Happy Fourth of July, everyone! To celebrate this summer beach day, we’re digging into our Book Smuggler archives to give you our very own list of Favorite Retro SFF Reads. Each are guaranteed to keep you entertained while you’re enjoying your weekend, rain or shine! (Hopefully shine.)
Bury Me Deep by Christopher Pike. A trio of teens head to Maui on a hard-earned vacation, where they find fun in the sun… and also the ghost of a murdered young man. To this day, Bury Me Deep remains a Smuggler Favorite for beachside reading; other runners up include Weekend (not actually an SFF book, but perfect for weekend getaways with dubious friends) or The Immortal (Mykonos + ancient gods + MURDER), both also penned by Pike.
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. Last summer we made a killer car specific list, inspired by Joe Hill’s best horror novel to date. There’s something distinctly summer-y about road trips and homicidal/possessed/evil cars—if you haven’t yet read NOS4A2, it is the perfect time.
The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. There are actually several other vampire-themed novels that surpass this one (and from which del Toro and Hogan borrow heavily), but with the new TNT show adaptation coming out this summer, The Strain should definitely be on your reading list.
The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist. Four girls live with their two keepers on a desert island, alone and happy. But one day a new girl shows up—a different girl of soft flesh and bone. This novel from Gordon Dahlquist is polarizing (you love it or hate it), but we were enamored with its beautifully complex, unreliable narrator. (Plus, we’re suckers for stories about secret scientific experiments conducted on desert islands.)
Joyland by Stephen King. Ever gone through a bad breakup after college and decided to work a random summer job? If so, you’ll probably identify a little with Stephen King’s Joyland, set in a seaside amusement park…again with murder. And a ghost. (Do you sense a theme here?)
Gullstruck Island by Frances Hardinge. The fact that Frances Hardinge isn’t a household name baffles us—she’s one of the most imaginative and stylistic authors we’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Middle grade fantasy novel Gullstruck Island follows a pair of sisters who are at the heart of an island society facing violent change and treachery. Start here, and then read your way through Hardinge’s extensive backlist.
September Girls by Bennett Madison. This YA novel examines patriarchy, misogyny and agency through the lens of a powerful curse and a young male protagonist’s point of view. Another hugely divisive book—but one we firmly stand by and wholeheartedly recommend.
Dark Matter by Michelle Paver. Arguably one of the scariest books we’ve ever read, Dark Matter is an epistolary ghost story about a man stranded on a cold beach at the northern edge of the world, haunted by a malevolent spirit. Read this in the sunlight. Trust us.
The Shattering by Karen Healey. There’s something delightfully Wicker Man–esque about Karen Healey’s sophomore novel, set in a small tourist town full of dark secrets and pagan magic. We recommend taking a leisurely trip to Sommerton to see what all the fuss is about.
Above World by Jenn Reese. Last but certainly not least, there’s this first novel in a middle grade dystopian trilogy from Jenn Reese. In the future, society has collapsed and only a few enclaves of genetically (or technologically) modified humans have survived—but their technology is starting to fail. This is especially frightening for Aluna, a kampii (or mermaid) whose people rely on breathing necklaces to survive underwater. A poignant tale of friendship, bravery and rebellion, we love this series so very much and recommend it to readers of all ages. (Bonus: the trilogy was completed early this year, so you can read all three books in one fell swoop.)
And that’s it from us! What SFF books are you looking forward to reading on your summer vacation this year?