The queen of the beach read, whose latest Nantucket novel Golden Girl is out June 1, offers up her picks for the season — umbrella drink sold separately.

By Elin Hilderbrand
May 18, 2021 at 10:00 AM EDT
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Beach Reads
Credit: Joseph Shin for EW

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It Had to Be You by Georgia Clark

"How many times have you watched Love Actually? If the answer is 'more than three,' (hello! me!) then you will devour Clark’s novel about wedding planner Liv Goldenhorn, whose husband Elliott dies and leaves his half of their business to his mistress, Savannah. The narrative braids together a diverse and inclusive cast of characters whose love stories intersect with Liv and Savannah’s precarious new partnership."

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August books gallery
Credit: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Luster by Raven Leilani

"I’ve described Luster to friends as 'Catcher in the Rye if it were narrated by a young Black female protagonist living in Bushwick.' Our protagonist, Edie, who works at a low-level publishing job, starts an online affair with a white dude in the suburbs in an open marriage. After Edie loses her job and is evicted from her apartment, she arrives unannounced at her lover’s home in New Jersey, where she forges relationships with his wife and his adopted Black daughter. Lelani’s voice is fresh, original. and urgent."

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Girl A by Abigail Dean

"For anyone who was obsessed with Room or Flowers in the Attic (who wasn’t obsessed with Flowers in the Attic?) I present to you: Girl A. Lex Gracie and her siblings were held hostage by their parents in a 'house of horrors' in the English countryside and now that they’ve grown up into 'functioning adults,' they’re dealing with the indelible mark left on them by their parents. Dean’s handling of this creepy subject matter is brilliant."

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Eliza Starts a Rumor by Jane L. Rosen

"Rosen’s novel is juicy and engrossing with a cast of flawed but lovable characters who are brought together by a scandal that surfaces on the Hudson Valley Ladies web page. This book caught my attention when a real-life Facebook group canceled their scheduled event with author Rosen because some in the group felt the novel hit too close to home. This is the quintessential beach read."

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Writers & Lovers by Lily King CR: Grove PressWriters & Lovers by Lily King CR: Grove Press
Credit: Grove Press

Writers & Lovers by Lily King

"As both a writer and a lover (and an avid fan of Lily King since savoring her novel Euphoria in the summer of 2014), I was naturally drawn to this book. Like Luster, it’s a coming-of-age-as-a-young-adult novel. Our protagonist, Casey Peabody, who suffered through a painful childhood, is living in Cambridge waiting tables, thinking about becoming a writer, and finding herself torn between two very different men. King’s talent elevates the somewhat quiet subject matter into a book that is sublime and unforgettable." 

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Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
Credit: Knopf

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

"It’s usually my rule that a 'beach book' be on the lighter side with a fast-paced narrative, but I enthusiastically recommend applying sunscreen and settling under your umbrella with Shipstead’s sweeping — and incredibly gripping — saga that spans decades and continents, seamlessly alternating between the story of Marian Graves, a female aviation pioneer and Hadley Baxter, a modern-day, messed-up young Hollywood actress looking for professional salvation. This. Book. Is. A. Masterpiece." 

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For more from EW's Summer Books guide, find a copy at Barnes & Noble stores now. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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