There’s plenty to look forward to this summer, including a new crop of books that will transport you far away, regardless of your vacation plans. The best books arriving over the next few months take place in coastal Maine, an isolated part of Alaska, East Africa—and even a post-apocalyptic world, among other riveting destinations.
Some of the season’s greatest hits are by already beloved authors, like Tom Perrotta, Taylor Jenkins Reid, David Yoon, and Mohsin Hamid. Others are satisfying introductions to debut writers such as Joseph Han and Rebecca Rukeyser.
Here, the 27 best books to read this summer.
City of Orange, David Yoon (May 24)
David Yoon’s haunting new novel opens with a man lying supine in a desert, clueless as to what happened to him and where he is. The world has ended. The apocalypse has happened. As pieces of his memory slowly return, it becomes evident that he had a wife and daughter who are now lost forever. As the man figures out how to survive in this new barren land, he transitions from isolation to fear to, finally, acceptance. City of Orange is Yoon’s second book for adults, following Version Zero; he’s also written the young-adult novels Frankly in Love and Super Fake Love Song.
Either/Or, Elif Batuman (May 24)
In Elif Batuman’s second novel, a piquant sequel to her 2017 Pulitzer Prize-nominated debut novel The Idiot, protagonist Selin Karadag, a relentlessly curious Harvard student, ponders the value of love and lust as she mines her life for her burgeoning, semi-autobiographical creative writing. Drawing its title from Kierkegaard’s seminal work, with which Selin is obsessed, the narrative is a hyper-cerebral romp that is as brainy as it is charming.
You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty, Akwaeke Emezi (May 24)
Akwaeke Emezi delivers a fresh summer romance with their latest novel, You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty. After the devastating loss of her partner, artist Feyi Adekola has nearly rebuilt her life, tentatively easing back into the dating scene. While Feyi begins dating a man who checks off every box, an unexpected spark with someone who’s off-limits makes her reconsider everything she thought she knew about love.
Happy-Go-Lucky, David Sedaris (May 31)
David Sedaris’ signature wit has always thrived on the macabre, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that his latest collection of essays, Happy-Go-Lucky, written in the wake of the pandemic panic and the social and political unrest of 2020, is some of his darkest—and most astute—writing yet. From the death of his 98-year-old father to mask mandate drama, no topic is out of bounds for Sedaris’ acerbic humor and sharp observations.
Yerba Buena, Nina LaCour (May 31)
Nina LaCour is well-known for her YA books, including Watch Over Me and We Are Okay. In Yerba Buena, her first adult novel, she introduces two women—Sara and Emilie—who cross paths while trying to figure out who they really are. Both are flawed, with family trauma to sort through, and they’re instantly drawn to each other. Their pasts, however, might interfere with their newfound love in this slow-burn, heartfelt story.
Counterfeit, Kirstin Chen (June 7)
If you appreciate a good caper, you’ll want to pick up Kirstin Chen’s novel about two Asian American women who turn a counterfeit handbag scheme into a big business. The book is written as a confession, which helps readers get to know protagonists Ava and Winnie, and how their lives detoured toward crime. Counterfeit is fast-paced and fun, with smart commentary on the cultural differences between Asia and America.
Cult Classic, Sloane Crosley (June 7)
Magical realism meets romance in downtown New York in Sloane Crosley’s witty second novel, Cult Classic. Protagonist Lola is forced to confront her romantic past after she runs into a string of ex-boyfriends, all within the same five-mile radius in Manhattan’s Chinatown. But these occurrences are hardly coincidental, leading Lola on a mysterious and mystical chase to uncover what exactly is happening to her.
Nuclear Family, Joseph Han (June 7)
Migration, family secrets, and memory collide in Joseph Han’s gorgeous debut novel, Nuclear Family. For the Chos, a Korean American couple living in Hawaii, life has finally settled into comfort—that is, until their son, Jacob, who’s teaching English in Seoul, goes viral for attempting to cross the Demilitarized Zone into North Korea. Little does his family know that Jacob has been possessed by the ghost of his late grandfather, who still has unfinished business on earth.
The Seaplane on Final Approach, Rebecca Rukeyser (June 7)
Mira heads to remote Alaska to spend the summer working at a floundering wilderness lodge. While there, she obsesses over her step-cousin and watches as the lodge owners’ dysfunctional marriage implodes. The Seaplane on Final Approach is a snappy character study and a meditation on sleaziness.
Tracy Flick Can’t Win, Tom Perrotta (June 7)
Twenty-four years after he published Election, Tom Perrotta revisits his cult classic antiheroine Tracy Flick in Tracy Flick Can’t Win. Picking up decades after Election left off, the ever-ambitious Tracy returns to navigating the turbulent waters of high school politics—but this time, on the other side of the student-faculty divide. As an assistant principal at a suburban New Jersey high school, Tracy is balancing a new relationship, single motherhood, and the demands of her job when an unexpected career opportunity pops up and promises to change life as she knows it.
Horse, Geraldine Brooks (June 14)
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks turns her attention to the true story of a 19th-century racehorse named Lexington, one of the greatest in history. The story jumps between centuries: in Kentucky in 1850, an enslaved man bonds with a foal he vows to ride to victory. In New York City in 1954, a gallery owner becomes fixated on a mysterious oil painting of a horse. And finally, in Washington, D.C., in 2019, an art historian and a scientist make discoveries that lead back to Lexington. Horse isn’t just an animal story—it’s a moving narrative about race and art.
Flying Solo, Linda Holmes (June 14)
When Laurie returns home to Maine to clear out her beloved great aunt’s estate, she’s only recently removed from calling off her wedding—and is coming to terms with the idea that a conventional relationship might not be in the cards. When she finds a mysterious wooden duck buried in her aunt’s belongings, she embarks on a wild goose chase to figure out its origins, getting reacquainted with her first love along the way. The novel—which follows Holmes’ 2019 summer hit Evvie Drake Starts Over—is a refreshing reminder that “happily ever after” doesn’t have to look one specific way.
Learning to Talk, Hilary Mantel (June 21)
Hilary Mantel is a literary legend: she’s won the Booker Prize twice, and garnered wide acclaim for her Wolf Hall trilogy, which concluded in 2020 and was adapted for television. In Learning to Talk, Mantel dispenses a series of semi-autobiographical short stories. The collection—a re-release from 2003—features a new preface. Many of the stories center on childhood, and Mantel brings England alive, writing with detail and intellect.
Lapvona, Ottessa Moshfegh (June 21)
Ottessa Moshfegh transports readers to a medieval fiefdom in her new novel, which follows 2020’s Death in Her Hands. The book is about Little Marek, who was abused by his father, the village’s shepherd, and never knew his mother. He ends up in a power struggle that exposes the depravity of human nature and juxtaposes the difference between religion and manipulation. Lapvona is violent and provocative, and a departure from Moshfegh’s previous work.
Thrust, Lidia Yuknavitch (June 28)
The protagonist in Lidia Yuknavitch’s new novel is Laisv, who’s a “carrier”—which means certain objects can help her travel through time to connect with interesting people from eras past. Laisv’s ultimate goal is to save these people, including a dictator’s daughter and an accused murderer. As in her previous work, including The Book of Joan and Dora: A Headcase, Yuknavitch’s writing is moving and incisive.
Life Ceremony: Stories, Sayaka Murata (July 5)
Sayaka Murata—a Japanese writer whose previous novels include Convenience Store Woman—delivers her first collection of short stories translated into English. Life Ceremony consists of 12 engrossing entries that probe intimacy and individuality while turning norms upside down. In one, for example, a curtain in a young girl’s room spirals into jealousy as she watches—and tries to stop—her owner’s first kiss. The stories are strange and bold.
Crying in the Bathroom, Erika L. Sánchez (July 12)
Poet and young-adult novelist Erika L. Sánchez turns to the struggles and triumphs she’s experienced over the years for material for her latest book, the memoir Crying in the Bathroom. Touching on a wide range of topics that run the gamut from the deeply personal, like Sánchez’s bouts of depression, to the political, like immigration policy, each essay feels like a conversation with a good friend, thanks to Sánchez’s warm and vulnerable writing.
The Man Who Could Move Clouds, Ingrid Rojas Contreras (July 12)
Magic is not just a multi-generational occurrence in Ingrid Rojas Contreras’ family—it’s their legacy, something she details with both wonder and care in her memoir The Man Who Could Move Clouds. Growing up in Colombia, Rojas Contreras witnessed her mother telling fortunes and her grandfather, a renowned curandero (or healer), predicting the future, healing the sick, and moving clouds. Rojas Contreras was unsure of her place in this world until a head injury caused her to have amnesia—an experience that her family believes may be key to her accessing her own magic.
Upgrade, Blake Crouch (July 12)
Blake Crouch’s inventive new novel, equal parts thriller and sci-fi, examines how far our humanity can stretch. It’s about Logan, a scientist whose genome has been hacked—which alters him in unsettling ways. To stop these so-called upgrades from rolling out to the rest of the world, Logan has to spring into action. Readers who enjoyed Crouch’s previous novels, such as Dark Matter and Recursion, will find Upgrade just as thrilling. Steven Spielberg’s production company Amblin Partners has snapped up the film rights, and Crouch is attached to the project as an executive producer.
Dirtbag, Massachusetts: A Confessional, Isaac Fitzgerald (July 19)
Isaac Fitzgerald’s life has zigged and zagged: He used to work at a biker bar, and he’s the author of the children’s book How to Be a Pirate. He’s been an altar boy and a “fat kid.” He’s also had stints as a firefighter and smuggler. In his memoir Dirtbag, Massachusetts, Fitzgerald reflects on his origins—and coming to terms with self-consciousness, anger, and strained family relationships. His writing is gritty yet vulnerable.
The Last White Man, Mohsin Hamid (Aug. 2)
What is the value of whiteness, if it ceases to exist as we know it? That’s the question at the heart of Mohsin Hamid’s The Last White Man, where Anders, a white man, wakes up one morning to find that his skin has turned dark. As other similar cases occur throughout the land, Hamid poses larger questions about how we really see each other and ourselves.
Mika in Real Life, Emiko Jean (Aug. 2)
In Emiko Jean’s Mika in Real Life, Mika Suzuki sees a chance to not only reinvent herself, but also reimagine what her life could look like outside of her dreary reality. At 35, Mika’s situation is bleak: her love life is in ruins, her family is perpetually disappointed in her, and her living arrangement is less than ideal. But after she gets a phone call from the daughter she gave up for adoption, a tiny white lie turns into an opportunity for a second act—as long as her secret doesn’t come to light.
Autoportrait, Jesse Ball (Aug. 9)
In his first memoir, Jesse Ball—whose previous work includes March Book and The Divers’ Game—helps readers understand who he is and what shaped him. He reveals personal tidbits, like that one of his shoulders stands higher than the other, and that his left hand is quicker but weaker than his right. He also reflects on love and loss. Autoportrait was inspired by the memoir French writer Édouard Levé wrote shortly before dying in 2007.
The Women Could Fly, Megan Giddings (Aug. 9)
In Megan Giddings’ dystopian novel, The Women Could Fly, the mystical collides with the familiar when it comes to women’s autonomy. Josephine Thomas lives in a world where women are mandated to be married by 30 or forced to enroll in a registry that monitors them; with her 30th birthday around the corner, Jo finds hope for her freedom in the extraordinary last request of her long-lost mother, rumored to be a witch, who mysteriously disappeared when Jo was a child.
Afterlives, Abdulrazak Gurnah (Aug. 23)
Germany’s brutal colonization of East Africa (what is known as Tanzania, Burundi, and Rwanda today) provides the backdrop to Abdulrazak Gurnah’s arresting novel, Afterlives. Centering on the intersecting lives of Ilyas, Afiya, and Hamza, three young people who return home after being separated by war and slavery, the novel explores what is gained and what is lost in the name of survival. Gurnah, who won the 2021 Nobel Prize for his “uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism,” employs sensitivity and tenderness in each storyline.
Babel, Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution, R.F. Kuang (Aug. 23)
The Poppy War author R. F. Kuang tackles dark academia and imperialism with her latest novel, Babel, Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution. Centering on a plucky unnamed protagonist—a student at Babel, Oxford’s Royal Institute of Translation—and his rag-tag cohort, the book uses magic and agathokakological lessons to make a case for a post-colonial future.
Carrie Soto Is Back, Taylor Jenkins Reid (Aug. 30)
Taylor Jenkins Reid has collected a devoted following for her made-for-summer books like Malibu Rising and Daisy Jones & The Six. She returns with a novel about tennis star Carrie Soto, who won 20 Grand Slam titles with her father, Javier, as her coach. Six years into retirement, Carrie’s record is shattered by a player named Nicki—so she leaps back onto the court for one final season to reclaim what’s hers. Don’t worry if you’re not big on sports stories; this is, ultimately, a heart-filled novel about an iconic and persevering father and daughter.
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