Best summer reads 2020
Summer holiday or not, there are still plenty of reasons to load up on new books and spend sunny days reading. We round up the best new books - released in hardback and paperback - to buy or pre-order now.
Best-selling author of The Mothers Brit Bennett explores sisterhood and racial identity in this enthralling and emotive family drama. The Vanishing Half follows identical twin sisters who run away from their small southern town at the age of 16. Ten years later, the sisters are divided by difference and secrets. Spanning the 50s to the 90s, from the Deep South to California, the story goes beyond race to delve into the power of the past and our desires to honour and escape it.
Curtis Sittenfeld, author of Prep and American Wife, is a master of juicy and evocative stories that tap into the US psyche. Her hotly-anticipated story of what might have happened if Hilary Rodham didn't marry Bill Clinton offers a fascinating parallel history. Instead of First Lady and Mrs Clinton, this Hilary becomes the first female president, battling misogyny and making history in her own right. Told in Sittenfeld's sharp but expansive prose, it's a fantasy of liberal America and an enticing alternative to the fraught reality of contemporary politics.
Following on from her thrilling debut The Hunting Party, Lucy Foley is back with another twisty murder mystery. A body is found at lavish wedding on a private island. There are only 13 guests, and one of them is the culprit. In a slick modern twist on Agatha Christie’s ‘closed room’ whodunnit, this story digs into family grudges and buried resentments to keep you guessing right until the end.
In 2018’s stunning An American Marriage, Tayari Jones revealed a gift for weaving gripping and knotty relationship dramas with political clout. Silver Sparrow revolves around similar themes of betrayal, devotion and devastation. James Witherspoon is a respectable man with a loving family. But he has second family, who are kept a secret. Two teenage girls are caught up in the middle of duplicity, as the carefully spun lies give way to explosive home truths.
Memoir meets manifesto in Candice Braithwaite's urgent exploration of black motherhood in Britain today. As a blogger, 'mumfluencer' and activist, Braithwaite combines personal insight and political clout to smash through the white-washed stereotypes we see in the media. From early pregnancy to school gate cliques, she captures the highs and lows of motherhood, along with the racially-charged micro-aggressions and unconscious bias imposed upon black mothers. Warm, funny and endlessly revealing, I Am Not Your Baby Mother is a vital read - whatever your race or mummy status.
The contradictions and intricate hierarchies of contemporary Seoul form a fascinating backdrop in this story about four women attempting to thrive in the face of fiercely competitive beauty standards.
Taking the social conflict that makes Oscar-winning film Parasite so absorbing, and adding in themes of motherhood and female friendship, debut writer Fraces Ha immerses you into an intoxicating fictional world. There’s Kyuri, whose livelihood is dependent on her perfect looks; Miho, an artistic orphan who gets swept up by the jet-setting Korean elite; Ara, a hairdresser driven to distraction by her obsession with K-Pop; and Wonna, who is pregnant and panicking about her financial situation.
Journalist and podcast host Pandora Sykes brings her keen wit and incisive sense of the zeitgeist to a new collection of essays. How Do We Know We're Doing It Right explores the foundations and fears of modern life, from millennial burnout to fast fashion. Instead of preaching or proffering answers for how to get it right, this is a book that celebrates uncertainty and multiplicity. The standalone essays are easy to dip into, each bringing a clarity and a fresh perspective to the issues that tangle up modern life.
This lively romantic comedy follows a woman at a crossroads who finds herself caught in a love triangle. At 31, Casey is broke, floundering and in mourning. She returns to Massachusetts to wait tables and attempt to finish her novel, but distraction comes in the form of not one, but two love interests. The love story catches your attention, but it’s the wisdom and reliability of Casey’s soul-searching that makes this book memorable. Lily King writes with gusto and warmth, exploring loss, desire, creativity and the peculiar intensity of properly growing up.
If you could erase the mistakes of the past and start again, would you make better choices the second time around? Best-selling writer Matt Haig ruminates on regret and forgiveness in a story about desperate woman who finds herself in a magical library, where each book allows her to relive a moment in life to find the perfect outcome. But, in trying to rectifying the past she discovers that it's the little, over-looked things that matter most. This is a gently uplifting and deeply comforting book, with an important message about mental health.
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They fuck you up, your mum and dad – even if they do everything right. Claire Lombardo's insightful debut novel follows four sisters with vastly different lives, united a sense of inadequacy triggered by their parents' seemingly perfect marriage. Spanning 40 years in a weighty 550 pages, The Most Fun We Ever Had is a story to sink your teeth into. But the gregarious prose and dramatic plot developments reel you in. We would spend much more time with the Sorenson family if we could.
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