7 Must-Read Books Everyone Will Be Talking About This Summer

published May 27, 2020
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Though many have foregone summer travel plans, there are still many ways to escape—through reading. That sounds cheesy, I know, but it’s true. You can visit California during the time of the Gold Rush, step inside a fancy summer home at the peak of wedding season, or spend quiet afternoons with people in North Carolina.

Some of these books are out now; some require a pre-order. Either way, remember to support local, indie bookstores if you can so that we can browse their shelves on the other side of this.

Self Care by Leigh Stein

Go behind the Instagram filter with this story of best friends-turned-co-founders of a wellness startup. Stein forces the reader to confront the culture they are likely embedded in—one of online toxicity, faux self-care rituals, and a culture of “rise and grind” that often leaves us exhausted.

The Margot Affair by Sanaë Lemoine

Margot is the daughter of an illicit relationship between her mother, a famous actress, and a prestigious politician who already had a family at the time of the affair. Margot’s mother always seemed disinterested in her daughter, leading Margot to idolize her father. The novel follows a year in the life of Margot who, at 17, decides to shatter the carefully-constructed world her parents have created.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

In this book, twin sisters Desiree and Stella run away from home in Mallard, Louisiana, at the age of 16. Despite being inseparable growing up, the two end up on polar opposite paths. Circumstances force Desiree to return to Louisiana to raise her daughter while Stella chooses to create a new life in California, where she passes as white.

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

If your ex-best friend came out of the woodwork to ask you to be her Maid of Honor, would you say yes? Daphne Berg is faced with that question and agrees to stand by Drue’s side, despite a massive falling out six years earlier. Like Weiner’s previous books, this novel is funny, surprising, and moving in all the right places.

How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang

This epic historical fiction takes place during the Gold Rush, beginning with Lucy and Sam, siblings orphaned by parents who died chasing gold in America. Now, the two must learn survival on their own in the California hills, a land that doesn’t immediately welcome, but that they must try to call home.

Sleepovers by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips

This prizewinning collection of short stories takes place in North Carolina, each occasionally sharing character or theme but mostly demonstrating the vast experiences people go through in one corner of the world. Phillips’s voice is distinct, and she writes characters whose ambitions exist beyond their present circumstances, making them easy to empathize with.

A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet

This is sure to be the “dystopia of the summer,” as Pulitzer finalist Lydia Millet crafts an eerie story of apocalyptic climate change and an intense generational divide between children and their elders. Sound familiar? It might not be the escape you’re seeking this summer, but it offers an incredible lens through which to process our changing—sometimes collapsing—world.