The best summer reads 2020
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; ultimate beach reads or sci-fi, these are the books you need to crack open. Bye bye, social life
The best books to read this summer
Set yourself a summer reading challenge? Just need a book or two to take on the plane? Well we've got a whole stack recommended by Mumsnetters and us here at MNHQ – 28 summer reads, in fact.
So what are you in the mood for?
The Lido by Libby Page
A Sunday Times bestseller, this one's got more glowing reviews than you can shake a stick at. A heartwarming story of female friendship, 26 year old Kate and 86 year old Rosemary form an unlikely alliance when their lido is threatened with closure. If you're looking for an uplifting read, this one's for you.
“I really enjoyed this book, mainly because of the friendship between the older lady and the younger woman. I wish there were more opportunities for peoples' lives to cross in this way – both sides have something to offer the other. I also really liked the way the story moved between past and present – like swimming from the shallow end to the deep end and back.” – ShirleyAvenue
Did you read our webchat with the author?
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
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Looking for some light, romantic summer reading? Well, according to her mother, it's time for Stella to settle down. Wealthy and successful, her Aspergers makes analysing data easy. Dating, on the other hand, is more difficult. To overcome her lack of experience, Stella hires a male escort. The man in question, Michael, has a no repeat customer policy – but the more time he spends with her, the more this policy comes into question…
“If you fancy a full-on love story that requires no brain power, but will probably have you blushing and swooning on the train, this one's for you.” – Kemi, MNHQ
44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith
A much-beloved series that started as a serial in The Scotsman, it's hard not to be charmed by the residents of Edinburgh's Scotland Street. Dip in and out of the lives of long-suffering five-year-old Bertie, his pushy mother Irene, the intellectual Domenica, and 20-year-old Pat. This is enjoyable, life-affirming reading at its best.
“I'd recommend the 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith. I read all 10 back to back and found them so calming and ridiculous as well as funny, touching and sweet. A real feel-good series.” – Itsanicehotel
A Book of Bones by John Connolly
A new instalment in the Charlie Parker series, A Book of Bones is a globetrotting, compulsive summer read, brimming with mystery and suspense. A mixture of crime and the supernatural, the story starts with the discovery of a young woman's body near the site of a vanished church. Her death is a sacrifice and a summons – but to what?
“At 700 pages I had to neglect a lot of housework but, oh my, it's glorious!” – Saucery
The Hunting Party by Lucy Forley
Released to clamorous praise, this thriller quickly became a Sunday Times bestseller. At a house in the Scottish wilderness, a murder occurs among friends. Everyone's a suspect and no one can be trusted. It'll keep you guessing (and awake) until the last page.
“Good storyline with genuinely loathsome characters, set in the brooding Highlands.” – tripfiction
“I really loved The Hunting Party. Great if you're a fan of domestic thrillers.” – StealthPolarBear
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Winner of the Costa First Novel Award, this is another book people can't stop raving about. Hailed as 'Gosford Park meets Groundhog Day by way of Agatha Christie and Black Mirror', the premise is compellingly unique. Evelyn Hardcastle, young and beautiful, is killed and – until he works out whodunnit – Aiden must live and re-live the day of the murder. The other twist? Every time Aiden wakes up, he wakes up in the body of a different guest.
“I absolutely loved it. I thought it was so clever and could just imagine the author having hundreds of post-its around him to keep track. We read it at my book club and everyone loved it.” – Hippychickster
What's Left Unsaid by Deborah Stone
Sasha has a lot on her plate. She's raising a teenage son, coping with an absent partner, and also taking care of her alcoholic, temperamental mother. So it isn't easy when her son begins to suspect that he has a secret sibling, causing her to come face-to-face with a traumatic event she's spent nearly twenty years trying to forget. Just read the first few pages and you'll be sucked into the mystery of what really happened that night.
“This is a terrific book – all about secrets and lies in the family.” – royguts
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 summer reading 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.
Everything You Ever Wanted by Luiza Sauma
Everyone fantasizes about an escape from their life from time to time (especially when at soft play), but – given the chance – would you move to another planet? A life there will be meaningful, and free from so many of the downsides of the modern world. But if you go, you can't come back. Would leaving this world be worth the risk?
“Very touching. It delves into the lengths you might go to to change up the monotony of life, and the price you'd be willing to pay to do this. I really liked how, on the face of it, the book's about going into outer space, but it's equally about the inner life of the protagonist.” – Stella, 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
Hard Pushed by Leah Hazard
Ever wondered what being a midwife is like? Leah Hazard offers an unflinching look into the day-to-day realities of working on an NHS ward. From the heart-wrenching to the joyful, her patients' stories will stick with you for life.
“I loved this book! I really enjoyed getting a real-life peer into the job and what being a midwife is like.” – puzzledpandacorn
Check out our webchat with the author.
This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay
You've probably heard of this book already. Winner of Book of the Year, Non-fiction Book of the Year and New Writer of the Year, it's another 'no-holds-barred account of time on the NHS front line'. At times hilarious, at others horrifying, it gives essential insight into the life of a doctor.
“Reading this made me think back to the times I've been in hospital and wonder whether the nurses/doctors/midwives were missing any special events that day while they were caring for me instead. Caring for my poorly babies instead of kissing their own goodnight. It's truly eye-opening and humbling.” – ReginaOcarina
“I thought it was superb. Very funny but a real eye-opener.” – Holidayshopping
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
After The End by Clare Mackintosh
Max and Pip have the most difficult decision of all. With a three-year-old with an inoperable brain tumour, they need to decide whether to continue his life support – and they don't agree. Powerful, devastating, and completely immersive.
“You may know Clare best for her fantastic thriller books, but After The End is a very different read. Max and Pip are faced with the unimaginable – their three year old son has an inoperable brain tumour and the pair need to decide whether to continue life support. This isn't an easy read, but it's beautifully written.” – Abby, MNHQ.
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 matched only 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
Normal People by Sally Rooney
It's pretty clear that no one can get enough of Sally Rooney. The follow-up to her acclaimed Conversations with Friends, Normal People is quieter, more intimate, and more bleak. Set in Ireland over the course of several years, we watch the development of Connell and Marianne's relationship. But it's as much about this as it is about their turbulent inner lives and a moving portrait of the pains of growing up.
“Oh, I loved it. It made me think back to being young and caring for things intensely and getting things wrong.” – LadyWithLapdog
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.
“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
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
One summer in Warwickshire after the War, a doctor is called to Hundreds Hall. The once grand Georgian house is in crumbling disrepair, but Dr Faraday begins to suspect that it's not just this plaguing the owners. Gripping and utterly spine-chilling, it's no surprise that the film rights were snapped up.
“The book is an absolute joy, to the point that I nearly didn't see the film because I didn't want to spoil it. It's such a rich story.” – Womaningreen
“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
The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
Masterfully spun, this tale follows Elsie – newly married, pregnant, and now widowed – as she ventures to her late husband's crumbling mansion. Why is there a locked room in her new home? And why does it contain a two-hundred-year-old diary with a painted wooden figure – a figure who looks chillingly like herself? Prepare to be unsettled…
“I’m not a huge ghost story fan but I loved The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell. It’s a historical piece split across Victorian and Tudor times. Beautifully written with a genuinely spine-tingling ending.” – Ulysses
- All prices correct at the time of publication -
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