Swimsuit? Check. Sunglasses? Check. Three books, because you couldn't choose just one? Check. From multi-generational fiction that plumbs emotional depths to thrillers that will slot perfectly into a beach bag, here are the 30 books to put on your summer reading list.
Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn (June 4)
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The myth of the American dream has lost its allure and even its usefulness, so changed and splintered and diverse are its inhabitants and those who want to be among their number. Patsy, Nicole Dennis-Benn's protagonist, has a very specific one: to seek a better life and an old love in New York City. If that means she has to leave her daughter behind, so be it.
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (June 4)
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Vivian Morris is a woman who has earned and relished every one of her 89 years. In this novel by Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, she looks back at the mistake that changed her path, and how she learned to shed shame amongst the hedonistic denizens of the New York City theater world of the 1940s.
Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok (June 4)
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The Lee family is disappearing. First, it's Amy's grandmother, who passes away. Then, her older sister Sylvie is seemingly swallowed up by New York. Amy's urgent search takes her back into her own family's history, and into the secrets she didn't even know Sylvie had.
Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett (June 4)
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Twitter fave and LitHub librarian columnist (yep, it's a thing!) also has fiction chops. In her debut novel, a man's death on his taxidermy table throws his whole family into disarray, from his daughter, who scrambles to keep everything afloat, to his widow, who begins to make very, very weird art with the animals he left behind.
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (June 4)
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Be assured that you'll end up talking to someone about this book this summer. Poet Ocean Vuong's first novel, about the relationship between a young man and his mother, has garnered praise from peers and critics alike. To prepare, read the poem with the same name.
Bunny by Mona Awad (June 11)
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Rich college students who call each other "Bunny"? Gatherings called "Smut Salons"? Sounding like a cross between The Secret History and Heathers, this follow-up from the author of 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl is like one of those razors marketed to women: you know, pink but still GD dangerous.
The Paper Wasp by Lauren Acampora (June 11)
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Novels about broken dreams? Don't they always end up something like a horror story? Surely nothing good can result when Abby, banished by fate to a small town and mere remembrances of her potential as an artist, sees her ex-BFF (and Hollywood star) Elise at a reunion.
The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung (June 18)
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Need a metaphor for the unassailable tangle of the self? The Riemann Hypothesis, one of the great unsolved mathematical problems, does nicely in this novel. About 50 years ago, mathematician Katherine was attempting to unpick its knot, and at the same time deal with revelations about her own family heritage.
Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner (June 18)
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If there's anyone that makes readers of celebrity profiles say "Mom" à la Lorde, it's Taffy Brodesser-Akner, whose encounters with GOOP and Bradley Cooper tell you more about those people than they'd ever tell you themselves. Here comes her debut novel, about recently separated doctor Toby Fleishman, whose new family arrangements spark some soul-searching.
Hot Comb by Ebony Flowers (June 18)
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Ethnographer Ebony Flowers wrote her PhD as a comic, which is both extremely cool and promises that this debut graphic novel will be informed both by Flowers' own life experiences, and those of black women more generally. These coming-of-age tales are all connected through that epicenter of community and beauty norms, the hair salon.
The Dry Heart by Natalia Ginzburg (June 25)
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For a while there, whenever I asked one of my friends what author she was constantly screenshotting and posting to Instagram, the answer was Natalia Ginzburg. Which is great for me, since this novella, about a woman who kills her husband, by the late Italian author is on its way to bookshelves this June.
How Could She by Lauren Mechling (June 25)
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If #relatable is your main criterion for reading material, then why not try the novel that earned the endorsement from Sweetbitter author Stephanie Danler: "I know these women; I am these women." Obviously, that won't ring true for everyone—we're not all liable to beeline for New York City after breaking up with a fiancé like protagonist Geraldine, but we've all been disappointed by our crappy lives and lusted after others' brighter-looking ones, haven't we?
I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution by Emily Nussbaum (June 25)
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It all started with Buffy. At least, it did for Emily Nussbaum. The New Yorker critic treats the '90s teen vampire show with the same thoughtfulness, curiosity, and excitement as she would an award-baiting prestige series, and her readers think about TV differently because of it. This is a collection of her writing, plus two new essays.
The Need by Helen Phillips (July 9)
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Just as we saw with Jordan Peele's latest horror movie, Us, the scariest thing is an intruder who reflects yourself. Helen Phillips' literary thriller imagines a terrifying masked figure who knows everything about paleobotanist Molly—and their identity is both stranger and simpler than anyone could imagine.
Delayed Rays of a Star by Amanda Lee Koe (July 9)
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With Lucy Liu recently scoring a star on the Walk of Fame, armchair commentators have been reflecting on the scarcity of Asian actresses in the Hollywood firmament. Amanda Lee Koe's novel looks at Anna May Wong, the only other Asian woman accorded this honor, and her companions as captured in one unlikely photograph: Marlene Dietrich and Leni Riefenstahl.
Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem by Daniel R. Day (July 9)
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Ava DuVernay has called Dapper Dan "a legend, an icon, a beacon of inspiration to many in the Black community." The pioneering designer tells his story in this memoir, displaying all the vim, irreverence, and ingeniousness he's plied to become as beloved as he is now.
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo (July 9)
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If you guzzled all of Esther Perel's couples counselling podcast or wonder whether those sex diaries can possibly be real, here's your summer read. Lisa Taddeo draws on eight years of research to render three portraits of real women and their experiences of desire, coupling, and relationships.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (July 16)
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Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad reimagined history to cast light on the stories of enslaved people in Georgia. With his new novel, Whitehead once more delves into the past; Elwood and Turner are students at a reform school that is more abusive than constructive, based on a real institution in Florida.
Everything Below the Waist: Why Health Care Needs a Feminist Revolution by Jennifer Block (July 16)
'Everything Below the Waist: Why Health Care Needs a Feminist Revolution' by Jennifer Block amazon.com $27.99 $18.29 (35% off) SHOP NOW
"Feminist revolutions"? Not in this economy! But I won't disagree with journalist Jennifer Block's assertion that health care could use an overhaul when it comes to serving women. Here, she points out where it's falling short, and some ways it could be so, so much better.
What Do We Need Men For?: A Modest Proposal by E. Jean Carroll (July 16)
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ELLE's own agony aunt, the incomparable E. Jean Carroll, went on a road trip to ask women a very simple question. I won't even try to further explain this book. That title alone! Perfection.
Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman (July 23)
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With 20 novels to her name, Laura Lippman knows what she's doing. This summer's instalment, Lady in the Lake, follows a woman set on contributing to her community after leaving her marriage; Maddie takes a job at a local newspaper and delves deeply into the mystery of a young black woman whose body is discovered in the lake fountain.
Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch (July 23)
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Sometimes it seems like the internet is a seething brew of ugliness and misery. So it's nice to remember that, as well as the lawless drugery, there are complex human systems that, intentional or not, create something totally new. Internet linguist (damn!) Gretchen McCulloch explores the ever-changing language of online.
Semicolon: The Past, Present, and Future of a Misunderstood Mark by Cecelia Watson (July 30)
'Semicolon: The Past, Present, and Future of a Misunderstood Mark' by Cecelia Watson amazon.com $19.99 SHOP NOW
Look, some people just enjoy arguing about punctuation. It's in their nature. But if your enthusiasm for this polarizing little mark stems from adoration and inquisitiveness (and only occasionally the haughty knowledge that you're right), Cecelia Watson's "biography" of the semicolon will be a delightful companion.
Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino (August 6)
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New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino's sharp-ass brain, focused recently on entities as diverse as Outdoor Voices and Shen Yun, turns here to the disturbing conditions that haunt our self-image in this scammy, connected, algorithmic world.
Is There Still Sex in the City? by Candace Bushnell (August 6)
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Is there still sex in the city? Obviously. But you don't want any dummy telling you about it. Candace Bushnell only. The original!
The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai (August 6)
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Getting ghosted is just part of the dating landscape now, and for this rom-com's heroine, dating-app creator Rhiannon Hunter, it's a one-strike-and-you're-out deal. But when a one-night flame (and hunky ex-football player, naturally) pops back up—working with a business competitor, to boot. What to do? Block, of course…right?
Inland by Téa Obreht (August 13)
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Téa Obreht's debut novel The Tiger's Wife was a literary sensation when it was published in 2011. Those who have been waiting for another outing from the Belgrade-born author will relish Inland, an epic Western tale about a woman and a man whose lives intersect in 1890s Arizona.
I'm Telling the Truth, but I'm Lying: Essays by Bassey Ikpi (August 20)
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Nigerian-American writter Bassey Ikpi was not diagnosed with Bipolar II until she had a breakdown and was hospitalized. Now the founder of The Siwe Project, a mental health organization, she has written a collection of essays, "about…the ways in which we parcel fact in order to survive."
Coventry: Essays by Rachel Cusk (August 20)
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So you've inhaled Rachel Cusk's Outline trilogy. Coventry, her forthcoming book, is her first collection of essays, on the topics that her fiction illuminates and probes so peerlessly: motherhood, art, being a woman.
Doxology by Nell Zink (August 27)
'Doxology' by Nell Zink amazon.com $27.99 SHOP NOW
Nell Zink's novels, like the Jonathan Franzen–approved The Wallcreeper and historical dark comedy Mislaid, are cult favorites. Her new novel is about a punk trio who sustain great loss and change on September 11, and try to reconfigure themselves afterwards.
Estelle Tang Senior Editor Estelle Tang is the Senior Editor covering culture and entertainment at ELLE.com—including TV, movies, books, music, and Adidas tracksuits.