OK, your flights have been booked for months and your suitcase is packed. You have read over and ticked off everything on your "to pack" list. But you're probably missing the most essential holiday item: The summer read. Fear not, I have you covered. (Also, bring a high SPF.) I have compiled the best Summer 2018 beach reads based on your favourite holiday destination into one handy guide. Ahead lies a list of some of the finest books by female writers you will find, full of strong characters, totally absorbing storylines, and a healthy balance between suspense and laugh-out-loud moments.
This summer sees the release of some highly anticipated debuts from the likes of Sharlene Teo, Gail Honeyman, and Caroline O'Donoghue. There are also soon-to-be classic novels from Sarah Perry and Sally Rooney, short stories, and non-fiction. Whether you’re travelling long-haul to see new sights and have an unforgettable adventure, flying on a budget to the time-honoured holiday spots, or planning a staycation and seeing the fun that can be had in your own town, I have the perfect book to keep you company along the way. Extra points if you're planning a lot of travelling this summer and get through a few of these great titles.
New release Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman will become the classic beach-side pageturner. It has all the right ingredients for the story you'll want to settle down with before a night of cocktails in the last of the day's heat. It tells the story of Eleanor and her chance encounter with the awkward Raymond that turns her heavily regimented and introverted life upside down. So put a towel on the sun-lounger, fill up your sangria glass, and get reading.
There is no finer companion on a trip to Italy than Elena Ferrante. Her Neapolitan trilogy is among her most popular and by the end of the first instalment, My Brilliant Friend, characters Lila and Elena will feel like women you've known for years and Italy will feel like a home away from home.
A romantic holiday in Rome would also not be complete without a story of forbidden love and scandal, and you'll find both in large measure in Promising Young Women, from the always on-the-nose Caroline O'Donoghue. Office worker by day and agony aunt by night, Jane Peters gets caught up in a risky affair that threatens to derail everything she's managing to precariously hold down. It's tipped to be this summer's bestseller and if you've read Caroline's writing before or follow her on Twitter, you'll know why.
If your holiday plan involves taking it easy and sampling the best local food and wine, you need a book that you can get properly sucked into while you spend the afternoon at a sun-soaked cafe. Having won nearly every literary prize going, the newly reissued on paperback Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney is a must read. The writing is so relatable, there are points when it feels like Rooney is inside your own head. It will also whet your appetite for her second novel, Normal People, out in September.
Meg Wolitzer's The Female Persuasion is an equal parts smart and comical depiction of womanhood and influence. Meet Greer Kadetsky, the shy college student who embarks on a journey of self-discovery after meeting feminist icon Faith Frank. Faith's influence challenges the constants in Greer's life, and along the way we get a portrayal of female relationships and feminism that marks this book as an instant classic. It's the perfect book to fill poolside days and pass over to your friend on a girly getaway in Portugal.
I am a big fan of short story collections for holidays when I know I will be doing a lot of day activities; you can dip in and out whenever you have a bit of down time and not feel like you need to read back to catch up on the plot. Break It Down by Lydia Davis and Self-Help by Lorrie Moore are both classics of short fiction and the two books I recommend most to friends in search of the perfect summer read. They are ideal for catching moments between island-hopping from one Greek city to the next. Both women have a unique way of looking at the world and each story in these collections unravels with quirky humour, droll characters, and situations that often feel too real — trust me.
Planning a staycation? Then consider reading either Sarah Perry's The Essex Serpent or Libby Page's The Lido, two equally stellar novels. Perry's story is an exploration of Victorian Essex in search of a mythic creature, weaving in a compelling love story. The Lido charts the friendship that develops between a young journalist and her octogenarian subject as they work together to save the local outdoor pool. Both will have you seeing the spectacular without travelling too far from home.
Catherine Lacey’s acclaimed novel The Answers is perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale in both its iterations. It follows NY-based protagonist Mary, who takes part in the strange project called "The Girlfriend Experiment." Concocted by a famous Hollywood actor, Mary is hired as part of a range of women who serve the different roles of a relationship, such as The Emotional Girlfriend and The Angry Girlfriend. It’s a pageturner fuelled by sharp writing and gripping suspense. This is your best friend while whiling away time on the subway.
Problems, the debut novel from Jade Sharma, has only been out a few weeks but it's been on "to read" lists for a lot longer. From page one, you are pulled down the rabbit hole into Maya's world of addiction, relationship quandaries, and body image. It's simultaneously hilarious, sexy, and heartbreaking, all the while unfurling in Sharma's weird and unforgettable tone.
Long-Haul: Singapore, The Caribbean, & Australia
If your holiday destination is further afield than the sunny climes of Brighton — like Singapore, for example — Sharlene Teo's debut Ponti is a must. Recounted from the perspectives of three women, friendship, love, loss and memory are all explored with an impeccable eye for detail. The Singapore that Teo brings to life will feel as real as your holiday.
If you're heading for the Caribbean this summer (lucky you), your days are going to be full of adventure and new experiences. You want a book you can easily slip in your bag — now is not the time for War and Peace. Peach by Emma Glass is unlike anything I've ever read before and I was blown away that such a short novel could pack such an emotional punch and dissect abuse and trauma so delicately.
And last but not least, All These Wonders is a collection of stories from contributors to The Moth and the book to bring with you down-under. Fans of the podcast can attest to the sheer variety and unique range of voices The Moth always features, and the addictive quality of these stories makes it the perfect travel companion for long flights, layovers, and all the quirky characters you will meet along the way.