Forget your flip-flops, sunglasses or snorkel — because a good book is the ultimate summer accessory. Whether you’re touching down on a tropical beach, seeking out the perfect city break or staying put at home, a gripping new novel is the perfect balm during these warmer, calmer months.
And we’ve got just the shelf-full for your suitcase. There are sweeping, time-travelling epics, intimate and emotional pieces of long-form journalism and even toe-dipping guides to exploring the world’s spellbinding shorelines. We’ve cracked their spines, pored over their prose and recommended the eight below titles to every tourist or traveller in our summer circles. Take a look…
Anthem by Noah Hawley
Noah Hawley never lets up. The writer-director-producer may helm such series as Fargo and hold a Primetime Emmy Award, but novels are his first love; he’s published six so far. The latest is this year’s Anthem, a dark quest set in a dystopian, disaster-struck modern-day America, where environmental crises and opioid addiction are rife.
The story follows Simon Oliver, a son and brother who is distraught after the tragic death of his sister. Sent to the ‘Float Anxiety Abatement Center’, the young man meets an individual who calls himself ‘The Prophet’ — and is attempting to rally a band of misfits from the centre to join him on a ‘quest’ to save a woman held captive by ‘The Wizard’.
The Naked Don’t Fear the Water by Matthieu Aikins
Though written by Canadian journalist Matthieu Aikins, The Naked Don’t Fear the Water is the story of another man — an Afghan interpreter named Omar. A blistering example of non-fiction ‘gonzo’ journalism, the account charts Aikins’ decision to follow Omar on the refugee trail, ditching his own passport and identity to do so authentically.
From Afghanistan to Europe, the pair go underground in Kabul and join a group of people at the mercy of smugglers, police, activists and fellow refugees searching for a better life. It’s harrowing, it’s hopeful, and it climaxes with a nightmarish journey across the Mediterranean in an unstable inflatable boat.
Trust by Hernan Diaz
A Gatsby-adjacent whirl through the roar and effervescence of 1920s New York, Trust is Hernan Diaz’s great American novel. It’s a captivating tale of capitalism, and centres on the story of Benjamin and Helen Rask. The former is a legendary Wall Street tycoon; the latter the daughter of eccentric aristocrats. And, together, they are living a highly hedonistic life.
Yet, as the decade ends, a novel-within-this-novel emerges. Bonds sweeps New York upon its publication, and fuels rumours about Benjamin’s questionable financial dealings — as well as Helen’s reclusiveness. At what cost have the couple amassed this immense fortune? And where did this grand gossip come from?
How to Take Over the World by Ryan North
Like Matthieu Aikins above, Ryan North is a celebrated Canadian writer. But the comic book writer and humorist’s work couldn’t be further from the gritty journalist’s writings. And, after years of concocting supervillainous machinations for Marvel Comics, North has decided to put into print his most dastardly plans.
It’s a rollicking read; a tongue-in-cheek introduction to the science of global domination. But, for all the zany how-tos and tips on how to make ‘Jurassic Park’ a reality, there are plenty of real-world tricks hiding between the lines; from ways to combat cyber attacks and extend your lifespan to sustainable suggestions to become more eco-friendly.
Life Between the Tides by Adam Nicolson
Adam Nicolson — or 5th Baron Carnock, to give him his full title — has always been able to imbue his nature-focused non-fiction with the lyrical lilt of prose. From The Smell of Summer Grass to The Seabird’s Cry, he’s got a sparkling back catalogue. The latest, Life Between the Tides, takes a dip into an extraordinary underwater world.
Whether he’s exploring how sandhoppers inherit their inherent compass from their parents, how crabs understand the tides or how one winkle may sacrifice itself for the lives of its fellows, Nicolson follows the shoreline and paddles in the shallows; guiding you along the rocks and pebbles on a seawater safari.
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
From one sea to another, the latest from Emily St. John Mandel is a time-twisting novel that begins on the ocean. In 1912, eighteen-year-old Edwin St. Andrew crosses the Atlantic, exiled from English polite society. He lands in the wilds of Canada, where he is greeted not by people — but by the sounds of an eerie violin.
But St. Andrew is not your sole protagonist. In this Cloud Atlas-style, narrative-spanning novel, we also jump into the stories of Olive Lleweyln, a famous future writer from the ‘Second Moon Colony’, and Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied ‘Night City’. Suspend your belief and engage your imagination; it’s a gripping — if occasionally confusing — ride.
The Immortal King Rao by Vauhini Vara
A debut novel next, by the mesmerising Vauhini Vara. It’s a story that starts in India in the 1950s, and follows a young man born into a Dalit family of coconut farmers in a remote village in Andhra Pradesh. This man will later become ‘King Rao’, who moves to the US, studies in Seattle and soon becomes the most famous Silicon Valley tech CEO in the world.
He helps build a new world, and leads a powerful, corporate-owned global government. But, after being exiled to an island off the coast of Washington State, he lives in isolation — with only his brilliant daughter, Athena, for company. Vara’s thought-provoking prose digs deep into Athena’s aspirations, as she reexamines her father’s life through her own lens, and uses it to consider her own future.
I Will Die in a Foreign Land by Kalani Pickhart
Another debut novel; another tale of revolt and uprising. Kalani Pickhart’s first novel follows four individuals over the course of a volatile Ukrainian winter — after the real-life November 2013 protest against President Yanukovych in Independence Square in Kyiv; the ‘Euromaidan’ protests.
During the bitterly cold winter months, we follow individuals including Misha — an engineer originally from Pripyat, Slava — a fiery young activist, and Aleksandr — a pianist and former KGB agent, as they seek their own solace, and gently retell Ukrainian folklore and a turbulent Slavic history through modern eyes.
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