Need a good book to read this summer?

If you’re like most people, you’ll be starting to think about which books to buy (or borrow) for the relaxing summer days ahead. But where do you start? The world is full of wonderful books, and it’s hard to whittle down the list. So, we’ve done the hard work for you and come up with a selection of enticing possibilities.

First up, we’re sharing our 12 holiday reads – the stash of books sitting beside our beds, waiting for the 26th December so we can dive in head-first. We can’t give personal recommendations yet, but according to our research, these novels are creating a buzz in the bookshops.  

Then, we’re listing our 12 favourite novels from the past couple of years. These ‘must-reads’ are always on the tip of our tongue whenever we’re asked for book recommendations. Click on each title to read our reviews.

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Here’s what we’ll be reading these holidays…

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman. A friend in the UK recommended this after it was voted the best book of the northern summer. I’ve flicked through the first few pages and it’s instantly readable. Can’t wait to get stuck into this one.

The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead. This first crossed my radar when it featured among Barack Obama’s holiday reading – and again when it won the Pulitzer Prize.  This is the story of Cora, a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia, who makes the perilous decision to escape to the North.

Force of Nature – Jane Harper. I’m crossing my fingers that Harper’s second Australian crime novel is just as captivating as her first, The Dry.  Five women go hiking in the rugged Giralang ranges, as part of a corporate retreat – but only four come out the other side.

The Museum of Modern Love – Heather Rose. Winner of the 2017 Stella Prize, this original novel is set in New York and explores themes of art, life and love. It comes highly recommended by the staff at Readings – and apparently is enthralling even if you’re not an art aficionado.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky – Mark T. Sullivan. With a whopping Goodreads score of 4.43, this historical fiction novel comes highly recommended by a friend with very high literary standards! If you’re interested in WW2 history – from the perspective of an Italian – this is your holiday read.

The Life to Come – Michelle de Kretser. A mesmerising portrait of modern life set in Sydney, Paris and Sri Lanka. Described as “smart, politically engaged, timely and funny; a book for writers and for people who love books, and especially for those interested in contemporary Australian society”.

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Jean Harley Was Here – Heather Taylor Johnson. Searching for the perfect book-club read? Look no further. Jean Harley is a wife, mother, lover and dancer – a shining light in the lives of those who know her. But what happens when tragedy strikes? Described by Hannah Kent as “a book to savour”.

Pachinko – Min Jin Lee. Last summer I devoured The Orphan Master’s Son, set in North Korea – so when I spotted this sweeping saga about a family who escaped from Korea to Japan, it caught my attention. Plus, this was recently placed in the 2017 Top 10 Staff Recommendations at Readings.

Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood. I first read Alias Grace more than 20 years ago, but I’m keen to re-read this gripping tale before I watch the new Netflix series – hopefully it’s just as brilliant as The Handmaid’s Tale TV adaptation (series 2 will be released next year).

The Woman Who Fooled the World – Beau Donnelly & Nick Toscano. This journalistic detective story uncovers the case of Belle Gibson (the woman who made a fortune by dishonestly claiming that she’d survived brain cancer through diet and lifestyle) and raises important questions about accountability in the current world of social media.

On the Java Ridge – Jock Serong. A very topical story about the plight of asylum seekers and the Australian government’s laws on border control. Described as “a literary novel with the pace and tension of a political thriller”.

Tin Man – Sarah Winman. This is reportedly a moving and beautiful story about life, love and friendship – and is also highly relevant in light of Australia’s recent marriage equality survey.

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If you need to catch up on past favourites…

The Dry – Jane Harper This was the talk of last summer and claimed quite a few literary prizes to boot. A gripping whodunnit set in a small country town in the midst of the Australian drought. It’s a genuine page-turner – a perfect holiday read.

The Light Between Oceans – M.L. Stedman. Ah, sigh! This is one of our all-time favourites. Highly recommended for any woman who has ever loved a child. Set at the end of WW1 on a remote island off the coast of WA, this novel will keep you enthralled until the past page. PS. you’ll need tissues.

All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr. Voted the Number One Book of 2017 by Dymocks booklovers. A stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France, as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Jasper Jones – Craig Silvey. No doubt you’ve either seen the film, experienced the stage production or read the book – but if not, now’s your chance to read this Australian classic. With themes of racism and prejudice, this is a compelling mystery set firmly in the 1960s, during the Vietnam War.

Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty. If you’re looking for an easy poolside read, then Liane Moriarty is your woman. Another of our favourites is What Alice Forgot. Her writing style is contemporary and relevant, with relatable female characters. But as well as the pilates and coffee mornings, her books tackle very real issues such as domestic violence, infertility and bullying.

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Burial Rites – Hannah Kent. This is a brilliant book, based on a historical account of the last women ever to be executed in Iceland. Meticulously researched, beautifully written and emotionally heart-wrenching, this book deserves all the accolades it’s received.

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara. If you’re looking for something to really sink your teeth into, this is it. But be warned – once you’ve read this book, you’ll never forget it. Set in New York, the story follows the lives of four male college friends. You’ll need to push through some harrowing scenes, but it’s well worth it.

I am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes. This is the best crime thriller I’ve ever read – hands down – and I’m counting the days until Hayes’ next novel, Year of the Locust, is released. (For the record, 195 days to go, as of November!)

Nine Days – Toni Jordan. Highly recommended for anyone who lives in Richmond or Hawthorn. Set during and after WW2, this sprawling family drama unfolds in the working-class laneways of Richmond, with glimpses of a better life across the river in Hawthorn.

The Mothers – Brit Bennett. A compelling story that touches on some confronting issues within a black American church community, including abortion, parent-child relationships, ambition, grief and sexual abuse.

Wonder – R.J Palacio. Adored by children and adults alike, Wonder has just hit the big screen. Auggie has a confronting physical disability – and now he’s starting mainstream school, where he’s an obvious target. A touching story of friendship, resilience, and beauty on the inside.

Me Before You – Jojo Moyes. Everyone loves a love story, but this one is unique. Wealthy and good-looking, Will is struggling to adjust to his new life as a quadriplegic. Lou, his upbeat, quirky carer, does her best to keep his spirits high. A tear-jerker that explores the topical issue of assisted dying – and whether anyone has the right to decide whether a life is worth living.

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Happy reading! For more recommendations see our Book Club page.