The Best Summer Reads Of 2020

The Best Summer Reads Of 2020

From forthcoming paperbacks to the new novels to pre-order now, here are the books to read this summer.

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

In 1971, Hillary Rodham is a young woman full of promise: Life magazine has covered her Wellesley commencement speech, she’s attending Yale Law School and she’s on the forefront of student activism and the women’s rights movement. And then she meets Bill Clinton. A handsome, charismatic southerner and fellow law student, Bill is already planning his political career. In each other, the two find a profound intellectual, emotional and physical connection that neither has previously experienced. In the real world, Hillary followed Bill back to Arkansas, and he proposed several times; although she said no more than once, as we all know, she eventually accepted and became Hillary Clinton. But in Curtis Sittenfeld’s powerfully imagined tour-de-force of fiction, Hillary takes a different road. Feeling doubt about the prospective marriage, she endures their devastating breakup and leaves Arkansas. Over the next four decades, she blazes her own trail – one that unfolds in public as well as in private, that involves crossing paths again (and again) with Bill Clinton, that raises questions about the trade-offs all of us must make in building a life.

“Deviously clever… Sittenfeld’s Hillary is both a player in the Game of Thrones and a romance novel heroine. She’s a brilliant badass who has found her voice and knows how to use it. She’s whoever she wants to be.” – O: The Oprah Magazine  
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The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

At a family wedding, the four Sorenson sisters polka-dot the green lawn in their summer pastels, with varying shades of hair and varying degrees of unease. Their long-infatuated parents watch on with a combination of love and concern. Sixteen years later, the already messy lives of the sisters are thrown into turmoil by the unexpected reappearance of a teenage boy given up for adoption years earlier – and suddenly the rich and varied tapestry of the Sorensons' past is revealed. Weaving between past and present, The Most Fun We Ever Had portrays the delights and difficulties of family life and the endlessly complex mixture of affection and abhorrence we feel for those closest to us. A lovely, long read that will keep you gripped as the tale weaves between decades and voices.

“Like Meg Wolitzer. A forensic dissection of family past and present, I loved it. If you like reading about relationships, this one is for you.” – Pandora Sykes, The High-Low

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Beach Read by Emily Henry

A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about ‘happily ever after’. Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance novels. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast. They’re polar opposites. In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighbouring beach houses, broke and bogged down with writer’s block. Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult. Both will finish a book and – no one will fall in love. A fun story, this book’s title more than lives up to its name.

“The hottest book of the summer.” – Josie Silver, author of One Day in December

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The Love Square by Laura Jane Williams

We were huge fans of Laura Jane Williams’ debut novel Our Stop, so can’t wait to get our hands on this new tale. Penny Bridge has always been unlucky in love. So she can’t believe it when she meets a remarkable new man. Followed by another. And then another. And all of them want to date her. Penny has to choose between three. But are any of them ‘The One’? Williams will have you laughing, crying and cheering Penny on in this funny and feel-good exploration of hope, romance and the trust it takes to finally fall in love. Perfect for fans of Mhairi McFarlane’s If I Never Met You and Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare.

“Full of delicious food, real kindness and sexy men… what’s not to like?” – Beth O’Leary, author of The Flatshare

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The Magnificent Sons by Justin Myers

Two brothers. Two different journeys. The same hope of a magnificent future. At 29, Jake D’Arcy has finally got his life just right: a job with prospects, steady girlfriend, and firmly away from his family dramas. So why isn’t he happier? When his confident, much-adored younger brother Trick comes out as gay to a rapturous response, Jake realises he has questions about his own repressed bisexuality, and that he can’t wait any longer to find his answers. As Trick begins to struggle with navigating the murky waters of adult relationships, Jake must confront himself and those closest to him. As witty, funny and emotionally hard-hitting as Justin Myers’ debut novel The Last Romeo, this is a heartfelt read.

“Funny, beautifully observed and moving.” – Adam Kay, author of This Is Going To Hurt

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 The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

From the award-winning author of Station Eleven, this exhilarating novel is set at the glittering intersection of two seemingly disparate events – a massive Ponzi scheme collapse and the mysterious disappearance of a woman from a ship at sea. Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star lodging on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. On the night she meets Jonathan Alkaitis, a hooded figure scrawls a message on the lobby’s glass wall: “Why don’t you swallow broken glass.” High above Manhattan, a greater crime is committed: Alkaitis is running an international Ponzi scheme, moving imaginary sums of money through clients’ accounts. When the financial empire collapses, it obliterates countless fortunes and devastates lives. Rife with unexpected beauty, The Glass Hotel is a captivating portrait of greed and guilt, love and delusion, ghosts and unintended consequences, and the infinite ways we search for meaning in our lives.

“A lovely, beautifully written and constructed novel that I couldn’t put down, full of memorable, unusual characters… Mandel’s agility with time in this story was a marvel.” – Kristin Hannah, author of The Nightingale

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Sex & Vanity by Kevin Kwan

The author of the bestselling Crazy Rich Asians returns with a glittering tale of a young woman who finds herself torn between two men: the fiancé of her family’s dreams and George Zao, the man she is desperately trying to avoid falling in love with. On her very first morning on the jewel-like island of Capri, Lucie Churchill sets eyes on George and instantly can’t stand him. The daughter of an American-born Chinese mother and a blue-blooded New York father, Lucie has always sublimated the Asian side of herself in favour of the white side, and she adamantly denies having feelings for George. But several years later, when George unexpectedly appears in East Hampton, where Lucie is weekending with her new fiancé, Lucie finds herself drawn to George again. Soon, Lucie is spinning a web of deceit that involves her family, her fiancé, the co-op board of her Fifth Avenue apartment building, and ultimately herself as she tries to deny George entry into her world – and her heart. Moving between summer playgrounds of privilege, peppered with decadent food and extravagant fashion, Sex & Vanity is a modern love story and a brilliant comedy set between two cultures.

“An intoxicating, breezy update of E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View.” – Publishers Weekly

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The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

Dublin, 1918, and a maternity ward at the height of the Great Flu is a small world of work, risk, death and unlooked-for love. In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city centre, where expectant mothers who have come down with the flu are quarantined together. Into Julia’s regimented world step two outsiders – Dr Kathleen Lynn, a rumoured Rebel on the run from the police, and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney. In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over three days, these women change each other’s lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. With tireless tenderness and humanity, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work. In The Pull of the Stars, Room’s Emma Donoghue once again finds the light in the darkness in this timely story of hope and survival against all odds.

“Donoghue offers vivid characters and a gripping portrait of a world beset by a pandemic and political uncertainty. A fascinating read in these difficult times.” – Booklist

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Expectation by Anna Hope

Hannah, Cate and Lissa are young, vibrant and inseparable. Living on the edge of a common in east London, their shared world is ablaze with art and activism, romance and revelry – and the promise of everything to come. Ten years on, they are not where they hoped to be. Amid flailing careers and faltering marriages, each hungers for what the others have. And each wrestles with the same question: what does it take to lead a meaningful life? Expectation is a novel of the highs and lows of friendship – how it can dip, dive and rise again. It is also about finding your way: as a mother, a daughter, a wife, a rebel. Most of all, it explores that liminal space between expectation and reality, the place – full of dreams, desires and pain – in which we all live our lives.

“A generation-defining book, honest and relatable on motherhood, ambition and sex. Like Normal People with female friendship under the microscope.” – Erin Kelly, author of He Said/She Said

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Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people. In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal's office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash. Separated by distance – and Papi's secrets – the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they've lost everything of their father, they learn of each other. In this double-narrative novel that brims with both grief and love, award-winning and bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives. A must read.

"Tackles family secrets, toxic masculinity, and socio-economic differences with incisive clarity and candour... A standing ovation." – Kirkus Reviews

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All Adults Here by Emma Straub

All Adults Here is a warm, funny novel about the lifecycle of one family, as the kids become parents, grandchildren become teenagers, and a matriarch confronts the legacy of her mistakes. When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus accident in the centre of town, it sets free a repressed memory from her young parenting days decades earlier. Suddenly, Astrid realises she was not quite the parent she thought she'd been to her three now-adult children. But to what consequence? Astrid's youngest son is drifting and unfocused, making parenting mistakes of his own. Her daughter is pregnant yet struggling to give up her own adolescence. And her eldest seems to measure his adult life according to standards no one else shares. But who gets to decide, so many years later, which long-ago lapses were the ones that mattered?

"A totally engaging and smart book about the absolutely marvellous messiness of what makes up family. A wonderful book." – Elizabeth Strout, author of Olive Kitteridge

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