16 Books That Will Transport You to Your Dream Lake Vacation

(or nightmare trip, if you choose one of the thrillers)

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Source: @emilybookedup
Source: @emilybookedup

Ah, summertime. The days are long, the weather is warm, and the food is fresh. Maybe you’re spending a long weekend at the beach. Or jetting off to Europe. Maybe you’re taking a staycation with your friends. Or heading home to visit family. Maybe, like me, you’re counting down the days until you’re at the lake. Because there’s nothing quite like a trip to the lake. The softness of the waves. The security of the surrounding wooded mountains. The rush of jumping off the dock. The lack of reliable Wi-Fi. The taste of that first roasted marshmallow. The refreshing coolness of the water. The intensity of an evening thunderstorm. The comfort of a small cabin.

And whether you’re looking for the perfect book to read on your own trip to the lake or need a book to transport you there, I’ve got you covered. Here are 16 books that capture what it feels like to spend summer on the lake.



If you’re nostalgic for your teenage years

Carley Fortune
Every Summer After

Every Summer After is the story of Percy and Sam, who meet when Percy’s family buys the lakefront cottage next door to the house Sam lives in with his mom and his brother, Charlie. Percy and Sam become best friends and eventually more until Percy makes an irrevocable mistake that drives them apart. Told over the course of the six years Percy and Sam spend together as teenagers and the weekend they finally reunite 12 years later, Every Summer After is a sweeping story of the moments, people, and choices that define our lives.

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Sarah Dessen
The Rest of the Story

When Emma Saylor can no longer stay with a friend during her father’s honeymoon, she ends up on the lake with her mother’s family. Emma quickly learns that there are two sides to the lake: her mother grew up in the working class North Lake, while her father spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more she feels like she is also divided. But then Emma meets Roo, a boy who knows about her mother’s history. A whole new world has opened up for Emma, but summer can’t last forever. Who will she be when it’s time to go home?

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If what lurks in the water doesn’t scare you

Karen Dionne
The Marsh King's Daughter

Helena Pelletier grew up in the marshlands of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She learned to live off the land and loved her home in nature. But Helena was the product of an abduction: her mother was kidnapped by her father and kept in a remote cabin against her will. Twenty years after Helena escaped her father, he escapes from prison. The police begin a manhunt, but Helena knows they don’t stand a chance. There’s only one person who can find the Marsh King: his daughter.

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Riley Sager
The Last Time I Lied

When Emma was a teenager at Camp Nightingale, her friends Vivian, Natalie, and Allison left their cabin one night and were never seen again. Fifteen years later, Emma returns to the recently reopened camp and its Midnight Lake at the request of its wealthy owner to work as a painting instructor. Emma hopes to find closure, but when three more girls disappear, she becomes the main suspect.

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If you’re in the mood for a good cry

Kristin Dwyer
Some Mistakes Were Made

Ellis and Easton have been inseparable since childhood. That is, until a rash decision forces Ellis to finish her senior year halfway across the country. Now, a year after Ellis and Easton last spoke, Ellis is back in their lakeside town for a visit. Told in alternating timelines leading up to when Ellis left and detailing what happens when she returns, Some Mistakes Were Made is a heartbreaking novel about family, class, and love.

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Morgan Matson
Second Chance Summer

When Taylor’s father, Robin, is diagnosed with stage four cancer, the Edwards family decides to spend one last summer at their old house on Lake Phoenix. There, Taylor is forced to confront her broken relationships with her former best friend, Lucy, and the boy she once kissed, Henry. As Lucy’s anger toward Taylor thaws, interacting with Henry gets less awkward, and Robin grows weaker, Taylor must decide how to make the most of her second chance.

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If you dream of going back to summer camp

Bridget Morrissey
That Summer Feeling

When Garland Moore’s husband surprised her with divorce papers over Valentine’s Day dinner, she swore off love. But then she and her sister arrive at Camp Carl Cove, a sleepaway camp for adults nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and who is there but Mason, the man she had a premonition about after one brief meeting years ago. Garland believes she has to be open to a relationship with Mason, but it’s Stevie, Mason’s sister, that she can’t stop thinking about. Amid camp tournaments, lake swims, and moonlit dances, Garland must decide if she’s brave enough to trust her heart.

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Morgan Matson
The Firefly Summer

Ryanna Stuart has her summer all planned out. She’s going to go to a local day camp, visit her father on set in Hungary, and tour eastern Europe with her father and stepmother. But then she receives a letter from her grandparents—grandparents neither she nor her dad have spoken to in the eight years since her mom’s death—inviting her to stay with them at an old summer camp in the Poconos. Knowing this may be her only chance to learn more about her mom, Ryanna accepts. And over the course of one unforgettable summer—filled with hill-top s’mores, lake swims, and a treasure hunt—Ryanna learns that the last place she expected to be may be where she belongs.

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If you’re ready to put your detective hat on

Megan Miranda
Such a Quiet Place

Across from a lake and surrounded by woods, the neighborhood of Hollow’s Edge used to be an idyllic place. But that changed when two of its own, Brandon and Fiona Truett, were murdered. A year and a half later, the residents should be able to try to move on. Instead, the woman they convicted through their testimonies has been cleared and has returned. Now, Harper must uncover the truth before someone else becomes the killer’s next victim.

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Kate Alice Marshall
What Lies in the Woods

Twenty-two years ago, Naomi Shaw and her two best friends spent the summer roaming the woods, playing the Goddess Game amongst a secret cave and a pond their imaginations turned into a lake filled with treasure. But their sanctuary is taken from them when Naomi is stabbed seventeen times. Miraculously, Naomi survives, and the girls’ testimony puts away a serial killer wanted for murdering six women. The girls are heroes, but they are also liars. Now, Olivia is ready to tell the whole story. But when she goes missing, Naomi sets out to find out what really happened in the woods all those years ago.

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If you want to be swept up in a love story

Emily Henry
Beach Read

​​January Andrews is a bestselling romance writer. But when her father’s death reveals a woman and a Lake Michigan house she didn’t know about, the last thing January believes in is happily ever after. Her out comes in the form of Augustus Everett, a literary fiction writer who is suffering from a writer’s block of his own. January and Gus make a deal: she’ll write a literary novel, and he’ll write a rom-com. Their deal requires quite a bit of interaction, but neither one of them is looking for love. Really.

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Carley Fortune
Meet Me at the Lake

Fern and Will spent one unforgettable day together in their early 20s. They made a pact to meet again one year later, but Fern showed up and Will didn’t. Nine years later, Fern is forced to leave the life she’s built in the city in order to run her mother’s lakeside resort, something she vowed never to do. The place is in disarray, Fern’s ex-boyfriend is the manager, and she doesn’t know where to begin. To her surprise, Will arrives with an offer to help her save the resort. Fern and Will couldn’t be what each other needed before. But can they be now?

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If you’re going on a family vacation

Hannah McKinnon
The Lake Season

When her husband tells her he wants a divorce after sixteen years of marriage, Iris Standish seizes the opportunity to escape to her childhood lakeside home, where her estranged sister Leah is planning her summer wedding to a man their New Hampshire clan has never met. As Iris struggles to rebuild a relationship with Leah amidst the secrets they’re both keeping and help her childhood crush, Cooper, restore her parents’ barn, she must learn how to build a life that is truly her own.

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David James Poissant
Lake Life

For one last weekend, the Starling family comes together at the family lake house in North Carolina. But when the family witnesses a tragedy, a weekend that should be joyous turns nightmarish. As secrets are revealed, Richard and Lisa, their sons, and their sons’ partners are forced to reckon with who they are and what they want from this life.

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If you’re looking for a touch of fantasy

Riley Sager
The House Across the Lake

Recently widowed, Casey has escaped to her family’s lake house in Vermont. There, she passes the time by drinking hard alcohol and watching Tom and Katherine Royce, the glamorous tech innovator and former model who live across the lake. Casey strikes up a friendship with Katherine when she saves her from drowning, and the more she gets to know Katherine, the clearer it becomes that the marriage she’s watching is far from perfect. When Katherine disappears, Casey immediately suspects Tom, but she’ll soon learn there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

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Sarah Addison Allen
Lost Lake

After her husband’s death, Kate decides to take her daughter, Devin, to Lost Lake, Georgia, which is where Kate spent a wonderful summer when she was a girl. When the two arrive, they find Kate’s aunt, Eby, and a colorful cast of characters. Each inhabitant of Lost Lake is looking for something: love, closure, a second chance, peace, a mystery solved, a heart mended. Will the magic of Lost Lake help them, or is it too late?

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