Whether lazing by the pool, sprawled out on the sands, or snoozing in the grass with a sweating jug of gin and tonic next to you, summers are synonymous with books that hold you hostage to the page. From the big blockbuster to the sweltering stories, beach reads are all about losing yourself in the narrative, falling in love with characters, and spending hours outside devouring literature. Here are the greatest summer reads of the century to stash in your beach bag…
The Leopard – Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
Sultry Sicily awaits between the scorching pages of The Leopard. The story of a dying aristocracy on the edge of revolutionary times in the 19th century, The Leopard invites you to live life through the eyes of the Prince of Salina as he tries to hold on to his former life as his family crumbles. As rich as silk and with soft shades of warm-blooded melancholy, it's perfect for whisking you away to lush shores.
Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
Swap European shores and red-hot American summers for the windswept and stormy Cornish coast. Rebecca is said to be Daphne du Maurier’s magnum opus. Following the story of a widowers new wife, as she struggles to shake free from the ghosts of the past, Rebecca is so much more than an atmospheric piece of pulp. It's melodramatic but serves up some seriously deep dives into gender, jealousy and what it is to be a wife. It plays with the protagonist’s and the reader's sense of romance, and while on the gloomy side its glorious for a torrential summer day.
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Everyone knows the song of lost lovers but none sing it better than Fitzgerald in its languid world-famed novel The Great Gatsby. Following a cast of characters on Long Island during a jazz era summer of the 1920s, it’s a book that captures the torture of young love, booze-soaked stifling days in high society, and raucous garden parties that fill you with a sense of emptiness. Gloriously penned, its no wonder it's considered the ultimate summer fling read.
Valley of the Dolls – Jacqueline Susan
Veering on the side of utterly ludicrous but a truly fun summer romp between the pages, the cult classic Valley of the Dolls is all about three women trying to climb up through the entertainment industry during the late ’60s. There’s a lot of uppers and downers, plenty of pill-popping and terrible relationships, not to mention that firm old favorite rags to riches storyline. Its all off the charts drama, scandalous gossip, and effortlessly entertaining – making it a heady beach read that will have you reaching for another round of Dirty Martinis.
Call Me By Your Name – Andre Aciman
A striking and powerful romance suddenly springs up between an adolescent boy and a family friend one long and drawn out summer in the Italian countryside. Call Me By Your Name is practically a perfect summer read with its gorgeous descriptions of Italy’s Riviera and Rome, its themes of obsession, and plenty of play between prose and poetry just begs to be read in a sun-dappled garden with a chilled bottle of rose at your side.
Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng
Whether you have binged the series or not, Little Fires Everywhere is a sit-down summer must. Exploring the weight of privilege, identity, rules and motherhood, this book is one of those page-turners that has you wanting to devour it in a single sitting. It’s an enticing story full of complex characters and it certainly works to keep your brain turning and keeping you actively engaged.
Which summer reads have you singing your praises? Share in the comments and let’s get our shelves stacked.