The best books to read this summer, from riveting novels to conversation-starting nonfiction.
May 22, 2018 5:30 PM EDT

Wherever your chosen reading locale — beach, park bench, airplane, air-conditioned living room — make sure you’re curling up with the best books of summer 2018. From novels to short story collections, historical yarns to nonfiction titles drawn from the headlines, there’s something new for readers of all stripes to dig into this summer. Debut authors with buzzy fiction, teen activists marking a movement and historical experts populate this summer reading list for 2018.

Below, TIME recommends 22 summer books to keep you turning pages all season long.

Fiction to fuel your book club

The Incendiaries, by R.O. Kwon

Phoebe, reeling from the loss of her mother, arrives at college and finds herself enticed by a religious cult with ties to North Korea. When the group commits an act of terror, she vanishes — and her boyfriend becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth about her involvement.

Buy now: The Incendiaries

Small Country, by Gaël Faye

Faye, the son of a French father and a Rwandan mother, draws from personal experience with conflict and exile for his debut novel, already a best seller in France. In the book, 10-year-old Gaby’s idyllic childhood slips away when war and genocide erupt in his home of Burundi.

Buy now: Small Country

Ohio, by Stephen Markley

All the sweaty angst of high school and teenage relationships surges back when four former classmates return to their hometown. A decade after graduation, they reckon with the realities of having come of age during the conflict and recession of the early aughts.

Buy now: Ohio

Number One Chinese Restaurant, by Lillian Li

Behind the kitchen doors of the top Chinese restaurant in Rockville, Md., is a dysfunctional makeshift family of owners, cooks and servers. Its future lies in limbo as the sons of the late proprietor clash and some staffers get dangerously friendly.

Buy now: Number One Chinese Restaurant

The Dependents, by Katharine Dion

How well do you really know your partner? After 50 years of marriage, Gene suddenly loses his wife Maida. When his distant daughter, now grown, returns home, old memories resurface and Gene’s long-held narrative of his own family’s life begins to unravel.

Buy now: The Dependents

The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai

The tentacles of an epidemic reach across decades in two intertwining narratives. In one, set in 1985, a gallery director witnesses the ravages of AIDS all around him. In the other, 30 years later, the sister of his friend who died of the illness grapples with the aftershocks of loss.

Buy now: The Great Believers

The Distance Home, by Paula Saunders

The story begins in 1960s South Dakota, where siblings Leon and René both love to dance — but only she enjoys the support of their father. Saunders, raised a ballerina in the Midwest, examines how chances received or denied in childhood can shape the course of a life.

Buy now: The Distance Home

Still Lives, by Maria Hummel

In this mysterious page-turner, a feminist artist is poised to make a splash with a show featuring portraits in which she styles herself as famed murder victims — art designed to interrogate a culture of violence against women. But on the night of her opening gala, she disappears.

Buy now: Still Lives

Satisfying short stories

Florida, by Lauren Groff

A dangerous energy, buoyed by rich and unsettling details, runs through the Fates and Furies author’s new collection as her characters face down snakes, hurricanes and their own self-destructive behavior.

Buy now: Florida

Days of Awe, by A.M. Homes

With dark humor and sharp dialogue, Homes plumbs the depths of everyday American anxieties through stories about unexpected situations — take, for example, an affair that unfolds at a conference on genocide.

Buy now: Days of Awe

Good Trouble, by Joseph O’Neill

The angst of modern life pervades the daily lives of the characters in these stories from the author of Netherland, whose subversive humor finds new angles on everything from facial hair to circumcision.

Buy now: Good Trouble

Fight No More, by Lydia Millet

A real estate broker named Nina anchors these loosely linked tales about people buying and selling homes in L.A. The cast includes a teen sex worker, a suicidal musician and a young mistress turned wife.

Buy now: Fight No More

Mind-expanding history

What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America, by Michael Eric Dyson

The prolific thinker and sociology professor turns his focus to a frustrating 1963 meeting, organized by Baldwin at RFK’s request, about the nation’s racial divide.

Buy now: What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America

Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan, by Ruby Lal

Fans of biographies might keep an eye out for this tale about the multitalented woman who, after her 1611 marriage to the man who ruled the Mughal Empire — making her his 20th wife — rose to a surprising and complex position of power.

Buy now: Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan

A Bite-Sized History of France: Gastronomic Tales of Revolution, War, and Enlightenment, by Stéphane Hénaut and Jeni Mitchell

Pack this one if you’re going abroad — or if you’re simply hungry. The authors use food and wine as a way to trace French history from ancient times through today.

Buy now: A Bite-Sized History of France: Gastronomic Tales of Revolution, War, and Enlightenment

The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela, edited by Sahm Venter

For history buffs who prefer primary sources, this collection of writings from the South African leader promises a window into history as it was lived, with more than 250 letters — including previously unpublished ones — from Mandela’s 27 years as a prisoner.

Buy now: The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela

Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man, by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic

This account of the U.S.S. Indianapolis promises to show that the ship’s story is about much more than the torpedoes that ended it.

Buy now: Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man

Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History, by Keith O’Brien

Let’s call it the Hidden Figures rule: If there’s a part of the past you thought was exclusively male, you’re probably wrong. Case in point are these stories of Amelia Earhart and other female pilots who fought to fly.

Buy now: Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History

Conversation-starting nonfiction

#NeverAgain, by David and Lauren Hogg

Parkland survivors David and Lauren Hogg crystallize their generation’s call for gun reform in this manifesto for a growing youth movement.

Buy now: #NeverAgain

The Perfect Weapon, by David Sanger

Sanger, a national-security reporter, charts the global rise of cyberwarfare and examines how digital weapons are rapidly changing geo­politics.

Buy now: The Perfect Weapon

The Death of Truth, by Michiko Kakutani

The Pulitzer Prize–winning critic traces the creeping forces that have allowed opinion to be treated with as much credibility as fact.

Buy now: The Death of Truth

Squeezed, by Alissa Quart

This look at the financial burdens on the middle class argues that the costs of raising kids in the U.S. are too high for all but the wealthiest Americans.

Buy now: Squeezed

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