Not sure what to pack for summer holiday? Here's our round-up of the best books to read poolside
Look. Packing for a holiday can be difficult, yes? Forget the usual which-bikini-to-take-oh-I’ll-take-all-five scenarios. We’re talking books. Lovely, wonderful, amazing books that transport you to another world/ break your heart/make you laugh like a crazy lady/scare you senseless (not all at once). You want to make sure you have the best books of summer in your case, but what if (brace yourselves) you make a mistake?
What if you turn up for your precious holiday, settle down for a long, leisurely read and find that what you’ve brought along just doesn’t cut it. What if you find out that, instead of packing the best books of summer, you have, in fact, packed a clutch of real duds?
Make a wrong decision and you’re faced with a fortnight of reading the hotel bar menu (back and front, English/Spanish/French/German/Italian – the word ‘salad’ is surprisingly similar in all these languages). Or if you try buying a book at the hotel shop it will feature a woman on the cover in a bursting corset being dominated by a caddish man with sensitive eyes.
Fear not. We’ve chosen the best books of summer, which would also make pretty kick ass gifts for book lovers if you’ve got a birthday coming up. So whether you download them before leaving (take your charger, people. Do we have to mention the adaptor?), or line them up carefully in the bottom of your case, covers facing up so they look at you enticingly as you unpack on arrival (oh, that’s just us, is it?), you won’t be disappointed.
There’s everything here from literary page-turners, romances, heart-wrenching memoirs, thrillers, perfectly crafted short stories and a trashy read, too (hey, Mr Grey, how’s it going?).
Some are new, some are books that we’ve loved to bits and want to read again, others are ones we’ve been meaning to get to. All of them come highly recommended. There are prize-winners, best-sellers, word-of-mouth successes and ones that defy all commonsense and yet still, still we turn those pages. (You still here, Mr G?)
Now when you’re poolside, you only have two decisions to make: 1) Which book to read first. 2) Is 10.45am too early for a fruit-topped cocktail? We can’t help with the first question. And as far as the second, well, it could double as a healthy breakfast.
Scout, Atticus, a racist community, a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman, his life at stake – everything to play for. Sold more than 40million copies worldwide, this Pulitzer-winning classic deserves a re-reading especially now that you know what has been published (see next page!)
Written before Mockingbird, but the story of Scout returning to visit her father in his old age, this book is the literary event of the year (maybe decade?). Despite the controversy surrounding its publication (or perhaps because of it) it’s a must-read.
A smash hit, this post-apocalyptic thriller is tender and haunting and incredibly unusual. An end-of-world book full of great characters, for people who dont usually like end-of-world stuff. Will stay with you.
Weve raved about this before and will rave about it again because it really is The Perfect Summer Read. 1950s, Amalfi coast, a young inn-keeper chest-deep in dreams, a dying American actress, a moving love story. Gorgeous, romantic, funny and smart.
A collection of short fiction and non-fiction essays from a fresh young writer who, tragically, died in a car crash aged just 22. Writing about her friends, family and life, its a sharp take on what it feels like to be her: hopeful, uplifting and life-affirming.
The Los Angeles riots of 1992 are at the heart of this visceral, shocking novel. Its heart-stopping stuff but if you dont like graphic violence, best give this one a miss. If you can handle it, youll be rewarded with one of the most compelling reads ever. This book was published months ago and theres still a buzz about it.
Speaking of buzz, say hello to Flora 717. Shes a sanitation bee in a large hive. Shes smart and physically very strong and, well, something of a star. As we follow her story we learn about the relationships between all the bees, power plays, love, loyalty, lust and death. Yeah its about bees but its also not. Its about you and me. Highly imaginative, we can guarantee youve never read anything like it.
The first adult novel by the Eleanor and Parks YA author, this is a warm portrayal of female friendship – Beth and Jennifer who spend all day at work emailing each other. They discuss everything, unaware that Lincoln, a colleague, is reading every word falling in love with one of them. Just. Gorgeous.
Originally published in 1966, this is the blockbuster tale of three pill-popping showbiz heroines. Meet Anne, Jennifer and Neely, and follow them through a catalogue of crazy events, heart-wrenching misfortunes and loves and losses. Compulsive. Trashy. Worth buying the book for the cover. You will love this and you wont even hate yourself afterwards unlike
Oh, you dont need us to tell you anything about this. You know already, dont you? Youll read it and kinda hate yourself but were not judging. Because were doing the same. And, although shes been slated for writing drivel/garbage/insert any word here that would never be used against a very successful male authors theres something kinda cool about an ordinary middle-aged woman making zillions from what was originally fan fiction. We salute you, E L James. (No, put down the handcuffs.)
If youre a Judy Blume fan (remember Are You There God? Its Me Margaret) and even if youre not, you cant help but be enchanted by this story of 12-year-old Miris life as she comes to terms with her body/ relationships. This is Blumes fourth adult novel (though the first one for 15 years) and a large cast of characters is set against a backdrop of tragedies and deaths. Its uplifting and lovely. Heads up: dont read if youre a nervous flier plane accidents feature heavily.
Following on from Life After Life, this story focuses on Ursulas younger brother, Teddy, would-be poet, RAF bomber pilot, father and husband as he finds his ways through the 20th century. Simply dazzling.
Smash hit bestseller of the year, if you havent read this compelling thriller yet, do. Clever, twisty-turny plot with the best unreliable narrator weve met in years, in the form of alcoholic Rachel. Described as Rear Window meets Gone Girl. We think its even better than that.
Now heres a thing. Without much fuss, this series has become a runaway success. Set in 1950s Naples, this is the first book in the trilogy examining the friendship of Elena and Lila. Theyre quiet books and some say not much happens; we disagree. Theyre gorgeous books steeped in emotion and the writing is sublime.
If you loved One Day youll love this. But dont expect it to be the same. Its funny, but more poignant and tender as it deals with the break up of Douglas and Connie, and how they handle their disgruntled teen Albie as they decide to have one final family holiday together.
Set in the mid-60s, Barbara Parker, from Blackpool, wants to be a comedian, like her heroine Lucille Ball. She comes to London, reinvents herself as Sophie Straw and lands the starring role in a TV comedy series. An easy, funny read about an almost-lost era with a great leading character.
This fictionalised account of Hemingways first wife, Hadley Richardson, is addictively good. An excellent portrayal of the ego that was Mr H, the amazing women around him and a love affair that unravels slowly to begin with, then really quite spectacularly.
You know all those books about women who find out their husband/ boyfriends been doing something wrong and then they decide Theyll Teach Him A Lesson? No, Really Teach Him A Lesson? Well this is the best one. Overshadowed by Gone Girl on its release, this book deserves to be read by everyone who loves a thriller. As well as the usual damaged characters, taut plot and unexpected turns this boasts something lots of other domestic noirs dont have really beautiful writing.
We love Amy. We love Amy (in case you missed that). A wonderful book full of warm, funny stories, biting wit and life advice in her inimitable cut-the-crap style. Funny, smart and sharp. Great for when you dont want to hold a plot in your head but still want to read something.
Unless youve been living in a cupboard, youll know the story of 26-year-old Cheryls walk along the west coast of America (all 1,100 miles of it). Reese Witherspoon starred in the excellent film, but the book is even better. Far from a trekking memoir, its a love letter to her mother and a moving account of hardship, addiction, grief and love.
Ten moving, perfect short stories for perfect half hours of reading. Some sexy, some sad, some romantic all of them pretty dark. In a good way. We are in awe of her writing.
Another summer besteller. Struggling author falls in love with a fifteen-year-old girl. Thirty years later her body is dug up with a copy of the manuscript that has since made his name. Hes the only suspect. Compelling stuff, worth every one of its 600 or so pages.