The best summer reads

the best summer reads

Writing a prescriptive list of the best summer reads was never going to be plain sailing: one man’s Pemberley, after all, is another man’s punishment, and while there are plenty of us who would happily hit the beach with a doorstop-sized tome on the complete history of Germany, there are plenty more of us who would rather get stung by a jellyfish. 

Instead, we’ve chosen some titles that we think you’re primed to enjoy while soaking up the sun on a lounger, hundreds of miles from work: light-hearted ones that’ll give you a guilt-free giggle, dreamy romantic ones that’ll give you that fuzzy feeling, and the odd gripping narrative – why not, now you’ve got the time to get properly immersed?  

When it comes to using your holiday as an opportunity for self-improvement, it’s hard to beat Joanna Coles’ Love Rules, a sort of DK Eyewitness book for those in search of love in the modern world. For something a little more light-hearted, look to Jasmine Guillory, penner of our best romantic novel for summer 2018, The Wedding Date. There’s lots in between too of course, so don’t hesitate to dive in. 

Love Rules by Joanna Coles

1. Love Rules by Joanna Coles

Find love no matter where in the world you are with this wise practical guide

Best for: Self-improvement | Published: May 2018, Harper Collins | Pages: 256

 Practical steps and advice 

Rather than being swept up in a whirlwind romance on the pages and winding up disgruntled when you close the cover, why not go after your own epic love story this holiday? Love Rules, by former Cosmo and Marie Claire Editor-in-Chief Joanna Coles, is something of a Lonely Planet guidebook for the modern dating scene, one that helps its reader to navigate the murky waters of Tinder, social media, and other, often confusing, dating world developments. Encouraging her readers to avoid the temptation of ‘junk love’, teaching them how to use dating apps effectively, and inviting them to think deeply about what they want from a relationship, Coles’ book is full of practical advice for modern lovers. 

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

2. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Fake date-turned-real long-distance girlfriend – what could go wrong?

Best for: Romance | Published: January 2018, Headline | Pages: 320

Realistic relationship dynamics in an easygoing romance 

Nothing says ‘beach holiday’ like a feel-good romantic novel, and they don’t come much more warm and fuzzy than this new release from Jasmine Guillory. Finding love in unexpected places (in this case, a broken-down lift) is a bit of a time-worn tale, but it hardly matters when the results are so heart-warming. Readers loved the relationship dynamics between protagonists Drew and Alexa, he a former boyfriend looking for a plus-one on the eve of his ex’s wedding, she a last-minute fake girlfriend, both high-flying professionals finding themselves embarking on an unexpected long-distance relationship. Think Gavin and Stacey set on the sunny West Coast.

Tangerine by Christine Mangan

3. Tangerine by Christine Mangan

Claustrophobic, immersive, and utterly gripping

Best for: Gripping drama | Published: March 2018, Little Brown Book Group | Pages: 320

Will keep you guessing 

When veteran novelist Joyce Carol Oates describes a book as akin to a Hitchcock screenplay penned by the world’s best female crime authors, you know it’s one to go right to the top of the reading pile. If you like your holiday reading gripping, and have already memorised every line of Gone Girl and dog-eared every Du Maurier novel, you may want to give this a try. Set in 1950s Morocco, and hinged on the story of new resident Alice Shipley, it’s an extraordinary psychological thriller, in which, following an unexpected meeting with an old friend and her husband going missing, Alice begins to question everything about her new life, including her own sanity. 

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

4. The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

A timely tale of intergenerational feminism that doesn’t labour on the politics

Best for: Character-led | Published: June 2018, Vintage | Pages: 464

Great, fleshed-out characters

If you often find yourself frustrated by two-dimensional heroines and stock love interests, grab yourself a character-driven novel for your next holiday, like this New York Times bestseller and Book at Bedtime from Meg Wolitzer. The Female Persuasion tells the story of wallflower college student Greer, whose chance encounter with captivating women’s movement leader Faith Frank charts a change of course that sees her veering away from what she knows – the future she imagined for herself, her high school sweetheart – and down a dizzying new path. For realistically drawn, beautifully realised, sympathetic  

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

5. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

The oft-told tale of wrongful imprisonment, but with a tight focus on family

Best for: Instant classic | Published: April 2018, Oneworld | Pages: 320

 Refocuses current affairs on a personal level 

A book that both feels fresh and gives the impression it’s always been at the very heart of the canon is a difficult thing to achieve, but rave reviews of Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage suggest she has managed just that. The book follows the story of newlyweds Celestial and Roy who, allowed the benefit of hindsight by the book, foreshadow the devastating events that are to befall them with painful poignancy. Wide-reaching in its retelling of the black experience in today’s South, very much of the moment, and yet incredibly intimate, it tells the story of a wrongful imprisonment that leaves Celestial rudderless in its aftermath, and shines a light on the intricacies and small, delightful of marriage. 

Meaty by Samantha Irby

6. Meaty by Samantha Irby

Meditations on modern adulthood, including some meaty subjects

Best for: Laugh-out-loud | Published: April 2018, Vintage | Pages: 272

Bite-sized observances for easy pickup 

If you don’t have the time between exciting day trips and glamorous dinners to devour a whole 500-page novel, then something split up into bite-sized chunks can come in very handy indeed. That’s not to say that you won’t feel the temptation to gulp down all of Samantha Irby’s essays in one go, of course. This first essay collection from the New York Times-bestselling author bursts with observations on adulthood struggles that will be all too familiar to many of us: neuroses, bad relationships, taco binges, depression, chin hairs and digestive disorders among them. For something that’ll make you laugh out loud in guilty bursts, they don’t come much better. 

The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin

7. The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin

At turns rib-tickling and bittersweet, this medical dramedy puts female friendships to the forefront

Best for: Dramedy | Published: February 2018, Berkley | Pages: 352

Both touching and funny 

The many delicate complexities of female relationships can be hard to commit to paper, but Kimmery Martin aces it in The Queen of Hearts, the story of two long-time friends and doctors whose relationship is threatened when an old acquaintance returns, and brings with them from the past a potentially devastating secret. Fans of Scrubs are sure to recognise, and love, the combination of hilarity and poignancy that results from the foregrounding of relationships against the day-to-day dramas and challenges of life in a hospital, and the characters who inhabit that space. 

The High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews

8. The High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews

Two timelines, a murder, and a terminal millionairess. Oh, and a beach.

Best for: A very beachy read | Published: June 2018, St Martin’s Press | Pages: 448

Great sense of place; the ultimate beach read 

When combing for beach reads, it’s hard to beat a book about the beach. But while Mary Kay Andrews is widely considered queen of the genre, The High Tide Club actually takes something of an unexpected turn, which is entirely to its (and its author’s) credit. With dual timelines and multiple narrators to contend with, it’s far from casual consumable sun-lounger fodder, but that’s certainly not to say it’s tough going. With wonderful characters, masterfully built tension, an incredible sense of place, and a story full of revelations, it’s easy to see why this book makes our list. 

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Not everyone loves a novel, so why not plumb our list of the best nonfiction books for inspiration?