The best books to read this summer
Looking for an unreasonable number of books to cram into your suitcase? You've come to the right place. Whether you're after thrillers or true stories; addictive beach reads or sci-fi, these are the books you need to crack open. Bye bye, social life.
What are you in the mood for?
- Beach reads
- Family sagas
- Before they hit the screen
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
You know that awkward moment when you hit your head in aerobics class and wake up 10 years later? Us neither – but Alice does. Unbelievably, she's gone from being a blissfully happy 29-year-old – engaged and pregnant with her first child – to a bossy mum of three with a nasty divorce to boot. So, what happened?
“The secondary story about Alice’s sister’s struggle with infertility really vocalised a lot of feelings that I shared – especially with regards to the anger you feel. Excellent book, it changed my life.” – Kannet
Rachel's Holiday by Marian Keyes
Sentenced to The Cloisters (Dublin's answer to a Betty Ford clinic), Rachel is forced to give up the rock 'n' roll lifestyle she enjoys so much. That means no ex, no drugs, and some pretty toe-curling family therapy. Keyes has given us another rollicking good read, guaranteed to make you snort into your cocktail.
“My comfort reading go-to is Marian Keyes. Her style is warm and friendly, and she makes me feel like a funny and cherished friend is telling me stories about people she knows.” – CristalTipps
How Do You Like Me Now by Holly Bourne
Strikingly accurate, Holly Bourne captures exactly what it's like to be a childless, unmarried woman in your early 30s. Hilarious and perceptive, her portrayal of judgemental peers will have you relating whether you have no children or six; married or single. For any nonconformists out there, it's an absolute must.
“Completely addictive – it's the most enjoyable book I've read in years. I was gutted to turn the last page, and have been on a recommendation rampage ever since.” – Kitty, MNHQ
Tin Man by Sarah Winman
Heart-warming and delicate, Tin Man explores life in all of its colours – touching upon love, death, youth and memory. Poignant and understated, the novel will stay with you for many a summer to come.
“A brilliant book, and perfect for taking on holiday as it has lots of lovely scenes set in France. A truly lovely read about friendship, loss, first love, illness, and Van Gogh.” – Thirtyrock39
Force of Nature by Jane Harper
Five hikers go into a forest, but only four return. What makes matters worse is that they each have a slightly different version of what happened before this vanishing act – revealing a web of secrets, suspicion and lies. Harper writes masterfully, creating an atmosphere of suspense that boils beneath the surface.
“Distinctly unnerving, Force of Nature will have you on constant tenterhooks. An addictive thriller guaranteed to please, it follows Alice as she untangles a web of fraught familial and professional relationships.” – Maria, MNHQ
Deadly Secrets by Robert Bryndza
Perfect if you're after some white-knuckle reading, Deadly Secrets opens with a detective's discovery of her daughter's murder – the body left, for good measure, on her own doorstop. So the hunt for the killer begins – a figure known only for wearing black clothes and a gas mask.
“The sixth book in the fantastic Erika Foster series, this one has it all: a strong leading lady with likeable supporting characters, and a plot that keeps you guessing throughout.” – Abby, MNHQ
The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
Fans of Daphne du Maurier will be entranced by this mystery, set in a crumbling country manor. The widower of the mansion's heir, pregnant Elsie is faced with resentful servants and unwelcoming villagers. And then there's that painting kept behind lock and key, with its eerie figure and the eyes that follow her.
“Utterly brilliant and impossible to put down. Purcell's novel is an authentic homage to the Victorian gothic genre, complete with tragedy, intrigue, shock and an asylum. She dances through three timelines, expertly weaving the stories together to unfurl the truth.” – Amie, MNHQ
Close to Home by Cara Hunter
It's every mother's worst nightmare: at a family party, eight-year-old Daisy disappears without a trace. Apparently, no one knows a thing – but Detective Fawley smells a rat. Genius and gripping, you'll be knocked for six by every twist and turn.
“One of the best crime thrillers I've read. Gripping and unpredictable.” – Abby, MNHQ
Sapiens: A Brief History of the Human Kind by Yuval Noah Harari
Dubbed 'breathtaking' and 'wondrous', Sapiens explores the whole of human history (seriously). Unbelievably, it also manages to do this in an enjoyable and accessible way. So strap in and discover how we became the dominant species, why we have cities and towns, and when we started believing in gods.
“It just makes sense of everything.” – frogsoup
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Written by a Nobel Prize winner, this book offers a fascinating look into the workings of the human mind. You'll come away re-thinking your thinking, and recognising patterns that you never knew were there.
“It totally changed the way I make decisions and how I think things through at work. If everyone read it, we'd all have a bit more clarity.” – CaptainNelson
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozie Adiche
For anyone interested in race and identity, this book is essential reading. Two teenage sweethearts are divided by denied visas and border control – far from the Nigeria they fled from for America and London. Thirteen years later, they have the chance to meet again – but will they take it?
“It made me think anew about feminism and the politics of belonging/not belonging. I don’t like the word ‘woke’ much but that was how I felt after reading it.” – KeithLeMonde
Touching the Void by Joe Simpson
A nail-biting memoir of a successful, but nearly fatal, climb of the mountain Siula Grande. Truly chilling, the story follows Joe as he dangles over a cliff edge, clinging onto a rope with frost-bitten hands. His partner, holding onto the other end, is forced to cut it, but miraculously Joe survives. Now trapped in a crevasse, how will he ever get out?
“It's helped me in situations where I've had to reach deep in order to pull out some bravery.” – BaronessBlonde.
Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed
Funny, moving, and deeply effecting, this true story follows Cheryl as she walks 1100 miles across America – alone. In the wake of her mother's sudden death and the collapse of her marriage, it's all she can do to feel alive.
“Once I started reading this I just couldn’t put it down. I laughed and cried with Cheryl as she made her way across the Pacific Crest Trail, piecing her life together as she rode on the peaks and troughs of a truly epic journey.” – Rachel, MNHQ
The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It's Broken by The Secret Barrister
If you're curious about what happens in court, this book is made for you. Giving a fascinating glimpse into life as a barrister, you'll laugh and cry at the real-life stories that take place before the gavel strikes. It's human nature laid bare.
“Fascinating and horrifying. The anonymous author does an excellent job of explaining how the criminal justice system in England and Wales works, and how it has suffered because of cuts, media lies, and public complacency.” – Scribblybum
Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
It's the 70s in war-torn Rhodesia, and Alexandra Fuller is growing up amongst the chaos. Her family is just as captivating as the landscape – an Africa Fuller writes about with warmth.
“Breathtaking. All her books are worth pouncing on, but this is her masterpiece.” – frogsoup
21 Miles by Jessica Hepburn
Jessica had gone through IVF, miscarriages, and a pregnancy that nearly killed her – so she decided to swim the channel. But before diving in, Jessica wrote to a number of high-profile women with the question: 'Does motherhood make you happy?' The response was unbelievable.
“An amazing, page-turning, jaw-droppingly honest read. In 2-3 pages she might just have summed up the entire truth and meaning of life.” – Sue, MNHQ
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
Winner of the 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction, this extraordinary novel explores family, love, loyalty and faith – and what happens when these factions war. Urgent, political, and transportive, its final chapter will stay with you for life.
“A brave, modern-day reworking of Sophocles' Antigone, Home Fires is a gripping and sometimes uncomfortable read. Shamsie lays bare cultural clashes and interrogates the roles of governments and religions in a world grappling with terrorism. She explores attitudes towards immigrants, the ties of family, and the limits of duty – all through an unflinching, evocative narrative which is delivered with blistering pace. Read it.” – Kiran, MNHQ
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
A New York Times bestseller, Ng weaves a tangled yarn about complex familial relationships, and the disorientating experience of being 'other' in America. Revolving around the death of golden child Lydia, the Lee family splinters apart to find out who could be behind it.
“Astonishingly accomplished for a debut, this novel takes the American family saga and turns it on its head. Ng tackles issues like class, race and love with confidence and style, and leaves no aspect of the suburban American experience unexamined. The result is a profoundly affecting novel that stays with the reader long after its final pages.” – Claire, MNHQ
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
It's late 60s New York, and four young siblings visit a psychic who claims to be able to tell them the date they will all die. Chloe Benjamin shows how this day will shape the rest of their lives forever.
“Utterly absorbing, deeply affecting and thought-provoking. If you're looking for an epic novel then I urge you to read The Immortalists this summer.” – Rachel, MNHQ
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Shortlisted for this year's Women's Prize, this is an intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. It examines the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power – and limitations – of family bonds.
“One of my best reads of the year so far. I found it horrifying and moving – a heart-wrenching and truly emotional read. I feel I’ll need to read it again to fully understand and digest all the different layers.” – Indigosalt
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Deeply profound, A Little Life follows four students from Massachusetts to the bright lights of New York. Penniless and wayward, they're kept afloat by their shared ambition and bond with one another – something that shifts as the decades wear on. Follow them through years of tragedy and success, and become spellbound by Yanagihara's rich and immersive prose.
“The most gut-wrenching thing I have ever read – I spent an entire Sunday in bed sobbing. It stayed with me for weeks afterwards, and I couldn't pick up another book.” – Mupflup
Beloved by Toni Morrison
A 'force of nature' and 'an American masterpiece', Beloved tells the heartbreaking story of Sethe, a slave who escapes to Ohio. Her new life may be full of hope, but it seems that she'll never be free from the memories of a baby she left behind. Buried nameless, the child's tombstone reads 'Beloved'.
“It was the book that hammered home why there is this residual sadness and hostility surrounding race relations in the US.” – stopfuckingshoutingatme
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Written with a deft hand, Honeyman's novel is a moving exploration of loneliness. Fantastically funny, its wit is only matched by its power.
“It’s rare for a book to be so insightful and so, so funny. Honeyman's novel absolutely lives up to the hype it's received – if you've not read it yet, you're missing out.” – Amie, MNHQ
The Woman Who Walked into Doors by Roddy Doyle
Raw and unforgettable, Doors is 'impassioned' and 'compulsively readable'. Set in Dublin, it centres around Paula's pathway to redemption and recovery – from an abusive marriage which drove her to drink.
“Heart-breaking, life-affirming, tragic and hilarious in equal measure. A must-read.” – Spoilsburytoastgirl
The Wife by Meg Wolitzer
Marriage, secrets, and a woman who's finally had enough – The Wife is a 'blithe, brilliant take on sexual politics'. The movie is set to release in August, starring Glenn Close.
“Funny, clever and slightly horrifying.” – sleepingtom
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
Got a thing for the supernatural? You'll be hooked by this tale, set in post-war Warwickshire. A doctor is called out to a patient who lives in the remote, crumbling Hundreds Hall, and finds himself caught up in a sinister state of affairs. The film – featuring Domhnall Gleeson and Charlotte Ramping – is set to release this summer.
“I read this on holiday and was spellbound. The descriptions of the house and characters were fabulous, and I loved the ending. Its ambiguity had me deliberating for days.” – sylvev
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Qwan
Looking for something lighter? Crazy Rich Asians will have you shouting with laughter (something to bear in mind if you're planning to take it on the plane, not that we speak from experience…). Centering around three mega-wealthy families, the chaos begins when Nicholas decides to take his American-born girlfriend to a wedding in Singapore. The film's also due for release this summer.
“Ridiculously fun and over the top. A brilliant summer read about – you guessed it – crazy rich Asians.” – Abby, MNHQ
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
A New York Times bestseller, Little Fires Everywhere centres around the enigmatic Mia and her teenage daughter, Pearl. Moving into the placid and orderly Shaker Heights, Mia's decision to rock the boat changes the shape of the suburb forever. Thrilling, addictive, and deeply psychologial, Reese Witherspoon has snapped up the rights for a mini-series. And if Big Little Lies is anything to go by, it's gonna be a good'un.
“This novel is a masterclass in construction, and it gripped me from the first sentence to the very last word. I greedily devoured every page.” – IslandLiving365, MN bookblogger
Little Fires was our June Book of the Month – read what Celeste Ng said in her live webchat.
Vox by Christina Dalcher
Critically acclaimed, Vox is a harrowing depiction of an alternate universe – one in which women are banned from speaking more than 100 words a day. Bit by bit, women's voices are being robbed from them – but Jean McClellan won't go down without a fight. Set for release in mid-August, make sure you pre-order your copy now – rumour has it that it'll be on everyone's shelf come autumn.
“I've always loved dystopian fiction – and Vox didn't disappoint. Set in a world not a million miles away (but one I'd never want to visit), I loved the way science and linguistics were pulled together to create a fast-paced read about what would happen if women lost the ability to speak their minds. It was definitely a page-turner, and I couldn't put it down until I found out how it ended.” – Hannah, MNHQ
Oryx and Crake Trilogy by Margaret Atwood
If you can't get enough of The Handmaid's Tale, here's another dose of Atwood for you. In the first Oryx and Crake, a man is struggling to survive as perhaps the last human on earth. Venturing into the wilderness, the trilogy takes us on a journey into a disturbingly plausible future – shaped by illness, natural disaster, and genetic engineering.
“Go buy ALL of them and read them. Seriously. Go now. They're three of the most compelling books out there.” – AntoinetteCosway
Eve of Man by Tom Fletcher & Giovanna Fletcher
Can you imagine being the first woman born in 50 years? Eve doesn't have to, and she knows that her community looks to her as their last chance of survival. The man she chooses will change all of humanity's future, but will she make the right choice?
“Set in a dystopian future, each chapter presents a new revelation that leaves you wanting more. The book had me gripped from start to finish, and I already can't wait for the next installment.” – Ellie, MNHQ
The Stand by Stephen King
Hailed as King's 'masterpiece', The Stand imagines a world in which a deadly plague shrinks the human population. The new landscape is one 'stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people'. Mass panic, dividing factions, and struggles for power ensue.
“I'm a total Stephen King nut, but The Stand is so amazing that even if I wasn't I would have recommended it. The story’s fantastic, there are plenty of characters to love/hate/be freaked out by, and the writing is as brilliant as always.” – Heartbrokenmum73
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