The top 10 books of the summer
Don't pack your suitcase or load up your Kindle until you've checked out our 10 best books to get stuck into on holiday.
Prepping for a holiday isn’t top of my list of fun tasks – another 8 page to-do list? Great! But there is one exception to the rule; one part of this herculean task that I’m fully on board with – choosing my sun-lounger reads. It’s one of life’s small pleasures, no? I like to cover all bases and so include books I missed earlier in the year to catch up on alongside shiny new ones; established authors and debut writers, plus a carefully calibrated mix of fiction, memoir and self-help. Here are 10 of 2019’s best – all you need to do now is gag the children* and flop on the nearest sun-lounger.
(*Hi social services! That’s a joke. I’d never do that, obviously.)
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Eat Pray Love author hits the jackpot again with this epic novel set in 1940s New York. They may be constrained by societal norms of the day but Gilbert’s girls just wanna have fun, especially our heroine Vivienne who escapes her stuffy family to work as a seamstress in hedonistic theatreland. Think bright lights, big city – and lots of sex. Oh yes!
Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
One to read before the 13-part TV adaptation hits our screens – Reese Witherspoon snaffled the rights and if it’s good enough for her… It tracks the rise and fall of the fictional Daisy, frontwoman of a ’70s Californian rock band (think Fleetwood Mac). A compelling retro rock’n’roll tale.
How Was It For You? by Virginia Nicholson
I’ve read every book going on ’60s pop culture and they tend to be focussed on The Beatles, The Stones and photographers like David Bailey. Blokes, basically. But this well-researched, impeccably detailed social history tells the story of the women who came of age in the grooviest of decades.
Cape May by Chip Creek
Great Gatsby geeks will find lots to love in this ridiculously assured debut. It follows the nocturnal adventures of a group of young party animals in a 1950s New Jersey seaside resort. It teems with gin cocktails, sex and bad decisions – my kinda novel.
Flex by Annie Auerbach
Holidays are often the time when we have epiphanies about our lives and this diddy self-help book is the perfect prompt for pondering your lot while lazing on a sun-lounger. It’s about how to approach your work, relationships, mind and future in a more flexible way – I interviewed its very clever author here.
What Red Was by Rosie Price
Wannabe film-maker Kate meets Max at university and is beguiled by his wealthy, boho family. But her life is thrown into disarray when she’s attacked by one of his clan. This stark, clever, thoroughly modern novel unpicks themes of toxic masculinity, class, privilege and sexual violence.
Expectation by Anna Hope
If Sally Rooney’s mega-hit Normal People was a generation-defining account of twentysomething relationships, this thoughtful novel, tracing the lives of three friends, Hannah, Cate and Lissa, is about what happens next. You know, when all the youthful navel-gazing and “Who am I?” stuff transmutes into “Er, is this it?” in your thirties and beyond.
Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls
Basically, I’ll read anything written by the author of One Day. This ’90s-set coming-of-age story has cockles-warming nostalgia in spades as it tracks the troubled life of teenager Charlie, whose world tilts when he meets Fran. It’s published on 11 July just in time to be this summer’s sun-lounger mega-hit.
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
Gillian Anderson is a fan of this buzz book of the summer, as is Dave Eggers – so we’re in too. US journalist Taddeo spent eight years shadowing three women, Lina, Maggie and Sloane, for this evocative account of the sex lives and desires of ordinary women. Intense and gorgeously written.
Brave Not Perfect by Reshma Saujani
This kickass New Yorker, TED Talker and founder of amazing non-profit Girls Who Code is on a mission to get women to stop chasing perfectionism and be bold in their decision making. Sounds like a worthy read? Nah, it’s an engaging mix of compelling memoir and straight-talking advice.