Summer reads 2021: 16 of the best books to read on the beach or by the pool

19 July 2021, 13:14

Summer reads 2021: The best books to read on the beach or by the pool
Summer reads 2021: The best books to read on the beach or by the pool. Picture: Peguin

By Emma Clarke

These are the best books to indulge in this summer.

Although lockdown restrictions have eased across England, foreign travel remains a little...tricky.

But even if you're staying put this summer, a good book can provide the ultimate escape.

So, whether you're sunning yourself by the pool, setting off on a coastal staycation, or you're enjoying some downtime in your local park - these summer reads are the ideal accompaniment.

The best summer reads for 2021

1. Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens

Topping the New York Times bestseller list in 2019, Delia Owens' stunning novel is a classic bildungsroman centred on Kya "marsh girl" Clark.

For years, Kya has been the subject of many a rumour in the North Carolina town of Barkley Cove, and on the few occasions she does head into the high street to pick up food or fuel for her boat, people are quick to cast aspersions.

Kya is further isolated by the fact that from a very young age, both her parents and her siblings abandoned her and left her to her own devices.

Negotiating her loss while developing essential life skills, there comes a time, when Kya is much older, where she needs to rely on others and push beyond her comfort zone.

Where the Crawdads Sing is also being turned into a film starring Normal People's Daisy Edgar-Jones.

Buy your copy here

2. Ghosts, Dolly Alderton

Entering her early-thirties, Nina Dean faces the fact that her friends are relocating to the suburbs and her exes have all moved on.

So, when she meets Max - a hopeless romantic who declares he's going to marry her on one of their dates - it seems as though things are about to look up for our protagonist...or is it?

Buy your copy here

3. Bonjour Tristesse, Françoise Sagan

Bonjour Tristesse, which translates to "hello sadness", was published in 1954 when Sagan was just 18 years old and became an overnight sensation.

Set in southern France, the story is narrated by Cecile, a promiscuous, dissolute teenager who idolises her widowed father.

When he starts seeing a new woman, then, Cecile puts together an elaborate plan to break them up - with devastating consequences.

Buy your copy here

4. My Year Abroad, Chang-Rae Lee

From award-winning author Chang-Rae Lee, My Year Abroad is a provocative tale about a young American student whose life is transformed by his trip across Asia.

Buy your copy here

5. Seven Days in June, Tia Williams

Described by Reese Witherspoon as a "sexy, modern love story to start the summer off right", Seven Days in June is a witty novel about two writers who fall in love in the middle of a New York summer.

Exploring themes of love and race, and chock-full of compelling characters, this is a great book to add to the list this summer.

Buy your copy here

6. Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro

Ishiguro's thrilling novel is about Klara, an Artificial Friend who observes those who come and shop in the store where she resides.

It questions what it means to love and the ever-changing nature of the world in which we live.

Buy your copy here

7. The Neapolitan Novels, Elena Ferrante

Elena Ferrante's critically-acclaimed series is a brutally honest portrayal of female friendship, set in post-war Italy.

Narrated by Elena Greco, My Brilliant Friend (the first novel in the collection) focuses on Lenu's early life, and her enduring bond with Lila, the daughter of the local shoemaker.

Running alongside the main narrative, tensions in the neighbourhood between the Fascist Solara brothers and the poorer families in the area rise - culminating in a dramatic event that changes everything.

Read your copy here

8. I Feel Bad About My Neck, Nora Ephron

Before she died in 2012, Academy Award-winning screenwriter Nora Ephron decided to write down her thoughts on womanhood, starting with her essay, 'I Feel Bad About My Neck'.

This brilliant collection is not only witty and relatable, it is just as relevant today as it was when she wrote it in 2006.

Buy your copy here

9. Crudo, Olivia Laing

It's the summer of 2017. Kathy is not only planning her upcoming wedding, she finds herself increasingly distressed by news headlines.

From the rise of Donald Trump and Fascism, to the threat of nuclear war, everything seems so...unnerving.

Buy your copy here

10. Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami

Every time Toru Watanabe hears The Beatles' 'Norwegian Wood', he is transported to his youth and the time he spent with Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend Kizuki, who tragically killed himself aged 17.

Naoko herself is battling inner demons, before she is sent to a mountainous retreat in Kyoto to help her recover.

Toru, meanwhile, goes off to university and meets a vivacious young woman named Midori, who changes his whole outlook on life.

Buy your copy here

11. Three Women, Lisa Taddeo

As the name suggests, this heartbreaking, timely novel by Taddeo tells the stories of three women: a student who was abused by her teacher, a housewife who embarks on an extra-marital affair having not recovered from a previous sexual assault, and a married woman whose husband watches her have sex with strangers.

Buy your copy here

12. The Beach, Alex Garland

Garland's wildly popular 1996 novel The Beach is the ultimate summer read.

Not only does it explore Thailand's tourist boom in the Nineties, the book was adapted into the award-winning 2000 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Buy your copy here

13. Call Me By Your Name, André Aciman

Elio's father, an academic based in northern Italy, offers summer-long internships to one lucky student every year.

While the teenager is usually unenthused by their seasonal guests, the arrival of Oliver - a confident, brash American student - marks a turning point.

Buy your copy here

14. How to Stop Time, Matt Haig

This bittersweet story focuses on Tom Hazard, a man who appears to be an ordinary 41-year-old, but really he is centuries old.

Buy your copy here

15. In the Restaurant, Christoph Ribbat

Hidden behind the spread of food and drink lies countless stories - about the guests, restaurant owners and staff.

Explore the wonderful anecdotes in Ribbat's In the Restaurant.

Buy your copy here

16. The Lido, Libby Page

Journalist and author Libby Page's debut novel is about swimming and celebrating local community, as a big developer threatens to take over Brockwell Lido in Brixton and transform it into an exclusive gym for residents of its proposed new housing estate.

Buy your copy here

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