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The Best Beach Reads* for Summer 2020

*Also the best stay-inside-to-stop-the-spread-of-COVID reads.

best books summer 2020
Courtesy/ Morgan McMullen

A beach read is so much more than the book you read on the beach: It's an escape, a vacation from reality (yes, even if you're not actually on a tropical vacation). This summer, as we all hunker down inside to do our part in stopping the spread of COVID-19, a beach read can be the book you curl up with on your couch, or the one you grab when you sneak away for a few moments in whatever grassy patch is nearby, no sand required.

A beach read doesn't have to be juicy and indulgent (though it can be). It can be the wry writing of Naoise Dolan in her excellent debut, Exciting Times. It can be the breathless chapters of Samantha Downing's My Lovely Wife. It can even be the literary glitter of Emily Temple's The Lightness. Ahead, we round up beach reads suitable for any and every bookworm, from the rom-com to the thriller. And if you're looking for a book club you don't even have to leave your couch (or grassy patch) to join, may we suggest joining Marie Claire's virtual book club?

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Exciting Times
bookshop.org
$25.75

Ava, an apathetic Hong Kong transplant, finds herself in a “relationship” (loose definition of the word) with two people: Julian, a wealthy banker who seems unaffected by any and all feelings, and Edith, an elusive female lawyer that seemingly has it all figured out. As Ava lies to both and struggles to verbalize her emotions, their lives inextricably intertwine. Our June #ReadWithMC pick, Irish writer Naoise Dolan’s debut is a sardonic snapshot of a millennial love triangle.

Available now. 

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Party of Two
bookshop.org
$23.92

You’ll eat up this easy read: Dating-shy lawyer Olivia Monroe moves to LA where she meets a hotshot politician Max (who wriggles his way into her heart with chocolate cake. This guy has it figured out). The two start dating on the down-low to protect Max’s political career…that is, until the intense media scrutiny catches up to them. Sometimes, the great thing about rom-coms is that you know the recipe—and this one has a delicious twist.

Available now. 

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3 of 13
Pizza Girl
bookshop.org
$22.95

A pregnant teenage pizza delivery girl develops an unlikely friendship—and then, a bit of an obsession—with the stay-at-home mom she regularly visits to deliver a pickle-coated pizza. This debut from Jean Kyoung Frazier is subversive, sharp, and sublime, a read you’ll devour over a weekend as if it was a hot and fresh slice. 

Available now. 

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4 of 13
The Vanishing Half
bookshop.org
$24.84

In the breakout read of the summer (and our July #ReadWithMC pick) by bestselling author Brit Bennett, identical twin sisters run away at age 16 from their small town. One gets married and starts passing as white in L.A., and the other ends up raising her daughter back in her hometown. It's a provocative, riveting read that grapples with generational, familial divides, class, race, and the enduring love that unites us.

Available now. 

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5 of 13
Clap When You Land
bookshop.org
$17.47

National Book Award-winning author Elizabeth Acevedo pens a bittersweet read about a pair of sisters, living a country apart, who come together after a tragic plane crash takes the life off their father. Tender, difficult, and written in poetic-style verses, don’t bring Clap When You Land to the beach (or where your "beach" this summer is) without tissues.

Available now. 

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Head Over Heels
bookshop.org
$15.63

Hannah Orenstein’s third novel (you might recall Love at First Like and Playing with Matches) glitters with the same signature humor you’ve come to love. After failing to make the Olympic team, gymnast Avery Abrams moves home and starts coaching up-and-comers, developing a romantic connect with her co-coach, Ryan, all the while. (Her stomach does flips upon the site of him—get it!?)

Available now.

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My Lovely Wife
bookshop.org
$14.72

To spice up their stale marriage (picture: suburbia, kids, etc.), a husband and wife decide to plan a murder. Yep, apparently an exotic vacation for two wasn't doing the trick. Brimming with suspense, this page-turning debut from author Samantha Downing is equally compulsive as it is disturbing. This is one you'll trade among your friends. 

Available now. 

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Mother Daughter Widow Wife
bookshop.org
$24.84

A woman is found on a bus to Philadelphia with no identification...or memory of how she got there. After “Wendy Doe” is diagnosed with Dissociative Fugue, a form of temporary amnesia, things start to get even more strange: As Wendy Doe’s daughter searches for her missing mother, Wendy ends up getting studied by a memory doctor with sinister motives

Available now. 

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All the Broken People
bookshop.org
$23.92

A young woman (Lucy) in hiding from an abusive ex finds a crucial sense of security when she befriends Vera and John, the couple living next door to her new home. Lucy soon discovers that John’s reputation is being attacked by local gossip. When she offers to help get him out of hot water, she finds herself at the center of a murder case. Leah Konen's debut thriller skillfully captures the unnerving tensions that come with building your chosen family while never knowing quite who to trust

Available now. 

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10 of 13
A Burning
bookshop.org
$23.87

Jivan, a Muslim girl who grew up in the slums, is accused of causing a devastating terrorist attack on a train in India. The only one who might be able to prove her innocence is Lovely, a hijra (a term meaning third-gender or gender nonconforming) with dreams of being in Bollywood. Powerful and urgent, this read from Megha Majumdar is a scorching, blistering tale of class, gender, and the structures that oppress both.

Available now. 

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The Lightness
bookshop.org
$24.83

Simply beautiful and stylish prose lifts this tale of a girl, Olivia, on a mission to find her missing father, who left on a meditation retreat and never returned. Along the journey, she encounters a group of girls learning to transcend the constraints of their lives (literally, they are learning to levitate). 

Available Now. 

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Afterland
Mulholland Books amazon.com
$28.00
$21.86 (22% off)

Who run the world? In Lauren Beukes Afterland, it's girls. Literally. In a world where a pandemic has taken the lives of men, women are left to try and save the human species. Our protagonist is one of the rare men left, on mission to protect his young, valuable son. Think Handmaids Tale, then reverse it.

Available July 28.

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Luster
bookshop.org
$23.92

Edie is navigating a directionless life as an artistic type in Bushwick when she meets Eric, an architect in an open marriage. As her life becomes intertwined with the Eric's family, things get decidedly more complicated. Mercilessly funny and sharp, Raven Leilani's Luster is unexpected and utterly fascinating.

Available August 4. 

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