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22 must-read books for summer 2022

22 must-read books for summer 2022

It’s officially picnic season and whether you enjoy sprawling out on a blanket in the sun or relaxing in a deck chair under a shady tree, the one thing you don’t want to forget is a good book to keep you company. From sizzling summery stories and uplifting tales full of love and laughter, to escapist fantasy and immersive historical fiction, we’ve got you covered with our round-up of must-read books.

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

Rebecca Serle, author of the bestselling In Five Years, has a unique talent for writing original tales of love rather than typical romances. Her latest book, One Italian Summer, is another transcendent love story of a different kind – that between a mother and a daughter. Left reeling after her mother dies, Katy embarks on the trip of a lifetime they’d planned together. Buoyed by the beauty of the Amalfi Coast, Katy feels herself slowly coming back to life. And then she meets a woman – healthy, sun-kissed and very much alive. A woman who happens to be a younger version of her mother. Against the backdrop of picturesque Positano, Katy has the rare opportunity to spend more time with Carol and learn about the young woman she was before. A poignant and beautiful exploration of loss, grief and how we heal our hearts. (1 March, Quercus)

The Belladonna Maze by Sinéad Crowley

Sinéad Crowley is best known for her DS Claire Boyle novels but this spine-tingling dual timeline mystery sees the author moving away from the crime genre. Alternating between the 1800s and 2007, this sweeping standalone tale centres on an old house in the west of Ireland and the intricate belladonna maze at the heart of its garden where a young girl once went missing. The story follows Grace as she takes on a nanny position at Hollowpark – a house with eerie secrets. Haunted by apparitions and fighting a growing attraction to her charge’s father, Grace finds herself drawn into Hollowpark’s mysterious past. This is an atmospheric blend of history, mystery and ghostly chills – perfect if you love gothic family sagas. (5 May, Aria)

The People on Platform 5 by Clare Pooley

Inspired by her fascination with inventing stories about fellow passengers on her commute to work, Clare Pooley’s second novel sees an eclectic group of people learn that their assumptions about each other don’t match reality. When larger-than-life agony aunt Iona’s life begins to fall apart, she finds comfort in the same people she’s ignored day-after-day. But it’s not just Iona who needs friendship and support, as she soon discovers. This is a story of how one event can set off a chain reaction and how strangers with seemingly nothing in common can teach each other about the world around them. You can always rely on Pooley to deliver not just wonderful, lively characters but a story that leaves you feeling uplifted and hopeful. (26 May, Bantam Press)

Summer Fever by Kate Riordan

If you enjoyed Kate Riordan’s South of France set novel The Heatwave, then you’re guaranteed to love Summer Fever, which transports readers to a crumbling villa in the Italian countryside. Embarking on a new life in the Marche region, Laura and Nick hope that a fresh start will help their fraught marriage. But as the intense summer heat rises, it’s clear that their issues have followed them. When glamorous American couple Madison and Bastian arrive to stay with them, Laura is relieved to have a distraction. But the closer she gets to the couple, the more cracks appear in their already fractured relationships. Full of forbidden desire and dark secrets, this sultry psychological thriller pulses with suspense and simmering tension. (12 May, Penguin)

The Summer Fair by Heidi Swain

When care home worker Beth gets the chance to move to Nightingale Square, she jumps at the opportunity to become part of the friendly, welcoming community. As she bonds with her housemate Eli and gets involved in fundraising activities, life seems to be looking up for Beth. But the ghosts of her past haven’t quite gone away and Beth will need the help of the community, as well as her friends at the care home, to help her move on and rediscover her passion for music – something she thought she’d closed the door on for good. Returning to Nightingale Square always feels a little like coming home, which is what makes Heidi Swain’s The Summer Fair such a lovely, feel-good read. (12 May, Simon & Schuster)

Idol by Louise O’Neill

Samantha Miller’s career is booming. Her book has gone straight to the top of the bestseller lists and she’s appearing at sell-out events. She’s a lifestyle guru and idol to her young fans, telling them how to live, how to be happy, how to honour their ‘truth’. When she writes an essay about her sexual awakening as a teenager with her female best friend Lisa, the piece goes viral. But Lisa’s memory of that night is a different, much darker version of the truth. Moving between the past and the present, Idol explores influencer culture, the changeable notion of ‘truth’ and the sometimes destructive nature of female friendships. Louise O’Neill is an author unafraid of pulling punches and this might just be her most gripping novel yet. (12 May, Bantam Press)

Adult Assembly Required by Abbi Waxman

Readers fell in love with introverted bookworm Nina in Abbi Waxman’s The Bookish Life of Nina Hill and now the character has made a joyful return as a supporting character in Adult Assembly Required. The endearing protagonist of this story is Laura Costello, whose life has somewhat drastically fallen apart. Seeking shelter in Nina’s local neighbourhood bookshop, Laura is introduced to a group of friends who might just turn out to be the found family she needed all along. Charming, funny and wonderfully easy to read, this book is a piece of pure happiness. (17 May, Headline Review)

Dead Rich by G. W. Shaw

Invited to join his new girlfriend, Zina, and her family on their Caribbean holiday, carefree once-successful musician Kai impulsively accepts, only to learn that Zina is the daughter of an oligarch and the trip is aboard a yacht. Kai isn’t prepared for the armed guards and panic room, or the unnerving atmosphere that something isn’t right. Kai is out of his element and with a murderous imposter on board, he can only trust the ship’s first mate Erin. Dead Rich is a cleverly crafted and suspenseful locked room thriller set against the backdrop of the high seas and the world of the super wealthy. Reading this is the closest most of us will get to cruising along on a super yacht and if it’s anything like this one, that’s probably a good thing! (26 May, Riverrun)

Tell Me Everything by Laura Kay

Therapist Natasha spends her days talking to people about their problems but she’s not very good at taking her own advice. She’s still living with her ex-girlfriend and her love life consists of meaningless dates and one-night stands. Natasha, if you hadn’t guessed, has commitment issues. But when Margo arrives on the scene, Natasha finds herself assessing where she is in life and where she’s going too, whilst dealing with the things that might still be holding her back. Like Laura Kay’s previous book, The Split, this is a funny, warm-hearted and relatable story about ordinary people figuring it out as they go along. (26 May, Quercus)

It All Comes Down To This by Therese Anne Fowler

Marti Geller is going to die soon and she plans to take her secrets with her. To do this, she stipulates in her will that her summer home in Mount Desert Island, Maine, must be sold as soon as possible. Which is a shock to her daughters Beck, Claire and Sophie, each of them consumed with their own secrets. Whilst they argue over the fate of their late mother’s property, enigmatic southerner C. J. Reynolds is released from prison and also travels to the island. Though they don’t know it yet, everything is about to change for the sisters, forcing them to confront the truth and find a way to move forward. Fowler has such a sharp grasp on the complexities of human nature and complicated family relationships that it’s impossible not to become completely invested in the outcome. (7 June, Headline Review)

This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub

New Yorker Alice Stern isn’t ready to turn forty. But on the day of her birthday, she wakes to find that it’s 1996 and she’s sixteen again. Granted the ability to keep coming back, with each time revealing different versions of her life and the consequences of her decisions, Alice must hold on to the real gift of being able to jump back to the past: to spend more time with her father, who is ailing in the present. Time travel can be difficult to get right in fiction but not when you’re Emma Straub. This autobiographical novel is delightfully nostalgic but the beauty of it rests in its tenderness and wisdom – a reminder of what’s important and what we should cherish in life. (9 June, Michael Joseph)

Double Booked by Lily Lindon

Scared of losing her happy straight life but longing to explore her bisexual side, 26-year-old Georgina comes up with a way of splitting herself in half. By day she’s Gina, who’s in a steady relationship with her boyfriend Doug. By night she’s George, the newly appointed pianist in an indie lesbian pop band. Georgina might think she’s found the perfect way to delve into the different sides of herself but it’s hard to figure out who you are and what you want when you’re trying to be two people at once. Lily Lindon’s debut is a fresh and funny romantic comedy about a young woman rediscovering her identity and finding her place in the LBGTQ+ community. (9 June, Aria)

The Second Sight of Zachary Cloudesley by Sean Lusk

The best summer reads are those books you can completely lose yourself in and Sean Lusk’s debut absolutely fits the bill. Set between 1754 and 1772 against the vivid backdrops of London and Constantinople, The Second Sight of Zachary Cloudesley follows the titular Zachary who, after an accident, finds himself plagued by visions that reveal the futures of those around him. It is both a gift and a curse but the visions will aid him as he embarks on a journey across Europe to Constantinople to find out what happened to his father. Immersing readers in an intriguing world of clock and automata inventions, Lusk’s historical adventure evokes the spirit of Dickensian classics with a fantastical twist. (9 June, Doubleday)

The Girl On The 88 Bus by Freya Sampson

When Libby Nicholls arrives in London with a broken heart and her life in tatters, the first person she meets on the bus is an elderly pensioner called Frank who’s ridden the 88 bus for the past sixty years, searching for a woman he met on the same bus in 1962. Inspired by Frank’s story and realising his time is running out, Libby makes it her mission to help Frank find his lost love. But in helping Frank, Libby sees how important it is embrace life and its opportunities. Wonderfully written, with a charming cast of characters, this is a story that will both break and warm your heart. (9 June, Zaffre)

The Way Back To You by James Bailey

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Is it ever too late to fulfil your dreams? That’s the question at the heart of James Bailey’s uplifting story of lost love and second chances. When Simon reconnects on Facebook with his French pen pal and first love Sylvie, he’s determined that things will work out differently this time around. Setting off on a bike ride from Bristol to Bordeaux with his old school friend Ian, they travel to France in pursuit of true love. What could possibly go wrong? The Way Back To You is a joyful gem of a book that will have you cheering on its protagonist. Bonus points for the 70’s nostalgia in the flashback chapters. (9 June, Penguin)

The Seawoman by Chloe Timms

Esta has never known anything other than Eden’s Isle. Raised by her grandmother after a fire claimed her parents and scarred her face, she faces a future ruled by fear. A fate that will see her controlled, married off and forced to conceive a child, or be sacrificed back into the sea in an act called the Untethering. But Esta yearns for freedom and as she begins to question the world she’s been raised in, her insular life begins to unravel. Steeped in folklore and set on a fictional island within a dystopian regime, The Seawomen is a fierce feminist story about oppression, corruption and bravery. It introduces Chloe Timms as a bold and brilliant new voice in fiction. (14 June, Hodder Studio)

The Other Guest by Helen Cooper

Returning to Lake Garda for the first time since her niece mysteriously drowned near her family-owned luxury resort, Leah is shocked to find her sister, brother-in-law and surviving niece acting as if Amy’s death was an accident. Meanwhile, back in Derby, university counsellor Joanna is nursing a broken heart. When she invites a handsome bartender into her home, she quickly realises she doesn’t know him as well as she thought. These two seemingly unconnected women soon find themselves in a tangled game of cat-and-mouse, where the truth is difficult to discern from the lies. Helen Cooper’s second novel is a slow burning multiple perspective mystery that builds in suspense. An ideal holiday read – even better if that holiday is in Italy! (16 June, Hodder & Stoughton)

The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings

The vibrant rhythm of New Orleans is brought to life in Alex Jennings’ imaginative contemporary urban fantasy debut, which transports readers to a fantastical version of the city. Nola is a place of wonders but to failed magician Perilous Graves, it’s simply home. When nine songs of power escape from the magical piano that maintains the city’s beat, Perry and his sister Brendy are tasked with being its saviours. But a storm is brewing and even if they succeed in capturing the songs, Nola’s time might be coming to an end. There’s A LOT going on in this novel of musical spirits and fantastical mythology, but stick with it and you’ll be rewarded with a slice of delightfully disorientating and whimsical magic. (23 June, Orbit)

The Guilty Couple by C. L. Taylor

Having been convicted of plotting to murder her husband, Olivia Sutherland is finally free. She has three goals: repair her relationship with her daughter, clear her name, and bring down her husband, Dominic – the man who framed her. The Guilty Couple pits a husband and wife against each other in a fast-paced game of revenge, guilt and manipulation. C. L. Taylor creates a taut, tense atmosphere as Olivia tries to work out why her husband would betray her. Expect unreliable characters, unpredictable twists and plenty of drama along the way. (23 June, Avon)

Tasting Sunlight by Ewald Arenz

Orenda Press have carved out a name for themselves as an indie publisher of exceptional literary fiction and Tasting Sunlight is yet more proof of this. A story of love, acceptance and nature, it follows the friendship between angry teenager Sally – who’s just run away from a clinic where she’s being treated for anorexia – and forty-something Liss, a solitary woman living alone on a large farm. It explores how they become a lifeline for each other, helping to heal their wounds and reconnect with the parts of themselves they’ve lost or buried. Translated from German by Rachel Ward, this feels like such a timely tale on so many levels. It’s hopeful and poignant and lyrically told. A truly compassionate and heartening book. (23 June, Orenda Books)

In Case of Emergency by Poorna Bell

Bel Kumar’s life is thriving. She has a bustling circle of friends, a successful career and a flat in London. But when she wakes up in hospital after an accident and is forced into an ill-fated reunion with her ex-boyfriend, Bel gets a reality check. She’s determined to repair the most important relationships in her life but Bel isn’t big on asking for help, something she’s going to need to work through. Delving into Bel’s past to explore her present, In Case of Emergency is a novel of self-realisation and the freeing power of defying both familial and societal expectations. It’s simply impossible not to root for Bel. (7 July, Century)

The Lost Diary of Samuel Pepys by Jack Jewers

The candid writings of diarist, naval administrator and prominent historical figure Samuel Pepys have been fascinating readers for centuries. He recorded his daily life for almost a decade and stopped writing at the age of 36. Jack Jewer’s debut novel imagines what might have happened if he didn’t, picking up a week after Pepys’ last diary entry and following him into the midst of a deadly plot. Billed as ‘Bridgerton meets Sherlock’, this has everything a good crime thriller should have: murder, intrigue, adventures and sinister truths. If you enjoy historical detective fiction, it should be at the top of your summer reading list. (4 August, Moonflower Publishing)

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