Beach Reading Cheat Sheet

August is right around the corner, and that means it’s time to enjoy these last few weeks of summer with some sunshine and a good book. Summer reading has been an essential part of my life since I was a kid, and the urge to pick up a good book by the pool, on the beach, or on a road trip didn’t go away after the high school reading assignments ended.

There’s a great summer book out there for everyone—from those who love romance to sci-fi and fantasy fans. And I’m happy to take some of the guesswork out of it for you. So before you drive to the library or visit the bookstore, take a look at this list. These selections are all Nerdy Girl-approved for an enjoyable end-of-summer reading binge.

For the Nonfiction Fan: Summer can be a great time to learn about different people, places, and historical events. It’s also a fantastic time to sit in the sun with a fascinating memoir or a collection of comedic essays.

My Recommendations:

  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (Mindy Kaling) – No book has made me laugh harder than this one.
  • The Game (Ken Dryden) – If you’re a sports fan (especially a hockey fan), this is a must-read.
  • Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. (Sam Wasson) – This behind-the-scenes look at the making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a compelling book for anyone interested in feminism, 1960s culture, or film history.

For the Series Addict: There’s no time like the summer to start (and probably finish) a great book series. From mystery to fantasy, there are plenty of captivating series to get hooked on before the summer is done.

My Recommendations:

  • A Song of Ice and Fire (George R. R. Martin) – The books may be long, but the detail and depth behind each of the characters and their interactions makes this a series that transcends the fantasy genre to appeal to a broad range of readers.
  • The Nikki Heat series (Richard Castle) – I’ll admit it; the first two books in this three (soon to be four) book series were not exactly great pieces of literature, but they’re fun and fast reads (which is exactly what most people look for in a beach book). And for fans of the TV show Castle, these books (meant to be the ones written by the show’s titular character) are not to be missed.
  • The Hunger Games series (Suzanne Collins) and the Harry Potter series (J.K. Rowling) – If you haven’t read either one of these series, you’re missing out on two massive cultural phenomena and some great literature as well. If you’ve already read them, I highly recommend a summer reread; it’ll open your eyes to new things to love and appreciate in these books.

For the Classics Lover: Summertime is a great time to visit the “Reading List” section of your local library or bookstore and pick up one of the classics that you always meant to read but never did in high school or college.

My Recommendations:

  • The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald) – What it lacks in length (which makes it a great plane or road-trip book) it more than makes up for in depth. This is the ultimate American classic that truly stands the test of time. Read it before the movie comes out this winter.
  • Leaves of Grass (Walt Whitman) – Summer is the perfect time to find a shady spot under a tree and truly understand the beauty and freedom that Whitman’s poems are about.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) – This novel should be required reading for all members of the human race, and I don’t say that lightly.

For the Literature Snob: For some people, the summer affords enough time to explore depths one can only find in great literature. The long days of summer are the perfect backdrop for hours spent analyzing the language and meaning behind contemporary masterpieces by world-renowned writers.

My Recommendations:

  • Atonement (Ian McEwan) – With its sweeping love story, lush language, and intricate plotting, this gorgeous novel is one to dive headfirst into and get lost in for hours.
  • The Road (Cormac McCarthy) – A post-apocalyptic novel that is more drama than action, this novel touches on topics as deep as parent-child relationships, innocence in the face of pure evil, and the value of hope in situations that define hopelessness. In other words, it’s not your average beach read.
  • Brokeback Mountain (E. Annie Proulx) – A novella that can be read in the span of one lazy summer afternoon, this is a truly breathtaking piece of writing. Its style, its themes, and its content manage to be both timeless and groundbreaking, grandiose and intimate.

For the Hopeless Romantic: For many (including myself on many occasions), a summer book is only as good as its love story. But before you pick up Fifty Shades of Grey, give these a try.

My Recommendations:

  • The Fault in Our Stars (John Green) – This love story features some of the most exquisite prose I’ve ever read. Have your tissues ready because there will be tears, caused by the novel’s beauty as well as its heartbreaking subject matter.
  • Dedication (Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus) – This novel about first love and the struggle to move beyond it is creative in its plot and captivating in its execution. It’s sweet, it’s surprisingly sexy, and it’s ultimately a very empowering story.
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary (Helen Fielding) – One of the original “chick lit” classics, this novel is one that most single girls can relate to…whether we want to admit to it or not. Its quick pacing and sharp sense of humor make it a great beach read.

Summertime is the perfect time to give literature a chance, even if you’re not usually a voracious reader. Take some time to peruse the aisles of a bookstore or the pages of and see what stands out to you.

What will I be reading for the rest of this summer? In my beach bag, I’ve packed The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky), Fight Club (Chuck Palahniuk), and Beautiful Ruins (Jess Walter). I’ve also got the last two-thirds of Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy) waiting in the wings.

What’s on your ultimate summer reading list?

4 thoughts on “Beach Reading Cheat Sheet

  1. This is a great list! There’s definitely a few on here that I have yet to read and are waiting for me on my bookshelf, and of course some that I’ve already read and loved (TFIOS, HP series).

    I recently read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and the books I’m probably going to tackle next are Maureen Johnson’s “The Name of the Star” and Marcus Zusak’s “The Book Thief,” as well as Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”. I think there’s a lot of books that I am very late on reading as I have so much trouble doing recreational reading during the school year since I’m doing so much reading for homework, and I always have a books to-read list that is huge and keeps growing. I love getting to read during the summer though!

    • You’ll have to let me know how The Book Thief is; I had it in my hands at the bookstore but put it back to get Fight Club instead. It’s definitely on my to-read list!

  2. I’ve actually read 2 of these this summer and I’ve been doing a mini HP reread! I finished Atonement yesterday and the writing is just beautiful. I finished GoT a while ago and I’ve been (not so) patiently waiting to get the next book until I knock down my stack of to-be-read books a little bit. I do have Dedication in my stack though, so maybe I’ll take it with me to Vegas.

    I feel like I should reread To Kill a Mockingbird (and probably several other classic books that I read for school) now that I’m a little older. I think I read it the summer before 7th grade and I don’t think I was ready to fully give it the attention it deserves.

    I love really easy, fun books for the summer, so Nora Roberts’ trilogies or quartets are perfect for me. I just finished her Bride Quartet and really enjoyed the lightness of it. It made a nice contrast to Atonement and was just what I wanted to read after finishing GoT. They are a bit formulaic, especially if you read multiple trilogies in a short time frame, but I really liked the female friendships in Bride Quartet.

    My next few books are probably going to be Dedication, the first book in the Divergent Trilogy (Veronica Roth), and American Gods (Neil Gaiman). I need to start Anna Karenina up again, so hopefully we can encourage each other to actually finish it this time!

    • I’m so happy you liked the writing in Atonement; the style is my favorite thing about the book. The library scene between Robbie and Cecilia and the last few pages have some of the most brilliant writing I’ve ever read.

      I hope you enjoy Dedication, too. It’s such a sweet book, and it’s kind of my ideal vacation read – quick, fun, and still emotionally engaging.

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