From intimate memoirs to entertaining short stories, these are the best books to read this summer

The start of 2023 offers up the best opportunity to tick all the books off our list that we didn’t quite get to last year. Whether you plan on hitting the beach or curling up in a shady spot, these are some of the best books to have on hand this summer, from poignant memoirs to thought-provoking novels and everything in between.

Holiday Reads

Really Good, Actually
by Monica Heisey
Relatable to those who have found out the hard way that love doesn’t always turn out as anticipated, comedian and essayist Monica Heisey’s breakthrough novel has been touted as the perfect trifecta of hilarious, heartfelt and wise. The story follows Maggie, who, recently divorced at only 29, discovers what it means to be single, and all the arduous uncertainties of modern love.


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The Shards
by Bret Easton Ellis
In Bret Easton Ellis’ latest novel, we are transported to a vibrantly imagined 1981 Los Angeles. The city is plagued by a serial killer, the Trawler, who begins targeting teenagers throughout the city. Amidst this backdrop of fear and uncertainty, a fictionalised Bret and his friends become increasingly paranoid and isolated in their attempts to make sense of the danger around them. The novel delves into the complexities of human emotion — the fleeting nature of innocence, the perilous passage from adolescence to adulthood, and the darker impulses of sex, jealousy, obsession and rage. A gripping and suspenseful exploration of the human experience, written in the inimitable style of Bret Easton Ellis.

Big Swiss
by Jen Beagin
The streets of Hudson, New York serve as the backdrop for a woman’s journey of self-discovery in Jen Beagin’s novel Big Swiss. As a transcriber for a local sex therapist, she delves into the emotional pasts of others, all the while running from her own. Though she disregards professional ethics by falling for one of her clients, she is unable to control her own heart. The protagonist, shrouded in anonymity as she nicknames him ‘Big Swiss’, becomes a symbol of the human condition, one of contradictions and complexities. Although Beagin’s writing style is marked by frenetic energy, beneath it lies a poignant tenderness. The adaptation of the novel into a television series, starring Jodie Comer, will undoubtedly bring this story to a wider audience.

Dinosaurs 
by Lydia Millet 
From a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, this compelling new book follows the story of Gil who, after moving to Arizona to escape heartbreak, finds his life beginning to mesh with those who live in the glass-walled house next door. Emotionally-moving and undeniably sharp, this book grapples with ideas of family and asks where the self ends and where community begins. 

Lucy by the Sea 
by Elizabeth Strout
Centred around a divorced couple stuck together and isolated in lockdown, Pulitzer Prize-winning and New York Times Bestselling author Elizabeth Strout, has crafted an exquisite story of human connection, enduring love, loss, despair and hope, set against the arresting backdrop of a swirling, moody sea. 

We All Want Impossible Things 
by Catherine Newman 
Edith and Ashley have been best friends for over 40 years, but when Edith finds she is dying from ovarian cancer and moves to a hospice, the duo must come to terms with having to let go. Written with unflinching compassion, humour and heartbreaking honesty, this moving novel will leave you laughing through your tears — a true love letter to female friendship. 

Marigold and Rose 
by Louise Glück
Written from the perspective of infant twins, this magical, incandescent book by the former Nobel Laureate for Literature, Louise Glück, offers an investigation into the mystery of language and of time itself, as Marigold and Rose come to grips with their new world. 

Now is Not the Time to Panic 
by Kevin Wilson
In this exuberant, bighearted novel about secrets, young love and the power of art, two teenage misfits meet one summer and create an enigmatic, anonymous poster that sparks waves of panic in their small town — with ripples that will affect their lives forever. 

Butts: A Backstory 
by Heather Radke
Balancing levity with gravity in a literary masterstroke, this fascinating read is the culmination of its author’s rigorous research into the history of human butts. Complex and culturally important in ways that haven’t been explored this deeply before, here, the butt’s significance is analysed in what feels like part deep-dive reportage, part personal journey and part entertaining examination of arguably our most politicised feature. 

Real Life Reads

Words and Music: Confessions of an Optimist
by Stephen Rubin
Stephen Rubin, a man whose career began as a music writer, has left an indelible mark upon the world of publishing. In his memoir, he offers a glimpse into the inner workings of some of the most renowned houses of American letters. He recounts the triumphs and disappointments, the battles and the whispered rumours, with a sharp wit and a discerning eye. This book is a rare and intimate portrait of the literary landscape, one in which books, fame, and the machinery of the industry are entwined. An illuminating look at the world of letters, and the people who shape it.

8 Rules of Love
by Jay Shetty
The masterful storyteller and beloved podcaster’s latest work is 8 Rules of Love. Here, Shetty draws upon ancient wisdom and contemporary research to provide practical guidance for navigating relationships in all their forms — with others, with ourselves, and with the world at large. He promises to offer tools to help us understand and navigate the complexities of love. This new work, like his first, is sure to be a must-read for those seeking to deepen their understanding of the human experience.

The Creative Act
by Rick Rubin
In the words of a legendary music producer, who has long held the power to tap into the wellsprings of creativity, comes a book of profound wisdom and artful crafting, born of years of experience and insight. This work, a testament to the creation, the beauty of art, and the journey of the artist, will resonate with writers and creators alike, sparking within them a renewed sense of purpose and direction.

A Book of Days
by Patti Smith
Offering intimate insight into the mind of this iconic musician, writer and artist, Patti Smith’s new book charts her passions, devotions, obsessions and whims via 356 photographs that take the reader through a single year. In daily notations, Smith offers a snapshot of her life and intriguing dispatches from her travels around the world. 

A Private Spy
by John le Carré
Aside from being acknowledged as one of the greatest writers of our time, John le Carré also led a fascinating life, much of which he documented in letters to various friends and acquaintances, including spies, writers, politicians, artists, actors and public figures. Filled with humour and wit, this compilation offers rare insight into a truly exceptional literary mind. 

Wild: The Life of Peter Beard
by Graham Boynton
Touted as the definitive biography of larger-than-life photographer Peter Beard, this new book by Graham Boynton (a friend of Beard for more than 30 years) captures in meticulous detail, the life and career of the original ‘enfant terrible,’ whose influence in the worlds of art, photography and high society was utterly unparalleled. 

Must Reads

Dear Dolly: On Love, Life and Friendship 
by Dolly Alderton 
Proving that a problem shared is a problem halved, this new book from the bestselling author of Everything I Know About Love and Ghosts is a compilation of Alderton’s most entertaining, moving and heartfelt ‘Agony Aunt’ letters and responses from her popular Sunday Times Style column.

Lessons 
by Ian McEwan
In his mesmerising new novel, literary giant Ian McEwan offers a powerful meditation on history and humanity, told through the story of one ordinary man’s lifetime. A universal story of love, regret and a restless search for answers, this book proves why its author is considered such a seminal literary figure. 

Idol, Burning 
by Rin Usami 
The book that took the Japanese literary world by storm, this blistering novel (by a promising young writer) explores fame, heartbreak, obsession and our online culture via a high-schooler’s fascination with the member of a famous boy-band. It is an obsession that pulls her whole world into chaos, when the subject of her adoration is accused of assault.

Art is Life 
by Jerry Saltz
From Jerry Saltz, one of the most prolific, compelling and indispensable cultural voices, with more than two decades of art writing for some of the world’s most lauded publications, this new book offers a real-time survey of contemporary art as a barometer of our times, and delves into the importance of art in our shared human experience. 

Novelist as a Vocation 
by Haruki Murakami
For anyone fascinated by the work of Murakami, this iconic (and famously reclusive) writer offers rare insight into his mind, sharing what he thinks about being a novelist, about the role of the novel in society and about his own origins as a writer. Originally released in Japanese in 2015, the book has just been translated to  English, so if you have ever wondered what inspires Murakami’s surreal worlds, this is a must-read. 

The Passenger & Stella Maris 
by Cormac McCarthy
This two-book masterpiece is the first new release by Cormac McCarthy in more than a decade, and tells stories that overlap and intertwine in a unique way. The Passenger follows the story of a salvage diver shadowed by the ghost of his father and the memory of his sister, a sunken plane, a missing pilot and a conspiracy theory that melds ideas of morality and science. Whereas Stella Maris follows a 20-year-old mathematician who shows up to a hospital with $40,000 in a plastic bag and one request: to not speak about her brother.

Short Stories

The Faraway World
by Patricia Engel
In The Faraway World, Patricia Engel presents a collection of ten haunting stories set across the Americas, exploring the complexities of migration, sacrifice and moral compromise through the eyes of characters burdened by traumatic pasts. Through her intimate and panoramic storytelling, Engel delves into the liminality of regret, the vibrancy of community, and the epic deeds and quiet moments of love. A New York Times bestselling author and Reese’s Book Club pick, this collection is a must-read.

Liberation Day
by George Saunders 
Dubbed by many as the best short story writer of our time, George Saunders is back with a new collection that sees him turn his uniquely witty, wickedly funny style to ideas of justice, ethics and power. Covering joy and despair, oppression and revolution, fantasy and reality, Saunders’ nine short stories are subversive, profound and memorable.

I Wouldn’t Do That If I Were Me
by Jason Gay
Written by a sports and humour columnist for the Wall Street Journal, this compilation of essays offers an insightful look at life in the face of huge societal change and discusses a range of topics from parenthood, to marriage, to friendship all with humility, grace and a good laugh.

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