• Kara Cushway

7 Engrossing Reads for a Day at the Beach

Updated: Sep 6, 2019

It’s summer. While that will always rank below fall in my book, it does give us several good things: the ability to be outside more, fresh air and greenery, bonfires and barbecues with friends, swimming, and, most importantly, opportunities to read books while we’re enjoying all these things.

I find that when I’m at the beach, the pool, or sunning on a blanket (which I would never do in the 100+ degree heat of Oklahoma, where I live right now, but might do in the 70 degrees-or-less climate of my beloved Michigan summers), summer is a great time to read books that you can knock out in a day or less. Short books are great for summer because our attention spans are shorter in this season, too, which is a 100% made-up fact but is probably true.

Without further ado, here are 5 engrossing reads for a lazy summer day.

1. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Bernadette is an eclectic, overwrought Seattle mom planning a trip to Antarctica (her teen daughter’s idea); but when she disappears in the middle of preparations, it’s up to her husband and daughter to find her.

I love this book because the characters (especially Bernadette herself) are totally whacky. It makes for a hilarious story with some meat on its bones.

2. A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson

Downton Abbey fans, rejoice! This is a charming love story about Anna, a Russian countess who fled to England after WWI and insists on earning a living to support her family by working as a maid in a manor house facing financial troubles. The only problem? She just might be falling for the handsome, destitute lord of the house, who is betrothed to a suave society girl with a vast fortune.

Eva Ibbotson has so many kids’ books, but her adult books should not be forgotten! I love them, as they’re always romantic and heartwarming. This one is no different, so if you want to escape to the English countryside on your beach towel, pick up this book!

3. The Café by the Sea by Jenny Colgan

Flora is hopelessly in love with her boss. So when he asks her to do some on-the-ground work in Scotland for her job, she agrees, but reluctantly, unwilling to return to the place of her birth, her estranged family, and the impossibility of privacy in a small town. Upon reuniting with her enormous, incompetent brothers and father, she is immediately put her to work as their in-residence chef. One thing leads to another, and she’s soon agreeing to run a café in the nearby town with her new-found love of cooking and encouragement from her increasingly-present boss…

Lighthearted, romantic, set in Scotland. Need I say more?

4. Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier (listen, you know I had to do it)

When they break out of prison, the healer Blackthorn doesn’t want her jail mate, Grim, to go with her; but since she’s bound by a magical promise to help anyone who asks for it for seven years, she lets him come with her to the north of Dalriada. There, Prince Oran meets his bride, Princess Flidais, just after the tragic death of her lady’s maid on her journey to his castle. But the princess acts stranger and more insolent as the story progresses. To Blackthorn and Grim there’s something more sinister underlying the princess’s unusual behavior, and they’re determined to solve the mystery before it’s too late.

If this is your gateway book to Juliet Marillier, I won’t be mad. This book is wonderful, fraught with intrigue, fantasy, and the bitterness of a woman denied revenge. It’s perfect for those days when you have nothing else to do, and you can sink into the story, and enjoy.

5. The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

While visiting her grandfather in North Carolina, Emily hopes to glean some understanding of her mysterious mother. But Emily’s mother isn’t the only one with mysteries in the quirky town of Mullaby. Strange lights dance through the back yard at night; Emily’s neighbor bakes cakes to help attract the love she once lost; and with the help of a few new friends, Emily begins to understand that Mullaby has more secrets than she would’ve ever thought possible.

If you’ve never read Sarah Addison Allen, I feel I should be the one to tell you how much you’re missing out on. I was late to the party myself, but I’m so glad I read a few of her books (this one included) a couple summers ago. The Girl Who Chased the Moon is an especially perfect read for summer, with a bit of mystery and a thoroughly magical, festive vibe that’ll warm your soul.

I'm not saying it's the best version of the cover I've ever seen. But it's a great read!

6. Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

In this fantasy retelling of Snow White, Aza, an innkeeper’s daughter, has a stunning voice that lands her as the new queen’s lady’s maid in a kingdom that appreciates the beauty of music above all else. When a tragedy befalls the king, and the new queen takes over, she also begins to ask of Aza more than she can give. When Aza must run for her life after unwillingly committing an act of treason, it’s only a matter of time before the queen finds her … and kills her.

I’ve always loved Gail Carson Levine’s writing style. This book may be YA, but that doesn’t mean it’s simplistic, childish, or boring. I often find that the YA novels I read have lessons to them, more than adult fiction novels do, which, to me, makes them all the more meaningful.

7. The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

After her husband’s psychotic episode, Clare and her two daughters flee, settling in a picture-perfect communal neighborhood of London where all the homes back onto a circular park, the children roam freely, and the adults are stable and trustworthy. But tension builds as unsettling rumors and occurrences culminate in one of Clare’s own daughters ending up in the bushes of this idyllic park, bloody and unconscious. Who did it? And is everyone in this tranquil setting really as honorable as they seem?

I don’t usually read modern suspense novels (or any modern suspense novels, really), but I wasn’t aware this one was going to be a whodunit when I picked it up. I still enjoyed it, even though it wasn’t my usual genre! And it’s the perfect book for readers who enjoyed Big Little Lies, or who like a suspenseful beach read.

If you like book lists, you'll LOVE 101 Books for Middle-Grade Readers, or My Top Reads of 2018.

Have you read any of the books on this list? What’s your favorite book for a lazy summer day?


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