Lose yourself on a sun lounger with these brilliant books

Among the greatest pleasures of a languorous summer holiday – wherever it takes place – is the freedom to lose yourself in reading material you’ve stored up all year.

Whether you are heading to the beach, a bothy or your own backyard, it pays to put some thought into the books you’ll bring with you.

As we celebrate #NationalBookLoversDay, here are the tomes to pack in your suitcase this summer.

The Paper Palace

Miranda Cowley Heller
This New York Times bestseller has the ingredients of the perfect cocktail. We are talking Cape Cod, in the summer, several generations of one WASP family and an agonizing love triangle. This is Miranda Cowley Heller’s debut novel but it feels as though she is an old hand. It is pretty much the perfect summer read. Buy it here.


Dolly Alderton

You probably know Alderton from her journalism, her podcast and her memoir, Everything I Know About Love. But here is her first novel. And, boy, is it a good one. In it, 32-year-old Nina is a successful food writer whose life unravels as she negotiates the muddy waters of online dating and her father’s dementia. Marian Keyes says: ‘I loved it so much, I wanted it to go on forever. Dolly Alderton is so gifted at making people care. A rare talent.’ Buy it here.

All In It Together: England In The 21st Century

Alwyn Turner

Novels aren’t everybody’s poolside cup of tea. So here is an excellent, humorous, compelling alternative. In his history of the 21st-century, Alwyn Turner deftly chronicles Cool Britannia, Brexit, Covid and everything in between. Some of it is so surreal that you’d think he’d made it up if you didn’t know better. Man, have we lived through strange times. Buy it here.

Light Perpetual

Francis Spufford

People raved about his first novel, Golden Hill; they are set to do the same about this one. In 1944 a bomb claimed the lives of five young children in a Woolworths store in London. In Light Perpetual, Francis Spufford considers what their lives would have been like if they hadn’t died. His tale follows five working-class children as they pick their way through the twentieth century, living all the triumphs and disasters the bomb denied them. Buy it here.

In The Kitchen: Essays On Food And Life


This is third of Daunt Books Publishing’s charming collections of essays. In it, thirteen contemporary writers ponder the impact that cooking and eating has on our psyches. Gentle and meditative, it will be a happy read for anybody who loves cooking – or wishes they did – and eating. Nigel Slater calls it: ‘A delightful collection of original, vibrant and heart-warming writing.’ Buy it here.

English Monsters

James Scudamore

In this beautifully written, and perfectly observed novel, James Scudamore examines what becomes of the helpless victims of boarding-school abuse when they grown up. Alex Preston describes it as: ‘Breathtakingly good.’ He says: ‘Imagine Edward St Aubyn writing The Secret History and you’ll get an idea of how exquisite and compelling this story about male friendship and betrayal is.’ Buy it here.

A Touch Of Mistletoe

Barbara Comyns

First published in 1967, this gorgeous coming-of-age tale follows an impoverished upper-middle-class girl as she wends her way through a Bohemian life from the 1920s to the 1960s. Her world is full and varied and embroidered by love and art. While her fortunes wax and wane, her joy and humour are ever-present. Buy it here.


Lisa Taddeo

In Lisa Taddeo’s debut novel, she tells the story of Joan, who is defined by the sexual traumas of her past and determined to confront them. Clover Stroud says: ‘Scorching, unforgettable, stunningly beautiful, Animal blew my mind and has left me reeling.’ Buy it here.

Sorrow And Bliss

Meg Mason

Everybody’s talking about this summer smash-hit by Australian writer, Meg Mason. Set in London and Oxford, and with the thoughtfully handled themes of motherhood, marriage and mental health, it has to be among the most relatable books of the year. India Knight says: ‘Just read it. It’s unforgettable.’ Buy it here.

The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous

Jilly Cooper

It may surprise you that a paperback published in 1993 should feature on this list. The comically retrograde tale of a load of bed-hopping posh people may not be everybody’s thing. But it earns its place here for two reasons. First, because it is a brilliantly written and extremely diverting novel. Second, because Jilly Cooper evokes carefree, summertime fun better than any other writer. Fact. Buy it here.

By Becky Ladenburg
August 2021

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Becky Ladenburg

Features Editor

As the GWG's features editor, Becky has her discerning finger on the cultural pulse. She's also our go-to expert on the property market.