Not your typical beach read

By Collection Management Librarian Kathy

We hear a beach read is supposed to be a light, often feel-good, easy read. But some of us prefer a little horror, some suspense, a nonfiction deep dive, or even something just plain strange to fill our long summer days. So grab your beachwear, towel, and lounge chair and start reading!


The Old Woman With the Knife by Bu Byeong-Mo

Why you should try it: A page-turner with action-packed fight scenes? Perhaps your typical thriller. Not so typical? A 65-year-old Korean woman assassin trying to navigate retirement.

Description: At 65, Hornclaw is beginning to slow down. She lives modestly in a small apartment, with only her aging dog, a rescue named Deadweight, to keep her company. There are expectations for people her age—that she'll retire and live out the rest of her days quietly. But Hornclaw is not like other people. She is an assassin.

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The Hacienda by Isabel Canas

Why you should try it: A haunted house story sounds like a perfectly beachy read. Plus, who wouldn't want to read a book billed as Mexican Gothic meets Rebecca?

Description: A debut supernatural suspense novel, set in the aftermath of the Mexican War of Independence, about a remote house, a sinister haunting, and the woman pulled into their clutches.

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The Last Suspicious Holdout by Ladee Hubbard

Why you should try it: Short stories seem perfect for a leisurely day of reading. And these interconnected stories chronicling a Black neighborhood from 1992 to 2007 are just the thing.

Description: The author of The Rib King returns with an eagerly anticipated collection of interlocking short stories that explore relationships between friends, family, and strangers in a Black neighborhood over the span of 15 years.

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Dreaming of You by Melissa Lozada-Oliva

Why you should try it: This unusual romp through pop culture is written in verse, making it perfect for readers who enjoy poetry and experimental fiction.

Description: A macabre novel in verse of loss, longing, and identity crises following a poet who resurrects pop star Selena from the dead.

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Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin

Why you should try it: If your idea of recreational reading includes zombie-like creatures, a dystopian future, and some seriously intense gore, then this is your beach read.

Description: Baby Beth and Fran spend their days traveling the ravaged New England coast, hunting feral men and harvesting their organs in a gruesome effort to ensure they'll never face the same fate. Robbie lives by his gun and one hard-learned motto: Other people aren't safe. After a brutal accident entwines the three of them, this found family of survivors must navigate murderous TERFs, a sociopathic billionaire bunker brat, and awkward relationship dynamics—all while outrunning packs of feral men and their own demons.

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Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

Why you should try it: Charming and warmhearted definitely fall into the beach read category, but a giant octopus that serves as an occasional narrator gives this book a unique spin.

Description: After Tova Sullivan's husband died, she began working the night shift at the aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she's been doing since her 18-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished over 30 years ago. Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn't dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors—until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova.

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Woman, Eating by Claire Kohda

Why you should try it: Take it from author Ruth Ozeki who calls this novel, "Absolutely brilliant—tragic, funny, eccentric, and so perfectly suited to this particularly weird time."

Description: Lydia is hungry. She's always wanted to try Japanese food—the food her Japanese father liked to eat. And then there is bubble tea and iced coffee, ice cream and cake, and foraged herbs and plants, and the vegetables grown by the other young artists at the London studio space she is secretly squatting in. But, Lydia can't eat any of these things. The only thing she can digest is blood, and it turns out that sourcing fresh pigs' blood in London—where she is living away from her vampire mother for the first time—is much more difficult than she'd anticipated.

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Trailed: One Woman's Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders by Kathryn Miles

Why you should try it: If true crime is your jam, this is perfect for the beach but (word of warning) probably not for camping.

Description: A deep dive into the unsolved murder of two free-spirited young women in the wilderness, a journalist's obsession—and a new theory of who might have done it.

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Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop by Danyel Smith

Why you should try it: A beach day spent listening to the music of Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, and Jody Watley followed by reading Smith's personal history of Black women in pop music sounds pretty perfect.

Description: A weave of biography, criticism, and memoir, Shine Bright is Danyel Smith's intimate history of Black women's music as the foundational story of American pop. Smith has been writing this history for more than five years. But as a music fan, and then as an essayist, editor, and podcast host, she has been living this history since she was a latchkey kid listening to "Midnight Train to Georgia" on the family stereo.

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Dress Code: Unlocking Fashion From the New Look to Millennial Pink by Veronique Hyland

Why you should try it: Whether you think fashion doesn't affect you or you thought a little too much about your outfit for a day of leisure, these essays with a feminist bent will get you thinking.

Description: Dress Code takes aim at the institutions within the fashion industry while reminding us of the importance of dress and what it means for self-presentation. Everything—from societal changes to the progress (or lack thereof) of women's rights to the hidden motivations behind what we choose to wear to align ourselves with a particular social group—can be tracked through clothing.

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The Women's House of Detention: A Queer History of a Forgotten Prison by Hugh Ryan

Why you should try it: Build a sandcastle homage and read about this singular institution that stood in Greenwich Village for nearly fifty years.

Description: This singular history of a prison, and the queer women and trans people held there, is a window into the policing of queerness and radical politics in the twentieth century.

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My Seven Black Fathers: A Young Activist's Memoir of Race, Family & the Mentors Who Made Him Whole by Will Jawando

Why you should try it: The importance of mentors, specifically Black men, in this case, makes for good reading any day.

Description: Will Jawando tells a deeply affirmative story of hope and respect for men of color at a time when Black men are routinely stigmatized.

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Librarian Kathy

About Kathy

Kathy is a Collection Management Librarian who loves reading, sharing, and talking about books. Her missions in life are to: create communities of readers, convince folks that her official title should be "Book Pusher," and refute that "disco" is a dirty word.