How to choose between the options in literary beach reads this summer when there’s only so much room in your suitcase, and different needs and locations demand different books? Are you in flying all over in the name of a crazy wedding season? Or have you decided to run away from it all? Do you prefer to read about someone cheating on his wife in France, or a New York–based philanderer dealing with the repercussions on a Mediterranean island? Or maybe you yearn to read about an unexpected pregnancy making single life inconvenient in present-day Brooklyn, or making married life inconvenient in an apocalyptic future West Coast?
These recent novels give you real, raw romance, people dealing with terrible things in beautiful places, people dealing with wonderful things in terrible places. These six books can accompany you on your summer journey or help you escape in your mind (books!) if you’re stuck at home; they can bring you characters that are all too recognizable and introduce you to wonderful new people and places. Maybe rethink that suitcase: one pair of shoes is plenty, six books makes way more sense.
Click the covers to add these titles to your luggage today.
Infidelity in France: The protagonist of Maum’s debut novel is Richard Haddon, an American-educated British artist living in Paris with his French wife, Anne, and their young daughter. When his wife learns the full extent of his liaison with a young American, Richard dedicates himself to winning Anne back though a large-scale art installation about the Iraq War and some illegal donkey-themed sidewalk graffiti. The characters and setting provide delightful fodder for Maum to poke friendly at all three cultures, American, British, and French. The reader is never sure if Richard even deserves his second chance, but can’t help but rooting for him in the end despite his bumbling, cluelessly selfish attempts to win his wife back. A brutally honest reckoning of the challenges of fidelity and family.
Infidelity in Paradise: The Vacationers delivers on the promise of the title and the turquoise pool-water cover art in that it is a summer story set in a beautiful place – but it’s more than a quick beach read, and the Post family will stay on your mind in all seasons. Straub’s prose is delightfully witty and often very funny as she describes the betrayals and disappointments that follow her characters to their Mallorca idyll. The novel takes place over a two-week vacation in Mallorca, each chapter chronicling a single day. Franny and Jim Post have brought their daughter, Sylvia, to celebrate her high school graduation, along with their grown son, Bobby, and his girlfriend, Carmen; plus Franny’s longtime best friend, Charles, and his husband, Lawrence. It wouldn’t be a family vacation without old and new jealousies and misunderstandings small and monumental as the island escape fails to keep long-simmering conflicts at bay. Often laugh-out-loud funny, Straub writes her characters joyfully, but without hesitating to poke fun at them at times.
Pregnant in the Apocalypse: In Lepucki’s debut novel, the U.S. spirals into a new-future apocalypse. This doesn’t come from an assault by bombs or meteors, but just from continuing our unsustainable American lifestyle until we’ve destroyed the cities and driven almost everyone into poverty. A hyper-privileged few live in the Communities, extremely protected exurbs where versions of the trappings of modern life are still available. For everyone else, gas is so expensive most people can’t afford to drive or fly, electricity is prohibitively expensive (no more Internet), and the financial system has collapsed into and beyond gold-based bartering. Frida and Cal have fled Los Angeles, and the young couple is scratching out a living in the woods of Northern California. As the novel opens, Frida learns she is pregnant, and they must decide whether to continue to try to survive on their own, or to seek out a heavily guarded and mysterious nearby community. A compelling, frightening story about the sacrifices we make for family set in an all-too-believable future destruction.
Pregnant with Roommates and a Temp Job: The eponymous friends of Gould’s debut novel are Bev and Amy, longtime BFFs facing a new personal and common reality as they enter their thirties. Bev ends up pregnant after a one-night stand with a colleague from her temp job, a bro-type guy she doesn’t even really like and her first romantic venture after a long mourning period for a relationship that ended in infidelity (more cheating! woo! summer!). Bev’s best friend is Amy, spinning her wheels blogging for the well-funded if not well-read “Yidster” after a brush with a sort of Internet infamy at a gossip blog. A sharp, sad, unforgiving (in a great way) and remarkably funny exploration of thirty-something female friendship.
Alone on a Remote Island: Wyld’s second novel features Jake Whyte, owner and sole inhabitant of a sheep farm on a cold, windy island off the coast of England. Jake is intentionally isolated, refusing to engage with the other farmers at the local pub, stubborn and taciturn. Someone — the local teenagers who ridicule her? a disgruntled neighbor? — or something — a fox? something else wild? — begins killing her sheep, and a strange man turns up drunk near her hedgerow. Wyld switches between this mystery in England and the story of Jake’s hidden past, each chapter alternating between Jake’s mounting fear that something is after her despite her isolation, and her conflicted history in her homeland, Australia. The backstory chapters move backwards in time from what immediately brought Jake to England, to what brought her to be working sheep farms at all, and back to the original sin that drove her from home. A fierce and beautiful novel that will haunt the reader long after the mysteries are unraveled.
Alone at a Wedding: Jen Doll’s memoir of the many, many weddings she has attended contains the promised bad decisions – from ill-fated hookups to throwing your shoes down a dirt road – that weddings seem to bring out in the best-intentioned guest. Not just great stories of weddings gone right and wrong, Doll’s years of wedding attendance, from a simple courthouse ceremony to extravagant destination events, plus observing her parents’ adorably happy marriage, provoke her to question the very institution, the wedding industrial complex, the wisdom of tequila shots, and more. In a world where we have more and more choices about who and when and why and if we marry, what does marriage mean?