What You Should Be Reading This Summer According to Indie Booksellers

Your next beach read awaits!

A woman sits on the beach reading a book while a ship floats in the distance
Photo by Markos Mant via Unsplash

There’s something inherently magical about reading in the summer. Perhaps it dates back to those formative elementary school days of furiously cataloging summer reads for the chance at winning a free personal pizza, but the words “summer” and “reading” bring only positive associations to mind. With only a few weeks of summer left, indie booksellers from across the country have submitted recommendations for their favorite 2023 beach read and are here to make sure you find the perfect book to close out your summer and capture that summer-reading-magic at least one last time. 

The best beach reads never sacrifice emotional complexity, originality, or quality prose: they are simply books that feel perfect to read against the backdrop of summer. Whether in a grassy park, sprawled out on your couch as the AC blasts, or, yes, on a literal beach, a beach read offers an escape within an escape and often matches the vibrant, dreamy, thrilling atmosphere that accompanies the best days of summer. Beach reads are expansive, diverse, thoughtful, and, most importantly, compulsively readable. A truly great beach read is one that fully pulls you into its world, causing you to lose track of time and look up hours later to find the sun is setting.

The books in the roundup below include everything from Hollywood historical fiction and queer campus novels to a surreal, tech-centric story collection and horror novel steeped in movie magic. Peruse this list, add a title to the tail end of your summer reading catalog, and then take yourself out for a personal pizza. We know you’ve read a lot this summer. You deserve it. 

Do Tell by Lindsay Lynch 

“I devoured this debut set in the heyday of the Hollywood studio system. When character actress Edie O’Dare is suddenly unemployed after her contract with FWM Studios ends, she uses her knowledge of industry secrets to become Hollywood’s leading gossip columnist, a decision that turns out to have far-reaching consequences in both her personal and professional life. A strong narrative voice, compassionately drawn characters, and a plot that had me racing to find out what happens next make this my must read of the summer. Perfect for fans of historical fiction and anyone who loves to watch Turner Classic Movies.”

—David Vogel, Literati in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Mrs. S by K. Patrick 

“A young Scot takes a position as a ‘matron’ at an elite boarding school in the English countryside while grappling with her changing relationship to her body and gender identity. While there, she becomes embroiled in an illicit affair with the headmaster’s wife—an intimidating figure of indeterminate age whose attention and grasp on femininity has all of the students clamor for and envy. K Patrick beautifully marries suspense and romance in this tale of queer infatuation and forbidden love, crafting a narrative that is as sultry as it is propulsive. A sexy, thrilling page-turner that is the perfect accompaniment to a day spent in the sun and the sand.”

—Meghana Kandlur, Open Books in Chicago, Illinois

Dating & Dismemberment by A.L. Brody

“This monster rom-com is laugh out loud funny with a diverse cast of monsters. It’s a perfect enemies-to-lovers ‘horror’ that will leave you wanting more monster shenanigans from Camp Clear Creek.”

—Sydne Conant, A Room of One’s Own in Madison, Wisconsin

Happy Place by Emily Henry

“This book is one that hit home with me this summer. It has the fun friend group that goes on vacation, a second chance & fake dating romance situation, plus so much more! Happy Place is definitely one of those books that you can binge on the beach, and has something for everyone.”

—Brooke, Spellbound Bookstore in Sanford, Florida

Lucky Red by Claudia Cravens 

“A queer, feminist take on the classic Western novel? Count me in! Bridget, penniless and alone, crosses the American prairies and happens upon Dodge City, where she takes up residence in a brothel in order to survive. What follows is a gorgeously written, deeply human, and completely immersive story about queer womanhood, friendship, and freedom. I loved every page.”

—Sarah Arnold, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

The Adult by Bronwyn Fischer 

“This is the lesbian-awakening coming-of-age campus novel I wish existed when I was a teenager! With sparse, lyrical prose, Fischer infuses mundane college scenes with a uniquely resonant light. Perfect for enjoyers of Donna Tartt and Emma Cline.”

—Skylar Miklus, Still North Books & Bar in Hanover, New Hampshire

The Wishing Game by Meg Shaffer 

“Emotionally warm, with themes of found family and healing childhood wounds, The Wishing Game is the perfect book to add to your summertime reading list. Lucy read The Clock Island series as a child but as an adult she’s trying to hold it all together for herself and the seven-year-old boy she desperately wants to adopt. When the author of The Clock Island series announces he is releasing a new book and is hosting a contest to win the single copy in existence, Lucy returns to the joys and traumas of her childhood to solve her adult problems. The Wishing Game made me think about the books I read as a child and how getting lost in an imaginary world was a reprieve from the very real turbulence of adolescence. The Wishing Game was a similar escape and I wish I could’ve lingered longer.”

—Rachel Ford, The Bookshop in Nashville, Tennessee

Dogs of Summer by Andrea Abreu 

“This is an EXPLOSIVE little book! Just like the volcano that towers in the landscape’s hills. In Dogs of Summer, we follow two best friends on the brink between girlhood and that terrifying, exciting, electrifying other that is womanhood. Dogs of Summer will eat you up and spit you back out! Read and be mesmerized!”

 —Zoe Leaf, Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, New York

The Rachel Incident by Caroline O’Donoghue 

“I flew through this book. The Rachel Incident is perfect for fans of Sally Rooney (me). It’s perfect for anyone who’s ever been a new adult wondering what exactly it is they’re supposed to be doing with their life (me). It’s perfect for people who love the feeling of looking up from the last page of a book feeling like they’ve just read about and gotten to know real people with real, complicated emotions (me).”

 —Maddie Grimes, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

An Honest Man by Michael Koryta

“Maine is hot right now, and this is a twisty mystery that features some very cold-hearted Mainers from a guy who gets the accents right. At its heart is a complicated protagonist, just trying to live his life after a prison stint, who gets wrapped up in the offshore murders of some of Maine’s biggest power players. Is the cop trying to help him actually on the level? Will he ever be able to escape the family ties that bind us to small town life? Koryta makes sure we care about the answers.”

—Sam Pfeifle, The Book Shop of Beverly Farms in Beverly, Massachusetts

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett 

Tom Lake is that rare novel that does so many things to absolute perfection. This is Ann Patchett’s masterpiece and any sort of synopsis sells it short. Yes, it’s a pandemic novel about a woman telling her daughters about a youthful fling she had with an actor who would go on to be wildly famous. But that’s like saying sitting outside on the first nice day of spring is refreshing. It’s true but cannot get at the heart of the magic of the experience”

—Cat Bock, Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN

LET’S GO LET’S GO LET’S GO by Cleo Qian 

“These short stories are tightly crafted, with not a word wasted. Themes include longing, loneliness, queer desire, Asian identity, self-conception, technology, and modernity. Qian has a great surrealist edge and a unique voice. A noteworthy debut collection that left me wanting more!”

—Skylar Miklus, Still North Books & Bar in Hanover, New Hampshire

Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia 

Silver Nitrate is a horror novel that involves literal movie magic, the occult, and bits of film lore. Moreno-Garcia also wrote Mexican Gothic, and she’s great at changing her vibe with each book.”

—Rowan Hawthorn, Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino, California

Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa, translated by Eric Ozawa

“This utterly charming novel finds its setting in ‘a wonderland of used books’: Tokyo’s Jimbōchō district, which is populated by hundreds of specialty used bookstores. By the time Takako begins to clean out the small room above her uncle’s bookshop, where she lives in the aftermath of breaking up with her cheating boyfriend and quitting her job, I felt wonderfully ensconced in a Studio Ghibli-esque atmosphere. This book hits all the right beats to be one of Miyazaki’s tender, heart-tugging animations. A perfectly cozy read!” –Chelsea, P&T Knitwear Books and Podcast in Manhattan, New York

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