The sun is shining, the pandemic is no longer confining us to our homes and as the world re-opens, we are starting to get excited about the fast-approaching summer holidays.
Whether you’re taking a gamble and booking abroad or playing safe and sticking to UK staycations, one essential remains a constant – the ultimate summer read.
There’s nothing better than a good beach read, and whether you’re reclining on the sand in Bali or on the pebbles in Brighton, a gripping page-turner is a must.
What are the best books to read? That’s where I come in.
The selection of a good summer book is actually quite tricky. You have to strike the perfect balance between easy reading and a gripping plot, with a non-embarrassing cover so as not to hinder your ability to sunbathe in full view. I learnt the hard way with Chris Kraus’ cult feminist novel I Love Dick on Ipanema Beach – I’m still living it down.
This summer, I’ve done the heavy lifting for you, collating my top recommendations for summer reads this year.
Here are my 17 top summer reads this year…
1. Crying in H Mart: A Memoir by Michelle Zauner
What’s it about? Crying in H Mart is a powerful debut memoir by indie musician Michelle Zauner. Growing up Korean American in Eugene, Zauner recalls her increasingly distant relationship with her ‘koreanness’ and how it was her mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis that prompted her to reclaim her identity.
2. No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
What’s it about? No One Is Talking About This is an important comment on social media, following a famous influencer whose existence revolves entirely around her online identity. When she is hit with a personal tragedy, the two worlds are put in sharp contrast and she is reminded of the love and kindness in the real world, as well as the importance of genuine human connection.
3. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
What’s it about? The Vanishing Half follows identical twin sisters, Stella and Desiree, who both ran away from their small, Southern black community aged 16. Ten years later and now estranged, the Vignes twins are living completely different lives – one in the same southern town with her black daughter and the other secretly passing as white. That is, until their own daughters’ lives start to intersect.
4. Detransition Baby by Torrey Peters
What’s it about? Detransition Baby is an important read, following three characters whose lives are brought together through an unexpected pregnancy. Reese, a transgender woman who has always wanted children, is at its centre, linking together Ames, her ex who detransitioned after living as a transgender woman called Amy, and Katrina, Ames’ cisgender boss who has become pregnant through their affair.
5. How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones
What’s it about? This gripping book is about women’s survival. Set in Barbados beyond what the tourists see, the story follows three complicated marriages against the backdrop of poverty and violence. At its core is the cautionary childhood tale of the one-armed sister – a warning of what happens when young girls disobey their mothers.
6. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
What’s it about? Transcendent Kingdom follows Gifty, a Ghanaian PhD student of neuroscience living in Alabama with her suicidal mother. Gifty is determined to get to the bottom of her family’s suffering, studying the neural circuits of depression and addiction in her science but also rediscovering her childhood faith.
7. Love In Colour by Bolu Babalola
What’s it about? Love in Colour is a retelling of mythical tales from around the world. From Greek mythology to West African folktales, this collection of female centred love stories, rewritten by Bolu, brings forgotten and unknown ancient stories back to the 21st century.
8. Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason
What’s it about? Sorrow and Bliss is a beautiful (and important) read about mental health. The novel follows Martha, a middle-aged woman struggling with depression who is forced to return to her childhood home to live with her dysfunctional family in order to give life another go.
9. Ghosts by Dolly Alderton
What’s it about? Ghosts follows Nina, a writer in her early thirties who (like many of us) is just trying to navigate life. But with her friends settling down and moving on, her father fading into dementia and her mother trying to reinvent herself, Nina’s life starts to fall apart, especially when she falls into a relationship and starts leaning on the wrong people.
10. Care Less by Kirsty Capes
What’s it about? Care Less is a powerful coming-of-age debut following Bess, a young neglected teenage woman living on the edge of society who becomes pregnant. With no one to turn to or looking out for her, she’s just trying not to fall between the cracks.
11. How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right? by Pandora Sykes
What’s it about? How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right is a collection of essays on modern life, hailed as a manifesto for 21st century women. Deep diving into cancel culture, modern work/life balances and the wellness industry among other topics, Pandora analyses the overwhelming choices and monumental pressures facing us today.
12. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
What’s it about? Shuggie Bain is a heartbreaking debut novel by Douglas Stuart set in a Glaswegian mining town in the eighties. Living in poverty with an absent father and an alcoholic mother, the three Bain children are forced to fend for themselves while trying to save each other and create a better life.
13. Sunset by Jessie Cave
What’s it about? Jessie Cave’s debut novel follows two sisters, Ruth and Hannah, who are polar opposites but bonded to the core in love and friendship. After a devastating summer holiday, everything changes and Hannah is left alone and heartbroken, forced to put herself back together.
14. They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera
What’s it about? They Both Die At The End is a novel following two young strangers, Mateo and Rufus, who find out that they have less than 24 hours to live. Making their last day count, they meet on an app called ‘Last Friend’ and join forces to go on one final adventure.
15. We Are All Birds Of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan
What’s it about? We Are All Birds of Uganda is spread over 60 years. It follows two men – Hasan, a widower struggling to look after his family in 1960s Uganda as a new regime seizes power, and Sameer, a successful young lawyer in present-day London, returning to his family home due to a tragedy and discovering his heritage.
16. If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha
What’s it about? If I Had Your Face follows four young women navigating contemporary Seoul, Korea, exploring the social hierarchies and impossibly high standards of beauty. From the normalisation of extreme plastic surgery and K-Pop obsession to room salons and the people who work there, this book gives an insight into being a woman in modern day South Korea.
17. Nothing But Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon
What’s it about? Nothing But Blue Sky follows bereaved husband David following the tragic death of Mary Rose, his wife of 20 years. Coming to terms with his grief and reflecting on their marriage, David learns more about his late wife and whether he knew her or himself at all.
We want to hear your recommendations.