The 30 best books for summer reading in 2021


Dive into the season’s buzziest books — from beach reads to thrillers, contemporary fiction to memoirs, historical tomes and more.

FICTION

that summer

Jennifer Weiner (fiction, Atria Books)
Daisy Shoemaker is a married suburban mom with a rebellious daughter and a husband who provides for them — but never lets her forget it. When she starts receiving messages meant for another woman with a nearly identical email address, the two begin talking. The woman is everything Daisy isn’t: unmarried, unattached, with a thriving corporate job. As Daisy soon finds out, the women are connected in ways she never could have imagined, in this page turner about lost opportunities and decades-old secrets. 

last summer at the golden hotel

Elyssa Friedland (fiction, Berkley)
The Golden Hotel is the last of its kind: Owned by the Goldman and Weingold families, the place is a classic Borscht Belt summer resort that has been the host of many happy memories. But its heyday is now long past, the bills are piling up, and the guest register is dwindling. When a development firm makes a bid that would involve tearing down the hotel and building a casino, the two families gather to discuss the offer — amidst numerous family scandals and plenty of drama. 

falling

TJ Newman (fiction, Avid Reader Press)
There are 143 passengers on board a plane from Los Angeles to New York City. What they don’t know is that the flight will be anything but routine. Minutes before takeoff, the pilot was contacted by someone who gives him a chilling directive: The pilot’s wife and kids are being held at gunpoint at home, and he must crash the plane or his family will be killed.

the husbands

Chandler Baker (fiction, Flatiron Books)
Nora Spangler is a successful lawyer on the partner track; but she’s also exhausted from overseeing her family’s life at home. When she and her husband go house shopping in Dynasty Ranch, the neighborhood is filled with high-powered women whose husbands do everything for them. Are they Stepford spouses — or the answer to all feminine prayers? 

the summer job

Lizzy Dent (fiction, GP Putnam’s Sons)
Birdy has kicked off her summer job as sommelier at a remote Scottish hotel with a bit of a fib … well, a whopper. She’s pretending to be her best friend Heather, an actual sommelier, while she herself knows nothing about wine. The newly renovated hotel, meanwhile, is desperate for good ratings from restaurant critics to boost its bottom line. What could possibly go wrong? 

where the grass is green and the girls are pretty

Lauren Weisberger (fiction, Random House)
Peyton seemingly has it all: a job as a famous TV anchor, a loving husband and a Princeton-bound daughter. But when a college admissions scandal threatens to engulf her family, she flees to her sister’s upscale NY suburb to hide out — and try to rebuild her reputation. 

malibu rising

Taylor Jenkins Reid (fiction, Ballantine Books)
It’s Malibu in August of 1983, and Nina Riva’s hotly anticipated end-of-summer bash is happening. Everyone wants to be around the Riva siblings — the children of famous singer Mick Riva, they have all carved out their own niches in the area. But the air is filled with tension, old grudges and long-held secrets, and, by morning, the Riva mansion will go up in flames. 

the turnout

Megan Abbott (fiction, GP Putnam’s Sons)
Sisters Dara and Marie Durant have run the prestigious Durant School of Dance together since their parents died in a tragic accident over a decade ago. Marie teaches the younger kids while Dara handles the older pupils; her husband Charlie, once a prized pupil at the dance school, handles the business itself. When a strange accident occurs right at the beginning of the school’s annual Nutcracker performance, it throws everything into chaos. 

hell of a book

Jason Mott (fiction, Dutton)
A black author embarks on a cross-country book tour to promote his new book, but he’s followed by a (possibly imaginary) child. The author’s story is intertwined with the narrative of Soot, a young black boy living in a rural town. Mott has written a clever meditation on race and violence in America. 

count the ways

Joyce Maynard (fiction, William Morrow)
Eleanor and Cam meet in Vermont in the early 1970s. Neither has much money, but they have a farmhouse and a family in a few short years. For a while, love is enough to keep them going. But when an accident changes their family dynamic forever, the couple do their best to muddle through a divorce. 

the guncle

Steven Rowley (fiction, GP Putnam’s Sons)
Patrick — “Gay Uncle Patrick,” or “GUP” for short — has always been a loving and fun uncle. But when his niece and nephew lose their mother and their father goes into rehab for the summer, he’s suddenly in charge. Patrick might not know much about parenting, but he’s determined to be the best uncle he can be, inflatable pool toys, house parties and all. 

bath haus

PJ Vernon (fiction, Doubleday)
Oliver Park is a recovering addict who’s built the perfect life with his partner Nathan, an older surgeon, in their gorgeous Georgetown home. But one weekend when Nathan is away, Oliver finds himself visiting Haus, a gay bathhouse, where he has a terrifying encounter that almost gets him killed. Traumatized, he tries to shake off the encounter and move on without telling Nathan. That’s when he starts seeing his attacker around the neighborhood, and it’s clear the guy’s got Oliver in his sights. Terrifying. 

all together now

Matthew Norman (fiction, Ballantine Books)
Reclusive billionaire Robbie Malcolm has everything he wants — everything, that is, except time. When a doctor gives him a terminal diagnosis, Robbie invites his core group of high school friends for one final beach weekend they’ll never forget. 

palace of the drowned

Christine Mangan (fiction, Flatiron Books)
It’s 1966 and Frankie Croy has retreated to her friend’s palazzo in Venice, looking to bounce back from a breakdown triggered by a scathing review of her debut novel. While there, she meets a young woman named Gilly, who describes herself as a huge fan. Something about Gilly seems off, but Frankie can’t quite put her finger on it. Then a flood ravages the city, and the two women will never be the same. 

summer of the bluffs

Sunny Hostin (fiction, William Morrow)
In the exclusive black community of Oak Bluffs, summer is a chance to relax and enjoy the beach. Seventy-year-old Amelia Vaux Tanner is about to host her last summer in her beloved vacation home before moving to France. She has invited her three goddaughters to spend the season with her; when it ends, one of them will be the owner of Amelia’s house.

mary jane

Jessica Anya Blau (fiction, Custom House)
In 1970s Baltimore, 14-year-old Mary Jane has conservative parents and sings in the church choir. When a bohemian family in the neighborhood enlists her as a mother’s helper, Mary Jane is introduced to a wild new world unlike anything she’s ever known. 

the plot

Jean Hanff Korelitz (fiction, Celadon) 
Back in the day, Jacob Finch Bonner was a hotshot young novelist with a promising first book. But all that promise amounted to nothing much. Now he’s teaching in a D-list MFA program and hasn’t written a word in years. When an obnoxious student comes in with an amazing idea, Jacob doesn’t think twice about it. But when the student mysteriously dies, the professor starts to think that a good idea shouldn’t go to waste. 

a double life

Charlotte Philby (fiction, Harper Collins)
From the granddaughter of Britain’s most famous double agent, Kim Philby, comes this page-turning thriller about Gabriela, a senior negotiator coming off of a seven-month stint in Moscow. When the woman returns home to her family, however, something isn’t quite right. 

the other black girl

Zakiya Dalila Harris (fiction, Atria Books)
Editorial assistant Nella Rogers is the only black employee at Wagner Books. When another black woman, Hazel, starts working in the cubicle next to hers, she thinks she has found an ally. But as the weeks go by, Nella notices Hazel has become the office favorite — and she herself is getting left out of important projects. Then the notes start appearing on her desk: Leave Wagner now.

ridgeline

Michael Punke (fiction, Henry Holt)
In the aftermath of the Civil War, a new conflict between native tribes and a brash new nation breaks out on the Western frontier. Colonel Henry Carrington has arrived in Wyoming to open a new road for gold miners and settlers, while Red Cloud, a respected Lakota chief, understands exactly what this will mean for his people. From the bestselling author of “The Revenant.” 

golden girl

Elin Hilderbrand (fiction, Henry Holt)
Vivian Howe, a married mother of three grown children, is killed in a hit-and-run accident while jogging near her Nantucket home. As she’s ushered into the great beyond, she’s given the opportunity to watch one last summer play out on earth — and allowed three “nudges” to change the outcome of things for her children. 

blush

Jamie Brenner (fiction, GP Putnam’s Sons)
The family-run Hollander Estates winery is floundering, and matriarch Vivian fears this summer could be their last season. When her granddaughter uncovers journals from Vivian’s old “trashy novel” book club, they start to realize that the key to saving the vineyard — and to happiness in love and life — just might lie in the over-the-top novels. 

survive the night

Riley Sager (fiction, Dutton)
Charlie met Josh Baxter through the college ride board: He’s a total stranger but also her ticket home from a school terrorized by a campus killer who has murdered three people so far. As the hours in the car pass, Charlie begins to notice inconsistencies in Josh’s story — and wonders if maybe she didn’t leave the danger behind on campus. 

NON-FICTION

golden boy

John Glatt, nonfiction, (St. Martin’s Press)
Thomas Gilbert Jr. grew up with every possible advantage: private schools, a loving family, houses in the Hamptons. Despite all this, OCD and increasing paranoia, combined with an inexplicable hatred of his father, led him to murder the wealthy financier. An in-depth look at an act that shocked the city’s elite. 

the ground breaking

Scott Ellsworth (nonfiction, Dutton) 
Memorial Day 2021 marked the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, an event as shocking in its violence as for the cover-up that lasted for decades. With thorough reporting, Ellsworth researches the event, the people who kept the story alive and the ongoing search for victims’ unmarked graves. A must-read. 

kennedy's avenger

Dan Abrams, David Fisher (nonfiction, Hanover Square Press)
It was the killing seen on live television: Two days after the murder of President John F Kennedy, a nightclub owner named Jack Ruby slipped into the Dallas police station and shot dead alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. The ensuing criminal trial of Ruby, forgotten by most, was in fact a bizarre and fascinating circus: How do you defend a man who pulled the trigger on live television? And how did he die an innocent man? 

the house wives

Brian Moylan (nonfiction, Flatiron Books)
When it comes to beach reads, what’s better than some good old-fashioned dishing? Moylan, who writes the “Real Housewives” recaps for Vulture.com, takes the reader on a behind-the-scenes tour of this most fantastic franchise. 

MEMOIR

punch me up to the gods

Brian Broome (memoir, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
A powerful debut memoir — sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hysterically funny — about growing up black, poor and gay in Ohio, feeling like an outsider and using drugs to seek comfort in a world where Broome felt unmoored. Poignant and raw. 

the great peace

Mena Suvari (memoir, Hachette)
Suvari pulls absolutely no punches in this raw exploration of a Hollywood childhood full of sexual abuse, emotional abandonment and drug addiction — and reveals how she built a new life on her own terms. 

reborn in the usa

Roger Bennett (memoir, Dey Street Books) 
Known as lovable “Rodge” to fans, Roger Bennett is one half of the popular “Men in Blazers” TV series, commenting on soccer and culture. His book is a love letter to the United States, and details his journey from Liverpool to NYC. 



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