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  • Corinne Hastings

The Best Summer Beach Reads for 2021

Hello from Corinne, Olive Well’s Operations Assistant and resident bookworm! For me, summer means long afternoons in the sun, curling my toes in warm sand, and completely tuning out the rest of the world while I’m caught up in a good book. It also means knocking over my normal to-be-read pile in favor of that sunniest of genres: beach reads. A great beach read can be a steamy romance, a pulse-raising mystery, or a story that takes me far away on the getaway I didn’t manage to book. Above all, it has to be totally engrossing. Here are my recs for page-turners to pick up this summer. Be sure to scroll through to the bottom for the Olive Well team's favorite bookstores in Chicagland!

Summer Lovin’

From the author of the smash hit Red, White & Royal Blue, comes another addictive romantic-comedy, this time with a time-traveling twist. August is 23, serving pancakes at a 24-hour diner, and totally bored with her life. Then she meets mysterious and charming Jane on the subway and her attitude totally changes. But is it possible Jane’s 1970s punk rock vibe is something else...could she really be lost in time?

It’s right there in the title! Two writers - a romance novelist and a literary wunderkind - move into neighboring beach houses, both trying to break out of writer’s block. They strike a deal to trade projects, and things heat up from there. The characters are so charming and real, I sped through this one in a day.

Dead Heat

If, like most of the internet, you’re crushed Mare of Easttown is over, can I recommend giving this slow-burn noir a try? Maddie Schwartz is a housewife-turned-reporter in 1960s Baltimore who becomes involved in the investigation of the murder of a young woman no one else seems to care about. Like Mare, the setting is just as much a character in the story.

This one I grabbed on impulse from the new releases’ shelf because its bright cover and witty title caught my eye. Turns out, it’s the exact kind of popcorn-y rom-com mystery that I crave in the summer months. Finlay Donovan is a single mom and struggling novelist who is mistaken as a killer-for-hire by a desperate woman trying to get rid of her husband. Things spin further out of control from there, but Finlay is a relatable and capable protagonist throughout. The author plans to turn this into a series and I for one can’t wait for the next book.

Buzzy Books — Get ‘em while they’re hot!

Read the book before you watch the mini-series from Oscar-winner Barry Jenkins! Well ok, the mini-series was released on Amazon in May to much critical acclaim, so many people have seen it already. Either way, it's always a good time to read this 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winner from one of our greatest living writers. The odyssey of one woman’s escape from slavery on a literal railroad running under the South is both powerfully emotional and highly entertaining.

In the vein of Such a Fun Age, The Other Black Girl is a sharp exploration of race and power set in the

New York City publishing world. Centering on the only two Black women working at a publishing house, tension rises when suspicious events start to push one woman up the corporate ladder and push the other woman down. Already pegged to be the ‘it’ book of the summer, other comparisons include Get Out meets The Stepford Wives.

Literary Getaways

Like many many others, I’m still mourning the loss of the great chef, memoirist, and travel documentarian Anthony Bourdain. What better to fill the Bourdain-sized hole in our culture than a posthumous collection from the man himself? I can think of no better way to travel the world from my own home.

Set in Malibu, August 1983 and following the events of 24-hours, the new novel has all the ingredients for a great vacation you’ll be glad you’re not actually taking. Four children of a famous rockstar throw a huge end-of-summer party where the secrets they have been keeping from each other come unraveled. By the morning, their Malibu mansion will be in flames.

Olive Well's Favorite Chicagoland Bookstores

You know we're all about supporting local, independently owned shops. Here are the team's picks for the best places to get lost in a good book:

Women & Children First — Andersonville

Myopic Books — Wicker Park

Semicolon — River West

Sandmeyer's Bookstore — Printer's Row

The Book Stall — Winnetka


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