10 Summer Books To Stack Up Now
A prime summer reading experience demands nothing more than to toss a book in a bag, or a few in a suitcase. You may read them wherever you please – the beach, the park, the rooftop bar, your pool, their boat, that flight. Now, all you need is a stack of hot, smart and sun-stupor-friendly reads. Which is where this list is headed. The desired locations (and attire to match) are up to you.
01. Ms Deborah Levy
Image courtesy of Penguin
In the glistening eyes of her legion of devotees, Ms Deborah Levy’s phenomenal autobiographies have elevated her to living deity status. She also has fire summer novel form, as proved by Hot Milk and Swimming Home. So, if you’re yet to nab her latest, August Blue – don’t think, just purchase.
02. Mr Brandon Taylor
The Late Americans
Image courtesy of Penguin
Having gained plaudits as an erudite and faithful chronicler of contemporary queer experience with Real Life, Mr Brandon Taylor’s latest offering, The Late Americans, is set to grace many a lounger this summer. The sooner you get intimately acquainted with this novel’s cast of Iowa City-based friends and lovers, the quicker you’ll revel in their escapades – and that finale – with your own crew over sundowners.
Published 22 June
03. Ms Catherine Lacey
Biography Of X
Image courtesy of Granta
When is a biography not a biography? When it’s a riddle. This particular subversion of the form, by the inimitable literary adventurer Ms Catherine Lacey, was, according to The New York Times, born of an aborted attempt to write “actual” biography. While researching, she conjured up the worst candidate to write about anyone’s life: their grieving and aggrieved spouse. The fake biography of X, a renowned and problematic artist, by her widow is set in an astutely rendered alternative US that is awash with genuine our-world references. A counterfactual trip to be relished over a few lazy afternoons.
04. Ms Edith Wharton
The Custom Of The Country
Image courtesy of Penguin Press
I still recall first reading, and falling head and heart for, Ms Edith Wharton two decades ago. Having plucked The House Of Mirth from some haphazard port-side pile, I inhaled it on back-to-back boat hops between Thai islands. The following summer, I devoured The Age Of Innocence on Ischia. Somehow, I have failed to read her “masterpiece”, The Custom Of The Country. Now a new edition has been published, I am wondering which island to take it to. A bonus: the foreword to this edition has been penned by Ms Sofia Coppola, who is adapting the novella for Apple TV+.
Published 6 July
05. Mr Jinwoo Chong
Image courtesy of Melville House Books
A bona fide good time. And a wild ride that melds the mind just enough to keep pages flying without recourse to WTF-inducing recaps. This speculative neo-noir novel by Mr Jinwoo Chong is a seriously accomplished debut. Flux, which is named after epoch-shifting tech, skewers the tumult mega corporations wreak on ordinary people, sensitively captures the life-altering effects of gargantuan loss and spikes gross stereotypes that still shadow Asian-American souls.
06. Mr Luke Turner
Men At War: Loving, Lusting, Fighting, Remembering 1939-1945
Image courtesy of Orion Books
War histories do not scream chill summer read and if this one had been written by anyone but Mr Luke Turner, author of the entrancing memoir Out Of The Woods, I would have swerved it, too. Men At War is not straight history. It is a gallant and vital reappraisal of the lives – and our impressions – of fighting men in all their sexually fluid and embodied glory, such as the bisexual commando Mr Micky Burn (who saved Ms Audrey Hepburn’s life with packets of cigarettes), the transgender RAF pilot Mx Roberta Cowell and the pacifist bomber airman and poet Mr Bertram Warr. As well as serving as a corrective to the jingoistic claptrap that dominates WWII discussion, by bringing love and lust back in, by incarnating individual fighters, Turner is revitalising this genre.
07. Mx K Patrick
Image courtesy of 4th Estate
Amid the fusty confines of an English girls’ boarding school, a baby butch matron embarks on an affair with the headmaster’s femme wife. As temperatures soar, this delectably barbed novel threatens incendiary climax. Mrs S is classes above any standard lust-fest, for among the slow-burn romance, Patrick relays keen insight into queer experience, while delivering a wry assassination of patriarchal privilege at its hot-housed worst.
08. Mr Jonathan Eig
King: A Life
Image courtesy of Simon & Schuster
Having penned three New York Times bestsellers, including an epic biography of Mr Muhammad Ali, Mr Jonathan Eig has form when it comes to monumental tomes. In crafting this riveting and essential biography of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, he was granted access to a raft of untapped source material – including recently declassified FBI documents, audiotapes from King’s widow, Ms Coretta Scott King, an unpublished memoir by King’s father and copious pages belonging to King’s archivist – and conducted countless interviews. In short, a must-read not only to better understand King, but to help us in agitating towards a just society.
09. Mx Guy Gunaratne
Image courtesy of Headlin
Weeks after finishing Mister, Mister, the significances of Mx Guy Gunaratne’s cinematic scenes, vast and minute, continue to unspool. Its protagonist, Yahya Bas, whom we meet at a UK detention centre on page one, is a mad, compelling creation. A shy poetic soul/raging jihadi, he is a perfect mirror. Zooming out, this novel of “Britishness and unbelonging” holds as a generational masterwork for its depiction of the sociopolitical failings and fractures that have shaped the UK since the early 1990s and their starkly individual fall out.
10. Mr Dior J Stephens
Image courtesy of Nightboat Books
It is discomfiting to boil down novels to 100-word sells, but it feels plain egregious to do so to collections of poems. Brevity is their medium. I have found no better way to find poetry that calls me than sneak-peeking random lines to see if we spark. So, try these and if you feel, fetch yourself a copy of Mr Dior J Stephens’ magical Cruel/Cruel.