Cold winter weather seems to last forever. If we’re going to be stuck inside dreaming of the sun’s warmth, we prefer to do it with a book in hand. Not that everything is perfect in the sunshine – as these adventurous, beautifully human dramas prove. But at least we can forget, for a moment, that it’s freezing outside.
Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin
A family vacation to the Caribbean island of Saint X turns into a tragedy when Alison, the oldest daughter, mysteriously dies. Claire was only seven years old at the time and has lived with the aftermath of this event ever since. Now an adult living in New York City, Claire meets a man who was one of the suspects in her sister’s death years ago. Through this complicated relationship, Claire discovers secrets about her sister, sees privilege and race collide, and rethinks her version of that fateful family vacation.
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Marina, a pharmaceutical research scientist, is sent to the Amazon rainforest to investigate the death of a colleague. Miles into the jungle, she makes contact with the remaining research team for the first time in two years. They’re developing a miracle drug that will cure infertility, allowing women to have children well past the age of 50. Clashing with anacondas, toxic plants, withering heat, cannibals, and unstoppable insects, Marina learns about an experiment that leaves her questioning the essentials of life itself.
The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh
On the tiny Sundarbans islands in the Bay of Bengal, Piya arrives to study a rare river dolphin. One day, Fokir, a local fisherman, rescues Piya from dangerous waters. In need of a translator, they befriend a Kanai, a businessman with family ties to the islands. Together, the three navigate the natural wonders of the Sundarbans to complete Piya’s research. Dodging man-eating tigers, regular floods, and political unrest, the trio learns just how unique these river islands can be, and the grip they can have over the souls that live there.
Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique
The story of three generations of the Bradshaw family are written across the sands of Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. As the island becomes a U.S. territory, two sisters and their half-brother become orphans. Armed with magical powers, the siblings must survive without their parents and build a life that protects them from a world they don’t yet control. One sister clings to the past, the other runs recklessly at the future, and their brother flees the island only to be ensnared by war and racism in the States. Meanwhile, love remains a blessing and a curse for them all.
The Vacationers by Emma Straub
On the idyllic tropical island of Mallorca, Jim and Franny are supposed to be celebrating a 35th wedding anniversary and their daughter, Sylvia’s, high school graduation. But family tensions have been simmering for years, and unfortunately, being together without the distractions of their busy lives only makes it easier for long-buried issues to find their way into the sunlight. This family, now unburdened, has to decide how they’ll move forward after admitting all the things they can never take back.
Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Just off the luxurious beaches of Montego Bay, Jamaica, Margo and her mother survive by any means necessary, fiercely protective of younger sibling, Thandi. Eventually, Margo finds a way to leave the destructive path she’s on. Not only will she be able to support her family, she’ll finally be able to be true to herself and admit that she is in love with a woman. But poverty, homophobia, and sexism ensure that life is no paradise, and control of one’s own destiny is more difficult than expected.
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
Elisa is among Havana’s elite in the 1950s, until she falls in love with a revolutionary soldier, and her family has to endure a harrowing escape from the country. Sixty years later, Elisa’s granddaughter, Marisol, is tasked with scattering her ashes back in Cuba. At first, Havana seems like a tropical paradise, but political tensions and family secrets catch Marisol off guard. Marisol quickly realizes: to honor her grandmother’s wishes, she’ll have to summon her grandmother’s bravery.
Outer Banks by Ann Rivers Siddons
For a reminder about the transformative power of the beach, this Siddons classic is a must-read. Thirty years ago, four sorority sisters bonded for life over Spring Break in Nag’s Head North Carolina. This is the story of their friendship and how it evolved into adulthood, not always for the better. Once again, Kate, Cecie, Ginger, and Fig return to the beach to celebrate their sisterhood, but will anyone have the bravery to admit that things have changed, and how each have contributed to the distance between them?
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
Jansson (of Moomintroll comic fame) captures all of summer’s beauty in this gem of a novel. Sophia is six years old; her grandmother is reaching the end of her life. They spend one last summer in the Gulf of Finland, exploring an uninhabited island. Studying the small details, they discuss the big questions—love, death, and our existence. Their little world is both perfect and imperfect, full of delight and pain. It’s an intimate love letter to Summer, and a surefire antidote to Winter.