The beach read. There’s just something about a vacation book that sets the mood for relaxation and a carefree, off-the-clock mindset. We all deserve that.
The best beach reads put us right in the middle of something captivating or even dreamy. This could be a coming-of-age story, a soul-searching journey, or a predictable and satisfying love story with a happy ending. A good beach read leaves you feeling content and not too heartbroken over a character’s plight.
Beach reads carry the very essence of summertime. The relaxing vibes of lounging poolside or underneath sand between your toes on the beach is the vibe we’re after. These seven books by Black authors fit the criteria and are sure to give you an ideal day in the sun.
Late-bloomer Maddie is ready to start her life. With her mother in Ghana, Maddie is left to take care of her father, who is suffering from Parkinson’s, all while balancing a dreadful job. When Maddie’s mother returns, now Maddie’s time to spread her wings and fly. She gets a flat, rallies her circle of friends, and dives into the world of online dating. Maame is a deeply funny yet emotional novel, and perfect for the twenty-something trying to make their way in the world.
Widower Fletcher Dukes smells a familiar perfume as he’s shopping at the Piggly Wiggly. He turns around to see a tall woman with a strawberry birthmark on her neck. He knows immediately that she is his lost love, Altovise Benson. Before Altovise fled the South, Fletcher gave her a peach seed monkey with diamond eyes. An enslaved ancestor on the coast of South Carolina carved the first peach seed, a stone that, ever since, each father has gifted his son on his thirteenth birthday. Giving one to Altovise initiated a break in tradition, irrevocably shaping the lives of generations of Dukeses. The Peach Seed explores how kin pass down legacies of joy and strength.
Mickey has everything she’s dreamed of: a swanky job in media and a loving girlfriend. She’s come a long way from her hometown, but things are still not perfect. She’s always chasing after writing a story that will matter. Suddenly fired from her job, Mickey is lost and finds herself writing a letter on the racism she’s endured in the industry. When her letter is ignored, feeling like a failure Mickey returns home. As she starts to put the pieces back together, a scandal in the industry has brought Mickey’s letter to the surface, and she’s thrust back into her old life. This debut novel from Denton-Hurst is a realistic view of what it means to come up as a young writer in the industry, coupled with twists and turns.
Let me just say that I will read every book that Elizabeth Acevedo puts on the table, and I am excited about her first adult novel. She brings to life the story of a Dominican American family told through the voices of its women. The novel traces each of the women’s lives from Santa Domingo to New York City. As they explore their own family’s history, the women are able to help them navigate their futures. It’s always a good healing time reading about women sharing their truths.
Samantha Irby is the funniest essayist I have read in a long time. This new collection takes us behind the scenes of memes and internet culture to show what gets cropped out online — everything is not what it seems. Drawing from personal subjects such as Irby’s favorite music, sexual trysts, ongoing health troubles, her complicated family dynamic, and the inconvenience and stress of the pandemic, each essay is a gem and a snippet of Irby’s life. There are so many laugh-out-loud moments while also being very relatable.
Azumah Nelson is back with his second novel. Set over the course of three summers, Small Worlds tells the story of Stephen, the son of Ghanaian immigrants who has two paths set before him: to follow his parents’ hopes for him, a traditional path to university, or to pursue his passion for music. Moving between Ghana and England, Stephen’s family fractures in ways that he couldn’t have imagined. It’s a story of the people and places we hold close while also creating space for ourselves to be free.
In Iowa City, a circle of lovers and friends encounter, confront, and provoke one another in a year of self-discovery. Among them are Seamus, a frustrated young poet; Ivan, a dancer turned aspiring banker; Fatima, whose independence and work ethic complicate her relationships; and Noah who has a complex about intimate relationships. As each prepares for an uncertain future, the group heads to a cabin to bid goodbye to their former lives — a moment of reckoning that leaves each of them forever changed. It’s a novel of friendship and the family you choose.
There is plenty of summer left to enjoy these book recommendations. They are all available on Bookshop.org where every purchase supports independent bookstores.
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Archuleta is an author, poet, blogger, and host of the FearlessINK podcast. Archuleta's work centers Black women, mental health and wellness, and inspiring people to live their fullest potential.