I once had to unpack my suitcase at the airport because it contained so many books for a fortnight in Crete that it was too heavy for the baggage handlers to carry. This was in the days before Kindles and (for me) a fortnight beach holiday involves at least 10 books and usually an emergency browse around the bookshelves of the hotel to see what other guests have left behind. Those 10 books were definitely going with me come hell or high water (and I would rather leave my dignity behind than books), so unpacking at the check in desk at Newcastle Airport was the only choice as far as I am concerned. My husband (then boyfriend) thinks very differently. Yes, he still married me; he can’t say he didn’t know what he was getting himself into.
One of my favourite things to do before a beach holiday is make a list of the books I’m going to read. My Kindle is the first thing I pack as it means I have a huge choice of unread books at my fingertips and if I can find WiFi when I am away I can always download more if needed. I also usually do a shop at WHSmith at the airport, because, why not?! Alas, I don’t have a beach holiday booked this year but I am hopeful for some sunshine so I can spend some weekends lazing in the garden reading.
If you are lucky enough to be jetting off to sunnier climes, or if you are looking for some books to read this summer then no look further, I have compiled a list of summer and beach reads that are perfect for long, lazy, hot days with a cool drink. I’ve also included the books that I’m planning to read this summer, some of which I think are going to be the great summer reads for 2018.
My Favourite Holiday Reads
The Lemon Grove – Helen Walsh
I read The Lemon Grove a few years ago now and still think about it now. suspenseful, sultry and sexy, this is an ideal summer holiday read.
Set on the rugged, mountainous west coast of Mallorca, this taut, sultry, brilliantly paced novel is an urgent meditation on female desire, the vicissitudes of marriage and the allure of youth.
Taking place over the course of one week, The Lemon Grove lands in the heat of Deia, a village on an island off the southeast coast of Spain. Jenn and Greg are on their annual holiday to enjoy languorous, close afternoons by the pool, and relaxed dinners overlooking the rocks. But the equilibrium is upset by the arrival of their teenage daughter, Emma, and her boyfriend, Nathan. Jenn, in her early forties, loves her (older) husband and her (step)daughter and is content with her life, she thinks. But when this beautiful, reckless young man comes into her world, she is caught by a sexual compulsion that she’s seldom felt before. As the lines hotly blur between attraction, desire and obsession, Jenn’s world is thrown into tumult–by Nathan’s side, she could be young and carefree once again, and at this stage in her life, the promise of youth is every bit as seductive as the promise of passion. Jenn struggles between the conflicting pulls of resistance and release, and the events of the next few days have the potential to put lives in jeopardy as the players carry out their roles in this unstoppably sexy and unputdownable novel from a brilliant observer of the human condition.
I was a late starter to Queen Jilly of Cooper and only read Riders (which was published in 1986) on holiday a couple of years ago. The Rutshire Chronicles which feature Riders, Rivals and Polo amongst others are set in the Cotswolds, are about the upper-classes and feature the most charismatic male character ever in the form of Rupert Campbell-Black. He is arrogant, cocky, a shameless lothario and reader, I LOVE him. I can’t help it, he is my book crush. If you haven’t read these books, do, they’re chock-full of amazing characters, brilliant storylines, sex and if nothing else are a brilliant social commentary of the upper classes in the 1980s.
I love everything by Marian Keyes – she can do no wrong in my eyes and her books are ideal holiday reads. Funny, smart, wise and with plots that make the books unputdownable I could read her books again and again. Her latest is The Break and it is out in paperback now – I reviewed it last year and you can read what I thought here.
Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty
I’ve read all of Liane Moriarty’s books but I think I like Big Little Lies the best. The TV adaptation was great (and it featured the very lovely Alexander Skarsgård which is always a bonus in my eyes) but the book was even better and if you haven’t read it, or want an introduction into Liane Moriarty’s books then look no further.
Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).
Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.
New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.
Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.
The Girls – Emma Cline
This is a dark tale set during a hot summer in 1960s California.
Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.
Conversations with Friends – Sally Rooney
Recently out in paperback, Conversations with Friends is a modern and compelling book about love and friendship and it features a beautiful sentence which crosses my mind on almost a week basis. I reviewed it last year, here.
Frances is twenty-one years old, cool-headed, and darkly observant. A college student and aspiring writer, she devotes herself to a life of the mind–and to the beautiful and endlessly self-possessed Bobbi, her best friend and comrade-in-arms. Lovers at school, the two young women now perform spoken-word poetry together in Dublin, where a journalist named Melissa spots their potential. Drawn into Melissa’s orbit, Frances is reluctantly impressed by the older woman’s sophisticated home and tall, handsome husband. Private property, Frances believes, is a cultural evil–and Nick, a bored actor who never quite lived up to his potential, looks like patriarchy made flesh. But however amusing their flirtation seems at first, it gives way to a strange intimacy neither of them expect. As Frances tries to keep her life in check, her relationships increasingly resist her control: with Nick, with her difficult and unhappy father, and finally even with Bobbi. Desperate to reconcile herself to the desires and vulnerabilities of her body, Frances’s intellectual certainties begin to yield to something new: a painful and disorienting way of living from moment to moment.
Tangerine – Christine Mangan
An exotic, evocative tale set in 1950s Morrocco, Tangerine is an ideal summer read for fans of classic movies and books. I reviewed it earlier this year here.
The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the horrific accident at Bennington, the two friends – once inseparable roommates – haven’t spoken in over a year. But Lucy is standing there, trying to make things right.
Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy, always fearless and independent, helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country.
But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice – she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.
Tangerine is an extraordinary debut, so tightly wound, so evocative of 1950s Tangier, and so cleverly plotted that it will leave you absolutely breathless
What is on my Summer Reading List for 2018
Social Creature – Tara Isabella Burton
I am dying to read this book as it sounds like perfect escapism and having recently read the tale of Anna Delvey who lived a life based on smoke and mirrors in New York, Social Creature sounds very much like life imitating art.
A friendship to die for.
A Ripley story for the Instagram age set in contemporary New York; a world at once sophisticated and sordid, irresistible and irresponsible, unforgettable yet unattainable
Louise is struggling to survive in New York; juggling a series of poorly paid jobs, renting a shabby flat, being cat-called by her creepy neighbour, she dreams of being a writer. And then one day she meets Lavinia. Lavinia who has everything – looks, money, clothes, friends, an amazing apartment…
Lavinia invites Louise into her charmed circle, takes her to the best parties, bars, the opera, shares her clothes, her coke, her Uber account. Louise knows that this can’t last for ever, but just how far is she prepared to go to have this life? Or rather, to have Lavinia’s life?
The Lido – Libby Page
I’ve read loads of great things about this book and I have it on my hit list for this summer (it also has a beautiful cover).
Meet Rosemary, 86, and Kate, 26: dreamers, campaigners, outdoor swimmers…
Rosemary has lived in Brixton all her life, but everything she knows is changing. Only the local lido, where she swims every day, remains a constant reminder of the past and her beloved husband George.
Kate has just moved and feels adrift in a city that is too big for her. She’s on the bottom rung of her career as a local journalist, and is determined to make something of it.
So when the lido is threatened with closure, Kate knows this story could be her chance to shine. But for Rosemary, it could be the end of everything. Together they are determined to make a stand, and to prove that the pool is more than just a place to swim – it is the heart of the community.
The Lido is an uplifting novel about the importance of friendship, the value of community, and how ordinary people can protect the things they love.
Elizabeth Day Books
I read The Party by Elizabeth Day earlier in the year and fell in love with her writing so I have acquired her back catalogue and plan to read them this summer.
Maggie O’Farrell – I Am, I Am, I Am
I AM, I AM, I AM is a memoir with a difference – the unputdownable story of an extraordinary woman’s life in near-death experiences. Insightful, inspirational, gorgeously written, it is a book to be read at a sitting, a story you finish newly conscious of life’s fragility, determined to make every heartbeat count.
A childhood illness she was not expected to survive. A teenage yearning to escape that nearly ended in disaster. A terrifying encounter on a remote path. A mismanaged labour in an understaffed hospital. Shocking, electric, unforgettable, this is the extraordinary memoir from Costa Novel-Award winner and Sunday Timesbestselling author Maggie O’Farrell. It is a book to make you question yourself. What would you do if your life was in danger, and what would you stand to lose?
I AM, I AM, I AM will speak to readers who loved Cheryl Strayed’s WILD or Max Porter’s GRIEF IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS.
Katie Khan – The Light Between Us
I read Katie Khan’s debut novel, Hold Back the Stars last year and really loved it so I was thrilled to see she had a brand new novel out in August. This is one of my most anticipated reads of 2018 and I am lucky enough to have an advanced copy – watch this space for a full review.
Isaac and Thea were once close, but they’ve grown apart.
Thea works tirelessly, convinced she can prove everyone around her wrong – convinced she can prove that time travel is possible. But when one of her attempts goes wrong, she finds herself picking up the phone and calling her old friend.
Isaac is in New York – it’s the middle of the night, but when he sees who’s calling him, he cannot ignore his phone. At Thea’s request, he travels home, determined to help her in her hour of need.
But neither of them are prepared for what they will discover when he gets there.
The Light Between Us is a story of unrequited love and second chances. It begs the dangerous question that we all ask ourselves – what could have been?
You, Me, Everything – Catherine Isaac
Set in the French countryside over one hot summer, You Me Everything is a tender novel about finding joy and love even in the most unexpected places.
Jess and her ten-year-old son William set off to spend the summer at Château de Roussignol, deep in the rich, sunlit hills of the Dordogne. There, Jess’s ex-boyfriend and William’s father, Adam, runs a beautiful hotel in a restored castle. Jess is bowled over by what Adam has accomplished, but she’s in France for a much more urgent reason: to make Adam connect with his own son. Jess can’t allow Adam to let their son down because she is tormented by a secret of her own, one that nobody – especially William – must discover.
By turns life-affirming, heart-wrenching and joyful, You Me Everything is a novel about one woman’s fierce determination to grab hold of the family she has and never let go, and a romantic story as heady as a crisp Sancerre on a summer day.
Fatal Inheritance – Rachel Rhys
Out on the 26th July this looks like a perfect book to read with a glass of wine.
1948: an English housewife trapped in a dull marriage escapes to the South of France to claim a mystery inheritance. But rivals to her unexplained fortune begin to emerge, and now they want her out of the way …
She didn’t have an enemy in the world…
until she inherited a fortune
London 1948: Eve Forrester is trapped in a loveless marriage, in a gloomy house, in a grey suburb.
Out of the blue, she received a solicitor’s letter. A wealthy stranger has left her a mystery inheritance but in order to find out more, she must travel to the glittering French Riviera.
Eve discovers her legacy is an enchanting villa overlooking the Mediterranean sea and suddenly, life could not be more glamorous.
But while she rubs shoulders with film-stars and famous writers, under the heat of the golden sun, rivals to her unexplained fortune begin to emerge. Rivals who want her out of the way.
Alone in paradise, Eve must unlock the story behind her surprise bequest – before events turn deadly…
Reminiscent of a Golden Age mystery, Fatal Inheritance is an intoxicating story of dysfunctional families and long-hidden secrets, set against the razzle-dazzle and decadence of the French Riviera.
Let me know in the comments beneath if you’ve read any of these books or if you want to, I would love to hear from you.