Podcasts & Books

14 Summer Beach Reads Worth Losing Yourself In These Holidays

By Jessica Best
21st Dec 2021

books scattered on pillows

Summer and reading go hand in hand. Long languid days mean finding a nice shady spot to rest up and devour all those books that have sat unread on your bedside table for months. But, if you haven’t got that pile ready, we’ve been reading up a storm and have created our must-reads this summer.

Here are the best summer beach reads.

Love & Virtue

Diana Reid

Okay people, make way for the ultimate beach read this summer. The internet is saying this is Australia’s version of Normal People but we’re thinking it’s our generation’s version of Puberty Blues—university-style. Michaela and Eve are two bright students who befriend each other in their first year of residential college at uni. However, something major happens one night during O-week that will force the two to wrangle with the realities of consent and power dynamics. If you’re the type of person who likes to finish a book in a day, this one is for you.

How We Love

Clementine Ford

We mean, anything written by Clementine Ford is an immediate yes in our books. This memoir is all about Ford’s experience of love throughout her life—from losing her mum at a young age, romantic love, platonic love, heartbreak and ultimately, self love. In true Clementine Ford nature, this read is confessional, hilarious at times and an essential part of any feminist’s arsenal.

Who Gets To Be Smart

Bri Lee

Who Gets To Be Smart could very well be one of our favourites of the year so if you haven’t had time to pick up a hardcover in 2021, let this be the read for you. Ultimately an interrogation of power and knowledge in Western societies and elite institutions, Lee dives into her own upbringing of privilege and its ramifications. Let this be the first Bri Lee book you smash out if you haven’t indulged in this exquisite writer before.

Born Into This

Adam Thompson

Adam Thompson is one of Australia’s best emerging writers so let's just say you’ll want to jump to get a headstart on his fame bandwagon this summer. The stories in Born Into This throw light on a world of unique cultural practice and perspective, from Indigenous rangers trying to instill some pride in wayward urban teens on the harsh islands off the coast of Tasmania, to those scraping by on the margins of white society railroaded into complex and compromised decisions. 

One Hundred Days

Alice Pung

In a whirlwind of independence and natural defiance, sixteen-year-old Karuna falls pregnant. Not on purpose, but not entirely by accident, either. Incensed, Karuna’s mother, already over-protective, confines her to their fourteenth-storey housing-commission flat, to keep her safe from the outside world – and make sure she can’t get into any more trouble. Stuck inside for endless hours, Karuna battles her mother and herself for a sense of power in her own life. As the due date draws ever closer, the question of who will get to raise the baby.  Needless to say, you need to get your sandy mitts on One Hundred Days this summer.

Everything All At Once

Various Authors

Should you be the type of reader who prefers short snippets of literary gold, look no further than Everything All At Once this summer. Compiled from the winning entries of the 2021 Ultimo Prize, this collection represents Australia’s next generation of writing talent. Unsurprisingly, the short works are forward-thinking, provocative and exciting and surprising.


Crag Silvey

From the same literary legend that brought you Jasper Jones, Honeybee has been dubbed the read of the year (so it’ll come as no surprise that it should be in your summer beach read repertoire. This read follows fourteen-year-old Sam Watson who, one night, steps onto a quiet overpass, climbs over the rail and looks down at the road far below. At the other end of the same bridge, an old man, smokes his last cigarette. The two connect on the night and forge an unlikely friendship and the more you read, the more is revealed about how the two came to be at the bridge together that night.

Women Don’t Owe You Pretty

Florence Given

Book of the year? We’d back that. After 2020, it’s time to protect your own energy with a little tough love. Florence's debut book will explore all progressive corners of the feminist conversation; from insecurity projection and refusing to find comfort in other women's flaws, to deciding whether to date or dump them, all the way through to unpacking the male gaze and how it shapes our identity.

Loving Country

Bruce Pascoe, Vicky Shukuroglou

Loving Country is an essential summer read for you this year, especially if you plan to go hard on exploring your very own backyard in 2021. More so a guidebook, this read offers up a whole new way to travel and discover Australia through an Indigenous narrative. In this beautifully designed and photographed edition, this immersive book covers history, Dreaming stories, traditional cultural practices, Indigenous tours and the importance of recognition and protection of place. 

The Thursday Murder Club

Richard Osman

In a peaceful retirement village off the A21 in Kent, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved killings. But when a local property developer shows up dead, 'The Thursday Murder Club' find themselves in the middle of their first live case. This summer beach read is the type of book you’ll want to bring on the all-inclusive family vacation and will give you a touch of page-turning murder mystery respite when the heat starts to sink in.


Kirli Saunders

Nothing spells a summer beach read quite like a collection of short poems. Written by Gunai woman Kirli Saunders, Kindred is the type of written work you owe it to yourself to lose yourself in. Her poems ebb in and out of love, connection and loss and looks at identity, culture, community and the healing role of the world. It’s a refreshing read you can pick up and put down between your salty dips.

The Nowhere

Chris Gill

Seb is a boy dreaming of a completely different life. Somewhere away from the farm he was brought up on and away from his mundane daily chores and short-tempered father. But one day, new neighbours move in and Jake, a charismatic guy full of beans, seems to be Seb’s ticket out of “The Nowhere”. This summer beach read a coming-of-age and LGBQTI-positive read and we couldn’t recommend it more.

Where The Fruit Falls

Karen Wyld

Throw your towel on the sand and whip out Where The Fruit Falls then next time you head down to the beach. This summer beach read spans four generations, during the 60s and 70s (obviously a big era of rapid social change and burgeoning Indigenous rights).

Brigid Devlin, a young Indigenous woman, and her twin daughters navigate a troubled nation of First Peoples, settlers and refugees — all determined to shape a future on stolen land. Leaving her family home, Brigid sets off with no destination but as she moves, she unravels all these family secrets which reshape how she thinks of the world.

The Vanishing Half

Brit Bennet

The Vanishing Half follows the Vignes sisters, an identical set of twins. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and then running away at age 16, their lives change as adults. Ten years on, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. And while they’re separated by thousands of kilometres, their lives intersect again when their own daughters cross each other’s paths.

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Image credit: Urban List

Editor's note: Urban List editors independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. Urban List has affiliate partnerships, so we get revenue from your purchases.

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