The best books to read over the summer holidays

Malibu Rising

Taylor Jenkins Reid

Book: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Camera IconMalibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Credit: Supplied

Reid’s rollicking story about the rise and fall of a 1970s band, Daisy Jones and the Six, rocked its way to the top of the charts and Malibu Rising is just as good.

It follows the fortunes of a glamorous group of siblings in the surfing community of Malibu who throw a party that gets out of control.

Such a Fun Age

Kiley Reid

Book: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Camera IconSuch a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. Credit: Supplied

An African-American babysitter to a rich white family gets arrested in a grocery store while looking after their daughter.

This smart, sassy but gentle satire of race relations and political correctness announced Reid as a major new voice in US fiction.

Apples Never Fall

Liane Moriarty

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty.
Camera IconApples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty. Credit: Supplied

Australia’s queen of the sly suburban observation is in fine form with Apples Never Fall.

A tight-knit family that made its riches running a tennis school begins to unravel when their matriarch disappears.

Her husband is accused but whose side will the children take?

People We Meet on Vacation

Emily Henry

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry.
Camera IconPeople We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry. Credit: Supplied

Poppy and Alex, two unlikely friends who struck up a bond at college and who have holidayed together every summer for the past decade — until something went wrong.

Will they get back together? Will they admit their real feelings for each other?

As sweet and as light as grandma’s pavlova.

Luster

Raven Leilani

Luster by Raven Leilani.
Camera IconLuster by Raven Leilani. Credit: Supplied

This hums with the sound of its international buzz and the electricity of the strange relationship between Edie, a struggling 23-year-old African-American artist, and a middle-aged white couple she moves in with.

Leilani skewers 21st-century sexual, racial and office politics with a dry, dark and frequently absurd comic style.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

American Dirt

Jeanine Cummins

STM Books - American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
Camera IconAmerican Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. Credit: Supplied

Draws on real life to follow a mother, Lydia, and her eight-year-old son, Luca, as they flee a drug cartel that has murdered 16 members of their family.

Cummins humanises the journey of Latin American migrants making the dangerous choice to seek refuge in the US.

Shuggie Bain

Douglas Stuart

Shuggie Bain book cover
Camera IconShuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart. Credit: Supplied

2020’s Booker Prize winner was a terrific debut by Scottish author Stuart.

If the story of a boy growing up in grim Glasgow poverty enslaved to an alcoholic mother sounds dour, it is much, much more than that.

Richly detailed, beautifully written and emotionally wrenching. His second novel, Young Mungo, is due in April.

Hamnet

Maggie O’Farrell

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell.
Camera IconHamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. Credit: Supplied

The story of Shakespeare’s only son, who died at age 11 in 1596.

Hamnet is often forgotten in history but O’Farrell reimagines his death and what it meant to his parents and two sisters through this wonderful story.

A few years after the death, Shakespeare wrote the play Hamlet, considered by many to be his greatest work.

Mayflies

Andrew O’Hagan

Mayflies by Andrew O'Hagan
Camera IconMayflies by Andrew O’Hagan. Credit: Supplied

An effervescent portrait of life on the cusp of adulthood.

Music, in particular, and everything else in general infuses a group of young men on a trip to Manchester with a sense of exuberant invincibility.

But, ultimately, everyone has to learn to say goodbye.

A Room Made of Leaves

Kate Grenville

A Room Made of Leaves  by Kate Grenville.
Camera IconA Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville. Credit: Supplied

Grenville imagines the private life of Elizabeth Macarthur, the wife of overbearing Sydney wool baron John Macarthur.

Her voice rises from beneath the suffocating presence of her husband, bringing to life her thoughts, hopes and dreams.

But this is fiction set amid history and brings into focus the most modern of dilemmas: how false stories can shape reality.

DIG A LITTLE DEEPER

Rules of Civility

Amor Towles

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles.
Camera IconRules of Civility by Amor Towles. Credit: Supplied

Towles shot to fame with A Gentleman in Moscow and followed it last year with The Lincoln Highway.

Now it is time to seek out his debut novel, Rules of Civility, a bittersweet tale of gilded life in high-society Manhattan in the 1930s that has all the fizz and verve of a crisp prosecco.

Never Let Me Go

Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Camera IconNever Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Credit: Supplied

Klara and the Sun is regarded as one of the best books of 2021 but 15 years earlier Ishiguro wrote Never Let Me Go, a novel that also conjures an unsettling future and asks us to consider not only how we will live in the years ahead but how we want to live now.

Oh William!

Elizabeth Strout

Book: Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout
Camera IconOh William! by Elizabeth Strout. Credit: Supplied

The US author is back among the bestsellers with her incisive portrait of a woman mourning the loss of her second husband while renewing her relationship with her first.

Discover where her story began in My Name is Lucy Barton or dip into Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Olive Kitteridge.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Joan Didion

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion.
Camera IconSlouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion. Credit: Supplied

America’s grand lady of letters died two weeks ago after recently publishing Let Me Tell You What I Mean, a collection of 12 pieces that date from the early years of her remarkable 50-year career.

Seek out her first collection of essays, published in 1968, that range across the counterculture of the 1960s.

Joe Cinque’s Consolation

Helen Garner

Book cover: Joe Cinque's Consolation by Helen Garner.
Camera Icon Joe Cinque’s Consolation by Helen Garner. Credit: Unknown/Supplied

Current readers of Garner’s third book in her series of memoirs, How to End a Story, could delve into her back catalogue and dig up a gem every time.

Joe Cinque is an account of the separate trials of two people accused of his death.

Garner attempts to understand the circumstances of his death against a background of social disadvantage.

DIRTY DEEDS

Billy Summers

Stephen King

Billy Summers by Stephen King.
Camera IconBilly Summers by Stephen King. Credit: Supplied

Regarded by critics as King’s best book in years, Billy Summers is a former sniper turned hitman and would-be writer who puts retirement on hold for one last payday.

Readers will enjoy soaking up the literary references and finding the sly nods to King’s classic novel The Shining.

The Thursday Murder Club 2: The Man Who Died Twice

Richard Osman

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman.
Camera IconThe Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman. Credit: Supplied

British television personality Osman hit the literary jackpot with The Thursday Murder Club, in which four friends in a retirement home meet each week to investigate an unsolved murder.

The second in the series, The Man Who Died Twice, is possibly twice as much fun.

The President’s Daughter

James Patterson and Bill Clinton

The President's Daughter by James Patterson and Bill Clinton.
Camera IconThe President’s Daughter by James Patterson and Bill Clinton. Credit: Supplied

Heavyweights Lee Child, John Grisham, Daniel Silva and the ever-prolific James Patterson all entered the ring last year and threw some big punches.

Patterson’s debut collaboration with former US president Bill Clinton, The President is Missing, was the biggest-selling adult fiction book in 2018.

This follow-up delivered the knockout blow.

Girl A

Abigail Dean

Book: Girl A by Abigail Dean
Camera IconGirl A by Abigail Dean. Credit: TheWest

This cracking debut considers the life of seven siblings after they are freed from an abusive environment cultivated by their father.

Girl A is the public identity of Lex, who raised the alarm when she escaped from the family’s isolated home.

The Jealousy Man

Jo Nesbo

The Jealousy Man by Jo Nesbo.
Camera IconThe Jealousy Man by Jo Nesbo. Credit: Supplied

Nesbo has put aside his misfit detective Harry Hole to deliver his first collection of short stories.

These small bites taste exactly as you would expect from a master craftsman — a man is suspected of murdering his twin; a garbage man tries to piece together what happened the night before and a hired assassin matches wits against his greatest adversary.

BIG IS BEAUTIFUL

The Mirror & the Light

Hilary Mantel

Book cover: The Mirror and The Light by Hilary Mantel
Camera IconThe Mirror and The Light by Hilary Mantel. Credit: Supplied

This didn’t win Mantel her third Booker Prize but she insists the final instalment in her brutal, bloody trilogy about Henry VIII’s right-hand man, Thomas Cromwell, is the best in the series.

Over 900 pages, it tracks Cromwell’s relentless rise to wealth and power and his ultimate, untidy fall from grace.

A Little Life

Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life
Camera IconA Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Credit: Supplied

Yanagihara‘s To Paradise is one of the most anticipated releases of the year and is said to run to more than 700 pages.

Limber up for it by rediscovering A Little Life, her wildly successful novel from 2015 which traces the fortunes and friendship of four young men as they move through adulthood.

It also clocks in at 700 pages.

The Overstory

Richard Powers

The Overstory by Richard Powers.
Camera IconThe Overstory by Richard Powers. Credit: Supplied

A Pulitzer Prize-winning love letter to the majesty and enduring mystery of trees told through intersecting stories spanning centuries.

The language is at times blunt but the natural environment is always beautiful.

Note, the book’s 600 pages came from responsible sources.

The Secret History

Donna Tartt

The Secret History by Donna Tartt.
Camera IconThe Secret History by Donna Tartt. Credit: Supplied

Tartt’s 550-page debut novel about a group of young students who lose their moral compass under the influence of their classics professor lit up literature when it landed in 1992.

Over the next two decades she would go on to write The Little Friend and the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Goldfinch but for seductive summer reading, The Secret History is hard to resist.

Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Camera IconCloud Atlas by David Mitchell Credit: Supplied

A modern-day classic that takes you on a magic carpet ride forward and back through time and across a universe of genres and styles as Mitchell ponders some of life’s big questions over 500 pages.

Inventive and intriguing but at times it calls for the perseverance displayed when getting through a second Christmas dinner.


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