Best Beach Bag Books 2023: Literary Fiction, Memoir, Mystery, Romance, Thrillers and More

It’s our annual Satellite Sisters Best Beach Bag Books list. From Romance to mystery to memoir to literary fiction to domestic thriller, we’ve got you covered. Read on a beach. Listen in the car.  Curl up under a blanket in a cozy cottage. Share with a book club. Or build yourself a reading nook and hunker down to read out list of titles.

Find the podcast that includes our interview with Connie Wang about her memoir, Oh My Mother! here.

Click on links below to find our book lists at bookshop.org: 

Best Beach Bag Books 2023 

Best Beach Bag Books 2022

Best Beach Bag Books 2021

Best Beach Bag Books 2020




Contemporary Fiction

Late Bloomers by  Deepa Varadarajan 

I love the concept of being a late bloomer. To me, it’s hopeful and bittersweet which is exactly what this debut novel achieves. An Indian American family is turned upside down when the parents split up thirty-six years into their arranged marriage​. This leaves four characters, the parents and their adult children, to stumble around, make mistakes, embrace disfunction and find themselves later in life. Charming, funny, and moving.  (Lian) 

Once More with Feeling Elissa Sussman

Old flames reunited! Count me in! A former pop star finds herself back in the spotlight—along with an ex-boyfriend  from her past—in this friends-to-lovers meets enemies-to-lovers story . Sharp dialogue, on point and fun pop references, steamy scenes. (Lian) 

The Better Half by Alli Frank and Asha Youmans.

A funny, sexy, heartfelt story about Nina Morgan Clarke and a hilarious look behind the scenes at a fancy private school in Pasadena.  Nina’s just been named the first Black, female, first generation Head of School when she’s faced with a life-altering choice in her private life.  This is the third book by Franks and Youmans, collaborators and close friends who met as educators and school administrators.  It’s from Mindy Kaling and Mindy’s Book Studio so you just know it’s a good time. (Liz)

The Do-Over Suzanne Park

Loved, loved, loved the premise of this feel-good romantic comedy: you never really graduated from college and you have to go back to get those few credits you thought you received, but didn’t. Who hasn’t had this nightmare? But Park turns this into a fun, fresh do-over all about second chances. Also, good insights into Korean American experience with mental health issues and college expectations to add depth.  Listened to the audio book and loved it. (Lian) 

Bad Actors by Mick Herron

Are you pining away for another season of Apple TV’s Slow Horses starring Gary Oldman and Kristin Scott? Are you missing the motley crew of slightly-failed British agents with their incredibly dry humor who make their unconventional way through global crises and high-level spy plot twists. If so, I suggest Bad Actors which is the latest in Mick Herron’s eight bookSlough House series. Apple’s TV series is based on these books. I laughed out loud, chortled,and snorted reading Bad Actors. The vivid characters and compelling plot lines makes me want to spend my summer reading the other seven books in Herron’s series. (Julie) 

The Measure by Nikki Erick

I think this is a fun read for people like me who usually don’t seek out sci-fi stories. Here’s the premise: every person on every continent receives the same box. The box holds your fate: the exact number of years you will live. In an instant, the world and the diverse set of characters are thrown into a collective frenzy trying to decide if they will open their boxes and what they do when they know their fate. I went along with this premise despite many unanswered questions about the boxes and enjoyed the story. The book could lead to some interesting discussions at the beach or in the mountains. (Julie) 

The Sweet Spot Amy Poeppel 

There have been a rash of bestselling books out about wealthy New York Families with Wealthy New York Family Issues where nothing happens and mots of the characters are unlikable. The Sweet Spot is the anecdote to those New York  books. A charming funny story of how one baby can bring a disparate group of New Yorkers together. Joyful, unexpected, a fresh take on creating the family you want.  Also, Greenwich Village setting is a delight. (Lian) 

The Half of It Juliette Fay 

Another second chance at romance title. One perfect night. Forty years of buried hurt. One chance to make it right. Can the past ever be fixed?A poignant, propulsive novel about settling the past, rekindling lost friendships, and discovering love when you least expect it.  Enjoyed the mature characters and real life relationship portrayals. Good for a rainy week on vacation!  (Lian) 

A Perfect Vintage  by Chelsea Fagen 

Need a summer vacation in the French countryside? With glam setting, impossible career opportunities and romance? Voila!  The main character is a consultant specializing in transforming dilapidated French country estates into boutique hotels, she relishes her freedom as a single, childfree woman. And her life is full, occupied as much by her impeccable historic renovations as by the aristocratic — and often exhausting — French families she works for. But when a recently divorced friend tags along on a job, complication ensue. Not to mention that younger Frenchman.  The gorgeous cover sets the mood for the summer escape reading. (Lian) 

The Rachel Incident Caroline O’Donoghue

Calling All Sally Rooney fans! YA novelist Caroline O’Donoghue takes aim at adult fiction and hits the target.  A brilliantly funny novel about friends, lovers, Ireland in chaos, and a young woman desperately trying to manage all three. This is a book you can share on vacation with your twenty-something who will relate directly to the coming of age story while you’ll have the perspective to see it as romantic and once in a lifetime.  Loved the boho Cork setting. (Lian) 


Historical Fiction:  

The Paris Daughter by Kristin Harmel 

We are Kristin Carmel fans on all fronts: her writing, her spirit and her Friends & Fiction work. In her latest historical fiction ,  we head to Paris in 1939. Young mothers Elise and Juliette become fast friends the day they meet in the beautiful Bois de Boulogne. Though there is a shadow of war creeping across Europe, neither woman suspects that their lives are about to irrevocably change. Exquisite and gut-wrenching. (Lian)

The Secret Book of Flora Lea  by Patti Callahan Henry 

A book about a book! Yes! We love that concept. Especially when it comes from the pen of Patti Callahan Henry whose writing transports readers with depth and emotion.  When a woman discovers a rare book that has connections to her past, long-held secrets about her missing sister and their childhood spent in the English countryside during World War II are revealed. Told in two time periods, in 1939 and twenty years later. Great twist! (Lian)

Evergreen by Naomi Hirahara

A follow-up to Clark & Division, a Satellite Sisters favorite and winner of the Mary Higgins Clark Award for mystery writing.  A Japanese American nurse’s aide navigates the dangers of post-WWII and post-Manzanar life as she attempts to find justice for a broken family. Pre-order now for August release. 

Beyond That, The Sea by Laura Spence-Ash 

Don’t think you need to read another WW II historical fiction novel? Please give beyond that, the sea a chance. The debut novel of Laura Spencer-Ash follows Beatrix Thompson, an eleven-year-old English child evacuated to America during the London Blitz.It is a coming of age story going back and forth between London and Maine. It is a lovely, cozy read about love,loss and family.This book is perfect summer vacation reading.   (Julie) 

Horse by Geraldine Brooks

Inspired by the true story of the record-breaking thoroughbred Lexington, Geraldine Brooks weaves together a fascinating tale going back and forth from 1850 Kentucky to 2019 Washington, DC, involving a horse skeleton and a discarded painting in a junk pile. The story tackles themes of racism,love,tragedy,and brutality. It is one of my favorite books of 2023. (Julie) 






Oh My Mother! A Memoir in Nine Adventures by Connie Wan

Connie Wan’s new memoir tells the story of her relationship with her mother Qing Li through the stories of 9 adventures they shared together, from visiting family in China to a Magic Mike strip show in Las Vegas.  Qing is a powerful voice in every chapter.  Wan is a journalist, writer, and editor. This is her first book.  Previously she led Refinery29’s editorial team as executive editor.  She was born in Jinan, China, raised in Minnesota, and lives in Los Angeles. (Liz)

Always Home: A Daughter’s Recipes and Stories by Fanny Singer 

Part memoir, part cookbook, part love letter, Always Home is a warm, evocative book written by daughter Fanny Singer in honor of her mom, Alice Waters. Alice Waters is the chef/owner of Chez Panisse in Berkeley and is considered to be the mother of the farm-to-table movement in America. But in Always Home, she is simply Fanny’s mom and the lessons she teaches are about food, beauty, connection, life and work. Singer is a wonderful writer and the memories pop off the page. The recipes included are inspired by those memories and are written with their won sort of storytelling. Warm and delicious. (Lian)



Memoirs: Women + Running + Culture

Why has been an explosion of excellent best-selling memoirs this year by women runners about their experiences as athletes and change agents in American sports culture?  Why 4 big hit books by fascinating women right now in 2023? I don’t know.  Maybe the authors are finally ready to put it all out there because we are finally ready to hear their actual lived experiences, not just the sanitized TV Up Close + Personal profile versions.   And they are all good reads, dramatic and fun and challenging. There are celebrations in these stores from Lauren Fleshman, Alison Mariella Desir, Kara Goucher and Des Linden (NCAA Championships, Olympic Medals, Racial + Gender Advocacy breakthroughs, World Championships, Boston Marathon laurels)  but also some very shocking and hard truths about sexism, racism, body image struggles, exploitation and abuse.  If I could recommend just one, I might, but I can’t because I learned something really important from each of the 4 women.  In each case I listened to the audiobook versions of their memoirs because I always prefer to her women’s stories in their own voices. Do you have to care about running to care about these books?  Not really because there’s so much more going on in each one.


Liz’s Picks: 

Good For A Girl: A Woman Running In A Man’s World by Lauren Fleshman

An elite college and pro runner, coach and advocate for women in sports, Lauren Fleshman’s memoir is both her personal story and an exploration of how sports can better support young female athletes.


Running While Black by Alison Mariella Desir

Alison Mariella Désir is an endurance athlete, activist, and mental health advocate. She discovered distance running as a way to lift herself out of depression and went on to found Harlem Run, a New York City–based running movement devoted to inclusivity, and become a leader across the running world and industry.


The Longest Race by Kara Goucher and Mary Pilon:

An NCAA champion, Olympian and world-class marathoner, this memoir is Kara Goucher’s story of how she became one of the finest distance runners in the world and what she had to hide along the way, even from her own husband. Finally she tells all, not just in this book but to law enforcement and anti-doping authorities.


Choosing To Run by Des Linden and Bonnie Ford

Des Linden won the Boston Marathon on a famously stormy day in 2018, the first American woman to do so in 33 years.  How did she do it, and more importantly, why?  This book is about her life choices along the way and the independent spirit that continues to keep her motivated.

Click on links below to find our book lists at bookshop.org.

To Purchase or learn more, Find our list of Satellite Sisters Best Beach Bag Books at bookshop.org. 


Best Beach Bag Books 2022

Best Beach Bag Books 2021

Best Beach Bag Books 2020