10 Books to Read on Your Summer Vacation

Posted by Michael Alan Connelly on June 04, 2014 at 5:30:00 PM EDT | Post a Comment

Not only do summer vacations afford travelers much-needed time to recharge and spend time in the sun, but they also allow for time to enjoy some of the season's best books. Not sure what to read this summer? Here are 10 new and upcoming releases to consider, whether you're looking for something to keep you entertained on long-haul flights or just want something light enough to bring to the beach.

1. An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
Fans of serious literature should reach for Gay's debut novel, a powerful tale about a wealthy Haitian woman. Mireille Duval Jameson leads a charmed life until she is suddenly kidnapped in broad daylight. Held by a spiteful man who calls himself The Commander, Mireille is forced to wait while her father and her captors engage in a stand-off over her ransom. Jarring and arresting, Gay's story heralds the arrival of a powerful new literary voice. (Released May 6)

2. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
An affluent family heads to their annual retreat on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts in Lockhart's mystery novel, only this summer will be unlike any other. Centering on four teenagers in the extended clan who call themselves "The Liars," the story depicts the strange events following the morning one of them wakes up naked on the beach with fuzzy memories and migraines. Though it's ostensibly a YA title, We Were Liars features a twisty narrative and a surprise ending that is likely to captivate readers of all ages. (Released May 13)

3. The Vacationers by Emma Straub
Already one of the most buzzed-about books of the year, Straub's insightful new novel follows the tight-knit but troubled Post family on their two-week escape to the sun-kissed island of Mallorca. Like any family, they've brought along more baggage than just their suitcases: Mom's a frazzled wife and food writer, Dad's a recently disgraced magazine editor, daughter Sylvia wants to lose her virginity before starting college, and twenty-something Bobby is just plain troubled. Despite the potential for drama, Straub imbues her story with enough humor and wit to keep the novel light enough for a beach read. Of course, it helps that the book is set in such an idyllic place. (Released May 29)

4. Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
Set in Amsterdam, the Mediterranean coast, and the U.S., Koch's psychological page-turner focuses on a doctor to the stars who's being investigated regarding the death of one of his clients. Told by a very unreliable narrator, the story details a year of intrigue, including a beach vacation at an extravagant summer home where a violent incident disrupts the days of wine tasting and lazing in the sun. Koch's characters aren't the most pleasant people to spend time with, but they certainly are captivating. (Released June 3)

5. Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America by John Waters
And now for something completely different: a travelogue about hitchhiking. If that's not odd enough, consider that it's penned by one of America's strangest minds, camp filmmaker John Waters, who actually rode across the country with strangers from Baltimore to San Francisco—and lived to tell the tale. Chock full of subversive humor, this is a look at America you won't soon forget. (Released June 3)

6. Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Though the former First Lady's new memoir has been garnering a lot of attention for its chapter on the American embassy attack in Benghazi, the book recounts her four-year tenure as the 67th Secretary of State. During that time, she visited 112 countries and traveled nearly a million miles, giving her an almost unparalleled perspective on the world and its future. At 656 pages, it's not a light read, but it's bound to be the most talked-about nonfiction title of the summer. (Release date: June 10)

7. I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum
Set in London and Paris, Maum's tale, a reverse love story of sorts, centers on a British artist trying to woo back his French wife following the loss of his American mistress. Deep in the throes of a midlife crisis, he makes many misguided attempts to regain her trust, only to plunge back into his work in an attempt to prove that he's still the man he once was. Told with cutting wit and deep emotion, this is a heartfelt look at love and fidelity in the contemporary era. (Release date: June 10)

8. Lucky Us by Amy Bloom
"My father’s wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us." So begins Bloom's novel about two women journeying across 1940s America in search of fame and fortune, a trip that takes them from small-town Ohio, to glitzy Hollywood, the mansions of Long Island, and finally London. This is a novel with rare scope that transcends time and place. (Release date: July 29)

9. The Invention of Exile by Vanessa Manko
Another globe-trotting novel, Manko's story follows an immigrant from Russia to his new home in Connecticut, where he falls in love with a woman before fleeing back to his home country when he is accused of anarchist activity in 1913. As civil war breaks out in Russia, he leaves again, this time to Mexico City, where he is indefinitely stuck once his wife and children return to the U.S. Based on the author's own family history, this is a sweeping story about the intersection of family and history, told with heartrending turns. (Release date: August 14)

10. We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
Already hailed as a modern classic, this debut novel is a towering examination of a multigenerational Irish-American family in the American Century. Raised by her immigrant grandparents in Queens in the 1940s, Eileen goes on to find a husband and begin her pursuit of the American Dream. Of course, life takes a less pleasant turn, and a darkness sets into the couple's lives as the years pass. This one's likely to be on a lot of top 10 lists at the end of the year, so take the opportunity to read Thomas's novel during your summer vacation. (Release date: August 19)

Michael Alan Connelly is the Editor of Fodors.com. Follow him on Twitter: @malanconnelly.

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