If your morning commute needs an injection of escapism, or you’re searching for your next beach page-turner, we’ve found some of the best Summer reads.
1. The hot debut
Bleaker House: Chasing My Novel To The End Of The World by Nell Stevens (Picador)
A real hybrid of a read: part novel, part memoir, part travelogue, this engaging debut follows Nell Stevens’ quest to discover what it takes to become a writer. Determined to finally write a novel, Stevens decides that an uninhabited remote island in the Falklands is the perfect location to do so.
What follows is a three-month period of self-imposed isolation in a challenging environment, and a book that turns out very differently to Stevens’ plan. Original, witty and absorbing, Bleaker House is more like a collection of incidents and anecdotes than a considered entity, but extremely interesting for it.
2. The thrilling page-turner
The Good People by Hannah Kent (Picador)
The highly anticipated second novel from bestselling author Hannah Kent has finally arrived and it doesn’t disappoint. Based on true events in a 19th century Irish village gripped by folklore and superstition, this is a pacy thriller.
Protagonist Nora experiences the sudden death of her husband in the place the village buries its suicides: just the first of many unexplained events in the valley. In quick succession, a child is stillborn, cows produce bad milk and a woman sets herself on fire. Portraying the frightening malice borne of superstition during this era, the village increasingly points the finger of blame at Nora’s disabled four-year-old grandson, believed to be a changeling child and omen of bad luck.
You’ll turn the pages with increasing horror as the remedies given to the boy become harsher, and Nora finds herself in conflict with the powers that be.
3. The touching life guide
The 50 Things: Lessons For When You Feel Lost, Love Dad by Peter Dunne (Trapeze)
As author Peter Dunne’s 50th birthday looms, he becomes aware that his legacy is not of global significance. He nonetheless has fathered three children, and sets out to provide them with a guide to his thoughts on particular subjects. The result is this delightful, astute and adroit guide to social mores and morality in the 21st century.
Peppered with anecdotes and recalling significant events in his life, Peter has divined the 50 key topics every father should discuss with their children. Accessible, and deceptively simple, our reviewer fully intends to discuss each and every subject with his 18-year-old daughter, before she embarks on adult life.
4. The soothing self-help guide
Happy by Fearne Cotton (Orion)
We all have days – or even weeks – where we feel life is getting on top of us: you might feel behind at work, perhaps social media is making you compare your life to others’, or, maybe you can’t quite pinpoint why, but you just feel a little bit lost.
This colourful book will help you find a new outlook; one that celebrates joy every day, letting go of the unachievable ‘perfect’ ideal. Filled with recipes, breathing exercises, coping tips, uplifting playlists and more, it’s easy to dip into – making it the perfect read for the plane home from your holiday, so, landing back in reality is something you won’t dread.
5. The matchmaker’s dream
Marriages Are Made In Bond Street by Penrose Halson (Pan Macmillan)
Long before Tinder there was a face-to-face matchmaking service in Bond Street. For those seeking companionship during the difficult war years – despite facing rationing, blackouts and the Blitz – a nation of singles were in search of true love. From lonely middle-aged farmers to Vivien Leigh lookalikes, great swathes of the population were looking for The One.
This delightful account by one of the women who worked at the bureau is a frank, sometimes heartbreaking and often riotous, account of what people came looking for and – in most cases – the happiness they found. For readers with romantic inclinations, this glimpse into the dating world of yesteryear is a charming read.
6. The non-fiction must-read
Les Parisiennes by Anna Sebba (Orion)
In June 1940, Paris was occupied by the Germans – and, for the women of Paris, life was never the same again. Sebba has sought out and interviewed survivors and their relatives to bring these women’s unique testimonials eloquently to life.
The great success of this book is how Sebba seamlessly and skillfully weaves together the individual narratives of extraordinary bravery and defiance against a vivid account of the brutality of the Second World War. A compelling read which reminds us that history and humanity have a complicated relationship.
7. The short-story alternative
Swimmer Among The Stars: Stories by Kanishk Tharoor (Picador)
Looking for a book that will stimulate you, but don’t have the time for a novel? This collection of imaginative short stories is just what you need. Drawing equally from ancient history and current events, these world-spanning stories explore contemporary challenges surrounding environmental collapse and cultural appropriation, but also the origins of legends and their timeless human truths.
Delve into an interview with the last speaker of a language; absorb yourself in the chronicle of the final week of a town that is to be razed to the ground by an invading army; join the lonely voyage of an elephant from Kerala to a princess’ palace in Morocco – and much more. Each and every tale is a captivating reminder that, through sharing stories, civilisations and their subjects can always come together.
8. The thought-provoking novella
The End We Start From by Megan Hunter (Pan Macmillan)
If you’ve been glued to the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale (or are simply a fan of dystopian fiction) this short debut by Megan Hunter will have you racing to the final page.
Set in a futuristic world, the unnamed narrator – who becomes a new mother as London becomes an uninhabitable city submerged by floodwaters – must use her wits and wiles to protect herself and her baby boy, Z. All the more beautiful for its sparse prose, which only serves to illuminate the moments of brilliance in Hunter’s descriptive style, the short story traces her journey through food shortages, violence and more, as she flees the family home. Going from shelter to shelter, the real poignancy lies in the tussle with not only the terrifying territory of new motherhood, but also the ever-present and foreboding backdrop of a world on the brink of the unknown.
9. The healthy cook’s must-have
Raw Cake by Daisy Kristiansen and Leah Garwood-Gowers
This is a book for those with an exceptionally sweet tooth, but who are looking to cut out refined sugar from their diet. These writers – known as The Hardihood – create nutritious confectionery that will delight even the most dedicated of dessert-lovers.
From tasty raw treats to quick pudding pots, explore these ‘clean’ options as delicious substitutes for the regular sugar-packed alternatives. Packed with stylish techniques to give your dishes an Instagram-worthy flourish, this may just become your most-reached-for book of Summer entertaining. Our favourite recipe? The Salted Chocolate Chickpea Torte – it’s to die for.
10. The pool-side thriller
The Girl Friend by Michelle Frances
From Lady Macbeth to Cleopatra, the femme fatale is a trope as old as literature itself. Cherry is cut from similar cloth: enigmatic yet charming, beautiful yet sociopathic, she’s a troubled social-climber with her sights firmly set on Daniel, the wealthy son of wary protagonist Laura, against whom she has an unexplained vendetta. When tragedy strikes the new couple, Laura acts in desperation with an unforgivable lie – one that will inextricably alter the course of all their lives.
A former BBC script editor, Frances’ debut has all the hallmarks of a tightly wound TV drama: a frenetic pace, exotic locales and a strong emotional beat throughout. With gasp-inducing twists, it’s the perfect poolside read – ideally devoured in an afternoon, stretched out on a sunlounger.
Choose from our comfy chairs, handy tables, soft lighting and cosy throws – everything you need to set up your perfect reading session at home. Plus, our garden hammock – ideal for outdoor relaxation.