Best books to read this summer from bestsellers to romance epics

Happy book lover's day, everybody!

The summer and sunshine has finally rolled around, which means that we’re a go for a whimsical lunch break spent reading a page turner in the park. With so many books to choose from and so little time however, sometimes it can be hard whittling down what the best books to read this summer are so we did some digging and found something to tickle all kinds of fancies.

Whether you’re looking for the ultimate chick lit read to shove in your beach bag on holiday or want a cathartic epic that’ll make you sob your heart out, I’ve put together a list below of all the books everybody’s been talking about (or soon will be).

By the way, if you haven’t already joined our Marie Claire book club, there’s no time like the present. Keep an eye on our Instagram and for the hashtag #marieclairebookclub, as we’ll be regularly announcing a new novel and reviewing it with all of you lovely readers on the feed.

Books you need to read right now

Who better to ask for book recommendations than somebody who works with them all day? We chatted to the lovely Michael Perry, a bookseller based in South London, to see what he’s currently poring over when he’s not playing bookshelf Jenga with the arrivals sweeping through the shop door. Check out his recommended picks below…

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

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Michael said, ‘There’s no one book leading the pack when it comes to this year’s essential titles, but Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling has just landed in paperback and I’m hoping that it capitalises on the buzz it received in hardback last year. It’s a compassionate, commanding and uncompromising dig into emotional and physical scars, and it deserves a wide readership to match its critical plaudits. It might not sound particularly summery on paper, but in the same way Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life did several years ago, it’s a book of such direct clout that it consumes its readers like little else.’

Priced at £6.99, available at Amazon

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Circe by Madeline Miller

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‘Lately, I’ve also loved Circe, Madeline Miller’s second deep dive into ancient mythology, which is as dazzlingly escapist and achingly empathic as Song of Achilles,’ Michael continued.

Priced at £13.99, available at Waterstones

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The Beautiful Summer by Cesare Pavese

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Michael said, ‘Penguin’s re-release of Cesare Pavese’s The Beautiful Summer (as choice a pick as its title implies) is simply gorgeous.’

Priced at £6.99, available at Amazon

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The Dig by Cynan Jones

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‘Cynan Jones’ The Dig is possibly the best thing I’ve read in the past year,’ Michael said, ‘I read it twice during a four-hour train journey in spring, and it has haunted me ever since.’

Priced at £8.99, available at Waterstones

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Best selling books

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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Literally everybody has been buzzing about this book in the office, which follows the story of an offbeat socially awkward woman Eleanor. When she and her colleague Raymond wind up saving an old man Sammy on the street, all three of them wind up deeply affecting one another’s lives in different ways – drawing each other out of their little bubbles and their personal tragedies. Reese Witherspoon loved the book so much, she’s actually going to be producing the film and we trust her judgment.

Priced at £4.49, available at Amazon

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Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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Celeste Ng is back with another page-turner you’ll quickly become obsessed with, set in a sleepy American suburb in Cleveland. When single mother Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl arrive fresh to the neighbourhood, their landlords – the Richardsons and particularly Elena Richardson – quickly become fast friends. However as a custody battle over an adopted child comes to light, it threatens to tear the new connection apart.

Priced at £5.99, available at Amazon

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Romance books

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

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There’s a reason that this book has been on the bestsellers list for weeks on end. This odd yet charming little novel follows the story of Anthony Peardew, who obsessively collects lost things after losing a keepsake from his fiancee the day she passed away. After he too passes, his newly divorced assistant Laura is tasked with taking on his mission and quickly falls in love with the ghosts haunting the home – as well as the gardener Freddy next door.

Priced at £4.67, available at Amazon

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Chasing the Sun by Katy Collins

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Sometimes, all you want is some easy chick lit. This fun book by Katy Collins is not only summer-appropriate, it’s a lighthearted tale that follows a girl called Georgia as she attends her best friend’s wedding out in Australia. As her pal melts down with the ceremony inching nearer, Georgia starts to reassess her own relationship…

Priced at £7.99, available at Amazon

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Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

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If you’ve seen this Oscar-nominated film before, you already know what you’re in for. This gentle coming-of-age LGBTQ story is a beautiful one, following precocious teenager Elio as he falls in love with the bumbling American exchange student who moves into his Italian home for the summer. Not all great love stories roar, sometimes they unfold slowly – just like this one.

Priced at £6.47, available at Amazon

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Self help books

Slay in Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinene

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In sore need of getting your shit together this year? This no-bullshit inspirational guide to life for black women is a must-read. Full of interviews with female visionaries, illustrations and career tips on creating the success you deserve, it’s a must-read for anybody who needs to turn their life around this summer.

Priced at £11.89, available at Amazon

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You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth by Jen Sincero

That summer vacation, wardrobe upgrade and time spent eating/drinking alfresco is going to add up and this book from Jen Sincero is our little budgeting saviour. Both empowering and practical, this self-help guide goes beyond the boring Excel sheets and helps you change your mindset to money for bigger bucks down the line.

Priced at £9.99, available at Amazon

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The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight

This book has been out a little while, but the sentiment is an utterly timeless one. We spend a lot of effort worrying and stressing about every little thing, but sometimes there’s just crap you need to stop wasting your energy on – which is where this guide steps in. From the NotSorry Method to all the stuff to cut out of your life, you’ll come out of the experience feeling like a total blissed out bad ass.

Priced at £12.99, available at Oliver Bonas

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Book classics

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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With the next series of The Handmaid’s Tale soon upon us, this classic feminist tale by Margaret Atwood feels more relevant than ever. This dystopian tale set in fictional Gilead revolves around Offred, a woman whose only purpose is to breed in a world where fertility is a rarity. However as the abuse mounts and things reach a boiling point, she finds herself hoping for a better future and taking dangerous strides towards it despite all odds.

Priced at £5.99, available at Amazon

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1984 by George Orwell

best books to read

Besides being one of the books to read before you die, this tale is another one that doesn’t seem too far removed from right now – especially given the chaos that seems to be spilling out all over the globe. Whether you read it for your GCSE or never got the chance to, this warning tale about the power of politics told eerily through farm animals will have you musing over world events. Not one for those looking to escape from reality though.

Priced at £6.99, available at Amazon

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The Trick is To Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway

best books to read

I will never stop screaming about this book, as long as I live. This devastating Scottish modern classic follows the story of a woman named Joy Stone, whose life has stagnated after the man she was having an affair with suddenly and violently passes away. It’s an unflinching look at the stigma surrounding mental health, the oppression of women and while incredibly dark, it’s full of glimmers of hope as Joy strives to discover ‘the trick’ to live on in a world that seems to have forgotten her. Better than The Bell Jar, in my opinion.

Priced at £8.46, available at Amazon

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Biography books

Blame It On Bianca Del Rio: The Expert on Nothing with an Opinion on Everything by Bianca Del Rio

We’re sure there’s a few RuPaul’s Drag Race fans in the house. Bianca Del Rio, one of the series’ most hilarious yet cutting queens with a heart of gold, has penned a collection of personal rants packed with advice you desperately need to hear. It’s not going to be one of your floaty mellow self-help books, instead this is a no-bullshit guide that’ll hit you where it hurts but keep you in stitches anyway.

Priced at £14.99, available at Amazon

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Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton

best books to read

All’s fair in dating, friendship and war, as Sunday Times dating columnist Dolly Alderton can attest to in her touching memoir. It’s the ultimate book for anybody who feels like they still haven’t got their shit together, as she recounts gently and wittily her own experiences of self-sabotage, falling in love, friendship and independence. And that one Rod-Stewart themed house party.

Priced at £7.99, available at Amazon

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This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay

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Ever wondered what it’s like to work in the NHS? Well, comedian and former junior doctor Adam Kay has penned a fantastic tell-all about his time working with patients. Both darkly hilarious and heartbreaking, it’s an intimate look inside one of the most significant British institutions of our time and will make you want to hug your family doctor.

Priced at £3.75, available at Amazon

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Non-fiction Books

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

best books to read

Everybody was talking about this book when it first came out, even if there are some things Rennie Eddo-Lodge refuses to talk about. The bold title absolutely delivers with a deep dive into modern racial politics and the difficulty of encouraging people in privilege understand racial inequality, especially when things like structural racism come into play. An eye-opening read everybody should experience at least once.

Priced at £5.99, available at Amazon

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Selfie: How the West Became Self-Obsessed by Will Storr

Put the phone down and pick up this book, which delves into our current obsession with ourselves – and more importantly, the idea that there’s a ‘perfect version’ of ourselves.  Spoiler: it turns out that the selfie-generation isn’t to blame, as Storr charts the culture all the way back to Ancient Greece, through Middle Age Christianity and all the way to the Trumps and Kardashians of the present.

Priced at £6.99, available at Amazon

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The Little Book of Feminist Saints by Julia Pierpoint and Manjitt Thapp

best books to read

We’ve long been obsessed with illustrator Manjit Thapp’s illustrations and when we saw she had teamed up with Julia Pierpont for a feminist read, we had to get our hands on this. Starring queens such as Frida Kahlo, Michelle Obama, Maya Angelou and Amelia Earhart, each of the women is lovingly profiled by the duo in colourful language and artwork.

Priced at £4.39, available at Amazon

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Poetry

Soho by Richard Scott

best books to read

Richard Scott’s stunning debut collection Soho is a passionate and sometimes furious love letter to the LGBTQ+ community and its chequered history, revelling in the beautiful joy of sexual identity and mourning scars of past violence. The collection leaps vividly to life in the titular poetic sequence Soho, a wondering journey through London’s Soho – if you ever get the chance to see Richard Scott read live, jump on that opportunity ASAP.

Priced at £6.91, available at Amazon

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Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

best books to read

This collection from American poet Ocean Vuong swept one of the poetry world’s highest accolades last year: the T.S. Eliot prize. With verses full of stunning heartbreak and devastation, Ocean explores his and his family’s experience as Vietnamese refugees fleeing to the United States during the war. A master of juxtaposition and the power of a line break, it’s an experience that’ll stay with you forever. As with Richard Scott, absolutely a poet you should see read live if you ever have the opportunity – head to YouTube and you’ll find he’s one of its spoken word darlings.

Priced at £9.19, available at Amazon

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The Day is Ready For You by Alison Malee

best books to read

‘I will tell you again and again: in some small way, everything matters.’ The first of Alison Malee’s two-part poetry collection, this breathtaking collection bridges the gap between poetry and prose – making it a great contender for those nervous to commit to full on verse. Detailing her journey to find pockets of light amidst the darkness, the collection leaves readers with a message you’ll want to get tattooed: ‘you do not have to unravel gracefully.’

Priced at £9.99, available at Urban Outfitters

Buy now

Well, there’s your summer reading sorted (and a brand new bookshelf as well TBH).

Happy reading, everyone! Don’t forget to slap on some suntan if you’re reading under the sun.

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