Beach Reads: The Books To Pack In Your Suitcase This Summer

​What to read when you're kicking back on the beach​

Woman On Beach Reading

From a 1960's San Francisco cult to pirate ships in Hawaii, ELLE's Literary Editor shares her top summer reads


The Girls by Emma Cline (Chatto & Windus)

The most buzzed about book of the summer, thanks to a whopping advance and super producer Scott Rudin buying the film rights. This debut by 26-year-old Emma Cline is inspired by the 1960's Manson cult. It's a hazy, gritty and seductive novel focusing on one (entirely fictional) girl reflecting on the time she spent in the cult and the person who drew her in in the first place.

The Muse by Jessie Burton (Picador)

Burton follows her bestselling debut, The Miniaturist, with this impressive story of art, identity and sacrifice set between 1960's London and 1930's Spain. It takes all of the promise of The Miniaturist - the complex female characters, an entrancing mystery, a lush and evocative sense of place - and executes it with wit and style. My book of the summer.


Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (Borough Press)

Jane Austen is constantly being retold and reimagined and the latest offering is from American author Curtis Sittenfeld who has transplanted Pride and Prejudice into modern-day Cincinnati, Ohio. This version has Lizzie returning home from her journalism job in New York to help her father recover from heart surgery. A fun, pacy read with a pleasing amount of snark where Bingley is a reality TV star and Darcy a star surgeon.

The Portable Veblen (Fourth Estate)

Chosen for the Baileys Prize shortlist, this fizzy, smart novel is one of my favourites of the year so far. It tells the story of Veblen (named after the 19th century economist) who has just got engaged to her boyfriend of not very long and is not quite sure it's for the best. Add in two dysfunctional families, a squirrel who might be trying to communicate with Veblen and some tricksy medical ethics and you get a sharp, joyous read.


Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik (twenty7)

This romcom took the bestseller lists by storm last year, and is one for fans of Mhairi McFarlane. Sofia is about to renounce men until she's convinced to write an exposé on Muslim dating. Needless to say you do not need to be Muslim to enjoy this; feisty, funny and relatable it's the feminist romantic comedy you've been waiting for.

Dietland by Sarai Walker (Atlantic)

The anti-beach read, this spiky, funny book skewers the beauty industry and the first world's weight-loss obsession. The story revolves around constantly hungry ghostwriter Plum, who gets involved in an underground feminist group that challenges her world view. It's wonderfully unapologetic, off-beat and a lot of fun.


The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (Hot Key)

If you're an adventurer at heart then look out for this fast-paced story of Hawaii, pirate ships and burgeoning romance (plus a bit of time travel). Come for the story of sixteen-year-old Nix whose captain father is desperate to track down the love of his life and stay for the eclectic cast of characters and gorgeous 1860's Hawaii setting. Look out for the sequel coming out soon.

My Name is Leon by Kit De Waal (Viking)

If you loved Emma Healey's Elizabeth is Missing, try this debut novel which manages a similar balance of heartwarming and heartbreaking. The plot revolves around nine-year-old Leon, after his baby brother Jake is adopted. A gorgeously told story of race, acceptance, family and the 1980s, it is warm, compassionate and thought-provoking and will have you rooting for Leon and the family he makes for himself.


Paradise Lodge by Nina Stibbe (Penguin)

If you've been loving the recent BBC series Love, Nina - based on the book of letters by author Nina Stibbe - then make sure you pack the her latest offering. A charming, smart, hilarious novel it's set over one hazy summer in 1970's Leicestershire when teenage Lizzie accidently gets a job at a local old people's home. Packed full of eccentric characters; best read with a Fab ice lolly in hand.

The Butterfly Summer by Harriet Evans (Headline)

This is definitely one where it's best to not know too much before you start reading but expect secret gardens and forgotten old English houses, as well as a brilliant heroine, Nina, who tries to find out the truth about her family. Set around a crumbling house called "Keepsake", it's got a distinctly dreamy, fairy tale feel to it.

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