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24 must-read books for summer 2021

24 must-read books for summer 2021

After a long, dreary winter spent cooped up inside, summer’s arrival can’t come soon enough. We’re all ready for those warm sunny days outside with a cold drink in one hand and a good book in the other. And what an assortment of new books we have on offer – from hotly anticipated debuts and intriguing mysteries, to fascinating historical fiction and a new series of quick reads. Whatever genre you choose, our summer round-up is full of escapist books to keep you turning the pages from now until Autumn.

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Finlay Donovan is a single mum and struggling crime writer who unwittingly finds herself entangled in an actual murder investigation. Whilst having lunch with her literary agent and discussing the plot of her latest novel, Finlay is overheard by a woman sitting nearby who mistakes the author for a hit-woman offering her services to dispose of a problem husband. Surreptitiously slipped a name and the promise of a large sum of cash, Finlay’s fictional crime plotting suddenly gets a lot more real. Elle Cosimano’s debut is a fun and madcap ride from beginning to end, rolling with the silliness as its protagonist digs herself into deeper and deeper holes. If you want a summer read that’s entertaining, funny and wholly original, this is it. (2 February, Headline Review)

The Man I Can’t Forget by Eva Woods

Eve can remember every small detail of her life, from what her colleagues had for lunch on a random day to everyone that stays at the care home where she works. ‘Adam’ can’t remember any part of his life. Found wandering down the M25, he needs Eve’s help in remembering. As she works with Adam to bring back his identity and memories, Eve begins to fall for him. But as Adam starts to piece together his past, it becomes clear that there might not be room for Eve in his future. The Man I Can’t Forget is a lovely, tender read about memory, love, loss and the things that are important in life. It’s also a book you can easily devour in one sitting – making it the perfect sunny day read. (4 February, Sphere)

The Split by Laura Kay

Wounded and betrayed after she’s brutally dumped by her girlfriend, Ally returns home to her dad in Sheffield with the one thing she was able to take away from her failed relationship: her ex’s cat. Once home, Ally fully intends to fold herself into her duvet and stay there forever, but her dad has other ideas. Reunited with her old friend and first beard Jeremy, who’s also nursing a broken heart, the pair decide to sign up for the local half marathon in a bid to impress their exes. The only problem – neither of them can run. Full of warmth, humanity and loveably flawed characters, The Split is a queer rom-com that explores love, friendship and family in all its many forms. (18 March, Quercus)

Ann Devine: Handle With Care by Colm O’Regan

Handle With Care is Colm O’Regan’s second novel following the rural adventures of the titular Ann Devine. Once again, Ann’s life is full of drama; her mother has moved in after a fall, her sister has left Ann’s teenage niece behind whilst she’s off ‘finding herself’ in India, her daughter is dealing with a love triangle, and her son has set his sights on a future as a local TD. To make matters worse, the post office is closing down and the locals are, naturally, up in arms. Ann just wants to save the village, but she might need a little saving herself too. Offering an uplifting glimpse into archetypal contemporary life in rural Ireland, the Ann Devine series is a tremendously funny and refreshing read. Ideal for when you need a book to lift your spirits. (8 April, Transworld Ireland)

The Ends of the Earth by Abbie Greaves

Abbie Greaves’ debut novel The Silent Treatment captured the intricacies and anguishes of a fractured relationship with effortless poignancy. Her second book, The Ends of the Earth, is another moving and bittersweet story that explores love, loss and mental health. It follows Mary O’Connor who spends every evening at Ealing Broadway station, holding a sign for her first and lost love which reads: ‘Come Home Jim.’ This has been Mary’s life for the past seven years but something is about to happen that will shake her resolve. The story alternates between the couple’s relationship in the past, and Mary’s groundhog existence in the present, which gains the attention of a local reporter who begins to investigate Jim’s disappearance. It’s a tale that’s all the more heart-warming because it feels so real and relatable. (29 April, Century)

How To Kidnap The Rich by Rahul Raina

Ramesh Kumar is a self-styled ‘examinations consultant’, making a lucrative living taking exams for the children of India’s elite. But when he takes a test for Rudi, a rich but lazy teenager, Ramesh accidently scores the highest mark in the country, propelling Rudi into stardom. Never one to miss an opportunity, Ramesh cashes in on Rudi’s new celebrity status and the extortion that follows, leading to an even more elaborate series of blackmail schemes and kidnappings. Rahul Raina’s Delhi-set crime caper is a smart, witty and unpredictable debut about wealth, blackmail, friendship and fame. Perfect for fans of satirical tales like Crazy Rich Asians. (6 May, Little, Brown)

The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club by Faith Hogan

Elizabeth, Jo and Lucy are all at different stages in life but they’re united by one thing: the wish to start again. Elizabeth is a recent widow whose husband left her with crippling debt, whilst Jo spends her life looking after everyone else but is about to need some support herself. Lucy, Jo’s daughter, wants nothing more than to leave her city life behind and have a fresh beginning by the sea. Searching for solace and inspiration for the future, the women find themselves enjoying midnight dips in the freezing sea – a place that helps to wash away their fears and embolden them for what’s next. Transporting readers to the beautiful Irish countryside, Faith Hogan’s latest contemporary novel is a heart-warming story of friendship, living your best life and learning to take chances. (13 May, Head of Zeus)

Lost Property by Helen Paris

Dot Watson is single and a long-term employee at Baker Street’s Lost Property office. She never imagined this would be her life. She was supposed to be in Paris, falling madly in love and building an exciting career; not stuck cataloguing umbrellas and gloves and shoes. Still, Dot finds comfort in her routine life and pride in her job. So when Mr Appleby arrives at her work asking for help to find his late wife’s purse, Dot recognises his desperation and grief. She’s determined to help him and who knows what else she might discover along the way. With a quirky cast of characters, Helen Paris’ debut is a deeply moving and richly detailed story that genuinely tugs at the heartstrings. (13 May, Doubleday)

The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain

64-year-old postman Albert Entwistle lives a quiet, self-contained life. He keeps himself to himself and always has done. But now he’s being forced to retire, and with no friends or future plans to look forward to, Albert is terrified of the loneliness ahead. Realising it’s time to summon the courage to finally embrace his true self, Albert sets out to find George, the long-lost love of his life, who he was never able to forget. Be prepared to fall in love with the endearing Albert Entwistle as he reminisces about his past and embarks on a life-affirming adventure that proves it’s never too late to seek out the things and the people that make you happy. (27 May, Headline Review)

The Reading Agency’s Quick Reads Series

Sometimes all you want from a summer read is a quick, short story that will keep you entertained in-between dips in the pool or dozes on the sun lounger. Not only does The Reading Agency’s Quick Reads series fit the bill perfectly but the books are also part of a wider initiative to tackle adult literacy and get people enjoying great stories. Amongst the excellent 15th Anniversary fiction titles to choose from are The Baby Is Mine – Oyinkan Braithwaite’s dark family drama set in lockdown Lagos, Louise Candlish’s domestic thriller The Skylight, a DS Roy Grace short story from crime writer Peter James, and an uplifting romance from the much-adored Katie Fforde. Whatever you enjoy reading, you’re guaranteed to find an assortment of entertaining and accessible books here. (27 May, Atlantic Books, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, Arrow and more)

Diving For Pearls by Jamie O’Connell

The fates of six people are altered when the body of a young woman is discovered floating in the Dubai marina. Amongst these troubled characters seeking a better future are a young Irish man visiting his expat sister and her husband; a Russian sex worker, a Pakistani taxi driver, an Ethiopian maid, and an Emirate man hiding who he really is. Dubai is a place that promises people the world but it can also steal things from them too. Jamie O’Connell intertwines his characters’ stories as he explores the ugliness lurking under the city’s surface. Set against a backdrop that’s both glitteringly extravagant and darkly disturbing, Diving For Pearls is a multi-layered and disquieting story about wealth, identity, injustice and corruption. (3 June, Doubleday)

Staying Out For The Summer by Mandy Baggot

Holidays abroad might still feel as unattainable as a trip to the moon, but Staying Out For The Summer allows readers to travel vicariously to the sunny island of Corfu – and what a lovely bookish vacation this story is. Taking inspiration from the life we’ve all been living this past year, the story centres on NHS nurse Lucie who, finally free from the UK restrictions and desperately needing a break, heads off to the beautiful Greek island with her best friend Gavin. But when a landslide puts the village into a local lockdown, Lucie is thrown together with Michalis, the attractive and heroic village doctor. As Lucie relaxes into the Greek way of life, she begins to wonder if this new lockdown might not be so terrible after all. Mandy Baggot’s latest rom-com has all the right ingredients for a delicious summer read packed with sun, fun and beautiful scenery. (10 June, Head of Zeus)

Bad Choices by Lucy Vine

Lucy Vine’s books are always something to look forward to and Bad Choices is no exception. A funny, relevant and emotional celebration of female friendship and growing up, it follows Nat and Zoe – two friends who’ve shared everything, from hopeless crushes and awkward sex stories to the inevitable triumphs and failures that life and work has thrown at them. They’ve always had each other’s backs but forever is a long time for a friendship to last – even one as close as Nat and Zoe’s. Told from both friends’ perspectives and taking place over the course of twenty years, the story begins with the girls as teenagers before moving into young adulthood and eventually full-on adulthood, with all the ups and downs that entails. Expect some delicious noughties nostalgia and a perfectly balanced blend of comedy and drama with this one. (10 June, Orion)

The Getaway by Isabelle Broom

Kate has travelled to Croatia to disappear. Her life has fallen apart in spectacular fashion and she needs to be somewhere where no one knows who she is or what she’s running from. The beautiful island of Hvar gives Kate the anonymity she needs, as well as welcome company in the form of another lonely soul called Alex. The connection between the two is undeniable but Kate isn’t the only person hiding secrets and it’s only a matter of time before the truth comes out. If you only pick up one beach read this summer, make it Isabelle Broom’s The Getaway – which brings all the summery vibes with its sparkly sea cover and continues that glorious escapist feel across every single page. (10 June, Hodder & Stoughton)

This Is How We Are Human by Louise Beech

Twenty-year-old Sebastian loves swimming, fried eggs and Billy Ocean. He’s also autistic and terribly lonely. Veronica, his mother, just wants her son to be happy and accepted, even if that means hiring a call girl to give him what he wants. Violetta is a high-class escort who thinks only of the money she can earn to pay for her dad’s care and her nursing degree. Everything changes for these three characters when their lives collide, intertwining them in ways they never could have expected. Louise Beech has such a natural talent for writing beautifully human stories that are both heart-breaking and heart-warming. This Is How We Are Human speaks right to the heart, exploring a mother’s love for her son and the things people do to care for their families. (10 June, Orenda Books)

The Day I Fell Off My Island by Yvonne Bailey-Smith

Jamaica-born Yvonne Bailey-Smith’s debut tells the story of a Jamaican teenager uprooted from her island following the death of her beloved grandmother. When Erna Mullings is sent to England to live with her siblings, she can’t fathom leaving behind the only life she’s ever known. Now in a strange country, with a mother she barely knows, Erna has a new future ahead of her – one that will take her on a complex journey of beginnings and ends, estrangements and secrets. Using her own experience of being an immigrant child as the backbone of her story, Bailey-Smith takes readers into the heart and mind of a girl whose experiences across the years shape her in ways she could never have imagined. It’s a compelling coming-of-age tale, written with wisdom, emotion and sincerity. (10 June, Myriad Editions)

See Also

Suspects by Lesley Pearse

Lesley Pearse’s 29th novel follows young couple Nina and Conrad as they find their dream home, only to discover it’s not quite the idyllic family neighbourhood they thought it was. Moving into their first house together in Willow Close, the couple are shocked to learn that one of the residents has been attacked and killed in the woods. As the police carry out interviews, it’s clear that every neighbour has a secret to hide and some are willing to go to extreme lengths to keep them buried. Shining a spotlight on each of the suspicious neighbours and their potential motives, Suspects is a suspenseful and intriguing mystery that will keep you guessing. (24 June, Michael Joseph)

The Great Escape From Woodlands Nursing Home by Joanna Nell

In Joanna Nell’s characteristic uplifting style, The Great Escape From Woodlands Nursing Home centres on eighty-nine year old retired nature writer Hattie Bloom as she joins forces with fellow ‘inmate’ Walter Clements, an extroverted would-be comedian who – like Hattie – isn’t quite ready to relinquish his freedom. Outraged when the night nurse who runs their clandestine social club is dismissed for her unconventional approach to eldery care, Hattie and Walter hatch a plan to get Sister Bronwyn – and her dog Queenie – reinstated. Alternating between Hattie and Walter’s perspectives, this is a gentle delight of a book that explores life and ageing with perceptiveness and poignancy. (In Paperback 24 June, Hodder & Stoughton)

The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker

Chrissie is eight years old and she has just killed a little boy. As the fallout from the crime sweeps through her neighbourhood, the truth of Chrissie’s appallingly neglected, hand-to-mouth existence rises to the surface. Fifteen years later, Julia is constantly worrying – about providing for her young daughter, about what other people think about her, about the possibility of her child being taken away. Julia wants to give her daughter the childhood she was denied, but the past isn’t so easily forgotten and it’s finally time for Julia to face the truth. For her debut fiction novel, Nancy Tucker took inspiration from a true crime podcast, which was discussing a historic case of a child killing another child. It considers what drives a child so young to commit such a heinous crime and if the perpetrator ever has a real chance for redemption. Chilling and harrowing, this is a book that you won’t forget for a while. (24 June, Hutchinson)

I Know What You’ve Done by Dorothy Koomson

What would you do if all your neighbours’ secrets landed on your doorstep in a detailed diary? That’s the predicament that Rae finds herself in when she discovers her neighbour, Priscilla, near death on her doorstep after being attacked in her home. She thrusts a diary into Rae’s hands and then collapses, leaving Rae with a detailed log of the coming and goings of everyone on her street. While some entries are harmless, others reveal information about Rae’s neighbours that could be key to unravelling their secrets – particularly those of a killer… Dorothy Koomson has crafted the ultimate moral dilemma in this twisty and thought provoking mystery thriller set in Brighton. Just be thankful you’re not in Rae’s shoes. (8 July, Headline Review)

The Tsarina’s Daughter by Ellen Alpsten

The second novel in Ellen Alpsten’s House of Romanov series is just the book for readers looking to sink their teeth into some sweeping historical fiction this summer. A story of passion and ambition, it centres on Tsarevna Elizabeth – the second-eldest daughter of Tsar Peter the Great and Catherine I. When her mother dies, Elizabeth’s world begins to unravel and by the time she’s in her twenties, she’s penniless and powerless. As the times change, so too must Elizabeth, as she must decide what she’s willing to do for her country and whether she’s willing to take up her role as Russia’s ruler. Epic in scope, with an intelligent and strong-willed woman at its heart, The Tsarina’s Daughter is a dramatic, romantic and captivating story that brings the Russian dynasty vividly to life. (8 July, Bloomsbury Publishing)

Good Neighbours by Sarah Langan

Maple Street is a picture perfect piece of Long Island suburbia. So when the unconventional Wilde family moves in, it’s clear that the newcomers don’t exactly fit. With tensions mounting, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park and the daughter of the street’s Queen Bee falls inside. The search for missing Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes, pitting families and neighbours against each other in a court of public opinion that will have no winners. Langan takes readers into the uncomfortable heart of middle class American life, where mob mentality and clashes in the social hierarchy make tragic victims and villains of the book’s characters. Darker and more unnerving than the placid cover suggests, Good Neighbours will leave you feeling shaken. (13 July, Titan Books)

All Her Fault by Andrea Mara

When Marissa Irvine arrives at 14 Tudor Grove to pick up her son Milo from his first play date with a new school friend, she’s confronted with every mother’s worst nightmare. Not only is the woman who answers the door a stranger she doesn’t recognise, but she doesn’t have Milo and doesn’t know where he is either. News of the young boy’s disappearance soon spreads and an unexpected suspect is named, prompting whispers amongst the four women most closely connected to the event. But who took Milo? And whose fault is it really? Set in Dublin, Andrea Mara’s All Her Fault is a taut and twisty domestic thriller that throws readers into the nightmarish situation of a missing child and the subsequent paranoia that creates suspects out of anyone and everyone. The unexpected twist will have your jaw to the floor. (22 July, Bantam Press)

Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian

Neil Narayan’s parents moved to America for a better life, yet he’s not living up to their version of success. Neil wants to make his parents proud but more than anything, he just wants his neighbour across the street, Anita Dayal. Anita understands Neil’s predicament first hand but now she’s thriving, and it’s all down to an ancient alchemical potion she’s been brewing with her mother, which harnesses ambition from stolen gold. When Neil stumbles upon their secret, his decision to join in their plot has devastating consequences. Years later, neither Neil nor Anita are where they thought they’d be, and now the woman who once gave them everything needs their help. Sanjena Sathian’s debut is a smart and inventive coming-of-age tale that blends magical realism with a literary exploration of identity and the American dream. (19 August, Simon & Schuster)

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