“Here’s to books, the cheapest

vacation you can buy.“

– Charlaine Harris

The world changed in March of 2020, and there’s been a lot of bad, confusing stuff going on ever since. We see it on TV and social media, and in newspapers every day. On the bright side, however, there has never been a better time for escapism, especially in books. “Beach reads” are highly entertaining books that you can’t put down. Often they get a “bad rap,” but there are some excellent ones that might make you feel like you’re basking in the sun, even if this summer’s hottest staycation reading locale is in your own backyard, or on the living room couch with the windows open and a fan going. A good beach read can make any day feel like a relaxing escape. Whether you prefer your summer books on the sexy side, in the realm of spine-tingling suspense, rich with historical detail, or memoirs, 2021, so far, has produced some terrific reads like –

“Summer on the Bluffs” by Sunny Hostin (William Morrow). From “The View” cohost comes a beachy escape set in the exclusive Oak Bluffs, the beach community where the upper echelon of Black society rub elbows. Every year, Perry Soto has escaped the sweaty NYC summer to the idyllic cottage owned by her “Ama,” who plans to give the house to one of her three goddaughters, including Perry. They all desperately want to win the deed, but each one has a secret that could get hinder their inheritance, as well the summer’s relaxing vibe.

“Hello Summer” by May Kay Andrews (St. Martins). Often called “The Queen of Beach Reads,” the author has written a mysterious and engaging novel without the goriness of a thriller. Conley is about to take a fancy new position in Washington, D.C., but when her new job goes up in smoke, she ends up working for her sister, who is trying to keep her newspaper, The Silver Bay Beacon, afloat in small Florida town. Conley is given the undesirable task of overseeing the local gossip column, “Hello, Summer.” But after witnessing an accident that ends in the death of a beloved local congressman, she starts digging into his past and uncovering his secrets, all while her own love life heats up.

“The Marriage Pass” by Briana Cole (Dafina). Dorian is a rich and successful doctor who can never have too many women in his life, despite the fact that he is married and loves his wife, Shantae. When she proposes the idea of a marriage pass to celebrate their one year anniversary, he cannot pass up the chance to have his night with Shantae’s younger sister. The one night turns into a messy affair that will have Dorian grasping to get back the control he craves.

“The Social Graces” by Renee Rosen (Berkley). A lighter, easy historical read set in the glittering, wealthy Manhattan society scene of The Gilded Age and the women who run the social scene. It centers around the feud between the Astors and the Vanderbilts – new money vs. old money. It’s also an interesting examination about how women asserted what little control they had into things like social circles.

“That Summer” by Jennifer Weiner (Atria). Daisy has it all: a successful business, fulfilling volunteer work and a head full of discontent. When she mistakenly starts getting emails meant for a much more glam single woman named Diana, it seems like the fault of similar email addresses. But when the two women connect, we learn it might be less than coincidental. This twisty novel about female friendship will make the hours fly by.

“Her Dark Lies” by J.T. Ellison (Mira). Set on the sparkling Italian coast, on a secluded island, where a bride and groom have secrets they are hiding. The wedding is being sabotaged at every turn and a killer is amongst them at a luxurious and intimate villa. This thriller has been called “the perfect fast-paced vacation read.”

“The Beauty of Living Twice” by Sharon Stone (Knopf). The actress is a survivor. The beginning describes her 2001 hospitalization after suffering a brain hemorrhage and stroke that left her with a 1 percent chance of survival. But the memoir contains an entire lifetime marked by beating the odds, as she details miraculously surviving near-decapitation, being struck by lightning and walking away from her totaled car after skidding on black ice. The most captivating passages are the clear-eyed and brutally honest. There are an abundance of quality celebrity memoirs and this has been reviewed as one of the best.