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Vacation Reading List for Destin - Books to Enjoy by the Sea

Reading by the Sea

Whether you’re lounging on the sugar-white sands of Destin’s beaches or enjoying the cool sea breeze from the balcony of your vacation rental, there’s nothing quite like diving into a good book to complete your beach holiday experience. Destin, Florida is not just a paradise for beach lovers, but it’s also a haven for book lovers looking to unwind by the sea. We’ve compiled a vacation reading list, featuring an array of genres that cater to every beachgoer’s preference. So slather on some sunscreen, grab your sunglasses, and prepare to lose yourself in these captivating reads.

Diving into Destin’s Past and Fishing Heritage

“Destin’s Founding Father” by H.C. “Hank” Klein

Destins Founding Father

“DESTIN’S Founding Father: The Untold Story of Leonard Destin” by H.C. “Hank” Klein is an illuminating narrative that sheds light on the origins of Destin, Florida, and the remarkable life of its founder, Leonard Destin. Through five years of meticulous historical research, Klein endeavors to untangle the truth from local legend, revealing a history richer and more fascinating than previously acknowledged. Leonard Destin and his family’s journey from being whalers and fishermen in New England to their pivotal settlement in Florida is a testament to their intrepid spirit. This book delves into the reasons behind their migration south in 1835, including the harrowing journey Leonard endured that led him to the Gulf of Mexico, and ultimately, to establishing one of the most renowned fishing villages in the world.


Klein’s narrative also explores the significant episodes that shaped Leonard Destin and the community he founded, from devastating shipwrecks that tested their resolve to the bounteous fishing grounds that promised a new beginning. The book details how Leonard, after being stranded on a barrier island for over two months due to a hurricane, never returned to New London, choosing instead to navigate the uncharted waters of destiny that would lead him to Moreno Point. Here, “DESTIN’S Founding Father” is not just the chronicle of one man’s survival and perseverance but also a celebration of how a remote peninsula was transformed into the vibrant fishing hub known as Destin. Klein’s work is a crucial addition to understanding the depths of Florida’s history, making it an engaging read for scholars, history enthusiasts, and anyone curious about the roots of the “world’s luckiest fishing village.”

“Fishing Yesterday’s Gulf Coast” by Barney White

In “Fishing Yesterday’s Gulf Coast,” author Barney Farley offers a first-hand recollection and chronicle of the evolution of fishing along the Central Texas Coast, extending beyond the well-loved borders of Destin to the broader Gulf waters. With over fifty years of experience, Farley—the Texan fishing guide—paints a vivid picture of the bountiful waters of his youth and the deep sea adventures that awaited those who dared to cast their lines into the vast marine wilderness. His book is not only a nostalgic look back at the abundant catches and thriving fish populations, but also an intimate portrayal of a fisherman’s lifelong bond with the sea, revealing a rich tapestry of personal anecdotes that underscore a deep respect for the marine environment.


Yet, Farley’s narrative doesn’t shy away from addressing the changing tides brought by industrial progress and increased commercial fishing. He provides a thoughtful commentary on the ecological impacts of overfishing and the shift from inshore to offshore fishing as the marine life retreated to deeper, less accessible parts of the Gulf. “Fishing Yesterday’s Gulf Coast” offers a compelling juxtaposition between a sportsman’s paradise lost to the passage of time and the emerging necessity for conservation and sustainable fishing practices. Farley couples his stories of days gone by with a poignant call to action, urging readers and fellow anglers to acknowledge the fragility of this once plentiful ecosystem. His book is both an affectionate memoir and an urgent plea for mindful stewardship of the Gulf Coast’s natural riches.

Books Set in or Around Destin

“The Beach House” by Mary Alice Monroe

In “The Beach House,” New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe crafts a poignant narrative rich with emotional depth and vivid characters that resonate with the authenticity of real-life struggles and affections. The story invites readers into the world of Caretta ‘Cara’ Rutledge, a woman who has distanced herself from her Southern roots and a tumultuous family history. A sudden and unexpected plea from her mother brings Cara tumbling back to the scenic Lowcountry of her childhood summers—a landscape imbued with nostalgia and the enchanting rhythms of island life. As Cara engages with her past, undertaking the restoration of the dilapidated family beach house and delving into the local practice of safeguarding sea turtles, she finds herself on a transformative journey. Reconnecting with her mother against the backdrop of the Lowcountry, Cara stumbles upon the deepest truths about sacrifice, the imperishable nature of family ties, and the grace of forgiveness.


“The Beach House” reached audiences beyond the page when it was magnificently adapted into a 2018 Hallmark Hall of Fame Original Movie, capturing hearts with its stunning visual portrayal of Monroe’s literary world. The film, starring renowned talents including Andie MacDowell, Minka Kelly, Chad Michael Murray, and Makenzie Vega, successfully brought the novel’s complex relationships and heartfelt storylines to life, further amplifying the book’s theme that the personal journey to acceptance and reconciliation is both universal and deeply personal. Celebrated for its rich prose and insightful examination of familial bonds, Monroe’s compelling narrative has been lauded by “Publishers Weekly” with a starred review and praised as “profoundly moving” by All About Romance, solidifying “The Beach House” as not only a mesmerizing tale but also one that holds a dear spot in the pantheon of contemporary Southern fiction.

“Beach Town” by Mary Kay Andrews


In “Beach Town,” author Mary Kay Andrews introduces readers to Greer Hennessy, a dedicated movie location scout facing the pressure of salvaging her career after a disastrous project. Tasked with finding the perfect, yet undiscovered, beach town for a big budget movie, Greer stumbles upon a quaint town in the Florida panhandle that seems to tick all the boxes. With its pristine beach, one motel, and a charming old fishing pier that’s ideal for the movie’s climactic scene, it appears Greer has hit the jackpot. However, her plans to transform this sleepy town into a film set are met with unexpected resistance from the town’s mayor, Eben Thinadeaux. Eben, a staunch environmentalist, is determined to protect his reinvigorated town from the potential harms of Hollywood glamor, leading to a clash of motivations between him and Greer. Despite their conflicting goals, an undeniable attraction simmers between them, complicating matters further.


“Beach Town” navigates the intricacies of small-town dynamics, environmentalism, and the pursuit of ambition, all wrapped in the warm glow of a budding romance. Mary Kay Andrews skillfully marries the allure of cinematic adventure with the charm of coastal living, crafting a narrative that captures the heartache and triumphs of its characters. Eben’s and Greer’s evolving relationship, set against the backdrop of film production and town politics, showcases Andrews’ knack for creating engaging, multifaceted characters that readers root for. The book eloquently delves into themes of redemption, love, and the importance of home, making it a quintessential summer beach read. Rich with Andrews’ trademark wit and evocative descriptions of the Gulf Coast, “Beach Town” is both a celebration of resilience and a testament to the unexpected journeys that lead us to discover what truly matters.

Non-Fiction That Reflects The Beauty and Brains

“Secrets of the Octopus” by Sy Montgomery

Secrets of the Octopus

In “Secrets of the Octopus,” celebrated author Sy Montgomery, together with Warren K. Carlyle IV, embarks on another deep dive into the enigmatic world of octopuses, shedding light on new discoveries that underscore the creature’s remarkable intelligence and complexity. This book, which follows the international bestseller “The Soul of an Octopus,” features vivid National Geographic photography, enhancing the reader’s immersion into the octopus’s extraordinary life. Sy Montgomery, known affectionately as the “octopus whisperer” thanks to her beloved bestseller, partners with the founder of Octonation, to guide us through intimate encounters with these sophisticated cephalopods. “Secrets of the Octopus” serves as a companion to the National Geographic television special, narrated by Paul Rudd and debuting for Earth Day, offering readers a comprehensive and beautifully articulated account that mirrors the visual feast of the documentary.


The journey that “Secrets of the Octopus” promises to take its readers on is one of magic and marvel, unveiling the astonishing capabilities of the octopus’s brain that occupies not just the head but suffuses its entire body, enabling a breathtaking level of intellectual and physical adaptation. Readers will discover the astounding ways in which octopuses can modify their genetic makeup to meet environmental challenges, master the art of camouflage more effectively than any other species, and witness the profound sacrifice of octopus mothers to ensure the survival of their offspring. Through Montgomery’s storytelling prowess and compassionate lens, the book is set to weave current and captivating narratives around the scientists who are at the forefront of octopus research and conservation. For animal aficionados and admirers of the mystical marine creature alike, “Secrets of the Octopus” is poised to be a treasured volume, one that combines fascinating imagery with the enchanting narrative that Sy Montgomery’s readers have come to relish.

“Blue Mind” by Wallace J. Nichols

Reading “Blue Mind” by Dr. Wallace J. Nichols offers a transformative approach to understanding the profound impact water has on our mental and emotional well-being. This book is crucial for anyone looking to uncover the scientific and spiritual benefits that bodies of water can offer—the calmness of a lake, the vastness of the ocean, and the rhythmic sound of a river all contribute to a state of meditative peace that can alleviate stress, promote creativity, and enhance happiness. By pivoting from traditional perspectives on mindfulness and emotional health to embrace the curative properties of water, “Blue Mind” demonstrates through compelling research and anecdotal evidence how living in close connection with water can significantly improve focus, reduce anxiety levels, and cultivate a deep, enduring sense of serenity.


Furthermore, “Blue Mind” is not just a book for individual reflection, but it also serves as a call to action for environmental and community health. It fosters a greater appreciation for our aquatic environments, encouraging readers to protect and sustain the world’s water resources. By increasing our awareness of how integral healthy water bodies are to human psychology, the book indirectly champions causes related to water conservation and sustainable living. This not only makes it a playbook for personal mental health strategies but also a manual for contributing to the wellness of the planet. “Blue Mind” bridges the gap between our inner lives and the external environment, promoting a holistic approach to wellness that is deeply needed in today’s world.

Thrillers & Romantic Escapes

“The Woman in Cabin 10” by Ruth Ware

The Woman in Cabin 10

In “The Woman in Cabin 10,” Ruth Ware transports readers onto the high seas aboard the luxury cruise ship, the Aurora, through the eyes of Lo Blacklock, a journalist for a travel magazine who lands the assignment of a lifetime. The voyage begins under idyllic conditions, with the pristine North Sea offering a backdrop of calm waters and clear skies, while the ship’s guests, a mix of elegance and wealth, enjoy the sumptuous comfort and exclusive company. Lo’s experience quickly moves from the pleasure of plush cabins and sparkling dinner parties to the edge of a psychological thriller. The plot takes a dramatic turn when Lo becomes the sole witness to a horrifying event: a woman being thrown overboard. However, her attempts to raise the alarm are met with disbelief as a headcount shows all passengers present and accounted for, plunging Lo into a nightmarish situation where her credibility and safety are in jeopardy.


Ruth Ware crafts a gripping narrative in “The Woman in Cabin 10,” expertly blending elements of mystery, thriller, and suspense, that leaves readers questioning what is real and whom to trust. As the story unfolds, the serene ambiance of the Aurora is shattered, replaced with a palpable tension that Ware masterfully escalates with each page. The confined setting of a cruise ship at sea, combined with the relentless pursuit of truth by a protagonist seemingly alone in her suspicions, creates a claustrophobic atmosphere ripe for psychological terror. Ware’s storytelling is both compelling and intricately plotted, ensuring that readers remain hooked till the last page. “The Woman in Cabin 10” is not just a mystery; it’s an exploration of fear, paranoia, and the lengths to which one will go to uncover the truth.

“One Day in December” by Josie Silver

“One Day in December” by Josie Silver offers readers an enchanting journey through the untraveled paths of love and destiny, wrapped in the festive spirit of the holiday season. At its heart, the story revolves around Laurie, who, on a snowy December day, locks eyes with a man through the misted window of a bus — a man she feels in her bones to be “the one.” This fleeting moment of connection sparks a year-long quest, as Laurie scours the streets and cafes of London, hoping for a chance encounter to lead her back to the man from the bus. However, fate has its own twisted roadmap, and when Laurie finally finds him, it’s as her best friend Sarah’s new boyfriend, Jack. This sets the stage for a decade-long odyssey of friendship, heartache, and the myriad what-ifs that haunt the crossroads of love and life.


Josie Silver weaves a captivating tale with “One Day in December,” touching on the magic and madness of finding and losing love. Spanning ten years, the narrative explores the complexities of relationships not just between lovers, but also between friends, and the ways in which life’s unexpected detours can sometimes lead us to the most serendipitous destinations. The novel is a heartfelt reminder of love’s power to defy timing and circumstance, and the story of Laurie, Sarah, and Jack unfolds as a beautiful ode to human resilience and the enduring hope for happiness. In its pages, readers will find laughter, tears, and the irrevocable truth that some connections, no matter how brief or tangled, are meant to leave a lasting impression on our hearts.

Choose to Vacation with RealJoy

Booking a vacation with RealJoy Vacations brings your dream vacation to life, right in the gorgeous settings of Destin to Panama City Beach. At RealJoy, adventure meets comfort, making your stay as exciting as it is relaxing—much like the stories you can’t put down. Whether you’re looking for a place right on the beach, a quiet little spot, somewhere your furry friend can come too, or a house with its own pool, RealJoy has something that’ll make your vacation special. Dive into a vacation where every day is an adventure packed with beach fun, peaceful dinners by the sea, and all the comforts you’d want in a home away from home. With RealJoy, your vacation is like a personal story where the simple joys are what matter most.

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