5 Beach Reads Worth Cracking the Spine On

Take our word for it.

Let’s talk about the term “beach reads” for a minute. You know, the category that, for whatever reason, just can’t escape the association with flippant novellas and trashy magazines. Well, it’s time to kick the cliché. We say, if you want to lie back with a chick lit novel because your brain is fried from a hellish week, then by all means, indulge. And, on the flip side, if you can read Nietzsche on the plane without eliciting a side-eye, then why can’t you read him while basking in the sun? Whatever genre you’re feeling, we’ve got you covered with six page-turners guaranteed to knock your socks (and clothes) off. Dive in.

For the feminist reader…

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay (2017)

You know her from “Bad Feminist,” the 2014 collection of hard-hitting essays that explore feminism from both a personal and pop culture perspective. Gay’s latest release is a work of short fiction, made up of essays centered around dynamic, complex females who challenge the idea of the “difficult woman.” She deals with heavy issues, like sexual assault and death, with her signature prolificness, weaving them into stories that need to be read as much as they needed to be written.

For the high-brow beach babe…

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (2007)

It’s hard not to love Junot Diaz. In his most acclaimed novel, he waxes poetic about Oscar, an overweight, comic book-loving Dominican boy growing up in New Jersey. As he searches for love and explores the alleged curse that was put on his family years ago, Oscar discovers more about who he is and where he’s from. Scattered with Spanish slang and magical realism, the book bends the rules of fiction, subtly changing narrators and throwing you back in time. Oh, and it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, so there’s really no debating whether it’s worth your time.

For the low-brow beach babe…

DV by Diana Vreeland (1984)

Diana Vreeland’s autobiography reads like a visually rich, albeit scattered conversation with the fashion visionary herself. The non-linear snapshots of a colorful life trace her journey from the parks of Paris to the streets of New York, with some London in between. As a former fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar and editor-in-chief at Vogue, not to mention a sometimes socialite, Vreeland had the best stories, which often included icons like Josephine Baker, Coco Chanel, Jackie Kennedy, and Jack Nicholson (it’s not name dropping when it’s just the territory that comes with living such a fabulous life). After all, she was the one who said, “There’s only one very good life, and that’s the life you know you want and you make it yourself.”

For the lit enthusiast…

South and West: From a Notebook by Joan Didion (2017)

Fresh off the press, Didion’s newest book is basically a window into her brain (writers, take note). It borrows raw material from her personal notebooks, beginning with the road trip through Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana that she took with her husband in 1970, and ending with the notes she took while covering the Patty Hearst trial for Rolling Stone (though the piece was never published). While it may not be the Didion read you’re used to, it’s still required reading for everyone that’s ever loved her writing.

For the binge watcher…

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (2014)

Yep, like so many good series these days, before it was a show, it was a book. If you’re bummed that the HBO version only lasted seven episodes, or even if you still have yet to watch it (really?), then you’ll definitely eat up the OG version, gory details and all. The novel follows three mothers who live in the small town of Monterey, but it’s the lies that they tell everyone, including themselves, and the book’s immediate nod to an imminent death  that make this novel impossible to put down. Perfect for when you want to go full-on beach bum.

Now you’ll need a beach look. Next stop: the swim shop.