This summer is honestly an embarrassment of riches, reads-wise. We already told you about the beach reads we absolutely cannot stop talking about. And now we’re back with literary fiction and nonfiction that’s just perfect for curling up with, wherever your summer may take you – whether it’s a staycation, a vacation, or a stolen hour on your lunch break.
Prepare your TBR pile for a serious boost, and get reading. Happy book-filled summer.
Fiction we couldn’t put down
“The Guest” by Emma Cline
The author of “The Girls” is back with her second novel — and it’s a doozy. It follows 22-year old Alex, who, a week before Labor Day, finds herself unceremoniously kicked out of the Hamptons house where she’s been staying with an older man. Rather than return to the city (where she no longer has a place to live), she drifts through the week on grift alone, attaching herself to various groups until she’s found out, then moving on to another. Alex is the perfect anti-hero, and this is a perfectly chilling, extremely addictive read.
“Homebodies” by Tembe Denton-Hurst
When your work is your identity, and it goes away — what then? That’s one of the questions that propels this excellent debut novel. It follows Mickey, a Black beauty writer in NYC who’s let go from her buzzy, great-on-paper job...and then has to reckon with the way she was treated there, and what she really wants next. She flees the city (and the woman she loves) to try and figure it out. The book truly gets what it is to be young and confused in today’s world (worry about being iced out of the group chat included), and we devoured it.
“Pineapple Street” by Jenny Jackson
Brooklyn socialites, trust funds, and family secrets are at the center of this un-put-downable comedy. It follows the Stockton family, particularly two sisters and their sister-in-law. Darley, the oldest, has given up her inheritance and career for the sake of being an adoring wife and mother. Georginana, the baby, is living it up in her (extremely privileged) twenties. And Sasha, the sister-in-law, is struggling with where and how she fits into this elitist, closed off family dynamic — especially with a working class background. With chapters that alternate between their viewpoints, this grabs your attention and keeps it. Now the real question is…TV show please?
“Romantic Comedy” by Curtis Sittenfeld
You’ve heard it before: Gorgeous female celebrity hosts iconic late-night sketch comedy show, starts dating non-famous male writer on said show. But what if, for once, the reverse happened? Enter: this delightful novel from one of our all-time favorite authors. It follows Sally, a sketch writer and self-declared regular-looking person, as she gets to know Noah, an objectively hot and famous musician. It’s thoughtful, smart, and just the right amount of seriously sweet. Prepare to fall in love.
“The Half Moon” by Mary Beth Keane
Skimm-favorite author of “Ask Again Yes” returns with another all-timer. This one follows a married couple over the course of one week (and two snowstorms). Malcolm, who owns a local bar, is struggling without his wife Jess, a lawyer, who has moved out. Through intricate storytelling, we learn about their failed attempts to conceive, the ways their lives have surprised them, and how they ended up where they are. This is a quick and impactful read that will stay with you long after you finish it.
“The Mythmakers” by Keziah Weir
Our worst nightmare: publishing a story filled with inaccuracies. In this contemporary debut by a Vanity Fair editor, Sal’s journalism career is faltering after she botches a profile piece of a playwright. She’s at rock bottom when she reads a short story — and realizes that it’s actually about her, and the time she met the story’s author, Martin Keller, at an event years ago. Martin Keller has died, and Sal’s journey to get to the bottom of the connection finds her entangled with three women in Martin’s life. This is a page-turner that raises big questions about memory, truth, and who really owns a narrative.
“Sea Change” by Gina Chung
If you’ve ever been stuck in familiar patterns and felt yourself losing momentum, you’ll relate to this novel’s protagonist. When we meet Ro, she’s mourning a breakup, drifting away from her best friend, and letting childhood traumas lie. But as she prepares to say goodbye to Dolores — the giant octopus she takes care of at her aquarium job, who’s been sold to a wealthy investor — she goes through her own metamorphosis. Trust us: This unique, smart, emotionally rich book is a must-read.
“Ripe” by Sarah Rose Etter
We all have our own version of “the grind” — but for Cassie, this novel’s protagonist, it’s particularly punishing. She works in Silicon Valley, where long hours are fueled by cocaine and cold brew. She feels alone most of the time, but is always accompanied by a black hole that lives in her head, changing size in relation to her mood. And when she gets pregnant, she has to make hard choices about where her future lies.
“Yellowface” by R.F. Kuang
When up-and-coming Chinese-American author Athena Liu suddenly dies, she leaves a manuscript behind. In the commotion following her death, Athena’s former classmate — a white woman named June — nabs it. After changing her name to something ethnically ambiguous, June publishes the book to great acclaim. But as her star rises, so does her anxiety about what she’s done. This is a smart and insightful look at racism and cultural appropriation tied up in a story you can’t miss.
“The Late Americans” by Brandon Taylor
The author of “Real Life” is back with another campus novel that may make you cry. It’s set in Iowa City, and focuses on a circle of young friends and lovers who are all struggling to find themselves and head into their futures. In Taylor’s signature style, this book is a close read on human relationships and chosen family.
“Tom Lake” by Ann Patchett
Ahh…Ann Patchett has a new read and we couldn’t be happier. This time, she tells the story of three sisters, who are back on their parents’ cherry farm during the pandemic. As they shelter in place, they ask their mother, Lara, a former actor, to tell the story of her young romance with now ultra-famous actor, Peter Duke. The story switches between the family’s present moment (with Lara happily married to the girls’ father) and her past romance with Duke. It’s cozy, and feel-good, and we recommend reading with a bowl of cherries.
Nonfiction you can’t miss
“Quietly Hostile” by Samantha Irby
Fans of laughter, assemble. Samantha Irby is back with another essay collection that’s so relatable, so funny, so exactly what we needed right now that we could scream. With gems like “being perceived is excruciating, especially if you can’t go person to person explaining why you look like that,” it’s basically a printout of our inner monologue (but with better jokes). And yes, there is a full chapter where she suggests re-writes for specific episodes of “Sex and the City.” Purchase and read immediately, if not sooner.
“You or Someone You Love” by Hannah Matthews
The author of this book is an abortion doula, a mother, and a clinic worker. In the first chapter, she describes seeing her own positive pregnancy test when her son was just eleven months old. The book continues with the story of her abortion, juxtaposed with writing about the status of American abortion in a post Roe v. Wade world, and what truly good abortion care can look like. Though the topic is heavy, the writing is welcoming and kind, and it will expand your thinking about abortion’s place in American society.
“You Will Find Your People” by Lane Moore
Raise your hand if you spent childhood watching tight-knight friend groups on TV, and always imagined your grown-up life would look like that. Saaame. This book deeply gets it. With chapters like “Friends Who Are Good on Paper” and “How Marriage and Kids Can Impact Your Friendship,” it’s a practical guide to one of the most important parts of being alive. Sign us up.
“Lesbian Love Story” by Amelia Possanza
In this part-memoir, part-anthology, writer and book publicist Amelia Possanza takes us through seven great lesbian love stories throughout history. She delivers musings on community and how niche neighborhoods inspired her to think about queer love, and uses archival research to cover epic stories from ancient Greek poet Sappho to Coney Island drag kings. This book celebrates queer love in all its forms, and lifts up romantic partnerships, self love, and chosen families. “Beautiful” feels like a cliche way to describe a book about love…but this one simply is.
“Wannabe” by Aisha Harris
Pop culture can seem trivial, but the truth is that it shapes the world and helps us process our identities. That’s exactly what Aisha Harris, the co-host of NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour,” unpacks in her debut essay collection. She covers what it means to be the token Black friend (with references to “Clueless” and “New Girl”) and how romantic comedies informed her approach to dating as a Black woman, and offers her thoughts on the Spice Girls, Stevie Wonder, and Chance the Rapper. If you’re looking for engaging nonfiction for your next trip or just love all things pop culture, add to cart ASAP.
“The Elissas” by Samantha Leach
The author of this (reminder: nonfiction) book grew up in a wealthy Rhode Island suburb with Elissa – but in tenth grade, Elissa’s parents sent her away, to the first in a string of private schools meant to curb her increasingly rebellious behavior. She was dead by 18. Leach never got over her grief, and channels it here into a study of what went wrong for Elissa, as well Alyssa and Alissa, two of her classmates at one of those schools, neither of whom lived past 27. This is a fascinating look at what really happened to these young women, and takes into account the “troubled teen industry,” social pressures, and the female celebrities of the time (like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton) who were following similar trajectories.
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