Summer always provides a bountiful literary offering, with the reading material becoming richer as people carefully select the books for their holidays. While the releases this month might not end up being the intended beachside reads, there’s still plenty of the usual atmospheric suspense on offer that you’d expect from a classic summer thriller. With settings spanning oil-rich Texas, creepy gothic North Yorkshire, and lush, sun-drenched Northern Italy, literary escapism abounds, even if, in reality, you’re grounded due to Covid-19. Whether it’s via exotic location or personal experience, read on for this month’s most transportive new books.
Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
This top ten New York Times bestseller is an impressive debut and marks the arrival of a strong new voice in fiction. It’s the 1970s and 14-year-old Gloria Ramírez has been brutally beaten and raped. The crime divides the small Texan oil town where it happens, bringing the underlying racial, gender and class resentments to the surface. While this book reads like a love letter to Texas, giving a powerful portrait of the State with all its bleak beauty and rugged isolation, it also addresses women’s courage in the face of everyday inequalities and injustice.
Out now (£14.99, HarperCollins)
Coming Undone by Terri White
Described as ‘raw and unflinchingly honest’, this memoir looks at what happens when your life unravels. On paper, Terri White was a high flying, award-winning New York magazine editor, but in reality, she was on the brink of a mental health crisis. In her memoir, she recalls her childhood experiences of growing up in a household in poverty and the sexual and physical abuse she received at the hands of her mother’s partners, which led to her being sectioned, as well as the ways in which she overcame these past traumas to write this book. A moving read.
Out 2 July (£14.99, Canongate)
Sisters by Daisy Johnson
The second novel from the youngest ever author to be shortlisted for Booker Prize was always going to be a hotly anticipated drop. In her acclaimed debut Everything Under, Johnson proved herself a master at exploring female familial relationships. This time, she revisits that theme with siblings July and September, who have moved to a long-abandoned family home in North Yorkshire after something terrible happened at their school. The result is an electrifying lesson in claustrophobic literary horror, with a truly unforgettable ending.
Out 2 July (£14.99, Jonathan Cape)
Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers
Touted as the one to watch this month by industry insiders, with Chambers’ writing being likened to that of Anne Tyler and Barbara Pym, Small Pleasures is a gripping suburban drama set in 1957. 40-year-old journalist Jean is investigating a local story about a woman who claims her daughter was the result of a virgin birth. But as she uncovers the truth, she also becomes more and more entwined in the life of the woman’s family. Part mystery, part love story, it’s a tender look at what we’re missing out on in life, with a heart-wrenching conclusion.
Out 9 July (£14.99, Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Antkind by Charlie Kaufman
Film and fiction collide in this debut novel from the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. When a neurotic and underappreciated film critic discovers an unseen film by an enigmatic director, he decides that it’s a work of art that needs to be seen by the world. But the film is destroyed, leaving him scrambling to recreate the masterpiece from the single surviving frame. The result is an eccentric tale about art, time and memory, with plenty of insider jokes for Hollywood aficionados.
Out 9 July (£18.99, Fourth Estate)
Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell
Can we change the world in turbulent times? This is the pertinent question Utopia Avenue asks – the story of the eponymous Sixties psychedelic band that released just two LPs during its brief yet blazingly successful career. Following Utopia Avenue from the clubs of Soho to trials and tribulations in Rome and two fateful weeks in America during the autumn of 1968, where social change is afoot, it explores the power of music to unite people. It’s the first new novel Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell has written in five years, so expect a lot of hype.
Out 14 July (£20, Hodder & Stoughton)
How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right? By Pandora Sykes
Journalist Pandora Sykes’s witty essays on modern life focus on the endless possibilities we’re offered today and how to navigate through them. Looking at issues such as cancel culture, millennial burnout, wellness overload and far-too-fast fashion, Sykes captures the zeitgeist of a generation of women who are all battling with the anxieties of modern existence. Funny and thoughtful in equal measure, this is what to read if you want to stop worrying about the answers and instead start to enjoy asking the questions.
Out 16 July (£14.99, Hutchinson)
Belladonna by Anbara Salam
The perfect read for fans of the seductive, sun-soaked drama that characterises The Talented Mr Ripley. It’s 1956, and American teens Bridget and Isabella are at a boarding school run by nuns in Northern Italy. Far from their home in Connecticut, the girls become increasingly close, forming a fragile intimacy. But as the academic year draws to a close, Bridget becomes worried about losing Isabella’s affections, going to extreme lengths to retain them. Expect a coming-of-age story exploring the blurred lines between intense friendship and obsession.
Out 16 July (£14.99, Penguin)
Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa
They say one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter – except this terrorist isn’t a man. Refugee Nahr is locked away in solitary confinement in an Israeli prison, where she spends her time reminiscing about the series of events that landed her behind bars. Thought provoking, defiant and beautifully written, this powerful novel is peppered with plenty of dark humour to present the story of a Palestinian woman who is determined not to be a victim. Think of it as a feminist take on The Reluctant Fundamentalist.
Out 23 July (£16.99, Bloomsbury & Circus)
Olive by Emma Gannon
Ctrl Alt Delete podcast host Emma Gannon is already a Sunday Times bestselling author thanks to her business book, The Multi-Hyphen Method, but Olive is her first novel. In it, Gannon looks at the milestone decisions we make as women and what happens when we deviate from society’s expectations. Protagonist Olive finds herself at a crossroads when her friends start on the path to marriage and motherhood without her, providing the backdrop to this probing story of what happens when a woman decides she doesn’t want children.
Out 23 July (£14.99, HarperCollins)
Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce
Joyce specialises in offbeat protagonists – she’s the author behind bestselling, Booker Prize long-listed The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. This time, it’s spinster Margery Benson taking an epic journey to find a beetle, which may or may not exist. After advertising for a travel companion, she ends up with the pink-suited Enid Pretty. She’s not exactly who Margery has in mind, but together they embark on a sweet adventure story, which has a tender exploration of the nature of female friendship at its core.
Out 23 July (£16.99, Transworld)