The Books To Read This Summer

Looking for something uplifting or powerfully moving to read in the sunshine? Our pick of notable recent and upcoming novels – from both established authors and newcomers – offers a little something for everyone.

All products on this page have been selected by our editorial team, however we may make commission on some products.

A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon, £14.99 (was £16.99)

Linda has lived in her nice, normal house since she fled the dark events of her childhood in Wales. Now she sits in her kitchen, wondering if this is all there is – pushing the hoover around and cooking fish fingers for tea is a far cry from the glamorous lifestyle she sees in the glossy catalogues coming through the door for the house’s previous occupant. Terry isn’t perfect – he picks his teeth, tracks dirt through the house and spends most of his time in front of the TV. That seems standard – until he starts keeping odd hours at work, at around the same time young women start to go missing in the neighbourhood. If Linda could just track down Rebecca, who lived in the house before them, maybe some of that perfection would rub off on her. But the grass isn’t always greener: you can’t change who you really are, and there’s something nasty lurking behind the curtains on Cavendish Avenue…

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Booth by Karen Joy Fowler, £16.99 (was £18.99)

From the author of the Booker-shortlisted, million-selling We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves comes an epic novel about the infamous, ill-fated Booth family. Junius Brutus Booth is the patriarch, a celebrated Shakespearean actor who fled bigamy charges in England – both a talent and a man of terrifying instability. As his ten children grow up on a remote farmstead in 1830s rural Baltimore, America draws ever closer to the boiling point of secession and civil war. The six Booth siblings who survive to adulthood each have their own dreams they must fight to realise, but it is Johnny who makes the terrible decision that will change the course of history: the assassination of US president Abraham Lincoln. Blending history with family saga, Booth is a riveting epic that focuses on the things that bind – and break – a family and the impact of slavery on both the Booths and their slaves, the Halls.

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Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid, £16.99

Carrie Soto is fierce and her determination to win at any cost has not made her popular. By the time Carrie retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. With her father as her coach, she has shattered every record, claimed 20 Grand Slam titles and sacrificed nearly everything to become the best. But six years after her retirement, Carrie finds herself sitting in the stands of the 1994 US Open, watching her record be taken from her by a stunning British player named Nicki Chan. At 37 years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year in an attempt to reclaim her record – even if the sports media says that they never liked the 'Battle-Axe' anyway, even if her body doesn't move as fast as it did and even if it means swallowing her pride to train with a man she once almost opened her heart to. In this riveting novel, Taylor Jenkins Reid, the bestselling author of Malibu Rising and Daisy Jones & The Six, tells a story about the cost of greatness and a legendary athlete attempting a comeback.

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Death & Croissants by Ian Moore, £7.49 (was £8.99)

If you love Richard Osman’s bestselling The Thursday Murder Club books (and if so, good news – the third one is out this September), you’ll love this A Folley Valley Mystery collection. Richard is a middle-aged Englishman who runs a B&B in the fictional Val de Follet in the Loire Valley. Nothing ever happens to Richard and that’s the way he likes it really. One day, however, one of his older guests disappears, leaving behind a bloody handprint on the wallpaper. Another guest, the enigmatic Valérie, persuades a reluctant Richard to join her in investigating the disappearance…

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House Arrest by Alan Bennett, £6.99

This book chronicles the reflections on Covid and confinement from the unparalleled pen of playwright and memoirist Alan Bennett. Comprising a year in and out of lockdown, the diary takes us from the filming of Talking Heads to thoughts on Boris Johnson, from his father's short-lived craze for family fishing trips, to stair lifts, junk shops of old, getting a haircut and encounters on the local park bench. A lyrical afterword describes the journey home to Yorkshire from King's Cross station via fish and chips on Quebec Street, past childhood landmarks of Leeds, through Coniston Cold, over the infant River Aire, and on. A wonderful report from one of the UK’s best-loved writers.

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Murder Before Evensong by Reverend Richard Coles, £16.99

Canon Daniel Clement is rector of Champton. He has been there for eight years, living at the rectory alongside his widowed mother – the opinionated, fearless, ever-so-slightly annoying Audrey – and his two dachshunds, Cosmo and Hilda. When Daniel announces a plan to install a lavatory in the church, the parish is suddenly (and unexpectedly) divided: as lines are drawn, long-buried secrets come dangerously close to destroying the apparent calm of the village. And then Anthony Bowness – cousin to Bernard de Floures, patron of Champton – is found dead at the back of the church, stabbed in the neck with a pair of secateurs. As the police move in and the bodies start piling up, Daniel is the only one who can try and keep his fractured community together  – and catch a killer.

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Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, £12.99 (was £14.99)

This is a great book to get stuck into ahead of its TV adaptation later this year. Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth would be the first to point out there is no such thing. But it's the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans, the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with – of all things – her mind. A few years later, Elizabeth finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America's most beloved cooking show, Supper at Six. Elizabeth's unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon of acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. As her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth isn't just teaching women to cook. She's daring them to change the status quo.

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The Dance Tree by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, £14.99

Strasbourg, 1518. In the middle of a blisteringly hot summer, a lone woman begins to dance in the city square. She dances for days without pause or rest and, as she is joined by hundreds of others, the authorities declare an emergency. Musicians will be brought in to play the devil out of these women. Just beyond the city’s limits, pregnant Lisbet lives with her mother-in-law and husband, tending the bees that are their livelihood. And then, as the dancing plague gathers momentum, Lisbet’s sister-in-law Nethe returns from seven years’ penance in the mountains for a crime no one will name. It is a secret Lisbet is determined to uncover. As the city buckles under the beat of a thousand feet, she finds herself thrust into a dangerous web of deceit and clandestine passion, but she is dancing to a dangerous tune. Set in an era of superstition, hysteria and extraordinary change, and inspired by the true events of a doomed summer, The Dance Tree is a story of family secrets, forbidden love and women pushed to the edge.

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Mother's Boy by Patrick Gale, £20

Laura, an impoverished Cornish girl, meets her husband when they are both in service in Teignmouth in 1916. They have a baby, Charles, but Laura's husband returns home from the trenches a damaged man, already ill with the tuberculosis that will soon leave her a widow. In a small, class-obsessed town she raises her boy alone, working as a laundress, and gradually becomes aware that he is some kind of genius. As an intensely private young man, Charles signs up for the navy with the new rank of coder. His escape from the tight, gossipy confines of Launceston to the colour and violence of war sees him blossom as he experiences not only the possibility of death, but the constant danger of a love that is as clandestine as his work. Mother's Boy is the story of a man being shaped for a long, remarkable and revered life spent hiding in plain sight. But it is equally the story of the tireless mother who will continue to shield him long after the dangers of war are past.

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Spring Cannot be Cancelled: David Hockney in Normandy by Martin Gayford & David Hockney, £12.99 (was £14.99)

On turning 80, David Hockney sought out rustic tranquillity for the first time: a place to watch the sunset and the change of the seasons, a place to keep the madness of the world at bay. So when Covid-19 and lockdown struck, it made little difference to life at La Grande Cour, the centuries-old Normandy farmhouse where Hockney set up a studio a year before, in time to paint the arrival of spring. In fact, he relished the enforced isolation as an opportunity for even greater devotion to his art. Spring Cannot be Cancelled is an uplifting manifesto that affirms art’s capacity to divert and inspire. Based on a wealth of new conversations and correspondence between Hockney and the art critic Martin Gayford, his long-time friend and collaborator, their exchanges are illustrated by a selection of Hockney’s new, unpublished Normandy iPad drawings and paintings alongside works by van Gogh, Monet, Bruegel and others. A must for art fans.

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The House of Fortune by Jessie Burton, £16.99

We can’t wait to get out hands on the long-awaited follow-up to The Miniaturist. In Amsterdam in 1705, Thea Brandt is turning 18 and she is ready to welcome adulthood with open arms. At the city’s theatre, Walter, the love of her life, awaits her, but at home in the house on the Herengracht, all is not well – her father Otto and Aunt Nella argue endlessly, and the Brandt family are selling their furniture to survive. On Thea’s birthday, also the day that her mother Marin died, the secrets from the past begin to overwhelm the present. Nella is desperate to save the family and maintain appearances, to find Thea a husband who will guarantee her future and, when they receive an invitation to Amsterdam’s most exclusive ball, she is overjoyed – perhaps this will set their fortunes straight. And indeed, the ball does set things spinning: new figures enter their life, promising new futures. But their fates are still unclear and, when Nella feels a strange prickling sensation on the back of her neck, she remembers the miniaturist who entered her life and toyed with her fortunes 18 years ago.

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The Palace Papers by Tina Brown, £16.99 (was £20)

'Never again' became Queen Elizabeth's mantra shortly after Princess Diana's death. More specifically, there could never be 'another Diana' – a member of the family whose global popularity upstaged, outshone and posed a threat to the British monarchy. Picking up where The Diana Chronicles left off, Tina Brown’s The Palace Papers reveals how the royal family reinvented itself after the traumatic years when Diana's blazing celebrity ripped through the House of Windsor, while taking readers on a journey of the Queen's resolve as she coped with the passing of Princess Margaret, the Queen Mother and Prince Philip. The eye-opening book also explores Prince Charles's determination to make Camilla his queen, the tension between William and Harry who are on 'different paths', the ascendance of the Duchess of Cambridge, the recent allegations surrounding Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein, and Harry and Meghan's decision to 'step back' as senior royals. Despite the monarchy's best efforts, 'never again' seems fast approaching.

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Elektra by Jennifer Saint, £14.99

Jennifer Saint grew up reading Greek mythology and was always drawn to the untold stories hidden within the myths. After 13 years as a high school English teacher, she wrote the award-winning Ariadne which tells the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur from the perspective of Ariadne – the woman who made it happen. Her second novel, Elektra, is published this month and explores the curse upon the House of Atreus, giving voice to three women who are caught up in its shadows: Clytemnestra, Cassandra and Elektra whose lives are shattered by the Trojan War and who seek to find justice at any cost.

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The House With The Golden Door by Elodie Harper, £16.99

The House with the Golden Door is the second novel in Elodie Harper's celebrated Wolf Den trilogy, which reimagines the lives of women who have long been overlooked. Amara has escaped her life as a slave in Pompeii's most notorious brothel. She now has a house, fine clothes and servants – but all of these are gifts from her patron, hers for as long as she keeps her place in his affections. As she adjusts to this new life, Amara is still haunted by her past. At night she dreams of the wolf den and the women she left behind. By day, she is pursued by her former slavemaster. In order to be truly free, she will need to be as ruthless as he is. Amara knows she can draw strength from Venus, the goddess of love. Yet falling in love herself may prove to be her downfall.

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