An Unexpected Summer Reading List: Not Your Average Beach Reads

Posted on July 13, 2022 at 6:00 am

By Savannah Stewart

When it comes to beach reads, mine usually fall into the “this isn’t what I expected” category. Ideally, beach reads are easy-going and don’t interfere with your summer vibe.

I’ve found that the books I like to read can’t live up to this ideal. And mostly, I never end up reading very much while on the actual beach because I get too hot and sweaty and need to cool off in the water. I also don’t have a fancy chair, and my sunglasses are usually of the $5 variety. Beach reading for me is simply a mess.

But there is good news! You can read “beach reads” anywhere!

So, I’ve decided that beach reads are whatever books I want to read during the summer. That’s it!

If like me, you wrestle with the concept of “beach reads,” I invite you to take a similar approach. Here’s a list of books that may not seem like beach reads but could make for great summer reading.

(These books could also be great for fall fireside reads, winter hot cocoa reads, and springtime picnic reads. You do you!)


Violeta, by Isabel Allende

The story of Violeta del Valle, born in 1920, is shared through letters she writes to a loved one. Her life spans 100 years as she witnesses some of the great events of the 20th century. Allende writes books that have a touch of magic and this one is no different. Enjoy the beautiful ups and downs of Violeta’s life as you lounge by the water.

Kaikeyi, by Vaishnavi Patel

Based on the Indian epic poem Ramayana, Kaikeyi’s story is about family and fate. Kaikeyi is the lone daughter in a sea of sons in the kingdom Kekaya. Not much is expected of her except to marry well. After her mother is banished, she takes to the library to see if any gods can help bring her mother back. She inadvertently discovers she has power and works to create a better world for herself. What follows is her story as she grows into a warrior and queen while clashing with gods and her family’s destiny.

Nettle & Bone, by T. Kingfisher

Here’s a fairy tale that’s a bit creepy and subverts the genre as a whole. (Right up my alley!) Marra’s older sister is married to a prince who isn’t like the ones we know from Disney. With the help from some unlikely allies, Marra goes on a quest to kill the prince and that quest begins with three impossible tasks. It only gets wilder from there! This is not your typical fairy tale but makes a fun beach read for me!

She Gets the Girl, by Rachael Lippincott & Alyson Derrick

As an enemies-to-lovers young adult novel, this one is more of a classic beach read than most others on this list. She Gets the Girl follows Alex and Molly as they embark on their first year of college. Alex is the flirty and confident one who was just broken up with. Molly is the shy one who is in love with Cora Myers even though they’ve never spoken. Alex and Molly don’t like each other when they first meet, but Alex agrees to help Molly get the girl of her dreams. What could go wrong?


Yin Yoga: Stretch the Mindful Way, by Kassandra Reinhardt

Unconventional? Perhaps. But I think the beach is the perfect place to bring this book! Doing some Yin Yoga while outside in the sunshine and near the water can be magical! If you are unfamiliar with Yin Yoga, you use props, like blankets (or beach towels) and yoga blocks to hold poses for an extended amount of time. It may sound simple, but there is something challenging (and satisfying) when breathing through a pose for 3–5 minutes. Plus, you’ll feel amazing afterwards. Goodbye stiffness! Hello relaxation.

Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?, by Julie Smith

If you want to work on your mental health while out and about this summer, then this is your book. The chapters are conveniently arranged into bite-sized chunks to help you become a better you. The writing is easy to understand and follow. Note: this book is not a replacement for therapy. But if you are already on a journey to better mental health, this book will help you on your way.

Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet, by Thich Nhat Hanh

Being a human in our world today can be tough. To help others, you need to first take care of yourself. Through mindfulness and mediation, you can become the empathetic and compassionate human who you and this world needs. The meditation mantras are wonderful and worthy of writing down to reference if you are having a hard day.

Welcome to the Grief Club: Because You Don’t Have to Go Through It Alone, by Janine Kwoh

This is a beautiful book that may seem like an unlikely beach read. But then again, grief has no season. This book shows that there is no correct way to grieve, and the illustrations are adorable. Be warned, if you’ve lost a loved one, this book will likely make you tear up, but it is also likely to make you laugh and feel seen. This book is like a big hug at every stage of grief.

Welcome to Dunder Mifflin: The Ultimate Oral History of The Office, by Brian Baumgartner

This book is easy to jump in and out of, which is essential for an ideal beach read. The interviews with cast and crew are a welcome deep dive into the show many know and love. If you listened to the podcast An Oral History of The Office that came out in 2020, then you may know most of what’s in this book already. If that’s the case, it is still fun to flip through for the pictures and extra interviews.

Into Every Generation a Slayer Is Born: How Buffy Staked Our Hearts, by Evan Ross Katz

This book is filled with interviews from the actors and crew who worked on the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer throughout the years as well as fans of the show. Katz shares the cultural impact of Buffy, along with its complicated legacy regarding allegations against creator Joss Whedon. Katz doesn’t mince words when it comes to Whedon, and I found that refreshing. I felt that Katz balanced love for the show Buffy with its flaws.

Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases, by Paul Holes

This book is part memoir and part true crime. Holes talks about how he fell in love with forensics and cold cases. He also shares the toll this took on him throughout his life. The book references some of the cold cases he’s solved, including finding the identity of The Golden State Killer. You don’t have to be a Murderino to think Paul Holes is a cool and genuine dude, but it helps.

I encourage you to get out there and read whatever and wherever brings you joy!  

Savannah Stewart

Savannah Stewart is the Communication Associate with Spokane County Library District. She enjoys spending her time reading, hiking, traveling, and eating delicious food, including the homemade pizza her partner makes. To relax, she meditates, practices yoga, and snuggles with her kitty Zelda.

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