Though winter felt especially long, some good news: Summer has officially arrived. Put away your peacoat and make time for delicious popsicles, tons of SPF, and days spent devouring page-turners by a body of water (any body will do). When it comes to what qualifies as the ultimate beach book, people have a lot of differing opinions. Is it dark and thrilling and you want to just tumble into it, or does it take the form of something romantic and frothy, the literary equivalent of a frappuccino?
The Marie Claire digital editors couldn’t come to a consensus on which book reigned supreme for summer—there were too many worthy options!—so we’re running down everyone’s picks for the tomes to read toes-in-sand. Guarantee you'll find something you like. And tally one point for adulting: no book reports required.
“Because I was really invested in the great Shape of Water Fish Sex Debate of 2018, I was thrilled to see that Broder, the relatable genius behind the @sosadtoday Twitter account, wrote a fish-sex novel. What I didn’t expect was that it would be so much more than that. The Pisces has some sexy merman-on-lady risky business, don’t get me wrong, but it’s ultimately an exploration of mental health, what it means to get help, and the understanding that need and desire are often mutually exclusive. It’s complex and I found myself rooting not for main character Lucy to be saved by the romance at the center of the novel, but for her to save herself. I couldn’t put it down, and once I did I couldn’t stop thinking about it.” —Cady Drell, Senior News and Culture Editor
“Knoll’s sophomore effort is even better than her debut, Luckiest Girl Alive, which was optioned by Reese Witherspoon’s production company (casual). Yes, it’s a sharp commentary on pop culture, friendship, and performative feminism, but it’s also just a wild whodunnit with twists you won’t see coming and a good helping of snark. Warning: Don’t get so absorbed in the captivating plot and love-to-hate characters that you forget to reapply sunscreen.” —Danielle McNally, Director of Features and Special Projects
"If you love gorgeous, feels-yummy-in-your-mouth prose mixed with an absolutely enthralling plot, then please immediately read this novel. Kelly uses three parallel narratives to tell the stories of a New York socialite, a young Polish girl, and a Nazi surgeon, all set against the backdrop of World War II. The entire novel is inspired by real events and characters during the war, making it a fascinating, horrifying, exciting—and still, somehow, heartwarming—look into the past. It sounds dark and heavy, but that's the magic of it: You never feel dragged down or truly sad, thanks to the beauty and humor in Kelly's writing." —Chloe Metzger, Beauty Editor
“I fell in love with Eve Babitz when I read Sex and Rage earlier this year, so I decided this reissue of her 1993 short stories would be the perfect companion for a weekend away. Black Swans is a collection of nine stories that trace the ups and downs of California life in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s (think: drugs, sex, friendships, the Chateau Marmont). You’ll laugh, you'll cry, and probably cry some more (much like I did on a too-crowded-for-comfort Connecticut beach). The best part? You can take a dip in the water or chug a glass of rosé in between each story.” —Ruby Buddemeyer, Editorial Fellow
“I fell in love with Eliza Kennedy when I picked up her first novel, I Take You. Her follow-up, Do This For Me, is so alive and so boisterous that the characters just about bounce off the page. It dives head-first into huge questions about marriage and fidelity, and while it doesn’t quite succeed in answering them in a cogent way, maybe that’s the point. I wish I’d read this on a beach. Reading it feels like riding a wave.” —Jenny Hollander, Deputy Editor
“This novel about a newbie matchmaker who has to learn the ropes of dating *very* quickly is funny, sexy, and absurdly entertaining. Main character Sasha’s got a dark secret about her family, which she casually exploits to get a gig at a top matchmaking firm in New York. But where her job used to be the only thing she didn’t have figured out, a series of eccentric clients and tempting potential dates explode her personal life up before her eyes. The writing moves at an awesome clip; while reading it on the subway, I became so enthralled that I ended up missing my stop, so Hannah Orenstein owes me $2.75 in train fare.” —C.D.
"I’m so obsessed with Rupi Kaur’s second poetry collection that I've already given it to five different friends as a gift. Rupi touches on themes like self-care, sexual assault, and heartbreak, composed in five different sections titled, respectively, ‘Wilting,’ ‘Falling,’ ‘Rooting,’ ‘Rising,’ and ‘Blooming.’ It’s basically like having someone next to you 24/7 saying, 'It’s going to be O.K.' And who doesn’t need that in 2018? You may have heard of Rupi from her massive following on Instagram, but don’t call her an Instagram poet." —Rachel Epstein, Assistant Editor
“This frothy romcom of a novel has LGBTQ characters at its center, but it’s not trying to be a book about gay people—it’s just some mainstream chick lit about two people (who happen to be the same gender) falling in love. And I am here for it. If you’re trying to get over an ex, read this instead of compulsively checking your iphone.” —D.M.
“This collection of short stories, which came out in April, is high-minded and literary but also incredibly, painfully relatable. Sittenfeld has such an empathy for every character she creates that even a borderline-emotionless bachelor becomes someone you can see yourself in at every turn. The stories here are hilarious, dark, romantic, regretful, and wrenchingly nostalgic—sometimes at the exact same time. Also, pretty sure they convinced me that I never want kids.” —C.D.
“The twist! This book is paced so perfectly that you can't help but feel there’s something big coming up, yet nothing can prepare you for a twist like this. I read the first half slowly, savoring it, and then was so thrown by the turn it takes that I finished the rest of it in an evening. Quite aside from the brilliant narrative technique, this is a captivating book. I loved it.” —J.H.
“If you don’t read a murder-mystery thriller was it even summer? Lies She Told takes Girl on the Train’s “did I do it?” bewilderment to the next level by making the murkiness meta: The main character is an author writing a book about a woman murdering her husband’s lover—and then things in her own marriage turn ugly. Sure, the tangled story lines can be tricky to keep straight, but when better to read something that requires your full attention than when you have nothing to do at all except sit in the sun?" —D.M.