Satellite Sisters Best Beach Bag Books 2021

Headed to the beach? The lake? The backyard with a long cool glass of iced tea? Be sure to pack a book in your bag. We’ve been reading, listening, laughing and cooking (!)  and here’s our annual list of Best Beach Bag Books for 2021. We’ve got memoirs, thrillers. cookbooks, historical fiction and contemporary fiction.  Hardbacks, paperbacks & audiobooks. Some may be better suited for a rainy day by the fire; others are perfect with sunscreen and sand.




The 2021 List

The Guncle by Steven Rowley 

Red Island House by Andrea Lee

Lady Sunshine by Amy Mason Doan

His Only Wife by Peace Adzon Medie 

Incense & Sensibility by Sonali Dev

Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia Manansala

The Photographer by Mary Dixie Carter

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris 

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

The Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjanlian

Daughters of Sparta  by Claire Heywood

Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge

Last Chance Texaco by Rickie Lee Jones

Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life by Julianna Margulies

Just As I Am by Cicely Tyson

Thanks For Waiting by Doree Shafrir 

Lush Life: Food & Drinks from the Garden by Valerie Rice

Ottolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi

Blueberry Love: 46 Sweet and Savory Recipes by Cynthia Graubert

All books are available at



Contemporary Fiction 


The Guncle

By Steven Rowley 

Warm, funny and unexpectedly moving, The Guncle is the story of a family finding themselves again after tragedy, with the help of the fabulous and flawed Gay Uncle Patrick, who the youngsters in the book call GUP.  Some big truths about grieving and love with cocktails and caftans. A delight. If you like this one, check out Steven’s previous book, The Editor. (Lian) 

Listen to our interview with Steven here. 


Red Island House

by  Andrea Lee 

A captivating and powerful novel about marriage and loyalty, identity and freedom. Meet Shay, a Black American professor who marries an Italian businessman from Milan with a flamboyant vacation villa in Madagascar. A fascinating read about the collision of cultures. I really enjoyed this book.  (Julie) 


Lady Sunshine

By Amy Mason Doan

Rock n’ roll fiction with  sexy, Seventies vibes that digs a little deeper into the darker side of fleeting fame. This book takes you to a bucolic, music-driven compound on coast of California filled with folk legends, hippie hangers-on and two teen cousins who spend the summer running wild and free. But there are consequences as we learn when one of the cousins returns 20 years later. Languid and vivid. If you like this one, try Songs in Ursa Major by Emma Brodie, a fictionalized retelling of the Joni Mitchell/James Taylor love affair. (Lian


His Only Wife

by Peace Adzon Medie 

A witty ,smart and moving novel set in Ghana about a woman traversing modern life and its taboos and injustices. (Julie) 


Incense & Sensibility

 by Sonali Dev

The third of Sonali Dev’s Jane Austin-inspired series about the loves and lives of the Bay Area Raja family. Filled with food, family, more food and more family, romance and regret and then another helping of food & family,  Dev’s portrayal of this Indian-American clan is deeply layered and rich with humor. The whole series– Pride, Prejudice & Other Flavors and Recipe for Persuasion–  would be a fun summer binge. (Lian) 


Mysteries, Thrillers 


Clark and Division

by Naomi Hirahara

Part historical fiction, part thriller, Clark and Division is the moving and fast paced story about one sister seeking justice for another sister, against the backdrop of World War II. You haven’t read anything like this before. Set in 1944 Chicago, Edgar Award-winner Naomi Hirahara’s brings to focus the struggles of one Japanese American family released from mass incarceration at Manzanar during World War II while telling a very human story. An atmospheric and heartbreakingly real crime fiction plot with rich period details and delicately wrought personal stories. We’ll be talking to Naomi in July about Clark and Division. (Lian) 


Arsenic and Adobo

(A Tita Rosie Kitchen Mystery Book Number 1) 

By Mia Manansala

The first book in a new cozy mystery series with fun characters, delicious food and some deadly action that’s all in good fun.  Set is a family Filipino restaurant in a small town, with lively characters and sharp observational humor. A great audiobook with a terrific narrator that really adds to the story.  PG-13 sensibilities and warm female relationships make it the perfect listening material if you’re taking a road trip with  your teen or college daughter? If you like this one and you like cats, try Mimi Lee Gets a Clue by Jennifer Chow. (Lian) 


The Photographer

by Mary Dixie Carter

They wanted the perfect family photo. She wanted the perfect life. That’s the hook of this domestic thriller that sucks you in from page one, as the Mary Poppins of family photographers inserts herself into the life of one picture-perfect Brooklyn couple. If you like this one, check out these other domestic page-turners:  Kaira Rouda’s The Next Wife and Greenwich Park by Katharine Faulkner. (Lian) 


The Other Black Girl

By Zakiya Dalila Harris 

Described as Get Out meets The Devil Wears Prada. And it is! This book was an ‘instant bestseller,’ whatever that means, and lives up to the hype. Smart, funny, timely, this debut novel by a former publishing assistant unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing.Highly entertaining , well plotted.  Bright new voice. Terrific as an audiobook. If you like this one, check out another page turner set in the publishing world, Who is Maud Dixon, by Alexandra Andrews  (Lian)

Historical Fiction with a Feminist Twist:  

The Exiles

Christina Kline Baker

Fans of historical fiction will recognize the author’s name as a master of the genre and as the person who wrote The Orphan Train, the huge international bestseller that every bookclub in America read. Kline Baker is back with a powerful, emotionally resonant novel that captures the hardship, oppression, opportunity and hope of four women’s lives—three English convicts and an orphaned Aboriginal girl—in nineteenth-century Australia. Stunning, vivid, heartbreaking. It’s not always great being a girl. We’ll be talking to Christina on the podcast on 6/29. (Lian) For more about the author and her book tour schedule, visit here. 


The Dictionary of Lost Words

by Pip Williams

A satisfying and unexpected retelling of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary with a feminist twist. Set during the height of the British Women’s Suffrage Movemet when Euope is on teh cusp of WWI, this book is moving and engaging. The story of a young woman who loves words, but believes in herself more. Evocative in setting and language. I loved this one. (Lian) 


The Hour of the Witch

by Chris Bohjanlian

Billed as The Crucible meets The Handmaid’s Tale for good reason. Set in 17th Century Boston, the plot involves a forward-thinking wife, an abusive husband and a cast of suspicious and pious Puritans who look for witchcraft in every tiny aspect of day-to-day life. An Audiobook winner for me, narrated by the author’s daughter, an actor, if a very straight-forward reading. (Listen to a sample first to see if she is your cup of tea. She was mine!) Terrific storytelling.  (Lian) 

Daughters of Sparta 

by Claire Heywood

Where my Madeline Miller fans at?  Finished The Song of Achilless and Circe and need more ancient tales reclaimed in a modern voice? Meet sisters Helen and Klytemnestra through the eyes of Classicist-turned-novelist Claire Heywood.  Yes, those sisters! The One Who Started the Trojan War and  The One Who Revenged-killed Her Spouse. Heywood does the work to make us see the circumstances through their eyes. I loved this book. Accessible to those who don’t know much about Homer or Troy or Greek Mythology and special treat for those of us who do. (Lian) 



by Kaitlyn Greenidge

Save this book for a rainy day and savor this exquisite work of historical fiction, that is both personal and universal. Set in post-Civil War Brooklyn, Libertie imagines the story of  a young black women who is expected to follow in her mother’s footsteps but chooses to move on her own path.  Inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the United States and rich with historical detail, Kaitlyn Greenidge’s new and immersive novel will resonate with readers eager to understand our present through a deep, moving, and lyrical dive into our past. ( Lian) 



All chosen by Liz who loves to hear women tell their own stories in their own voice

Last Chance Texaco

by Rickie Lee Jones

Singer/songwriter Rickie Lee Jones is not just a hippie chick. She’s a true artist. Her quirky voice and poetic observations about life’s sadness and joy in the book reveal so much about where her great songs and performances come from.  There’s some definite heartbreak here, throughout multiple generations of her family.  And some occasional singing which is why the audiobook is a special treat


Sunshine Girl:  An Unexpected Life

By Julianna Margulies

Of course,  we knew Julianna Margulies as Carol Hathaway in early ER and Alicia Florrick in The Good Wife, but I always suspected she had an even more interesting personal tale.  She does, including an unconventional childhood, much of it spent in Europe, some of it living in a camper van.  I like her smart observations about work and art and George Clooney. Audible version here. 


Just As I Am

by Cicely Tyson

Narrated by Viola Davis and Robin Miles, with the introduction provided by Tyson herself. 

What a life. This memoir by the Oscar, Emmy and Presidential Medal of Freedom-winning actress and activist came out just before she died this year at the age of 96.  Cicely Tyson was on the cutting edge of so many things, including the Black theatre in New York in the 60’s and 70’s and the civil rights movement throughout her life.  Her relationship and marriage to Miles Davis is fascinating as are many of her behind-the-scenes stories of making Sounder, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and Roots.  


Thanks For Waiting

by Doree Shafrir 

Doree Shafrir is the host of Forever35, one of my go-to podcast-and-chill shows.  Her new memoir is Thanks for Waiting: The Joy (& Weirdness) of Being a Late Bloomer.  I like her voice and her reflections on work, dating and measuring yourself against others.  Not psyched about being an intern at 29?  Nothing is forever. Doree has also written about culture, women’s issues, parenting, media, and celebrity for publications including The Cut, The New York Times, and Slate, and was formerly an editor at BuzzFeed and Rolling Stone. Audible version here. 



Check out these cookbooks for fresh recipes for food, drinks and entertaining tips for Summer.


Blueberry Love

By Cynthia Graubert

Lush Life: Food & Drink from the Garden

By Valerie Rice

Ottolenghi Simple

By Yotam Ottolenghi


Links for Book Lovers

Want to see last summers list? Here you go. 

Want to learn more about Lian Dolan’s writing and her latest novel, The Sweeney Sisters? Smash this link. 

Listen to our recent podcast interviews with some best-selling novelists;

Mary Kay Andrews

Steven Rowley

Annabelle Gurwitch

Patti Callahan 

Nancy Johnson