It was the bomb diggity.
I picked the books I took with me fairly randomly, the only requirements being that the books not be for work and not be re-reads. Somehow, all of them managed to be perfect beach reads in their own little ways:
Shorecliff by Urusla DeYoung, just came out last week from Little, Brown & Co.
Start with the 1920s, add a dash of an old mansion on the shores of Maine, mix in a giant family with some major issues and secrety-type-secrets, and you've got Shorecliff. It's got kind of a Gatsby-meets-Atonement thing going on. The narrator is Richard, who transports us back to the summer when he was 13 and staying in his family's beach mansion (not beach HOUSE, mind) with the rest of his cousins, aunts, etc., etc. As the youngest cousin, he's roundly ignored, which allows him to eavesdrop on/misunderstand many of the family's conversations. This, of course, eventually leads to a MAJORLY MAJOR CLIMAX. It's tense, tight, takes place on a beach, and isn't fussy- a perfect beach read for those who liked Seating Arrangements.
Night Film by Marisha Pessl, coming out August 20 from Random House
This is some major mind-fuckery right here. An investigative reporter tries hunting down the truth about the death of Ashley, the daughter of a reclusive genius-horror-movie-director-type-person. Full of twists and WTFery and creepy bits, you have to ask yourself if the reporter is after the truth or is actually part of the horror director's next film, being manipulated by some Hollywood psycho/evil genius. Reading this on the beach is great because daylight. And other people.
Once Upon a Tower by Eloisa James
I'm not a frequent romance reader, but when Bookavore recommends one, I tend to snatch it up with a quickness. They're always smart and un-romancey (despite the VERY romancey covers). In Once Upon a Tower, the heroine is a virgin (as per usual) BUT so is the hero, which is a rare thing in romance. They get married and the wedding night (and a few of the nights after) DO NOT GO WELL, which also never happens in romance but is pretttttyyy common in real life. This one doesn't max out the hot-o-meter, but it breaks the romance tropes in fun and smart ways (no "throbbing members" to be found). And it's a quick, easy, light read- very beach-ready.
Moranthology by Caitlin Moran
No beach reading experience is complete without some essays about feminist/Marxist dialectic and the level of grubbiness of Keith Richards' bandana! This collection of Moran's columns covers everything from why Ghostbusters is the greatest movie of all time to how Lady Gaga sometimes pees RIGHT THROUGH her fishnets, to the stupidity of library closures. I've read How to Be A Woman, so I know Moran is smart and hilarious, but some of her columns in Moranthology are also just full of fucking excellent writing. Her bit about miscarriage, her obituary for Amy Winehouse- I mean this is sock-you-in-the-gut good stuff. The heavy sections are thinly interspersed enough to keep this totally appropriate for beach reading- just be warned that you'll be that weirdo laughing out loud to yourself while sipping your fruity drink.
Beach on, book types.