Summer usually means two things: travel and long stretches of work-free time, perfect for catching up on that neglected book list. This year, your summer agenda might look a little different, but one thing is the same: the hunt for literary satisfaction. Here, our guide for the latest books to read this summer, whether you want a frothy love story to soak up on the beach or a Gothic tale set in Mexico.
1. Godshot by Chelsea Bieker Drought has struck California’s Central Valley, where 14-year-old Lacey May lives with her alcoholic mother. Their cult leader Pastor Vern has promised rain will return to their community if members complete mysterious “assignments”—which turn out to be pretty brutal, as Lacey May discovers. When her mother is exiled from the cult and abandons her, Lacey May embarks on a harrowing quest to find her.
2. All Adults Here by Emma Straub One day, Astrid Strick witnesses a car accident that takes the life of an acquaintance. It reminds her that life is short, and she gets to work on coming clean about her secrets and mending relationships with her family—not a simple task, especially when they all have secrets of their own. A fun fact: Straub, also author of the New York Times bestseller The Vacationers, co-owns Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, one of our favorite indie bookstores in New York City.)
3. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel A disturbing graffiti message is left on the window of a swanky but remote hotel on Vancouver Island, where Vincent works as a bartender. That same night, she meets the hotel’s owner and they begin a life together—but it turns out he also happens to be running an international Ponzi scheme. When the economy and scheme collapse (not unlike the 2008 financial crisis), taking with it the fortunes of countless people, Vincent takes off. Years later, she disappears from a container ship, and a victim of the Ponzi scheme is appointed to investigate. In Mandel’s ethereal and elegant prose (which readers of Station Eleven will recognize), she interweaves characters’ lives in this long-awaited new tale of greed, ambition, ghosts, and guilt.
4. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins Bestselling author Suzanne Collins returns to Panem with this Hunger Games prequel, which follows a young Coriolanus Snow through his time as a mentor in the 10th annual Hunger Games. Snow’s once-lauded family is struggling in the post-rebellion world, and as he prepares his District 12 tribute for the deadly competition, he begins to see the competitor in a new light. What is he willing to risk for his own ambition?
5. The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner Though she grew up in the Hampshire village of Steventon, in southern England, Jane Austen spent her final years in nearby Chawton. It is there, in the years after World War II, that a group of Austen aficionados and distant family join forces to preserve the great author’s legacy in The Jane Austen Society, a charming historical fiction debut.
6. The Guest List by Lucy Foley Family and friends convene on a remote (fictional) island off the west coast of Ireland for a glamorous wedding between a rising TV star and an accomplished magazine publisher. It should be a happy occasion, but petty rivalries, secrets, and a murder mar the weekend. Destination weddings can be a pain, but who would want someone dead? Told by multiple characters over a 48-hour timespan, this juicy murder mystery is a perfect Agatha Christie–esque summer read.
7. A Burning by Megha Majumdar When Jivan, a Muslim Indian girl, makes a careless Facebook comment in the wake of a terrorist attack, she becomes an unfortunate scapegoat for the crime. Majumdar’s thrilling debut novel is told from Jivan’s perspective and two others’—ambitious gym teacher PT Sir and aspiring actress and outcast Lovely. How will their fates intertwine?
8. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett Identical twins Desiree and Stella are inseparable, so at 16, when they decide to run away from their home in Louisiana during the Jim Crow era, they do that together, too. But when one twin decides to live her life passing as a white woman, their adulthoods veer away from each other. In this compelling sophomore novel, their lives become separated not only by geography but also by racial identity. In the skilled hands of Bennett, it’s an exploration of sisterhood that spans 40 years and two generations.
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9. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia When her newlywed cousin Catalina sends a chilling letter begging for help, socialite Noemí Taboada sets out for High Place, the once-grand but now crumbling house in the countryside where Catalina lives with her husband and his family. The longer Noemí stays, the more she learns about the house and the family’s fortune. Set in 1950s Mexico, the novel is rich with Gothic themes: an enigmatic mansion, plenty of secrets, a haunting atmosphere, and madness to boot.
10. Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan The author of the engrossing Crazy Rich Asians trilogy brings a modern take to A Room with a View (an AFAReads book club pick!). Instead of the hills of Tuscany, we begin on the isle of Capri. Tension arises between cultures rather than social class, as Lucie Churchill—the daughter of an American-born Chinese woman and a WASP-y New Yorker dad—falls for George Zao. A promising beach read.
11. The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones In this very scary story, four childhood friends from the Blackfeet Nation go hunting where they shouldn’t. Years later, the hunters become the hunted when a vengeful entity comes after them. Stephen Graham Jones, a prolific horror writer, weaves an eerie narrative of survival and tradition through this book.
12. It Is Wood, It Is Stone by Gabriella Burnham In this beautiful story, three women’s lives intersect for a year in São Paulo, Brazil: Linda, a restless American who has recently moved for her academic husband’s year-long professor appointment; Marta, her sharp housekeeper; and Celia, a charismatic artist who leads Linda on an unexpected adventure. Self-realization for Linda follows. São Paulo is a strong character, coming to life in the prose of debut novelist Gabriella Burnham, herself a dual citizen of the United States and Brazil.
13. The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante Squeaking in at the tail end of summer is Elena Ferrante’s latest story, set in Naples in the 1990s. Teenaged Giovanna overhears her father call her ugly, comparing her to his estranged sister Vittoria. Giovanna begins to wonder whether he’s right—and why Vittoria has been cut out of their lives. In The Lying Life of Adults, Ferrante highlights the bitter and sometimes brutal insecurity of being a teenager. It’s the sort of coming-of-age story that captures the uncertainty we feel when we begin to see our parents and other grown-ups as real people—and flawed ones, at that.
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This story was originally published on May 31, 2018. It was updated on May 22, 2020, to include current information.