I’ve lived at the Jersey Shore my entire life so my beach bag has been a necessary summer accessory for as long as I can remember. In it, are the necessities for a relaxing afternoon or even just an hour or two. Towel, sunscreen, sun glasses, water bottle, and of course, a good book!
To me, there are few things more relaxing than hearing the waves crash against the sand as I lean back in my beach chair with a good book in my hands. So I’ve taken my 30+ years experience as a beach reader and compiled a list of 5 stellar books for you to put in your beach bag. I promise this isn’t a list of newest releases. I consider the books on this list contemporary classics that will make you laugh, keep you turning the pages all afternoon, and perhaps, make you want to read them over again and again!
A Total Waste of Make-up by Kim Gruenenfelder
A Total Waste of Makeup is a light-hearted, subtly insightful, and above all else, a really entertaining book. I read it several years ago, and I still think about parts of the story and laugh out loud. It’s just that funny at times!
Charlize “Charlie” Edwards lives the happy, single, carefree life in LA. She has famous friends, lives in one of the trendiest neighborhoods, and she works as the personal assistant to one of Hollywood’s sexiest stars. However, as she turns 30 and prepares to be the maid of honor for her younger sister’s wedding, she begins to wonder if she’ll ever be able to find Mr. Right.
Yes, the theme is predictable like most chick lit books, but Gruenenfelder is hilarious! As Charlie narrates her story, she’s also writing a book of advice for her great niece one day (because she’s convinced she’ll never have children and grandchildren for that matter of her own). At times the advice is very poignant, and at others, it is laugh out loud funny. In fact, they’re so funny that I have to share two of them…
“God has a sense of humor. Don’t believe me? Just look at a zebra, and tell me what was going on in his mind that day.”
“Never ask a single person if they’re ‘seeing anyone special,’ an unemployed person if they’ve found a job, or a married couple when they’re planning to have children. You’re not making conversation. You’re starting someone on the road to Prozac.”
Slightly cynical? Yes, but both made me laugh out loud at the beach.
Check it out on Amazon!
Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews
Ellis, Julia, and Dorie are three women in their mid-30s who have been best friends since grade school. They decide to rent a house on the Outer Banks for the month of August as a girls getaway. Throw in Ty, the good looking landlord, and Maryn, a woman on the run from her troubles, and there are twists and turns along the way.
What I loved most about Summer Rental was it centered on a group of women in their 30s, not their 20s. As I’m halfway through that decade of my life, I love finding books with characters in the same age bracket. It’s a page turner with engaging characters throughout the entire book!
Check it out on Amazon.
And One Last Thing… by Molly Harper
From the first page, you’re thrust into the heart of the story when 30 year old Lacey Terwilliger mistakenly receives a bouquet of flowers from her husband that was intended for his mistress. Suddenly, the life she knew comes crashing down as she deals with the realization that her husband has been having an affair with his assistant. Lacey’s pain, rage, and embarrassment are characterized so well. In her fit of anger, she sends a mass email detailing her husband’s affair to his clients, friends, and family. As the email goes viral and becomes an Internet sensation, she escapes to her grandmother’s lakefront cabin to avoid the media frenzy and the craziness of the divorce.
While it’s a predictable theme in most chick lit books, she went to the cabin seeking solitude, but that’s when she meets Monroe, her sexy, new neighbor. However, it’s not as cut and dry as boy meets girl and they live happily ever after. Monroe has a rule to keep his distance from divorced women, and that suits Lacey just fine. However, in time they develop a friendship that eventually leads to intimacy, and in the end, Lacey ultimately has to decide if she can take a chance and love again.
As the reader, you’re in Lacey’s head for the entire book. You know what she’s thinking and why she’s doing what she’s doing, no matter how crazy it may be. (Skinning dipping in the middle of the night? You’ll know why! And you’ll laugh through the ordeal, which involves Monroe thinking she is committing suicide!) And that mass email is so carefully written as the typical wronged wife. However, as crazy as Lacey is at times, I found myself cheering and laughing as she said “one last thing.”
Check it out on Amazon.
A Barefoot Summer by Jenny Hale
The small town of White Stone, Virginia situated on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay is the perfect setting for a sweet story about first love with a second chance. The people of White Stone welcome Libby home with open arms, but Pete, the man whose heart she broke when she escaped the small town for New York, keeps her at arms length. As Libby spends the summer in her home town, she begins to question whether she made the right decision by leaving all those years ago.
I was dreaming about the summer breeze off the bay, sand beneath my feet, and delicious seafood for days after reading this book. I’m always a fan of rekindled romance, and A Barefoot Summer is the perfect light-hearted summer love story. Plus, Pete is seriously swoon-worthy!
Jenny Hale has quickly become one of my favorite authors. Check out some of her other summer-themed books that I reviewed here!
Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
If there were a list of classic chick lit books, Something Borrowed would be at the top! Since its release in 2004, it has always received stellar reviews. However, despite its popularity, I was slightly hesitant to read it because the whole premise – the main character sleeps with her best friend’s fiancé – isn’t exactly the storyline I usually go for. But back in the spring of 2011, the movie adaptation was set to be released and I had heard a lot of positive feedback from friends so I decided to take the plunge and read it. I’m so glad I did. Unlike other novels with an affair at its core, Ms. Giffin does a stellar job of turning the tables and made the reader sympathetic to the cheater or at the very least open to her situation.
Meet Rachel and Darcy. They’ve been best friends for years. Rachel is the perpetual good girl, who’s worked hard for everything she has in life, and Darcy, well, she’s that girl you know and sometimes scratch your head in wonder about how everything in her life has always fallen into place. However, on the eve of her 30th birthday, Rachel finds herself in bed with Darcy’s fiancé. While Rachel resigns herself to thinking it was a one-time, drunken mistake, the fling soon becomes a full blown affair. To make matters worse (as if it could), Rachel is not only Darcy’s best friend she is her maid of honor.
As the story follows Rachel, Darcy, and Dex, that’s Darcy’s fiancé, and their friends through the summer, the lines of right and wrong get blurred. As easy as it is to say cheating is wrong, Ms. Giffin makes a subtle but strong case that there are “no moral absolutes.”
When I first read Something Borrowed, I was 29, which was essentially the same age as Rachel and Darcy so I found myself relating to them and laughing alongside of them throughout the entire book. One of my favorite scenes was the night of Darcy’s bachelorette party. Darcy spent the night at Rachel’s apartment because she wanted to relive the days of childhood sleepovers. If you ever had a best friend that was like a sister to you, you’ll relate and feel the bond between Rachel and Darcy. They truly have a history filled with good memories, and that’s what makes Rachel’s situation all the more difficult and intriguing.
The focal point of the novel is a heavy one, but the story itself is another segment of growing up. We grow up learning right from wrong, but the truth of the matter is life isn’t black and white. Sometimes it takes us until we’re 29 going on 30 to fully learn the lesson and realize that there are always tough decisions to make. And of course, when it comes to matters of the heart, sometimes, we learn that a man should never be something borrowed.
I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have! If you read any of them, I would love to hear what you think.