Pools are open, beaches are full and you need something to read while you’re soaking in the supercharged-Climate-Change-is-real sun. What follows is our 18 picks, 9 books released in 2018 and 9 older books because books don’t spoil, you might enjoy reading at or in the water during summer 2018. From thrillers to histories, murder mysteries to how-did-we-get-here political tomes, true crime (we like murder stuff, OK?) to food, there’s something for everyone.
I love a good summer thriller (I mean, I love a winter thriller too but…). And while a healthy does of classic murder is always welcome, I am looking to expand my thrill horizons a little. I’ve always stayed away from spy novels because well, James Bond seemed a little too mysogynistic even by my numbed-by-being-raised-in-theBalkans-in-the-90s standards. But, for my 2018’s effort to get into the genre: the 1960s cold war Buenos Aires and Greenwich Village set espionage with an “original, wry, and whip-smart” queer leading lady who on the cover illustration looks like Alia Shawkat should play her in the movie adaptation sounds like a good, maybe EVEN GREAT, place to start. -Svetlana Legetic
We love true crime. So when a major serial rapist and murderer was finally caught by the police in California a few months ago, lots of people wondered whether or not it was because of Michelle McNamara’s book, released in February 2018 after her untimely death in 2016. McNamara tells the story in graphic detail, which is definitely too much for bedtime reading, so what better place than out in the sun?
The cases were thought to be unconnected serial crime sprees in the northern California and Los Angeles metropolitan areas; mainly, the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker. The crimes were largely forgotten by the public as the years went on, even though over 50 rapes and 12 murders, and an unknown number of burglaries were potentially all committed by one person. McNamara coined the term “Golden State Killer” to draw attention to these languishing cases and put pressure on public officials to fund the investigations. It seems her efforts, that of the CSIs, and those of her co-writers and researchers, were not in vain. -Vesper Arnett
Mark and Jay Duplass are actors, filmmakers, unofficial therapists, optimists, hard workers, humans and, of course, brothers. When I started their book it was purely based on the fact that I love their work. I had no idea I was going to be led down a spiritual path of enlightenment. If that sounds dramatic that’s fine. This book does more than give you the ins and outs of getting a movie made in Hollywood. It also gives you the ins and outs of maintaining good, healthy relationships (I’m very bad at that). It’s a fun, fast read that is great for any poolside and you’ll come out the other end a better person. At the very least you’ll appreciate Karate Kid Part II more. -Jenn Tisdale
Nothing says “relaxing day by the pool” more than mystical prophecies about the date of your impending death. Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists takes us back to 1969 New York City, and follows the lives of the four Gold children, who sneak out of their home to have their fortunes told by a traveling psychic. The novel’s primary discourse centers around the age-old question of choice and destiny — what would you do if you knew when you’d die? Critics have raved about the book since its release in January 2018, and readers say it is well worth the hype. -Sabrina Kent
You might be most familiar with Claire L. Evans as a member of YACHT, but she’s also a rad writer, as especially demonstrated by her recently-released book Broad Band. We all know that women’s important contributions to various facets of society are often hidden or altogether erased when it comes to ye olde historical curriculum. In this book, though, Evans works to undo that by shedding light on the stories of the women who paved the way for (and built) the internet. (JUSTICE AT LAST!) A very interesting must-read, whether or not you’re poolside or huddled in a dark room in front of your AC unit. (Either way, take the proper precautions against sun damage.) -Megan Burns
Something in the Water is one of Reese Witherspoon’s (aka my real mom) book club picks. It’s a thriller written by Catherine Steadman (of Downton Abbey) and a #1 New York Time’s Best Seller. The book delves into the lives of newlyweds Erin and Mark, a documentary filmmaker and an investment banker respectively. While in Bora Bora on their honeymoon, they discover something in the water that forces them to make a decision; speak up or keep a secret. Their decision sparks an overwhelming chain of events that takes you on a psychological whirlwind of a read, and makes you wonder what you would do in their position. -Anna Stevens
This weirdo dark romance about a woman that bones a fish is supposed to be an X rated version of The Shape of Water and I can’t wait to read it. Each and everyone of us sat though that very good movie and instead of paying attention to the foreshadowing and the cinematography, we were all thinking the same thing, how are they boning? Hopefully, this book will itch that scratch on my brain and make me laugh at the same time. After all, there’s nothing like reading fish erotica surrounded by strangers at a public pool. -Kaylee Dugan
Ok, full disclosure: I’m a huge fan of Pod Save America and Crooked Media in general. If you A. don’t like politics, and B. aren’t a liberal, you’re probably going to hate this book. But if you want an in-depth dive of how we (sadly) got to where we are today, you won’t do much better. We’re in the time now where a ton of Obama-era staffers are releasing books and cashing in, but Dan Pfeiffer was there from the beginning, and offers an inside look at the Obama presidency: what they did right and what they did wrong, what they tried to foresee and what they missed. I anticipate a book that’s both amusing and insightful, offering hope that we can still fulfill the promise of a more perfect nation while also offering a blueprint for moving beyond the insanity in which which we’re living today. -Logan Hollers
I received a copy of Caroline Kepnes’ debut hipster thriller You for free as a promotional gift and I fell hard. It was smart and snarky and a really fun twist on the stalker narrative. I wasn’t the only fan of the book because it’s now a TV show on Lifetime coming out soon starring Gossip Girl Brooklyn gentrification poster boy Penn Badgley. I quickly devoured the book’s sequel Hidden Bodies. I was really amped that Kepnes had a new novel coming out right in time for summer vacation. Providence is another thriller but this time with a bit of a supernatural bent. It’s about teenage friends and soul mates Chloe and Jon who get separated when Jon gets kidnapped but then returns right before the end of high school… but he’s changed. There’s also a serial killer plot thrown in the mix. Perfect book to compliment a frosty poolside cocktail. -Diana Metzger
Dianne Lake, perhaps the youngest member of the Manson Family, takes you on a WILD JOURNEY of her life and how the buffet that was America in the 60’s lent itself to, in a way, the creation of Charles Manson and his Family. You will be introduced to a side of Manson you assume existed but were never privy to. And if you’re me you’ll find yourself saying over and over again “Man, I wish I had been alive then,” if only for the fact that evidently it was very easy to squat in a mansion in Southern California. -Jenn Tisdale
I’ve been reading a lot of lady written essays lately (your Roxanne Gays, Samantha Irbys, Meghan Daums, etc.) but I have always steered towards something that has SOME humor in it, no matter how pitch black and/or heartbreaking it is (if you are planning to read Samantha Irby on a public transportation vehicle, be mentally prepared for those around you to experience A FULL SPECTRUM of human emotion from belly laughs to hardcore crying, all coming from you). This summer tho, i have decided to wallow in some cathartic sorrow. I need it and you need it, probably too. Because no one is not sad right now. Broder’s collection, started in the wake of her 2012 cycle of panic attacks and untenable anxieties, seems just the (bitter) medicine I needed. BONUS: Broder has a novel out this year (Pisces, about a woman in her late 30s who falls in love with a merman) so depending on how my survival through this goes, I may play non-fiction/fiction book-ends with her. -Svetlana Legetic
You’re in the library to get your first card in who knows how long. The reason: you just got an ebook reader and remembered that you actually don’t have to spend money on books. You’ve heard about this series, which begins with My Brilliant Friend, and figure your upcoming beach trip is the perfect opportunity to become A Reader™️ again for the first time since college stole your joy.
Enter Italian author Elena Ferrante (pseudonym). The novels follow the lives of two women as they grow up in a town not far from Naples. Do not be deceived by the American covers, which seem to imply “chick-lit” in a Nicholas Sparks kind of way, but are so much more. It’s an engrossing tale of blood family and chosen families, heartbreak and abuse, brilliance and intimidation. Like any great work of realistic fiction, “chick-lit”, mystery, or classic, the reader begins the journey with childlike curiosity and ends in a refreshed feeling of connection. If you’re looking to get back into reading for fun or otherwise, then Ferrante’s novels make a great start. -Vesper Arnett
I have become a notoriously slow, easily distracted reader of books in the past few years. I have nearly three dozen tomes on my nightstand and desk that I would say I still intend to finish, should time and tide ever be on my side to sit and read and idle. Last week I managed to scrounge four days in the Hamptons out of my seven days a week, 52 weeks a year schedule. After a quick 22 hours that vacation came to an end with a visit to the ER, but in that time I spent a languorous afternoon on a beach, flipping through the pages of The Geometry of Pasta by Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy. Published in 2010, it is mostly a cookbook, but with gorgeous, minimalist designs rather than glossy photographs of garlic and fennel bulbs, tastefully scattered handfuls of flour, and vistas studded with olive trees. Within its pages are superb albeit brief descriptions of the origins of each pasta, it’s ideal uses, and recipes for accompanying sauces. There’s little in the way of geometry discussed (which disappointed me, though I gather would not disappoint the average reader) but the sparse black and white images of pasta and carefully constructed recipes (complete with an explanation of why each sauce dresses that pasta) forced grease between gears in my imagination which had been seized for some time. If you’re the kind of person to sit shirtless on a public beach and read about carbohydrates, you probably already own this book. And if not, spoiler alert: it turns out the ziti did it. -Jeb Gavin
This is a follow-up to The Elegant Universe (another one I’d recommend if you’ve not read it), and it’s a good read for anybody like me who’s got a non-science brain but still wants to think about big questions like WHAT IN THE FUCK EVEN IS REALITY?! A crash-course in theoretical physics, it’s written so that pretty much anybody can understand big concepts about space and time. I like learning about this stuff because it feels like a good intersection between science and spirituality, if such an intersection can exist. And it makes me feel slightly less stressed about the trash fire that is our current “reality”. (Can you smell the SPF 3000 through the screen? This has been the palest pale kid book recommendation of all time.) -Megan Burns
If you know me at all in the real world or in this fake world we call the Internet, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve developed quite the Jimmy Buffett obsession in the last few months. Truth be told, I’ve always been a fan of the man’s chilled out, beach-y tunes, but I’ve been listening to him more and more as a way of de-stressing. It’s hard to be worried about work or relationships or anything when you’re thinking about delicious cheeseburgers or margaritas. Since Buffett has made my life better, I’d like to know more about the man. I have very strong memories of my mom reading this book when I was younger, so it’s somewhere in my childhood home. I just have to find it. -Kaylee Dugan
One of the formative books of my childhood (although I still marvel that my mom let me read at 14 a book in which a preteen girl SPOILER ALERT has sex with her five friends to save them all), It is all too relevant in today’s world. This Administration thrives on sowing fear, discord, and hatred – who doesn’t want to combat that with a story that, at its core, is about friendship, and bravery, and love? The movie (both of them, really) was a dope interpretation, sure, but it’s hard to beat King’s writing style, which combines seamless transitions from events in the book’s present day and events that took place in Derry, Maine in the late 1950’s, as the six (then SPOILER ALERT five) members of the Losers Club battle an ancient horror that feeds on fear by taking the form of whatever scares you most. While often wordy and overwrought (and in all honesty, probably 100 or so pages too long), It reminds us that only by joining together to combat the darkness can we emerge on the other side. Plus, it’ll take up a solid month of poolside reading time. -Logan Hollers
I’m a major YA realistic fiction fan and writer. I can’t remember what list uncovered the 1982 gem Annie on My Mind for me but it’s been sitting on my Goodreads queue and I’m really excited to dig in. While there are a bunch of current YA books about young lesbian relationships, this novel about two 17-year-old girls falling in love in New York City is a true first. I’m incredibly interested to see the early 80s perspective on this young romance. -Diana Metzger
Ram Dass, the Boston-born yogi, psychologist, and spiritual teacher, penned Be Here Now (also known as Remember, Be Here Now) in 1971. This book has donned my shelf for over four years, and while I’ve been captivated by its spiritual drawings and messaging, I haven’t actually read it in full. Often regarded as a how-to-yoga guide for beginners, Be Here Now is a comprehensive resource about tapping into ones own consciousness and meditative peace of mind. If that’s not enough, how about envisioning yourself as the next Steve Jobs (who was heavily influenced by this work) while sipping Mai-Tais by the pool? -Sabrina Kent