20 fun fiction books to read at the beach, chosen by the authors



This week, Vulture has some summer picks: picks for the best beach-worthy books, comics, music and podcasts from the past 18 months, chosen by the creators of this entertainment. Today, we put the spotlight on fiction books; here is our panel:

Alexander Chee is the author of Queen of the night.

Jenny Han is the New Yorker Time bestselling book author To all the boys I’ve loved before, PS I still love you, and the next one Always and forever, Lara Jean. She is also the author of In the summer I became pretty trilogy and co-author of Burn to burn trilogy. His books have been published in over 25 languages.

J. Courtney Sullivan is the author of New York Time best-selling novels Beginning, Maine, andThe engagements, and co-editor of the essay anthology Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists.


Among the ten thousand things by Julia Pierpont
I was hooked from the first page of this novel about a marriage that breaks down as a result of infidelity. But I fell really, madly, deeply in love when I read a few chapters and found out that the married couple’s teenage daughter deals with her feelings through Seinfeld fanfiction. Pierpont’s beginnings are full of nuggets and surprises. It’s sad and poignant and it’s very funny. –Sullivan

Assistants by Camille Perri
Anyone who has ever been an assistant to a high-profile person can relate to Perri’s protagonist, Tina Fontana. After six years of work, she is not bitter. She suffers from a sort of Stockholm syndrome in which she feels protective of her billionaire boss and almost has fun anticipating all of her needs. But when Tina and a group of all-female colleagues design a Nine to five-style plan to pay off their student loan debt by siphoning the money out of the business, things get complicated. Assistants is fun, quick, and full of heart. –Sullivan

Before the fall by Noah Hawley
A private plane bound for Martha’s Vineyard crashes in the Atlantic, and there are only two survivors: a painter and the 4-year-old son of a media mogul. Was the crash really an accident or is there something more sinister at play? Reading this story, told in the present tense and in flashbacks, it kind of feels like the plane isn’t going to crash, even though it did in the very first chapter. –Han

Light lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam
Light lines takes place in Brooklyn during the summer of 2003, the summer of the Blackout, and Ella is a young Bangladeshi woman growing up there, beginning the process of revealing herself and her adopted uncle’s family as homosexual, while being crushed by her cousin Charu, with whom she lives. By the time we get to Maya, Charu’s friend, we are in the depths. It’s a novel that allowed me to travel a little more deeply in this city that I love, even though it reminded me so much why I love it in the summer. –Chee

The full stories by Clarice Lispector, edited by Benjamin Moser and translated by Katrina Dodson
It is, besides being simply considered one of the most physically beautiful books that you can leave out on your cover, a formidable collection of stories from one of Brazil’s greatest writers. It’s also heavy enough to keep the blanket from blowing across the beach in the wind while also serving as a kind of open flirt for passers-by who are crafty enough to recognize its name. –Chee

Girls on fire by Robin Wasserman
My two biggest weaknesses are the ’90s and teenage stories, and Robin Wasserman understands both, intimately. In keeping with the theme of the 90s, I had chosen a young Samantha Mathis and a young Fairuza Balk to play the two girls at the center of the story. –Han

The great American anyway by Tim Federle
Yes Benefits of being a wallflower had been told by Ferris Bueller during the worst week of his life. Sad, funny and true: the best kind of book. –Han

Heat and light by Jennifer Haigh
I’m pretty sure Haigh could write brilliantly on any subject. Here, she manages to create a literary page turner on hydraulic fracturing. I guarantee you this is one of those novels that will keep you awake late, unable to stop reading. Haigh has a knack for telling a story through multiple points of view, changing our perspective as we go. This is the book I can’t help but think about this summer. I have recommended it to everyone I know, and even to a few strangers on the metro. –Sullivan

Hopes by Jennifer Close
I tore up this flat DC novel in two days. Close, whose husband works for President Obama, captures the world of young political insiders perfectly: the ambition, jealousy, and fierce competition that arise, even among friends. Hopes alongside the work of Marjorie Williams and Nora Ephron, some of the best (and funniest) writing about what goes behind closed doors in our nation’s capital. –Sullivan

The last boy and the last girl in the world by Siobhan Vivian
Everyone knows I love a good love triangle and this one ticks all the boxes: Girl suddenly finds herself being chased by her longtime crush as well as her academic nemesis. But what sets this book apart is the setting, a small town slowly sliding underwater. –Han

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
Former college mates, now middle-aged, revisit old secrets and grapple with marriage in all its complexity. Meanwhile, their teenage children fall in love with each other. Straub has a knack for exposing bigger truths through revealing little details. Her warmth and sense of humor electrify every page. –Sullivan

Olio by Tyehimba Jess
It’s an amazing book of poetry, and a great one – you could do worse than having a strong book by looping this and the Lispector. But make no mistake, this is an extremely wonderful second book by Jess, which brought to life here many black artists whose work grew up to the Harlem Renaissance: Blind Tom, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Harry “Box” Brown, Scott Joplin, Sissieretta Jones. It’s one of the funniest things you’ll have to learn about American history. –Chee

Rich and pretty by Ruman Alam
This novel about a complicated 20-year friendship just came out in June, but this past winter it’s been a topic of conversation at every book party I’ve attended. The young women of the publishing world were all ecstatic over how Alam perfectly portrayed the bond between two women with a deep common history, but very little in common at the present time. As their lives move in different directions, they struggle with their feelings about each other’s choices. (Sometimes they keep those feelings to themselves. Other times, not so much.) –Sullivan

The We Royal by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
I have a clear memory of going to college and Britney Spears declaring that the man of her dreams was Prince William. For girls of a certain age, there was this very small, very, very small possibility that among all the millions of girls in the world, you could be the one he chose to be his princess. The We Royal is a loose retelling of William and Kate’s love affair (but this time she turns American). –Han

Sainte-Mazie by Jami Attenberg
I sometimes find it hard to love New York in the summer, when the whole city smells a little of trash and it looks like everyone but me has been teleported to the Hamptons. The antidote is Sainte-Mazie, Jami Attenberg’s magnificent love letter to the city. She brings Mazie Phillips, the real owner of Bowery’s Venice Theater, to life. It is a compulsive reading tribute to a memorable and heroic New Yorker. (Bonus points for the totally steamy sex scene on the Brooklyn Bridge.) –Sullivan

Pareo Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
Once installed at the beach, turn to Pareo Party Girlsthe narrator of, Jazzy, a fearless Singaporean beauty with a heart of gold – several of them, in fact, all of them owned by other people. Sexy, brash fun that you won’t let go, and if you do, with its vibrant colors, it’s easy to find it, say, in a crowded nightclub like the one Jazzy would go to if she was at the beach with you. –Chee

Six of crows by Leigh Bardugo
It is Eleven from the ocean Where Now you see me, but with real magic. It’s dark and twisty and gritty with a cast of true anti-heroes. Kaz Brekker, the criminal prodigy who runs the team trying to pull off this heist, must be one of the most fucked up and violent characters I’ve ever read, but I ended up supporting him anyway. –Han

The sky of Lima by Juan Gómez Bárcena
The best heartbreaking novels are the ones that surprise you like this: A tragicomic love story about two dilettant young male poets in Lima at the start of the 20th century who are desperate for the last book of their hero, Juan Ramón Jiménez. They pose together like a beautiful admirer and write her a fan letter, asking for it, and in return receive… a signed copy and a letter. The resulting correspondence becomes quite serious, and soon their literary hero is in love and insists on meeting their fictional character, and so the young poets realize that their greatest literary creation must die and no one can ever know that it was. them. –Chee

SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki
You’re at the beach with a summer hangover, a bit of outside language, but yearning for the pleasures of storytelling. These stories here are for that, from a location that is best considered a cross between Professor Xavier’s X-Men School in Westchester and Brakebills of the magicians. Most are one page three pages long and are hilarious. You kind of have to be a top-level nerd to figure them all out, but in a good way. –Chee

This must be the place by Maggie O’Farrell
O’Farrell is a huge talent and his latest novel is his best yet. Daniel, a New Yorker, lives in rural Ireland with his wife, Claudette, a former movie star who staged his own disappearance and now greets unwanted guests with a shotgun. The appearance of a woman from Daniel’s past turns their carefully constructed life upside down, exposing all kinds of secrets. O’Farrell’s prose sparkles. This book is a pure delight. –Sullivan

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