The best thing about summertime is sticking your nose in a paperback and your toes in the sand! But vacation slips away, and often we don’t have the time to conquer our entire to-read list. Thankfully, even when we run out of time to lounge away on the beach, books will stick around forever. Here are some of the most popular beach reads — with publishers’ descriptions — from the last 15 years, and why you should read them now if you missed them before.
2000: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
A new collection from David Sedaris is cause for jubilation. His recent move to Paris has inspired hilarious pieces, including “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” about his attempts to learn French. His family is another inspiration. “You Can’t Kill the Rooster” is a portrait of his brother who talks incessant hip-hop slang to his bewildered father. And no one hones a finer fury in response to such modern annoyances as restaurant meals presented in ludicrous towers and cashiers with six-inch fingernails.
It should be your 2015 beach read if… you want to feel like you’re having a conversation with your funniest friend.
2001: Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
Becky Bloomwood has a fabulous flat in London’s trendiest neighborhood, a troupe of glamorous socialite friends, and a closet brimming with the season’s must-haves. The only trouble is that she can’t actually afford it — not any of it.
Her job writing at Successful Savings not only bores her to tears, it doesn’t pay much at all. And lately Becky’s been chased by dismal letters from Visa and the Endwich Bank — letters with large red sums she can’t bear to read — and they’re getting ever harder to ignore.
She tries cutting back; she even tries making more money. But none of her efforts succeeds. Becky’s only consolation is to buy herself something… just a little something…
Finally a story arises that Becky actually cares about, and her front-page article catalyzes a chain of events that will transform her life — and the lives of those around her — forever.
It should be your 2015 beach read if… you have a weakness for shopping bags of all shapes and sizes.
2002: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
Some friends just fit together.
Once there was a pair of pants. Just an ordinary pair of jeans. But these pants, the Traveling Pants, went on to do great things. This is the story of the four friends — Lena, Tibby, Bridget, and Carmen — who made it possible.
It should be your 2015 beach read if… all your friends went away on vacation without you this summer.
2003: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Afghanistan, 1975: 12-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to shatter their lives. After the Russians invade and the family is forced to flee to America, Amir realizes that one day he must return to Afghanistan under Taliban rule to find the one thing that his new world cannot grant him: redemption.
It should be your 2015 beach read if… you’re beaching it alone, but want to experience a life-changing friendship without leaving your towel.
2004: The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
A dazzling novel in the most untraditional fashion, this is the remarkable story of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare’s passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger’s cinematic storytelling that makes the novel’s unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant.
It should be your 2015 beach read if… you wish you could go back in time to your favorite past vacations.
2005: Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
Something Borrowed tells the story of Rachel, a young attorney living and working in Manhattan. Rachel has always been the consummate good girl — until her thirtieth birthday, when her best friend, Darcy, throws her a party. That night, after too many drinks, Rachel ends up in bed with Darcy’s fiancé. Although she wakes up determined to put the one-night fling behind her, Rachel is horrified to discover that she has genuine feelings for the one guy she should run from. As the September wedding date nears, Rachel knows she has to make a choice. In doing so, she discovers that the lines between right and wrong can be blurry, endings aren’t always neat, and sometimes you have to risk all to win true happiness. Something Borrowed is a phenomenal debut novel that will have you laughing, crying, and calling your best friend.
It should be your 2015 beach read if… you lounge with a martini in hand.
2006: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski’s 90-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.
Jacob was there because his luck had run out — orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive “ship of fools.” It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn’t have an act — in fact, she couldn’t even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.
It should be your 2015 beach read if… you want to be transported to a magical time period.
2006: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Bella Swan’s move to Forks, a small, perpetually rainy town in Washington, could have been the most boring move she ever made. But once she meets the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen, Bella’s life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. Up until now, Edward has managed to keep his vampire identity a secret in the small community he lives in, but now nobody is safe, especially Bella, the person Edward holds most dear.
It should be your 2015 beach read if… the beach isn’t sparkly enough for you.
2007: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book in the epic tale of Harry Potter, Harry and Lord Voldemort each prepare for their ultimate encounter.
Voldemort takes control of the Ministry of Magic, installs Severus Snape as headmaster at Hogwarts, and sends his Death Eaters across the country to wreak havoc and find Harry. Meanwhile, Harry, Ron, and Hermione embark on a desperate quest the length and breadth of Britain, trying to locate and destroy Voldemort’s four remaining Horcruxes, the magical objects in which he has hidden parts of his broken soul. They visit the Burrow, Grimmauld Place, the Ministry, Godric’s Hollow, Malfoy Manor, Diagon Alley…
But every time they solve one mystery, three more evolve — and not just about Voldemort, but about Dumbledore, and Harry’s own past, and three mysterious objects called the Deathly Hallows. The Hallows are literally things out of a children’s tale, which, if real, promise to make their possessor the “Master of Death;” and they ensnare Harry with their tantalizing claim of invulnerability.
It is only after a nigh-unbearable loss that he is brought back to his true purpose, and the trio returns to Hogwarts for the final breathtaking battle between the forces of good and evil. They fight the Death Eaters alongside members of the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore’s Army, the Weasley clan, and the full array of Hogwarts teachers and students.
Yet everything turns upon the moment the entire series has been building up to, the same meeting with which our story began: the moment when Harry and Voldemort face each other at last.
It should be your 2015 beach read if… you want to feel productive and solve some decades-old magical problems.
2008: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb…
As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends — and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society — born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island — boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.
Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.
It should be your 2015 beach read if… you spend your vacations sending love-filled postcards.
2009: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
An international publishing sensation, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel. Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.
It should be your 2015 beach read if… you want more grit in your sandy beach days.
2010: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.
It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans — except Katniss.
The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay — no matter what the personal cost.
It should be your 2015 beach read if… you want to be kept on the edge of your lounge chair.
2011: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway — a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love — a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
It should be your 2015 beach read if… you want to get lost in a whimsical, magical love story.
2012: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media — as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents — the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter — but is he really a killer?
It should be your 2015 beach read if… your significant other is annoying you at the moment.
2013: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough… Eleanor.
Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises… Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed 16-year-olds — smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
It should be your 2015 beach read if… you want to cry happy love tears into your beach towel.
2014: The Vacationers by Emma Straub
For the Posts, a two-week trip to the Balearic island of Mallorca with their extended family and friends is a celebration: Franny and Jim are observing their 35th wedding anniversary, and their daughter, Sylvia, has graduated from high school. The sunlit island, its mountains and beaches, its tapas and tennis courts, also promise an escape from the tensions simmering at home in Manhattan. But all does not go according to plan: over the course of the vacation, secrets come to light, old and new humiliations are experienced, childhood rivalries resurface, and ancient wounds are exacerbated.
It should be your 2015 beach read if… you’re beaching close to home, but you wish you were further away from your family.
2015: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life — as she sees it — is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
It should be your 2015 beach read if… you’re taking a break from your routine commute and want to dive into someone’s that is much more exciting than yours.
What’s your favorite throwback? Tell us in the comments!
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