Summer means long lazy days by the pool or weekends at the beach with a good book that keeps you glued to the pages. On vacations, books keep you occupied during layovers and transport you across the world. This year, we’ve compiled a list of the summer’s hottest books, from sexy thrillers to chef’s memoirs to travelogues to poignant portraits of the American family. These books will have you yearning for youth, summer, and the shores of the Mediterranean. Whether you’re setting off on a long vacation or just a weekend at the beach, here are the 15 books that everyone will be reading this summer.—Teddy Minford
The setting for this book is the infamous Barbizon Hotel for Women, home to young women of a certain class who came to New York City in the 1950s to be models, secretaries, and editors. The narrative toggles between the viewpoints of present and past residents while telling the mysterious stories of the sometimes wild and glamorous girls who lived in the hotel.
With comic misadventures on every page, Losing It is the story of a quarter-life crisis. Still a virgin at 26, Julia Greenfield feels lost, like she has missed out on life and human relationships. Faced with the prospect of another boring summer at work in Arlington, she quits her job and moves in with her aunt in Durham, North Carolina. This book is sad and funny and filled with characters and dialogue that feel real.
This beautifully written novel reads like a memoir of a young woman in her first year of living in New York City and working at Danny Meyer’s famous Union Square Cafe. Tess, the main character, gives readers a raw and unfiltered look at life at the restaurant, following servers, cooks, and bartenders as they navigate the work, relationships, and life behind the scenes. It's a heartbreaking and nostalgic novel that pairs perfectly with a chilled bottle of Sancerre.
Modern Lovers tells the story of a group of friends dealing with marriage, teenage children, and aging. Set among the beautiful Victorian houses of Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, the book follows two modern families: Elizabeth and Andrew and their nerdy son, and Zoe and Jane and their mischievous teenage daughter. Over the course of one summer, Zoe and Jane face the hardship of owning a restaurant while trying to maintain a healthy relationship and family life, while Elizabeth and Andrew find different ways to cope when their shared past catches up to them. This book is bittersweet and reminds us that everyone has to become an adult one day.
A Country Road, A Tree
In 1939, young Samuel Beckett arrived in Paris from Ireland. Jo Baker’s novel tells the story of how Beckett’s dreams were delayed by World War II. The book transports readers to Nazi-occupied Paris, where the climate and culture of the city shaped Beckett’s worldview and his writing.
Cooking for Picasso
This touching and delectable novel invokes the breathtaking scenery of the South of France and the Cote d’Azur in 1936, when a young chef French begins a love affair with Pablo Picasso. Inspired by Picasso’s works from that time period depicting an unknown young woman, Aubray paints a beautiful story of love, art, food, and the enduring romance of the Mediterranean.
THE HOUSE AT THE EDGE OF THE NIGHT
Spanning four generations and two World Wars, this epic novel is set on the fictional island of Castellamare, off the coast of Sicily. Following the story of one family, the novel comes to life with the sights and smells and mysteries and folklore of the Mediterranean, through the lush and romantic pre-war days to the dangerous times of war to the 21st century and the island’s first Internet cafe. It's a fun and evocative summer read, perfect for a lazy beach vacation.
Set in Northern California in summer of 1969, The Girls is the beautiful and haunting story of a lonely girl, Evie Boyd, an only child with newly divorced parents. While her mother navigates single life and her only friend moves on to a new crowd, young Evie becomes enamored with a group of girls living on a commune outside of town. Based on Charles Manson’s cult, the group at the commune brings Evie into their fold as they prepare for violence. Evie’s life is forever altered by her experiences that summer.
How May We Hate You
Anna Drezen and Todd Dakotah Briscoe
Have you ever wondered what those cheerful hotel employees are saying behind your back? Or what goes on behind the scenes at a hotel? This book, written by two veteran hotel concierges who worked at a combined 50 hotels around Times Square, will answer all your questions. With absurd, funny, and sometimes horrifying anecdotes, Drezen and Briscoe have brought their famous tumblr to life. PS: The audiobook is hilariously narrated by the authors.
32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line
Eric Ripert and Veronica Chambers
Eric Ripert, the chef and co-owner of 3-Michelin-starred Le Bernardin, is a culinary icon. In his memoir, Ripert tells the story of the lonely young boy he used to be. After his parents' divorce and his father’s subsequent death, Ripert found comfort and solace in cooking. At the age of eleven, Ripert realized his dream of working in a kitchen, which took him from the French countryside to some of the toughest kitchens in Paris. Ripert’s passion led him to great achievement, including five cookbooks, four James Beard Awards, and countless Michelin stars.
DOUBLE CUP LOVE: ON THE TRAIL OF FAMILY, FOOD, AND BROKEN HEARTS IN CHINA
After growing up in America, Eddie Huang returned to China in search of his family and cultural heritage. While rediscovering their past, Eddie and his brothers find food and love in a story that describes the difficulties in coming to terms with one’s own identity while navigating world. Eddie Huang’s first memoir, Fresh Off the Boat, has been turned into a television series.
This erotic thriller is the ultimate beach read. From London to the Cote d’Azur to Italy and Paris, this book takes readers on a glitzy and dangerous tour of Europe through x-rated sex parties, million-dollar yachts, Russian oligarchs, the Italian mafia, and the high-end art houses of London. There’s cold-blooded murder, lots of sex, and oodles of money and glamour. Not for the faint of heart, once you break into this book you won’t be able to put it down.
Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty
This book brings the 1960s and '70s nuclear family to life in a series of sometimes tragic and sometimes darkly comic events, from the Vietnam War to a botched swingers party. Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty tells the story of Fern and Edgar, who are both children of wealthy all-American families. When the family fortune runs out, Edgar begins a sharp descent into a midlife crisis that puts his entire family at risk.
Christine Gilbert has traveled the world with her toddler son. She has learned Mandarin in China, Arabic in Lebanon, and Spanish in Mexico, all while navigating life with her family. Mother Tongue is part memoir, part study in linguistics as it takes readers all over Asia and the Middle East.
THE WONDER TRAIL
Steve Hely was a writer for 30 Rock, Late Show with David Letterman, and the animated comedy American Dad! before he embarked on a trip from Los Angeles to the tip of South America. Steve’s memoir brings readers through Mexico, across the Panama Canal, and on to the Amazon and more. It’s part memoir, part travelogue, and part history lesson, all with a bit of comedy.