Best books to read this summer
Whether you’re seeking out a suspenseful thriller – or three – or looking to download a memorable memoir to your e-reader, we’ve rounded up our favourite new books to get stuck into this summer. The question now is: how many is reasonable to pack?
Take your pick…
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
If you were left bereft at the end of the TV series Big Little Lies earlier this year, grab yourself a copy of Liane Moriarty's latest. Once again the reader is drawn into a glamorous and aspirational domestic setting and then veered off-course to a darker, more sinister world that raises questions about friendship, marriage, parenthood and death.
The Cows by Dawn O'Porter
Dawn O'Porter's humour and unique voice prevail in her first adult novel. We follow the lives of three women, distinctly different but united in their determination to not '#followtheherd', and watch as their lives become inextricably entwined. The Cows deals with some hefty issues such as fertility, sexism, online identity and death, but it does so with poignancy and bucketfuls of laughs.
Miss You by Kate Eberlen
Tess and Gus cross paths many times as they grow from teenagers into adults – but will they ever meet up? Kate Eberlen’s novel is hugely enjoyable; well constructed, poignant and wildly romantic. Perfect for fans of One Day.
Paradise Lodge by Nina Stibbe
Nina Stibbe continues the journey of Lizzie Vogel from her previous book Man at the Helm. Lizzie is 15 and working in an old people's home. Funny, wise and full of 1970s nostalgia, this is the perfect read for a sunny afternoon.
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
Heralded as 'one to watch' by The Observer, Sally Rooney's esteemed debut novel has already been merited with several five-star reviews. Romantic, funny and sharply intelligent, this is a novel about friendship and adulthood in the 21st century.
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
Costa prize winner and August's Mumsnet Book of the Month, this is an epic story of two soldiers in the 1800s fighting in the American Civil War. Brutal violence segues into a passionate love that will make your heart swell. A magnificent story told with Barry’s understated but lyrical prose. Read it ahead of the author webchat in September.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Out in paperback for the summer, this is a must-read for Zadie fans; many say it’s her best yet. Moving between the estates of North West London, New York and West Africa, Swing Time is a coming-of-age story centred around two girls who bond over a shared passion for dance.
Swing Time was our July Book of the Month – read what Zadie Smith said in her live webchat
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Yaa Gyasi's astonishing debut has already picked up numerous awards. Starting out in the 1700s, this epic novel follows two sisters; one is sold as a slave, the other becomes a slave trader's wife. Each chapter moves forward a generation, showing how the consequences of their fates reverberate over the years.
Before the Rains by Dinah Jeffries
Immerse yourself in this captivating, evocative and ultimately romantic novel set in 1930s India, at the height of the struggle for independence against British rule. Photographer Eliza agrees to travel to India to document the royal family. She arrives at the palace determined to make a name for herself, and discovers a world she may struggle to leave.
Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore
Intricately researched, this is a brilliant historical novel set in Bristol in the late 18th century. It is also a tense, and at times unsettling, drama about a newly married woman adapting to life with her overbearing and possessive husband. Sadly, as Helen Dunmore's final novel, Birdcage Walk is a fitting legacy to this leading writer of our time.
Golden Hill by Frances Spufford
On reading Francis Spufford’s first work of pure fiction, it will come as no surprise that he is already an accomplished non-fiction writer. What is perhaps more surprising is just how compelling it is – the thoroughly-researched novel really captures the spirit of the 1740s, and the relatively unexplored subject of the origins of New York as we know it now. Golden Hill has also scooped a whole host of awards, so will make impressive reading on the beach,
not that we care.
House of Names by Colm Tóibín
On the subject of impressive beach reading, Colm Tóibín's latest is a retelling of the story of the Greek tragedy of Agamemnon. Narrated in turn by Agamemnon's wife Clytemnestra, his daughter and his son, the family's dramatic and tragic past unfolds as they seek their revenge. Whether or not you’re familiar with the Greek tragedy, this is a gripping story brought to life by Tóibín's beautiful prose.
The Return by Hisham Matar
Hisham Matar was 19 when his father was kidnapped, taken to prison in Libya, and never seen again. Twenty-two years later, after the fall of Gaddafi, Hisham returns to his homeland, to find out what really happened to his father. The Return is a deeply moving memoir about war, exile, family and loss.
Everywoman by Jess Phillips
The truth according to self-confessed gobby Brummie and Labour MP Jess Phillips, who's not afraid to shout about the stuff she feels strongly about. In her bracingly honest book, Jess talks parliament, dealing with imposter syndrome and female solidarity. Peppered with stories from her own experiences – which include being a mum at 23, and living on benefits – she tells it all with humour and grace.
Inside Vogue by Alexandra Shulman
If you were hooked by the fascinating BBC documentary Absolutely Fashion earlier this year, this could be your perfect memoir for the summer. Alexandra Shulman is honest and frank as she leads us through a year which marks Vogue's 100th anniversary and her final year as editor. Compulsive reading!
Ctrl Alt Delete by Emma Gannon
Emma Gannon was born in 1989, the same year that the world wide web was conceived. In 2009, she started documenting her life with popular blog Girl Lost In The City, and has since become a highly acclaimed blogger, vlogger, podcaster and go-to spokesperson for the millennial generation. Ctrl Alt Delete is a candid and very funny look at her life played out online.
This Beautiful Life by Katie Marsh
Katie Marsh’s books always take you on an emotional journey and this is no exception. The main character is Abi, who is in remission from cancer but during her illness, her family has fallen apart. This is the uplifting story of what happens when she tries to put them back together.
The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters by Nadiya Hussain
Great British Bake-off winner Nadiya Hussain breaks through into adult fiction with an engaging and heart-warming novel about family, faith and identity. The Four Amir sisters are the only young Muslims in the village but despite not quite fitting in, they are, on the surface, happy. A family tragedy however, brings to the surface their individual struggles and tests the strength of the family bond.
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Award-winning author Ann Patchett weaves together the story of a fractured and dysfunctional family, sweeping across generations and spanning the width of the USA. As a Mumsnet Book of the Month read, one bookclubber described it as “an intelligent, particularly well-observed novel about families and their deceptions, betrayals and irresponsibility.”
The Awkward Age by Francesca Segal
The much-awaited second novel from Costa First Book award winner Francesca Segal. Once again she hones in on the lives of a North London family and meticulously inspects the six characters as they grapple with the complexities of the blended family life and modern day dilemmas.
The Trespasser by Tana French
Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series are up there with the most-read on our 50 Book Challenge board. This is no surprise since her books offer readers compelling, intelligent thrillers with brilliant characters – including the tough and foul-mouthed detective, Antoinette Conway, who narrates this twisty and thrilling story.
I See You by Clare Mackintosh
Clare Mackintosh uses her experience of working in the police force in this, her second novel and already a bestseller and Richard and Judy Book Club pick. The story follows Zoe who discovers a photo of herself in the classified section of a local newspaper. A real page-turner, I See You is further proof that Clare Mackintosh stands out from the crowd in this genre of fiction.
You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
Not only are Megan Abbott's thrillers, but they also provide a fascinating and in-depth examination of the psyche of adolescent girls. Her latest novel takes a piercing look at what one family will sacrifice in order for their daughter to become a champion gymnast. In You Will Know Me, Abbott keenly examines the pressures put on girls' bodies and the fierce, sometimes misguided, love that parents have for their children.
The Child by Fiona Barton
This is the eagerly anticipated novel from The Widow author Fiona Barton. Kate Waters returns as the brilliant investigative journalist, this time looking into the shocking discovery of a newborn baby’s skeleton in a building site. Twisty and thrilling, it's the perfect poolside read.
Want more thrillers? These are our favourites
Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg had been with her husband Dave for eleven years when he died suddenly of an unexpected heart attack. With two small children, it felt like she would never see happiness again. This remarkable and insightful book is about how Sandberg set about finding a way to build resilience and find happiness within the confines of her 'Option B'.
Ice Cream for Breakfast by Laura Jane Williams
Summer holidays are the perfect time to sit down and indulge in a book in one sitting and this could be just the book. From the pen of Superlatively Rude blogger Laura Jane Williams, Ice Cream for Breakfast is totally accessible, very funny and hugely inspiring. What better way to spend a day at the beach?
Happy by Fearne Cotton
Feeling the pressures and stresses of modern life? Get inspired with Fearne Cotton's beautifully illustrated book, filled with daily tricks and reminders to help you get in touch with your creative side and unlock the happiness within.
Quiet Power by Susan Cain
Susan Cain's first book Quiet became a global phenomenon and inspired millions of people to see the strength and power of being introverted. Her latest book targets adolescents, young adults and parents, and looks at how young people can harness their 'quiet power'. Offering practical advice, she presents a new understanding of what it is to be an introvert, in a world where noise and assertion seem to equate success.
Attack of the 50 Ft Women by Catherine Mayer
In Attack of the 50 Ft Women, Catherine Mayer asks the vital question as to why there is not a single country in the world which has achieved gender equality. On looking for the answer, she takes us on a journey to a fantasy gender equal world she calls Equalia, which invites yet more questions – Does gender equality make for a society that is more equal in other ways too? Who does the low-paid jobs? How does gender express itself in a place freed from gender programming? The book is insightful, revelatory, funny and well worth a read.
The Power by Naomi Alderman
Described by the author as 'feminist science-fiction', The Power is set in a dystopian world in which young women are able to inflict painful electric shocks on their victims – resulting in a complete upheaval of the power balance between men and women. Raising many questions about power and gender, this is a fast-paced and breathtaking thriller that will keep you up at night and have you channelling supernatural powers in the morning.
Animal by Sara Pascoe
Comedian Sara Pascoe has joked about female sexuality on stage and screen for some time – and her first book Animal is written with the sharp wit and honesty of her stand-up. Combining autobiography with evolutionary and social history, Pascoe looks at what moulds and motivates modern women. As well as dishing out some very funny insights, she contemplates the more serious aspects of being female – from rape to body dysmorphia.
Stay with Me by Ayòbámi Adébáyò
Set against the social and political turbulence of 1980s Nigeria, Stay with Me weaves a devastating story of the fragility of married love and the all-consuming bonds of motherhood. Shortlisted for this year's Baileys Prize, this short but beautiful novel will stay with you until long after the final page.
All prices correct at the time of publication