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Beach reads are often disregarded as fiction fluff - Books that aren’t over-stimulating but still have mass appeal.
But, really, a perfect book to pack when heading off for some sun, sand and r’n’r, is a novel that is as engrossing as it is entertaining.
Summer holidays allow us to put life’s hassles and responsibilities on the back burner for a while, and we want our books to do the same. That’s why the best beach reads should pull you in and keep the pace, while transporting you to other worlds where the vibes can be anything between fun and frivolous, and wholly gripping.
And as long as you want to keep turning the pages and are left feeling contented by the finish, then your summer read could be a romance, thriller or literary blockbuster. After all, beach books are not a genre – they’re a mood.
So, here are 10 glorious beach reads that are sure to make your summer sizzle and gift you with extra special memories of this year’s holiday in the sun.
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
If you’re looking for a book with enough tawdry sex in it to work you up to a summer sweat, then Jacqueline Susann’s campy roman á clef is it!
A mesmerising tale of sex, drugs and the entertainment world in post-war New York and LA, it’s surprisingly feminist for all its kitsch and unputdownable-ness.
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
A large group of rich eccentrics head off on a Nile cruise in celebration of a young couple’s marriage.
Of course, considering a certain Belgian detective is among the party, you can probably guess what’s going to happen next.
But can you guess who the murderer is? Probably not, and that’s the fun of Agatha Christie. She drops more red herrings here than a Nordic fisherman, but it all leads up to a thoroughly satisfying read.
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
This 1921 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel made Edith Wharton the first woman to win the award. And the book is a remarkable tale of erotic passions and stifled feelings at a time in New York when society people “dreaded scandal more than disease".
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Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
A widower’s young new wife finds the shadow of her predecessor looming over her as she tries, with much difficulty and little help, to get a grip on her new life and role.
Du Maurier was said to have used Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre as inspiration, and this is an equally riveting gothic romance you’ll be sweating under the sun to finish.
The House of the Spirits - Isabel Allende
The story of four generations of a family living in South America, Allende's magical feminist novel is a page-turning saga that will transport you to a place where women with green hair or clairvoyant powers live out their lives against a background of political and cultural upheaval. A gorgeously lush beach read.
The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
A sun-soaked Italian Riviera, debonair young socialites behaving badly, and a likeable psychopath who, while supposedly on a mission to bring one of the rich young things back to New York, decides he’d rather like a taste of that high life himself - what's not to love about The Talented Mr Ripley ?!
Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan
This short novel scandalized 1950s France when it was first published, and though it’s not as shocking now it’s still a shimmeringly engaging and beautifully observed book.
Set in the south of the country during a long, sultry summer, a precocious teenager meddles in her father’s romantic affairs with tragic consequences.
Chocolat by Joanne Harris
In this timeless novel, a young single mother arrives in a French village and opens a chocolate shop.
But as people buy her sweet confections, they feel themselves opening up to the sensual delights of life – much to the consternation of the local priest.
Passing by Nella Larsen
An absorbing tale about shifting racial identities and sexual boundaries in 1920s Harlem.
Tension mounts as a young black woman allows her childhood friend into her well-ordered middle-class life.
A tense, taut book that reels towards a wholly unexpected ending.
BUY IT HERE: Passing - €14,50
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
It’s the end of the world as we know it – and actually, people appear to be fine.
This is a masterful and uplifting book that weaves together the stories of several people who have survived a global pandemic to present us with a gorgeous argument on the power of art. A 21st century classic.
So, these are our 10 picks for the perfect summer read – What other books would you insist on bringing on vacation?