape. “Beautiful Ruins” alternates between different times and storylines, many of which take place on the Italian Coast. It covers the messy lives of unique figures, from glamorous, old-age Hollywood movie stars to simple Italian fishermen. It is a story about people whose lives are oddly intertwined, and have more in common than they may realize, set in the beautiful background of the vast Mediterranean Sea. If complex characters, old-age glitz and glam, or rustic Italian charm is what you are seeking, this book is for you. 

Seven Days in June, Tia Williams

Do you ever find yourself pining for a classic summer love story but just can’t seem to find one of your own? “Seven Days in June” dexterously combines the intense emotions alongside such romances with mature perspectives – another novel that travels through time to explore the inner workings of complex characters. Set in the background of New York City’s literary community, this book covers a messy relationship as former lovers are reconnected. It takes place during a hot, urban summer, but it is an interesting divergence from a typical, occasionally monotonous summer read. 

The Penderwicks, Jeanne Birdsall 

While it may technically be a children’s novel, “The Penderwicks” will always be something I turn to when at a loss for what to read in the summer. The book follows a lively, unique family on their summer vacation to the fictitious summer utopia of Arundel, Massachusetts. They make new friends and go on quirky adventures, developing a captivating story that transcends the age of the reader. You will quickly resonate with one of the unique Penderwick sisters – wise Rosalind, boyish Skye, imaginative Jane or kooky Batty.

Malibu Rising, Taylor Jenkins Reid

Reid’s masterful prose shines as bright as the Southern California sun in “Malibu Rising.” This novel delves into generational trauma and how the choices and lives of a parent are mirrored in that of their child. It’s set on the California coast and encompasses all of its idiosyncrasies – surfing, movie stars and of course, the wildfires. While “Malibu Rising” may not be an escape for California natives, it’s a captivating look into a bygone era. 

…if you dream of having a tumultuous summer romance like Taylor Swift writes in “betty,” but just can’t seem to find the James to your Augustine.

Every Summer After, Carly Fortune

A summer romance: a boy and a girl, watching the sunset over a placid lake. Years pass and the sun sets and rises as boy and girl become man and woman. An idyllic, placid lake remains. Sounds intriguing? “Every Summer After” describes this and more – perfect Canadian summers serve as backdrops for intense, palpable emotion as the main characters fall in and out of love, over and over again. Another great read if you dream of having a tumultuous summer romance like Taylor Swift writes in “betty,” but just can’t seem to find the James to your Augustine.


Beach Read, Emily Henry

Henry is a mastermind of the “Beach Read.” Set on the shores of Lake Michigan, the protagonist is on a mission to clean out her recently deceased father’s secret summer cabin. She soon reunites with an old college acquaintance, and their connection propels the story forward. Evident from its name, this book is perfectly on theme for summer, and I personally haven’t read Henry’s new 2023 release, “Happy Place,” but if it’s anything like this novel, it is sure to be a hit!