The 15 brilliant new books for your summer holiday reading list

This summer’s hottest new releases run the gamut of worlds, emotions and styles

The 15 most enticing new books for your summer reading list

Losing hours immersed in the pages of a new book is one of the best summer pastimes, whether it’s while lounging on a beach or just taking in some rays in the garden. This summer, there are plenty of tempting options to choose from, including highly anticipated new releases from acclaimed authors such as Lisa Taddeo and Maggie O’Farrell, to promising debuts from the likes of Leila Mottley and Annie Lord. Whether you’re after heartbreaking accounts of love and loss, uplifting romance tales or thought-provoking meditations on modern culture, these are the most exciting new books to enjoy this season.

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​​You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty
by Akwaeke Emezi
Out Now
Faber & Faber (£14.99)

One of this year’s most hotly anticipated new releases is this seductive new work from the bestselling author of The Death of Vivek Oji. A provocative and insightful take on the classic summer romance novel, Akwaeke Emezi’s new novel focuses on Feyi Adekola, a young artist trying to get back into the dating pool after tragically losing her partner in a car accident. After five years, she’s finally ready to break her celibacy and see if another love — or just a great date — is out there.

Through her cautious re-entering into the New York dating scene, Feyi strikes up a relationship with Nasir — he wants something more, but she wants to take things more slowly. But when Nasir offers her the opportunity to escape the city heat and join him on a visit home to a Caribbean island, Feyi can’t resist. Once there, however, Feyi finds more than a blissful paradise — she also finds a man she can really connect with. But this whirlwind romance is not without its complications. A poignant exploration of grief, loss and love, this is a must-read summer romance.

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Ghost Lover
by Lisa Taddeo
Out Now
Bloomsbury Publishing (£16.99)

Lisa Taddeo developed a cult following after the release of Three Women, her explosive novel that rewrote the rules on depictions of female desire. Now, the bestselling author is releasing her first collection of short stories, written with the same laser sharp, no-holds-barred approach that made her novel so addictive.

Each of the nine short stories features women who appear empowered and successful, but who in various ways are in thrall to men who, for the most part, don’t deserve their attention. Through her deftly written stories, Taddeo weaves tales that depict the fever of obsession, the blindness of love and the mania of grief. From the story about a trio of women competing to win the heart of the guest of honour at a slick Los Angeles fundraiser, to the titular tale of Ghost Lover, a dating service run by an army of cool and beautiful girls who manage communications with crushes. Addictive reading.

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Cult Classic: A Novel
by Sloane Crosley
Out 4 August
Bloomsbury Publishing (£16.99)

Mind-bending sci-fi meets classic romance in this new work by I Was Told There’d Be Cake author Sloane Crosley. At the centre is Lola, a die-hard New Yorker who has lived life to the fullest and is now engaged to the seemingly perfect man. Only problem is, she’s about to find out that a cult has put her at the centre of its latest experiment.

While out to dinner at a restaurant with some old colleagues, Lola bumps into an ex-boyfriend. They share a late night drink, and Lola returns home to her fiance. For the first time, she begins to wonder whether he really is the perfect choice. The next day, Lola bumps into a different ex near to that same restaurant. And every day that follows, she bumps into another ex. Bombarded with her past, Lola is overwhelmed by the strange coincidences. The truth is, she’s the subject of a new hipster cult founded by her enigmatic former boss, which is on a mission to use their collective meditative energy to reorder her experience of the world. What can go wrong?

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Notes on Heartbreak
by Annie Lord
Out 23 June
Orion Publishing Co (£14.99)

Avid followers of journalist Annie Lord’s dating column for Vogue will be thrilled to get their hands on her heart-wrenching account of navigating the end of a relationship. A love story told in reverse, Lord opens with the devastating break-up that rocked her world, and in her pursuit of answers, clarity and peace, she traces back into her past to find common threads and the full, brutally honest tale of her relationship, from the moment they fell in love to the slow erosion of their partnership.

While deeply personal, Lord’s work is also a lyrical meditation on modern relationships and dating, and readers will likely see themselves reflected back on the page. Particularly entertaining and moving are Lord’s accounts of her attempts to move on, charting all the familiar stages from disastrous rebound sex to stalking the ex’s new girlfriend on Instagram. A brilliantly observed account of love, Lord leaves no stone unturned.

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by Ottessa Moshfegh
Out 23 June
Vintage Publishing (£14.99)

After dominating everyone’s summer reading list in 2018 with My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Ottessa Moshfegh is back to reclaim her place with a wholly different type of novel. Mystical and dark, blending witchcraft with historical fiction, Moshfegh’s new work is set in a village in a medieval fiefdom, where a community frequently suffers from natural disasters, while the depraved lord and governor, Villiam, lavishes in a hilltop manor that contains a secret embarrassment of riches.

At the centre of the tale is Marek, the abused and delusional son of the village shepherd whose mother, he is told, died in childbirth. Motherless, Marek is consoled only by his  enduring bond with the blind village midwife, Ina, who suckled him when he was a baby. Ina lives on the edge of the village, beloved by some and feared by others for her strange powers which gives her a unique ability to communicate with the natural world and see things others have no way of seeing. When the people’s faith is tested by a year of drought and famine, fate throws Marek into violent proximity to the lord’s family, and the old order is tossed into chaos. As the boundaries between life and death, old and new are torn down, the consequences are sure to rock the village.

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by Leila Mottley
Out Now
Bloomsbury Publishing (£16.99)

Be warned — this isn’t exactly a light summer read. The debut novel from Leila Mottley is a searing and unforgettable story about the young people having to navigate the darkest corners of the adult world by themselves, and more broadly contemplates what this tells us about humanity and contemporary society.

At seventeen, Kiara Johnson is already accustomed to a life that is unlike that of other teens. With her mother in rehab and her older brother focused solely on investing his time and money in a recording studio, Kiara has to fend for herself. She also finds herself often looking out for nine-year-old Trevor, whose own mother tends to disappear for days at a time. After the landlord threatens to raise her rent, Kiara spends her nights wandering the streets after dark. Then one night, she is picked up by two police officers and offered a horrific deal in exchange for her freedom. This lands her at the centre of a media storm, and Kiara is faced with the option of testifying in a grand jury trial and helping to expose the sickening corruption of a police department. But Kiara is vulnerable, and she knows that honesty comes at a price. What will she decide?

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The Marriage Portrait
by Maggie O'Farrell
Out 30 August
Headline Publishing Group (£25.00)

Following up on her critically acclaimed novel, Hamnet — which earned her the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2020 — Maggie O’Farrell is back with another work of historical fiction which imagines the life of a famous family. This time, O’Farrell transports the reader to Renaissance Italy and inside the notorious Medici family. 

In 1560s Florence, Lucrezia, third daughter of Cosimo de’ Medici, is enjoying a life of freedom in her palazzo, with little pressures from the family meaning she can enjoy her own artistic pursuits. That life is upturned when her older sister dies on the eve of marriage to Alfonso d’Este, ruler of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio. Suddenly, Lucrezia is thrust unwittingly into the limelight, and when the duke requests her hand in marriage, her father is quick to accept on her behalf. Barely out of girlhood, Lucrezia must suddenly navigate marriage to a man she can’t quite figure out, and the politics of court, who are sceptically waiting to see if she will provide an heir who will shore up the future of the Ferrarese dynasty.

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by Florence Given
Out 9 August
Octopus Publishing Group (£16.99)

After igniting conversations around relationships, body image and more with Women Don’t Owe You Pretty, acclaimed writer Florence Given is breaking into fiction with her debut novel. A feminist tale with a wicked, darkly humorous twist, at the centre is Eartha, who embarks on a new life as an openly bisexual woman.

Meanwhile, though, Eartha is also becoming a viral sensation on Wonder Land, a social media app where people project their dream selves online. As her online self and her offline self grow further and further apart, Eartha is also confronted with a trauma from her past, which threatens to come back and destroy her present. And so Eartha faces a critical choice: which version of herself should she kill off?

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The Poet
by Louisa Reid
Out now
Transworld Publishers Ltd (£14.99)

A tale of a toxic relationship seen through a singular new lens, Louisa Reid’s powerful novel is written fully in verse, putting a lyrical voice to her scalpel-sharp meditation on coercive control and dangerous liasons. 

Bright, promising Emma is entangled in a toxic romance with her older professor, Tom, who is equal parts charming, cruel and confident. Living together in their small Oxford home, Emma finds herself increasingly losing control, as Tom manipulates and undermines everything she says and does. As Tom pushes her more and more, Emma begins to approach her limit and must decide whether she’s going to remain quiet and submissive, or take her revenge.

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Rainbow Rainbow
by Lydia Conklin
Out now
Simon & Schuster (£12.99)

A brilliant ode to queer life, Lydia Conklin’s collection of short stories explores the full breadth of the queer and trans experience. Through complex characters and tales that oscillate between heart-break and humour, Conklin shines a light on aspects of queer life that are not typically represented.

In each story, a queer character is struggling to find love, forgiveness and/or acceptance in some way.  In one story, a young lesbian tries to have a baby with her lover by using an unprofessional sperm donor and a very strong cocktail. In another,  a non-binary person on the eve of their top surgery risks everything to experiment with an open relationship during the height of the COVID pandemic. Beautiful and insightful, these stories will stay with you long after the final page.

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This Time Tomorrow
by Emma Straub
Out now
Penguin Books (£16.99)

Time travel is put to new use in this entertaining and moving story of a woman on the verge of a midlife crisis. Alice Stern isn’t ready to turn 40 — there was so much more she wanted to do by now, and so much more time she wanted to have with her father, who is now lying in a hospital bed. An eccentric novelist, Leonard Stern has always been the most important person in her life, and now she’s facing the prospect of never hearing his voice again.

Then one morning, she wakes up to be greeted by a much younger version of her father, who’s holding out a card for her sixteenth birthday. After she discovers how exactly she managed to return to her 16-year-old self, Alice realises she can go back as often as she wishes. But each time, she is faced with different versions of her life and the consequences of her decisions. With this power comes great responsibility, and Alice must not  lose sight of what she wants most: some time back with her dad.

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Yerba Buena
by Nina Lacour
Out now
Hodder & Stoughton (£16.99)

After running away from home at 16, Sara Foster finally manages to find a home working as a bartender in Los Angeles. As the years go by, she develops a cult following as crowds descend to try her innovative cocktails, yet she still struggles to be capable of trust and intimacy. Then she meets Emilie Dubois at the glamorous restaurant, Yerba Buena.

Having spent seven years at university trying to find the community that her Creole grandparents had cultivated, she found herself unable to commit to anything — including a major. On a whim, she took a job arranging flowers at Yerba Buena, and eventually embarked on an affair with the married owner. Emilie and Sara’s connection is undeniable, but can they get past their personal damage to weather the challenges the world will throw at them?

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The Twilight World
by Werner Herzog
Out 7 July
Vintage Publishing (£14.99)

Acclaimed German film director Werner Herzog turns to the written word with this narrative powerhouse tale about the famous Japanese lieutenant, Hiroo Onoda. Part biography, part fiction, the work outlines the absurd yet epic story of Onoda’s defence of an island in the Philippines, which he continued for decades after World War II, unaware the fighting was over.

At the end of 1944, Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda was ordered by his superior officer to defend Lubang Island while the Japanese troops withdrew, leaving him to protect it until the army could return to reclaim the land. He was given one rule: ‘You are forbidden to die by your own hand. In the event of your capture by the enemy, you are to give them all the misleading information you can.’ So began the incredible experience of Onoda’s long campaign which ended up being decades long. Charting his experiences on the island, Herzog creates a mood that moves between tragedy and triumph, in a surrealist tale that proves that sometimes life is even better than fiction.

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The Last White Man
by Mohsin Hamid
Out 11 August
Penguin Books (£12.99)

A wry and insightful take on racial prejudice, the bestselling author of Exit West returns with an explosive new work about a man who wakes up one morning to find himself in new skin.

One morning, Anders wakes up to find that his white skin has turned dark. Shocked at the transformation, at first he only reveals the change to his friend-turned-lover, Oona. But soon, reports come out of other transformations across the land — some see it as the long-dreaded overturning of an established order, while others wonder if this could mark an exciting, more equal future. As Anders is confronted with the realities of the experience of walking through the contemporary world with dark skin, his eyes are also opened to deeper changes and understandings and, to his surprise, allows his relationship with Oona to take on a new tone.

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The Whalebone Theatre
by Joanna Quinn
Out now
Penguin Books (£14.99)

A gripping coming of age story set against the backdrop of a looming war, this powerful tale traces the tale of one girl who is set on defying convention and rejecting the pursuit of marriage to instead go after her own ambitions.

An unwanted orphan, Cristabel Seagrave dreams of having a life that is a story. But in the dusty library in her family home, Chilcombe estate in Dorset, she can find no girls in the pages of the books. Then one day, a whale washes up on the beach, and as twelve-year-old Cristabel plants her flag and claims it as her own, she becomes determined to do things differently. While her step-parents host endless parties, Cristabel and her siblings, Flossie and Digby, craft their own education. But as they approach adulthood and Cristabel is deemed “unmarriable,” their future paths begin to diverge, and each must find their own story.

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