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Jun 05, 2023

The Best Summer Reads of All Time

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Summer might just be our favourite time of year. Blue skies, warm weather; the perfect time to escape into a good book. But what to read? We’ve put together a list of some of our favourite summer reads from over the years, giving you some inspiration for your summer reading list.

There are cult classics that simply everyone must read, travel books to inspire the adventurer in you, and romance novels for anyone who fancies a bit of a holiday romance. We’ve even got quick holiday reads for those of you who may be more interested in Pina Coladas than reading. Check out the best summer books below.

 

Classic Summer Books

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Slip some of these classic summer reads into your hand luggage and you won’t be able to put them down.

- On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)

No summer reading list would be complete without Jack Kerouac’s cult classic On the Road. Sal Paradise follows his friend Dean Moriarty travelling city to city, town to town across 1950s America. A rejection of the clean-collared lifestyle most middle-class men were expected to live, which inspired a generation to do the same.

- The Beach by Alex Garland (1996)

You may have seen the film, but have you read the book? Richard is a 20-something British backpacker who arrives in Thailand and is told about a beach; a hidden Eden that few know about. But how long can it really stay a utopia, as more and more people join? Garland sets the scene perfectly and makes you feel as though you’re trekking through Thailand yourself.

- Atonement by Ian McEwan (2001)

Our story starts in 1935 when 13-year-old Briony witnesses her older sister flirting with a young servant. She takes rash action, which has unintended consequences and leaves her grappling with guilt for the next 60 years. McEwan’s masterful writing will completely absorb you in this modern classic.

 

Best Summer Travel Books

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Satisfy your sense of wanderlust this summer with these brilliant travel books. A mix of memoirs and travel guides, which will inspire you to book your next trip.

- As They Were by M. K. Fisher (1983)

Fisher’s prose is as delicious as the dishes she writes about. As They Were is a collection of essays following Fisher across the globe, charting her memories and experiences through food. One of the greatest food writers of all time, this book will give you an appreciation for the pleasure of dining. After all, you can’t truly experience a culture until you have shared a meal there.

- The Bird Man and The Lap Dancer by Eric Hansen (2004)

You can get a sense of the wild and wonderful stories in this book just from the title. Hansen has travelled the world and met many interesting characters along the way. He has birdwatched with topless dancers in California and held dying men in Calcutta. Stories range from the scandalous to the heart wrenching, and show the human experience in all its varied glory.

- Wild Swim by Kate Rew and Dominick Tyler (2008)

Wild Swim picks out the very best wild swimming spots across Britain, with beautiful accompanying photography by Dominick Tyler. There are over 300 swimming spots, from sea and rivers, to lakes and lidos. Rew intertwines wonderful personal stories throughout the book, recalling the people she’s met along her journey. This book will leave you itching to get outside and dive headfirst into the nearest pool of water.

- The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell (2015)

When Russell’s husband gets a new job in Denmark she moves with him, set upon finding out why Denmark is the happiest country on Earth. Dark winters and cold weather; surely they don’t have much to smile about? She looks at childcare, education, food, taxes, sexism and more to find out why the Danes are so happy. Anyone who wants to visit Denmark or who has an interest in sociology would enjoy this lighthearted read.

 

Best Summer Romance Books

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Summer is the perfect time for a holiday romance, real or otherwise. These books have everything you could ask of a romance novel; the ideal holiday read.

- Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino (2015)

Before We Were Strangers captures the complexities of modern relationships. How miscommunication can pull people apart, even when they are desperately in love. Matt and Grace were each other’s first love and when they reconnect 15 years later, their lives may have changed but their feelings have not. A romance novel that we could root for.

- Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (2021)

Malibu Rising follows the famous Riva family, with an interesting look at family dynamics as well as romantic relationships. The story flits between two timelines: one set in the 1980s following the Riva siblings; the other set in the 1950s following their parents, Mick and June. As the Riva’s host their infamous summer party, there are dramatic revelations throughout the night and their home is up in flames by the morning. It’s not hard to see why this is a BookTok favourite.

- People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry (2021)

Poppy and Alex have been best friends for years, going on holiday together every year. Until they fell out two years ago. Poppy wants to fix their friendship, lay everything on the table and right some wrongs, with one more holiday together. Their fun, playful banter will make you smile, in Henry’s typical style. The perfect summer read around the pool.

- Love and Olives by Jenna Evans Welch (2020)

This is a slow-burner, with a fascinating subplot about Atlantis. Liv’s father left her years ago, so she’s surprised to receive a letter from him inviting her to Greece. He’s close to proving his theories about Atlantis and wants her alongside him. His handsome young protegee Theo also throws romance into the mix. This is as much a love letter to Greece as anything else.

 

Best Quick Summer Reads

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Want a book that you can read between sips of your Strawberry Daiquiri? Here are our best quick summer reads, which you can quite easily finish in one holiday.

- Watchmen by Alan Moore (1987)

Often touted as the best graphic novel of all time, Watchmen doesn’t disappoint. A group of superheroes are stalked by an unknown assassin, revealing their all too human failings. They enforce their own ideas of morality, whether the people want it or not. Watchmen is an excellent introduction to the comic book genre and can easily be read in a day.

- Art Matters by Neil Gaiman (2018)

In need of an uplifting read? Art Matters by Neil Gaiman is exactly that. Exulting the importance of art and creativity, not to be good at it, but to be human. Draw, dance, sing, write - do whatever, just make sure you do something. This will inspire you to pick up a pen and paper, to reconnect with those long lost passions and to take pleasure in everyday.

- The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline (2017)

A dystopian novel, set in a future ravaged by global warming. Humans have lost their ability to dream; apart from the Indigenous people of America. The Marrow Thieves hut them down mercilessly, to kill them, harvest their bone marrow and recover the ability to dream. We follow fifteen-year-old Frenchie and his fellow fugitives, as they try to flee to safety. A page turner that you will not be able to put down.

 

Best Summer Books of 2022

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2022 produced some amazing summer reads. Now we’ve had chance to make our way through them, here are some of our favourite 2022 summer books.

- Briefly, A Delicious Life: A Novel by Nell Stevens (2022)

In life, our protagonist went by the name of Bianca. Now, in the form of a spirit, she has been chained to a small town in Mallorca for the four hundred years since her death. To her delight, a new family move into the town from Paris. Bianca quickly becomes enamoured with the family, especially the cigar-smoking writer, George and her sickly lover, Chopin. A beautifully bizarre story of love, loss and longing.

- What We Do in the Dark by Michelle Hart (2022)

Mallory has yet to process her mother’s death when she meets an older woman at her gym. This unlikely meeting sets her life on a new trajectory, shaping her life long after their relationship ends. This intricately woven novel explores the effect that we, as humans, can have on one another and how our relationships can alter who we are.

- Every Summer After by Carley Fortune (2022)

A charming summer read about long-lost loves and second chances. Percy and Sam were best friends growing up, until their relationship turned into something more. They spent every summer together, working in the restaurant, reading books and lazing by the lake. But something happened and they never spoke again - until Percy returns 12 years later. Will they rekindle their love or can some things never be fixed?

 

Exciting Books Coming in Summer 2023

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We can’t wait to get our hands on these new releases for our summer reading!

- All-Night Pharmacy by Ruth Madievsky (July, 2023)

Our unnamed protagonist followed her older sister into the dark LA underworld, until one day she disappears. Without her sister, she is pulled between the world she knows and the desire to change, between addiction and sobriety. All under the guidance of a Soviet psychic set on saving her. We cannot wait to read this dark, LGBTQ coming-of-age novel.

- The Wonder State by Sara Flannery Murphy (July, 2023)

Five high school friends are called back to their hometown by a mysterious note from their friend, Brandi. Apart from when they arrive, Brandi is nowhere to be seen. In their teens, they had been enchanted by the homes built by a mysterious architect who claimed to have travelled to other worlds. Could this have something to do with her disappearance?

- The Apology by Jimin Han (August, 2023)

An epic family tale spanning decades, which follows the 105 year old Jeonga Cha who will do anything to protect her family. Her past actions come back to haunt her in the last few days of her life, threatening everything she fought for. As she passes into the afterlife, she must seek redemption. We are intrigued by the family dynamic in this novel, as well as the unique historical context in Korea.

 

We hope we’ve provided some inspiration for your summer reading list, whether you’re lounging around the pool or travelling to far flung places. There should be something for everyone, including classics and new found favourites.

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