The One Everyone’s Talking About:
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
What it’s about: The tale of a famous musical family in 1983 California—secrets and all. Four rich siblings are hosting their legendary annual end-of-summer party, and things get real, fast, all in the span of 24 incendiary hours. This June 1 release is the “sought-after book of the summer,” according to Booklist.
Try it if you liked… Daisy Jones & The Six, a 2019 summer favorite from the same author.
Why you’ll love it: “It’s a great escape and a brilliantly written story about complex family relationships, love, fame, and music. Reid’s writing is so convincing, you might find yourself asking, Wait … Is this a true story?”
The Next Pulitzer Contender:
The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen
What it’s about: A traumatized Vietnamese refugee must reconcile his former belief system with capitalism in Paris of the early 1980s. That may sound heavy, but critics are calling it “part gangster thriller, part searing cultural analysis,” “a showstopper,” and “reminiscent of John LeCarré.”
Try if you liked… The Sympathizer, the author’s 2016 Pulitzer Prize–winner—this is the sequel.
Why you’ll love it: “I’m excited for this because I was not expecting a sequel! I’m ready to dive back into the world of espionage and follow the Sympathizer into Paris.”
The Laugh-On-The-Edge-Of-Your-Seat Thriller:
A Good Day for Chardonnay by Darynda Jones
What it’s about: Police Chief Sunshine Vicram loves coffee, doughnuts, and wine, but not necessarily in that order. She’ll need them all to deal with her teenage daughter, bad-boy love interest Levi Ravinder, and a New Mexico crime wave.
Try it if you liked… Meg Gardiner’s Phantom Instinct, another story with a strong female protagonist.
Why you’ll love it: “It’s laugh-out-loud funny when it’s not keep-the-lights-on suspenseful. It will send you running for the first book in the series, A Bad Day for Sunshine.”
The Psychological Thriller:
The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz
What it’s about: Washed-up novelist Jacob Finch Bonner stumbles onto a can’t-miss story written by a student who died before finishing it. The old pro knows it would be wrong to publish it as his own. And he does it anyway. Fame and fortune follow until his life starts to fall apart, one mysterious tweet at a time.
Try it if you liked… The Talented Mr. Ripley, referenced in this novel, and other Patricia Highsmith classics that plumb the depths of the human psyche.
Why you’ll love it: “This smart thriller kept me turning pages well past bedtime and delighted with its clever, twisty ending!”
The Modern Gothic Classic:
The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
What it’s about: This modern-day reimagining of a Charlotte Brontë classic finds Jane, a broke dog-walker who just moved into ritzy Thornfield Estates, falling for the mysterious, brooding Eddie Rochester. Suspense, wit, and a feminist perspective mingle in this novel that was recently an instant New York Times best-seller.
Try it if you liked… Jane Eyre, of course.
Why you’ll love it: “Fans will recognize and appreciate the references to Brontë’s classic, while the novel still offers plenty of suspense and fresh twists of its own. A great pick for Brontë lovers and fans of the thriller genre.”
The Paperback To Read In The Sun:
People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
What it’s about: Poppy and Alex have absolutely nothing in common but have been lifelong best friends, vacationing together for one week every year. Until the trip that ruined everything. They haven’t spoken in two years, but now Poppy invites Alex on one last getaway to lay all their cards on the table.
Try it if you liked… Beach Read, the blockbuster best-seller from the same author.
Why you’ll love it: “It’s a fun, lighthearted beach read that combines a slow-burn romance with wit, travel, and humor.”
The Literary Mystery:
We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker
What it’s about: At the tender age of 13, self-proclaimed “outlaw” Duchess Day Radley is saddled with caring for her alcoholic mother and younger brother. Meanwhile, a potential menace just got out of prison and is coming home. This thriller is about both the families we’re born into and the ones we choose.
Try it if you liked… Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens’s mega-best-seller—it, too, was a mystery crossed with a coming-of-age tale.
Why you’ll love it: “Full of broken people who can’t escape their past, this novel grabbed me from the first page. The writing is incredible, both in describing the sweeping settings and drawing you into the mystery that unfolds.”
The Chick-Lit Choice:
The Summer Job by Lizzy Dent
What it’s about: Elizabeth “Birdy” Finch is 30-something and floundering when she assumes her best friend’s identity to get a summer job as a sommelier at a run-down Scottish inn. But she arrives to find it has been renovated into a luxury hotel, and she’s in way over her head.
Try it if you liked… Fiction with an unapologetically female slant by Jennifer Weiner (In Her Shoes, Good in Bed, Big Summer) or Lauren Weisberger (The Devil Wears Prada, When Life Gives You Lululemons).
Why you’ll love it: “This May release has been described as ‘snort-out-loud’ and ‘the perfect escapist novel’ by early reviews. Readers will want to see if Birdy can keep up the charade as she falls in love with a hotel chef while falling further away from the truth and reality.”
The Cold-War Thriller:
Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz Williams
What it’s about: A woman disappears from her London home in 1948. Four years later, her sister receives a mysterious postcard. The ensuing events whisk the reader from Italian cafes to New York nightclubs to a Dorset cottage overlooking the sea and a hotel room near the Kremlin.
Try it if you liked… Other historical thrillers with female protagonists, like The Spies of Shilling Lane or Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
Why you’ll love it: “You never know where you’ll travel next in this Cold War whirl of passion and intrigue.”
The Memoir for ’80s Kids:
Brat: An ’80s Story by Andrew McCarthy
What it’s about: Thanks to his roles in Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo’s Fire, Weekend at Bernie’s, and other Reagan-era classics, McCarthy was a charter member of the Brat Pack, that group of the hottest young actors at the time. Here, he looks back on his rise to fame in intimate detail, including heady days in Hollywood.
Try it if you liked… Stories I Only Tell My Friends, by fellow Brat Packer Rob Lowe.
Why you’ll love it: “Reading this memoir felt like having a conversation with a good friend. McCarthy’s reflections are told with a maturity and graciousness that make them relatable, honest, and engaging.”
The History Lesson For Young Readers:
Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford and Floyd Cooper (illustrator)
What it’s about: Recounts the history of African Americans in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the 1921 violence inflicted upon that city’s “Black Wall Street.” The news was mostly suppressed at the time, and no official investigation took place for 75 years. This picture book introduces middle-grade kids to the tragedy in a sensitive way.
Try it if you liked… The latest season of Fargo, which covered these events in a much more adult manner.
Why you’ll love it: “This story is one that is not often found in school history books. It includes attractive illustrations and compelling historical back notes.”
The Book Of Short Bites:
The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang
What it’s about: In this essay collection, Wang looks back on her struggle with schizophrenia—how she’s used fashion to appear high-functioning, how higher education fails those with mental illness, and other compounding factors of the diagnosis.
Try it if you liked… Prozac Nation, Elizabeth Wurtzel’s candid 1994 memoir of dealing with depression.
Why you’ll love it: “Essays are great for the summertime—they’re short, contemplative, and digestible in small sittings outside in the sunshine. We get requests for this book weekly, and it’s easy to understand why. Wang writes clearly and poignantly, and her scientific acumen only adds to her self-analysis.”
The Easy, Breezy Read:
Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi
What it’s about: Two estranged sisters discover they need each other more than they ever knew. They’ve grown apart somewhere along the way from Seoul to San Antonio to New York, but suddenly one is sick, and the other is the only one who can help her. A “young adult” title, it’s one readers of all ages can appreciate.
Try it if you liked… To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, the Jenny Han best-seller turned critically acclaimed Netflix movie.
Why you’ll love it: “It’s a sometimes funny, sometimes emotional story that examines the depths of sisterhood and siblings and the weight of shared family history. If you’re looking for a worthwhile summer title that examines heavier topics but is a compelling and quick read, Yolk is an excellent choice.”
The Beautiful Biography:
The Incredible Nellie Bly by Luciana Cimino and Sergio Algozzino (illustrator)
What it’s about: Nellie Bly’s exploits are the stuff of legends—like the time she did an undercover investigation in an insane asylum, or when she tested whether the journey in Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days could really be done. Experience her stranger-than-fiction life with this graphic-novel biography.
Try it if you liked… All the President’s Men, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s all-time classic of investigative journalism, or popular graphic novels like From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell.
Why you’ll love it: “It’s well-researched and beautifully drawn—a must-read for lovers of adventure and strong characters.”
The Insider Spy Thriller:
Red Widow by Alma Katsu
What it’s about: Lyndsey Duncan’s career as a CIA agent is on thin ice when she strikes up a friendship with the “Red Widow,” an agent whose husband was killed under mysterious circumstances. The CIA knows a mole is afoot, and as Duncan’s friendship with the Red Widow deepens, she unravels a terrifying mystery.
Try it if you liked… The Americans, the award-winning TV show about Russian spies posing as an ordinary 1980s couple living in Falls Church.
Why you’ll love it: “This political thriller is years in the making because it’s based on the author’s own past as a woman working in the intelligence field. DC-area readers familiar with that world will appreciate the attention to detail and the way Katsu’s experience shines through.”