31 Incredible Books You Simply Must Read This Summer
Brilliant reads from July to September (UK release dates).
1. The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss – Out Now
Adam is a stay-at-home dad who is also working on a history of the bombing and rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral. He is a good man and he is happy. But one day, he receives a call from his daughter's school to inform him that, for no apparent reason, 15-year-old Miriam has collapsed and stopped breathing. In that moment, he is plunged into a world of waiting, agonising, not knowing. The story of his life and the lives of his family are rewritten and retold around this shocking central event, around a body that has inexplicably failed.
2. The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan – Out Now
On a hot May day in 1996 a car bomb detonates in a Delhi marketplace. Just a "small" bomb, but it is fatal for two Khurana schoolboys. Their friend Mansoor survives the blast bearing the physical and psychological effects of the bomb. After a failed stint at university in America, Mansoor returns to Delhi and becomes entangled with a mysterious and charismatic activist. Yet Mansoor isn't the only one damaged by the bomb. Mr and Mrs Khurana are desperate for justice to appease their grief, and young bombmaker Shockie is also in Delhi that day and afterwards will be inextricably linked to the blast.
3. An Unreliable Guide to London edited by Kit Caless – Out Now
A collection of 23 stories about the lesser-known parts of London. Stories that stretch the reader's definition of the truth and question reality: wind nymphs in South Clapham tube station, the horse-sized swan at Brentford Ait, sleeping clinics in Islington, and celebrations for St Margaret's Day of the Dead. With a list of contributors reflecting the multi-layered, complex social structures of the city – including Chloe Aridjis, Yvvette Edwards, Will Wiles, Noo Saro-Wiwa (pictured), Nikesh Shukla, Stephen Thompson, Irenosen Okojie, Sunny Singh, and many more – this unreliable guide shows you everything that you never knew existed.
4. Season of Crimson Blossoms by Abubaker Adam Ibrahim – Out Now
An affair between 55-year-old widow Binta Zubairu and 25-year-old weed dealer Reza was bound to provoke condemnation in conservative northern Nigeria. Binta yearns for intimacy after the sexual repression of her marriage, the pain of losing her first son, and the privations of widowhood. Meanwhile, Reza's heart lies empty and waiting to be filled due to the absence of a mother. The situation comes to a head when Binta's wealthy son confronts Reza, with disastrous consequences.
5. Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien – Out Now
In Canada in 1991, 10-year-old Marie and her mother invite Ai-Ming, a young woman who has fled China in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests, into their home. Ai-Ming tells Marie the story of her family in revolutionary China, a history in which three musicians – the shy and brilliant composer Sparrow, the violin prodigy Zhuli, and the enigmatic pianist Kai – struggle to remain loyal to one another and to the music they have devoted their lives to during China's relentless Cultural Revolution.
6. The Place That Didn't Exist by Mark Watson – Out Now
Junior creative Tim Callaghan can hardly believe his luck when he's flown out to Dubai to supervise the filming of an advert for an international charity. He is immediately entranced by the city: shimmering and seductive, it seems as though nothing bad could ever happen in Dubai. But when a crew member is found dead in in mysterious circumstances, Tim learns that if a place seems too good to be true, it probably is.
7. The Seamstress and the Wind by César Aira – 21 July
In a small town in Argentina, a seamstress is sewing a wedding dress. All of a sudden she fears that her son has been kidnapped and driven off to Patagonia. She gives chase in a taxi. Her husband finds out and takes off after her – to the end of the world, to the place where monsters are born and where the southern wind falls hopelessly in love.
8. Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers – 26 July
A mother and her two young children embark upon a journey through the Alaskan wilderness. At first their trip feels like a vacation: They spot wild animals, build bonfires, enjoy the scenery. But as Josie drives her kids deeper into the forest we learn more of the events that forced her to escape her old life and bring her family on this surreal adventure in order to finally discover something clean and redemptive out at the very edge of civilisation.
9. Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey – 27 July
Famous Brazilian novelist Beatriz Yagoda is missing. Upon hearing the news of her disappearance, her American translator, Emma, flies to Brazil. There, in the sticky heat of Rio, Emma conspires with Beatriz's two grown children to solve the author's disappearance. But as the trio begins to uncover the bizarre and troubling affairs Beatriz has left in her wake, they realise their search for her is far more cryptic than they could have imagined. Are the secrets to Beatriz s disappearance hidden in her enigmatic novels? Or are her words obscuring more than they reveal?
10. Flâneuse by Lauren Elkin – 28 July
If the word "flâneur" conjures up visions of Baudelaire, boulevards, and bohemia – then what exactly is a flâneuse? Part cultural meander, part memoir, Flâneuse traces the relationship between the city and creativity through a journey moves from New York to Paris, via Venice, Tokyo, and London, exploring the paths taken by the flâneuses who have lived and walked in those cities. From 19th-century novelist George Sand to artist Sophie Calle, from war correspondent Martha Gellhorn to filmmaker Agnes Varda, Flâneuse considers what is at stake when a certain kind of light-footed woman encounters the city and changes her life, one step at a time.
11. The Last Photograph by Emma Chapman – 28 July
Rook Henderson is an award-winning photographer who carries the hidden scars of war. Now, suddenly, he is also a widower. Leaving his son Ralph to pick up the pieces, Rook flies to Vietnam for the first time in 50 years, escaping to the landscape of a place he once knew so well. But when Ralph follows him out there, seeking answers from the father he barely knows, Rook is forced to unwind his past: his childhood in Yorkshire, his life in London in the 1960s, and his marriage to the unforgettable June – and to ask himself what price he has paid for a life behind the lens.
12. The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami – 4 August
When Hitomi takes a job on the cash register of a neighbourhood thrift store, she finds herself drawn into a very idiosyncratic community. There is Mr Nakano, an enigmatic ladies' man with several ex-wives; Masayo, Mr Nakano's sister, an artist who has never married; and her fellow employee Takeo, a shy but charming young man. Every day, curios are bought and sold, each one containing its own surprising story. When Hitomi and Takeo begin to fall for one another, they find themselves in the centre of their own drama – and on the edges of many others.
13. I'll Sell You a Dog by Juan Pablo Villalobos – 4 August
Long before he was the taco seller whose "Gringo Dog" recipe made him famous throughout Mexico City, our hero was an aspiring artist: till his would-be girlfriend was stolen by Diego Rivera, and his dreams snuffed out. Now our hero is resident in a retirement home, where he fends off boredom by antagonising his neighbours, torturing American missionaries with passages from Adorno, and flirting with a revolutionary greengrocer.
14. The Lauras by Sara Taylor – 4 August
I didn’t realise my mother was a person until I was thirteen years old and she pulled me out of bed, put me in the back of her car, and we left home and my dad with no explanations. I thought that Ma was all that she was and all that she had ever wanted to be. I was wrong. As Alex and her mother undertake their enigmatic pilgrimage, each new state prompts stories and secrets. Together they trace back through a life of struggle and adventure to put to rest unfinished business, heal old wounds, and search out lost friends.
15. Taduno's Song by Odafe Atogun – 4 August
The day a stained brown envelope arrives from Taduno's homeland, he knows that the time has come to return from exile. The musician discovers that his community no longer recognises him, believing that Taduno is dead. His girlfriend Lela has disappeared, taken away by government agents, and he realises that any traces of his old life have been erased. But Taduno finds a new purpose: to unravel the mystery of his lost life and to find his lost love.
16. Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan – 11 August
Set across New York, Berlin, and Connecticut, this follows the stories of Yuki Oyama, a Japanese girl fighting to make it as an artist, and Yuki's son Jay, who, as an adult in the present day, is forced to confront the mother who abandoned him when he was only 2 years old.
17. The Regulars by Georgia Clark – 11 August
Best friends Evie, Krista, and Willow are just trying to make it through their mid-twenties in New York. They're regular girls with typical quarter-life crises, until they come across Pretty, a magic tincture that makes them, well...gorgeous. With a single drop, each young woman gets the gift of jaw-dropping beauty for one week, presenting them with unimaginable opportunities to make their biggest fantasies come true. But there's a dark side to Pretty, too, and as the gloss fades, there's just one question left: What would you sacrifice to be Pretty?
18. The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel – 11 August
Fielding Bliss has never never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heatwave scorched the small town of Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil. When local prosecutor Autopsy Bliss invites the devil to town, nobody expects him to turn up. They especially don't expect him to turn up as Sal, a tattered and bruised 13-year-old boy. Whether he's a traumatised child or the devil incarnate, Sal is certainly one strange fruit: He talks in riddles, and his uncanny knowledge reaches far outside the realm of a normal child.
19. The Countenance Divine by Michael Hughes – 11 August
In 1999 a programmer is trying to fix the millennium bug but can't shake the sense he's been chosen for something. In 1888 five women are brutally murdered in the East End by a troubled young man in thrall to a mysterious master. In 1777 an apprentice engraver called William Blake has a defining spiritual experience, and in 1666 poet and revolutionary John Milton completes the epic for which he will be remembered centuries later. But where does the feeling come from that the world is about to end?
20. The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan – 25 August
It's a freak winter – there's snow in Jerusalem, the Thames is overflowing, and a Norwegian iceberg is expected to arrive off the coast of Scotland – and a small Scottish caravan park is living through what people have begun to think is the end of times. Dylan, a refugee from panic-stricken London, arrives in the caravan park in the middle of the night to begin his life anew. As the temperature drops, daily life carries on: People get out of bed, they make cups of tea, they fall in love, they complicate.
21. The Last Pearl Fisher of Scotland by Julia Stuart – 1 September
Brodie McBride is having a tough time. The last expert in the ancient art of pearl fishing, he’s on a quest to track down the pearl that will complete a necklace for his wife, Elspeth, convinced that the love token will save their marriage. But Scotland’s rivers are running out of mussels and Elspeth is running out of patience When their daughter, Maggie, determined to keep the family together, takes matters into her own hands, the McBrides are soon at the centre of international commotion that will change everyone’s lives forever.
22. Nutshell by Ian McEwan – 1 September
Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She's still in the marital home – a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse – but not with John. Instead, she's with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, 9-month-old resident of Trudy's womb...
23. The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride – 1 September
An 18-year-old Irish girl arrives in London to study drama and falls violently in love with an older actor. This older man has a disturbing past that the young girl is unprepared for. The young girl has a troubling past of her own. This is her story and their story.
24. The Graces by Laure Eve – 1 September
Everyone said the Graces were witches. Like everyone else in her town, River is obsessed with the Graces, attracted by their glamour and apparent ability to weave magic. But are they really what they seem? And are they more dangerous than they let on?
25. Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer – 6 September
From the author of Everything Is Illuminated, Here I Am is the story of a family in crisis. As Jacob and Julia confront their collapsing marriage in Washington, DC, a catastrophic earthquake devastates the Middle East, sparking a pan-Arab invasion of Israel. At stake is the very meaning of home – and the fundamental question of how much life one can bear.
26. Selection Day by Aravind Adiga – 8 September
Manjunath Kumar is 14. He knows he fears and resents his domineering and cricket-obsessed father, admires his brilliantly talented sibling, and is fascinated by the world of CSI and by curious and interesting scientific facts. But there are many things that he doesn't know. Sometimes it seems as though everyone around him has a clear idea of who Manju should be except Manju himself. When Manju begins to get to know a boy as privileged and confident as he is not, Manju is faced with decisions that will challenge both his sense of self and of the world around him.
27. Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker – 8 September
When 3-year-old Harry goes missing, the whole of America turns its attention to one small town. Everyone is eager to help. Everyone is a suspect. Desperate mother Jess, whose grief is driving her to extreme measures. Newcomer Jared, with an easy charm and a string of broken hearts in his wake. Photographer Jerry, who's determined to break away from his controlling mother once and for all. And, investigating them all, a police chief with a hidden obsession of his own...
28. The Wonder by Emma Donoghue – 22 September
In a village in 1850s Ireland, a little girl appears to be thriving after months without food, and the story of this "wonder" has reached fever pitch. Tourists flock in droves to the O'Donnell family's modest cabin and an international journalist is sent to cover the sensational story. Enter Lib, an English nurse trained by Florence Nightingale, who is hired to keep watch for two weeks and determine whether or not the girl, Anna, is a fraud. As Anna deteriorates, Lib finds herself responsible not just for the care of a child but for getting to the root of why the child may actually be the victim of murder in slow motion.
29. The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla – 22 September
A collection of essays about race and immigration, The Good Immigrant brings together 20 emerging British BME writers to paint a picture of what it means to be "other" in modern Britain. Compiled by award-winning writer Nikesh Shukla – and featuring Musa Okwonga, Chimene Suleyman, Vinay Patel, Bim Adewumni, Riz Ahmed, Inua Ellams, Wei Ming Kam, and many more – these poignant, challenging, funny, sad, angry, weary essays give a platform to some of the most interesting BME voices in the UK today.
30. Speak Gigantular by Irenosen Okojie – 29 September
A new collection of sexy, serious, and disturbing stories from the author of Butterfly Fish. From lovelorn aliens who abduct innocent coffee shop waitresses to a London underground inhabited by the ghosts of those caught between here and the hereafter, from insensitive men cheating on their mistresses to brave young women attempting to be erotically empowered at their own peril...
31. Transit by Rachel Cusk – 29 September
In the wake of family collapse, a writer and her two young sons move to London. The process of upheaval is the catalyst for a number of transitions – personal, moral, artistic, practical – as she endeavours to construct a new reality for herself and her children. In the city she is made to confront aspects of living she has until now avoided and to consider questions of vulnerability and power, death and renewal, in what becomes her struggle to reattach herself to, and believe in, life.