12 Best Books of Summer 2021: Reads for the Road or at Home

The books to add to your summer 2021 reading list. Expect hyped-about debut novels, memoirs and non-fiction that will make you think twice about bodies, money and love.

Titles to add to your TBR list. Equal parts escapist and engaging, our pick of books is as good for stuffing in a carry-on as keeping you occupied on a staycation road trip (provided you're not the one driving) or simply hunkering down in a sun-trap spot at home.

We've got can't-read-them-fast-enough thrillers, memoirs that tug at the heartstrings and non-fiction opening up conversations around bodies, money and love.

Thrillers, memoirs and thought-provoking non-fiction: books to read in summer 2021

Detransition, Baby

by Torrey Peters

Following three trans and cis women living in New York, Detransition Baby tackles taboo questions around motherhood and unconventional family making in the 21st century. It's deeply moving, messy and, at times, brilliantly funny.

Open Water

by Caleb Azumah Nelson

Against an artful portrait of London, this modern love story between two Black British artists - a young photographer and his dancer girlfriend - is interwoven with themes of race and vulnerability. How can they be tender in a world that forces Black people to be tough?


by Olivia Laing

Subtitled "A Book About Freedom", Everybody celebrates the human body as a private source of pleasure and pain, but also as a public vehicle that can resist oppression and reshape the world. The Lonely City author draws on her own experience as well as compelling historical figures: Nina Simone, Sigmund Freud and Malcolm X.

We Need to Talk About Money

by Otegha Uwagba

Money is a topic that's often off limits in everyday discourse, but Uwagba's latest book opens up the conversation. It's part memoir, part socio-political commentary. She explores her own ups and downs with money as well as toxic workplaces, pay rises, the beauty tax, invisible labour and more.

Conversations on Love

by Natasha Lunn

Lovers. Strangers. Parents. Friends. Endings. Beginnings. In this series of conversations - a book born from her newsletter of the same name - Lunn asks: how do we find love? How do we keep it? And how do we cope when we lose it? Expect insights from Dolly Alderton on vulnerability, Alain de Botton on the psychology of being alone and Roxane Gay on redefining romance.

Somebody’s Daughter

by Ashley C. Ford

Writer and podcaster Ford had a complicated childhood. She was a poor, Black girl in Indiana, who had a bad relationship with her mother and a father in jail - though she didn't know why. In the aftermath of her own rape, she finds out. This poignant memoir is her search for meaning in the chaos.

The Five Wounds

by Kirstin Valdez Quade

Unemployed Amadeo Padilla is preparing to play Jesus in a Holy Week procession in a small New Mexican town when his pregnant daughter Angel shows up. The baby is born and five generations of the Padillas come together, including Tio Tive, keeper of the family's history. One for fans of Jonathan Franzen.

Crying in H Mart

by Michelle Zauner

Family, food and grief are the backbone of this memoir from the singer/ songwriter behind Japanese Breakfast. The premise: Zauner visits a Korean supermarket after her mother's death. A short, but powerful memoir that spirits you between Oregon, the East Coast and Seoul.

Gunk Baby

by Jamie Marina Lau

Consumerism and middle-class boredom get a roasting Lau's second novel. The setting? Suburban Par Mars. Think shiny shopping centres, manicured estates and thematically designed neighbourhoods. Protagonist Leen is opening an ear-cleaning and massage studio, but finds herself involved in a community intent on disrupting capitalism.

A Slow Fire Burning

by Paula Hawkins

A whodunit that'll have you whizzing cover to cover to find out which of three women - Laura, Miriam and Carla - have blood on their hands after a horrific murder. Like this? Put Erin Kelly's Watch Her Fall, a psychological thriller about a ballet rivalry, on your to-read list.

Still Life

by Sarah Winman

The author behind When God Was a Rabbit transports us between wartime Tuscany, Florence and London's East End in this decade-hopping love story. It starts in 1944, when Ulysses Temper, a young British soldier, meets sexagenarian art historian (and potential spy) Evelyn Skinner in a ruined wine cellar. Tissues at the ready.

The Other Black Girl

by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Thriller meets social commentary. In the oh-so white (and, in this case, sinister) world of book publishing, editorial assistant Nella Rogers is her company's only Black employee. That is until Harlem born-and-raised Hazel joins the team. Talk soon turns from hair-care regimens to hostile messages.

Discover More
21 of the Best Destinations to Visit in 2021