15 Brilliant Books to Read this Summer

Thu, 23 May 2019
summer-books-suitcase-reading-literary

Swimming costume? Check. Sun cream? Got it. Page-turner? Look no further. Featuring feminist dystopias, reimagined histories and a few life lessons, these are the books we’ll be cramming in our carry ons, parading on the beach and not putting down this summer.

HOT TIP: When ordering books, have them delivered straight to your hotel to save on oh-so precious luggage space and weight.

I’m Sorry I’m Late; I Didn’t Want to Come by Jessica Pan

Sitting in the well-worn crease of her sofa, Jess has just turned 30 and is pondering what life might have been had she only been an extrovert. Billed as “introvert’s misadventures in extroverting”, I’m Sorry I’m Late follows the author’s year of gregarious challenges – solo travel, improv, talking to strangers on the tube – with painful hilarity. In our world of JOMO (joy of missing out), this book might make us all try (and sometimes fail) to be that little bit braver.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

It’s the year 2000 in this raved-about novel. Young, attractive and living off her inheritance on the Upper East Side, an unnamed narrator dabbles in narcotic hibernation, aided by Yellow-Pages quack Dr Tuttle. Will the protagonist emerge from her pharmaceutical chrysalis as a person who embraces the world, or will she still feel alienated from it?

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Loved Fleabag? Read this novel about British-Jamaican journalist Queenie, as she navigates her 20s and tries to fit in to two worlds that don’t really understand her. Darkly comic and subversively political, the book touches on hot topics – mental health, work, relationships – to create a nuanced exploration of Black British womanhood what it means to be a modern woman in search of meaning.

The Farm by Joanne Ramos

In New York’s Hudson Valley a luxury retreat offers organic meals, PTs, daily massages, everything – for free. The catch? For nine months you can’t leave. Cut off from your former life, you’re dedicated to producing the perfect baby for someone else and monitored in the process. A 2019 take on The Handmaid’s Tale, The Farm brings into question ideas of motherhood, capitalism, class and the extremes we’ll go to to protect our futures.

Calypso by David Sedaris

Billed as “beach reading for people who detest beaches [and] required reading for those who loathe small talk”, Sedaris’s 10th collection of essays is characteristically hilarious yet heartbreaking, misanthropic yet warm. Regaling us with stories based around the Sea Section, his oceanfront vacation home in North Carolina, the so-called “American Alan Bennett” is unable to take a vacation from his own middle-agedness and mortality.

Multi-Hyphen Method by Emma Gannon

Evolving definitions of success and technology are changing our lives at lightning speed. Forget the outdated stigma of being a jack of all trades, having many strings to your bow is the key to getting ahead in our modern working world. Gannon encourages us to channel our entrepreneurial spirits and live more fulfilled, financially healthy lives. Work less; create more. This is essential reading for the business-savvy digital age.

Comfort Zones by Sonder & Tell

Yomi Adegoke, Poorna Bell and Pandora Sykes are among 28 women writers that have contributed to this boundary-pushing anthology. Curated by Sonder & Tell and published by Jigsaw, this series of essays, letters and stories sees writers step out of their comfort zones and tackle themes and forms new to them. All profits go to Women for Women International, a charity that supports women living in conflict-ridden locations.

Educated by Tara Westover

Tara Westover grew up preparing for the End of Days. She didn’t have a birth certificate. She didn’t go to school or hospital. According the state and federal government, she didn’t exist. Her struggle for education takes her far from Idaho to Harvard and Cambridge. This is a story of self-invention, of fierce family loyalty, even fiercer loss, and of the willfulness to see from a new perspective. You won’t be able to put it down.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

It’s hard to ignore a book that comes with both Oprah and Barack Obama’s seal of approval. An American Marriage is a moving study of Celestial and Roy, a young, newlywed African-American couple and their turmoil following Roy’s 12-year sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. Probing issues of love, loyalty, race and justice, it’s an intimate portrayal of the souls who must reckon with the past to move forward.

Silence of the Girls by Pat Parker

A searing twist on Homer’s The Iliad, this book reframes the Trojan War – and perhaps history’s greatest epic – through the voices of women caught up in the conflict. Charting the experiences of Briseis, a queen-turned-concubine, this is an eye-opening novel that highlights to the power of those able to tell stories, and why it matters.

Milkman by Anna Burns

Winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2018 (and shortlisted for a host of other awards), Anna Burns’ coming-of-age novel offers a satirical yet disquieting portrayal of Troubles-era Northern Ireland. Written from the perspective of a bookish 18-year-old woman forced into a relationship with a senior paramilitary, this is a story in which hearsay and half-truths fuel power and fear.

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

This dystopian novel is set in a counterfactual 1982. Britain has lost the Falklands War; Tony Benn is challenging Thatcher for office; JFK is alive; Alan Turning has masterminded a new generation of artificial humans. As readers follow the love triangle between Charlie, Miranda and Adam, one of the first synthetic humanoids (Eve had sold out) we are faced with morally complex questions surrounding consciousness, desire and what it is that makes us human.

Ordinary People by Diana Evans

It’s 2008, the night of Obama’s inauguration. In South London two couples are navigating the landscape of mixed-race, middle class, midlife malaise as the fabric of their settled-for lives begins to unravel. Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019, Ordinary People is an intimate, insightful and sparkling portrayal of sex and grief, friendship and ageing, parenthood and the fragile architecture of love.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Making music is never just about making music. This heady oral history of the excesses of 70s rock ‘n’ roll is one you’ll be forcing your friends/ colleagues/ neighbours/ people sat next to you on the tube to read. It’s so good, it’s already being made into a 13-episode binge-worthy series by Reese Witherspoon’s production company, Hello Sunshine. Just make sure you read it first.

Spring by Ali Smith

What unites Katherine Mansfield, Charlie Chaplin, Brexit and Beethoven? Spring. If you read Smith’s Autumn and Winter (or even if you didn’t) the third instalment of her Seasonal Quartet is equal parts consoling and inspiring. Riffing on Shakespeare’s Pericles, it seeks to open the door when around us is a world of walls.

TITLES ON OUR RELEASE RADAR

Remember when – in pyjamas, some time around dawn – you queued outside your local bookshop waiting for the latest copy of Harry Potter? That’s what we’re doing for these upcoming titles. Well, pre-ordering at the very least.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

– 4 June

Fleischman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akne

– 18 June

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

– 27 June

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

– 9 July

Stay and Fight by Madeleine Ffitch

– 9 July

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

– 16 July

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