Summer is the perfect time to tackle your to-read pile. Plane rides, comfortable porches, and poolside lounging all call for cracking open a good book, and there’s no better way to wait out a summer storm than curled up with a novel or entertaining essay collection. Here, we’ve collected 10 titles spanning a variety of genres that we’re looking forward to reading over the next few months. Whether you’re looking for something to throw into your beach bag, seeking a recommendation for your next book club read, or in need of a good laugh, this list has you covered.
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
What the critics say: The Washington Post declared, “This is surely the smartest, most exciting novel of the summer.” Meanwhile, a New York Times review posited,“The questions Commonwealth raises are ultimately counterfactual, philosophical: Who might we be if our parents hadn’t made catastrophic choices, and we hadn’t responded catastrophically to them? Maybe better-adjusted people with easier days and nights. But maybe the poorer for it.”
Why we picked it: Patchett is an excellent storyteller, and this book about how a romantic encounter affects the lives of six stepsiblings over the course of five decades promises to be a compelling and emotional examination of family.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
What the critics say: Where to begin? This book was lauded by critics in every major outlet, from The New York Times to The New Yorker to Vogue. Here’s a sample of the praise: “Groff’s novel unfolds in a he said/she said gutting drama that you won’t be able to resist.” –Marie Claire
Why we picked it: This National Book Award Finalist tells the story of a marriage between a glamorous couple from the perspectives of both the husband and wife. The premise alone is tantalizing, but Groff’s prodigious literary skills and talent make it a true must-read.
Invincible Summer by Alice Adams
What the critics say: The British author received widespread critical acclaim for her debut novel, including the following from The New York Times Book Review: “A crackerjack storyteller who deeply inhabits her characters—deploying pitch-perfect dialogue to poignant and hilarious effect—Adams uses the conventions of the form to examine larger ideas about class and commerce, art and science, friendship and family at the time of the most recent fin de siècle.”
Why we picked it: This story about four college friends who go their separate ways, then are brought back together years later, is perfect beach reading.
Theft by Finding by David Sedaris
What the critics say: It’s fairly unanimous that Sedaris’s diaries are a comedy goldmine. Harper’s Bazaar said this of his latest collection: “Theft by Finding reveals intimate details of this literary luminary’s life and mind—all told with his singular sense of humor.”
Why we picked it: It’s not often you can say a writer is “laugh out loud” funny and really mean it, but in David Sedaris’s case, it’s 100% true. Those who have seen him speak know how hilarious his diaries are, and there’s no doubt this book of entries from 1977 to 2002 delivers the humor.
Flâneuse by Lauren Elkin
What the critics say: Though the book may be difficult to categorize (it’s part cultural commentary, part memoir, part many other things), the general critical response is that this is a refreshing, worthwhile read. For example, the Chicago Tribune wrote, “[An] eclectic and absorbing memoir and cultural history….The book strikes a rewarding balance between present and past, as it establishes and illustrates the much-needed definition of the flaneuse as ‘a determined, resourceful individual keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city, and the liberating possibilities of a good walk.’”
Why we picked it: As soon as we spotted this book on Charlotte Moss’s Instagram we knew we had to order it—and not just because of its chic cover. In it, the author examines what it means to be a woman wandering in a city, exploring and being inspired by her surroundings.
Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
What the critics say: You know a book is going to be good when words like “delicious” and “uproarious” come up again and again in reviews. Take, for example, this passage from InStyle‘s write-up: “Kevin Kwan has done it again. The mastermind behind the delicious Crazy Rich Asians series has drawn a cult-like following with his extravagant tales of Asia’s upper echelon. He’s back at with the series’s final installment, Rich People Problems (rest assured, it’s just as enthralling as the trilogy’s first two volumes).”
Why we picked it: The latest novel from bestselling author Kwan is sure to be a hilarious riff on high society—and perfect poolside reading.
Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy
What the critics say: By and large, critics billed this novel as a must-read this summer. Here’s Vogue‘s take: “A marital reboot becomes a zip line to disaster in Maile Meloy’s holiday cruise-set thriller Do Not Become Alarmed, in which the children’s moral complexity outstrips that of their parents.”
Why we picked it: Ten years after reading it, Meloy’s Liars and Saints still ranks high on our favorite books list. Do Not Become Alarmed, a novel about what happens when two families go on a luxurious tropical vacation together and the children go missing, seems poised to take a spot right next to it.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
What the critics say: This Pulitzer Prize-winner was universally praised, including in a Washington Post review that read: “The Underground Railroad reanimates the slave narrative, disrupts our settled sense of the past and stretches the ligaments of history right into our own era…The canon of essential novels about America’s peculiar institution just grew by one.”
Why we picked it: While it’s definitely not a light and breezy beach read, The Underground Railroad is a thoroughly engrossing tale that’ll stay with you long after the last page. The book, which follows a female slave’s escape from a Georgia plantation in the antebellum South and her journey to find freedom, is an important, thought-provoking work that’s perfect for book clubs.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
What the critics say: Yet another universally beloved book, Elle wrote, “Saunders has written an unsentimental novel of Shakespearean proportions, gorgeously stuffed with tragic characters, bawdy humor, terrifying visions, throat-catching tenderness, and a galloping narrative, all twined around the luminous cord connecting a father and son and backlit by a nation engulfed in fire.”
Why we picked it: Short story writer Saunders’s first novel sounds utterly fascinating: it follows a mourning Abraham Lincoln as he grieves the loss of his 11-year-old son, Willie, while the Civil War rages. When Lincoln visits Willie in the Georgetown cemetery, the spirits of the dead come to life to help Willie and his father move on. Saunders is a brilliant writer, and while his latest work sounds undeniably ambitious, according to the critics it’s expertly executed.
How They Decorated by P. Gaye Tapp
What the critics say: This collection of interiors by well-known style icons certainly piqued the interest of critics, including Forbes.com, which stated: “In How They Decorated: Inspiration from Great Women of the Twentieth Century, P. Gaye Tapp casts her eyes on the decorating styles of iconic women like Babe Paley, Pauline de Rothschild, Mona Von Bismarck and Elsa Schiaparelli. Whether these women employed top decorators or executed their homes on their own, the book provides great insights into lives fabulously lived.”
Why we picked it: Who could resist an invitation into the homes of some of the most stylish women of the twentieth century?