I Challenged Myself to Read 5 of The Best Beach Books in 5 Days

Best Beach Books lined up with ocean background

I recently came across this article on Pinterest talking about the best beach books of 2022 and with an impending beach vacation (and by vacation, I mean fourteen people crammed in a four bedroom condo), I decided it was time to tackle my beach-y TBR, which features many of the books on this list.

While I already had a few of these books sitting on my shelves (un-read), I also ordered a few to try and determine which book would be my pick for the best beach book I read this year. While I’ve read a lot of books this summer, I haven’t taken a lot of time to pick out specifics–so I challenged myself to pick books that had these requirements:

One, the book had to feature travel in some capacity, preferably with a beach involved. Two, the book had to be under 400 pages–because I’m a human being and reading more than two books in one week means they have to be semi-short. Three, each book HAS to have an Instagram-able cover that will look good in beach photos (because what is a beach book if not ‘aesthetic). Fourth, the book has to have been published in the last two years. And, lastly, the books in question had to have some kind of popular following with decent reviews–after all, the best beach book is probably going to be widely known to some degree.

So, with nothing but a plan and my noise-canceling headphones, I challenged myself to tackle all of the recent releases that fit the beach theme to find the best beach book of 2022—and here are my thoughts.

Book One: The Unsinkable Greta James

The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith has been on my TBR list for an embarrassingly long length of time, especially considering that it came out this March and it’s been all over Booktok since. Book influencers everywhere have been calling this book one of the best beach books of 2022 and I absolutely had to find out for myself.

In this genre fiction plotline, Greta James is a budding rock star destined for greatness–her career has just started to take off. But, when her mom dies and her dad is planning on going on an anniversary Alaskan cruise all by himself, Greta knows she has no choice but to go with him, even if she doesn’t exactly get along with her dad.

I rated this book a solid 3.5 stars. It was good, but I found myself having trouble connecting to it. While I really enjoyed the unique plot, I felt like it was missing something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. This book was deeper than a typical beach book, which I really appreciated, but I don’t think it was deep enough for me to fall head over heels with it. Overall, a solid read that I would still recommend.

Book Two: Good Girl Complex

The second book I read was Elle Kennedy’s Good Girl Complex. This book was released in February and the second book in the series is actually coming out in October of this year, so I needed to make sure I got the chance to read it before summer was over.

Now, my understanding is that Elle Kennedy’s Off-Campus series is more popular than this one (I haven’t read that one yet either), but I actually really enjoyed Good Girl Complex. The plotline in this one follows Mackenzie, who comes from a well-off family who has high expectations for her. Mac has always followed her family’s wishes, like dating her mom-approved boyfriend for the last few years, and going to a beyond reputable college. But, when Mac takes a trip to Avalon Bay with her college roommate and meets Cooper, a bad boy covered in tattoos, her willpower to suppress her inner impulses is tested.

I would probably rate this book a solid four stars. I think the writing style was much better than I was expecting and I really liked Mac’s character, but I didn’t really love any of the other characters in this book. Honestly, I feel like Cooper had a lot of red flags that maybe needed to be worked through, and while Mac’s family was WAY overbearing, I do think they meant the best for her in their weird, lopsided way. The book slows down in the middle for me, which was super frustrating while doing a reading challenge, so that was my main complaint with Good Girl Complex. I did enjoy it though, so I think I’ll try reading the second book when it comes out in October (you can pre-order it by clicking here).

Book Three: Float Plan

The third book I read in my challenge to find the best beach book of 2022 was Trish Doller’s Float Plan. This is a debut novel that follows Anna, who is heartbroken over her fiancé’s suicide. After months of grieving with no end in sight, Anna decides to try a new approach and take their sailboat out on the open sea (by herself) to complete the round-the-world trip the two of them had planned. Except, things don’t exactly go the way that Anna hoped and she doesn’t know as much about sailing as her fiancé did. So, she hires Keane, an Irish professional sailor who helps her chart a new course for herself.

This book isn’t particularly long at 272 pages, and I thought it would be one of those mindless reads that I could flip through super quickly. Boy, was I in for a surprise. This book was filled with self-discovery, realistic island descriptions, and so much more–and I loved every second of it. The romance aspect of this book isn’t really the forefront of the story, even though it appears that way, and I was not expecting to fall in love with Anna’s character as much as I did.

I’d probably give this book four and a half star rating. It was super unique, and it caught me off guard (in a good way!). There were a few small thing I would have changed, like the ending, but overall I think it was a really fantastic read and it’s been my favorite out of the three I’ve read up to this point.

Book Four: The Summer of Broken Rules

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen The Summer of Broken Rules mentioned on TikTok, I’d probably be rich by now. But alas, that’s not how the creator fund works.

Anywho, I wasn’t super excited to read this book–I can’t stand books that are on every other post on social media and this was one of those books for me. But, being the good content creator that I am, I knew I had to delve into this one if I wanted to really challenge myself to find the best beach book of this year; With over 4 stars and over 23,000 ratings on Goodreads, The Summer of Broken Rules had to be on the list.

I’ll admit, even though I wasn’t excited to tackle this book, I went in open minded, hoping to be proven wrong. But, after 50 pages in, I just wasn’t feeling this book. Typically at this point, I would DNF the book after 50 pages. Yet, I found myself pushing through hoping it would get better. At a little over 100 pages in, I finally gave in and decided to let this one go.

I’m not sure whether I just wasn’t in the right mindset for this book, or if the story was just too similar to Float Plan. I felt like this book had an immature writing style that just didn’t translate to the page, and I didn’t like how the protagonist talked about her grief–I thought Anna in Float Plan did a better job turning her grief into self-discovery. The protagonist’s sister dies, and she’s taken back to their family vacation spot, but she seems more interested in falling in love with a new character than really healing the way that she should.

All of this being said, I didn’t totally dislike this book, it just wasn’t it for me. So, I’m leaving the bookmark in and I’ll be putting it back on my shelf, when I get home, in case I want to try it again at a later point. For the sake of this post, I would likely rate this book at two and a half stars.

Book Five: Island Time

Last, but not least (because I’ll always have a never-ending amount of beach books to read), was Georgia Clark’s Island Time. I’ll admit, I mostly picked up this book because of it’s adorable cover, but the story actually really sounded promising, too. Two families are on a vacation together and they don’t seem to have much of anything in common–except that their daughters are married to each other. When a local volcano erupts, they are forced into close proximity for six weeks. This book has it all–a queer romance, incredible imagery, and family secrets.

I probably should (sheepishly) admit here that I may have ran out of time on this book–I was only able to start the first chapter before it was time to pack up the car and start the long trip home–and before you go there, I get wildly carsick reading in a moving vehicle. However, the experience that I had with Island Time was generally positive and I will definitely be taking the time to read it at some point in the near future.

While I probably can’t rate this book, since I didn’t read enough of it, I’m going to refer to ReadandWright, who rated it at 3.75 stars with a short and to the point bullet list of what they did and didn’t like.

And so, that begs the question—which book did I think was the best beach book of 2022?

Well–I had some successes and failures with this challenge (namely trying to read too many books in not enough time with an inordinate amount of distractions). But, overall, I did have a clear favorite that I would declare the winner of this challenge:

In my opinion, the best beach book I read this year was Trish Doller’s Float Plan. It had all the great makings of a beach book, yet it delved from the usual trope with a unique premise and a narrator that was full of substance. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone looking for an easy beach read that checks all the boxes–and then some (Though the other books were all good, too!).

So, what did I learn from this challenge? First of all, I need to cut down my TBR list because I have WAYYY too many books and not nearly enough time. Second, I may have overestimated the ability of my noise cancelling headphones (or maybe my problem was that I forgot my charging cord). And lastly, as much as I love reading, I love relaxing (aka napping) on the beach more.

It’s not too late to decide which of these books were your favorite for this year! Let me know in the comments which book you’d pick from for the best beach books of this summer–is it one of the ones on this list?

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