Summer has finally arrived, and with it a much-needed break from the seemingly endless barrage of assignments and exams. Free from academic obligations, June offers ample opportunity for reading, whether it be a book set aside during spring semester or something new altogether.
There’s no better way to unwind after a stressful semester and embrace the summer months ahead than by grabbing an immersive read. Even if stuck at home or work, an exciting summer day or vacation often lies in the right book’s pages. From Cape Cod to the Amalfi Coast, this month’s picks encapsulate the promise of summer perfectly — complete with legendary parties, revelatory trips and simmering romance.
“The Paper Palace” by Miranda Cowley Heller
An exquisite blend of romance and psychological fiction, Miranda Cowley Heller’s debut novel “The Paper Palace” has gathered plenty of attention since its release last summer. It immediately became a number one New York Times bestseller, and actress Reese Witherspoon selected the novel for her famed book club last July. Cowley Heller surely knows how to write a page-turner — while “The Paper Palace” is her first book, she has developed and overseen multiple popular shows like “Six Feet Under” and “The Sopranos” as the former head of drama series and senior vice president at HBO.
Set on Cape Cod in August, the plot unfolds as Elle — a married, middle-aged mother — has an affair with her lifelong friend Jonas right under their spouses’ noses. In the following day, Elle must choose between the life she has created with her beloved husband Peter and the life with Jonas she once dreamed of before a tragic event threw their lives completely off course. Cowley Heller expertly pieces together the experiences which have led Elle to this moment, so readers arrive at her decision with a full understanding of its complexity and consequences.
Written in devastatingly beautiful prose, the novel considers the place of desire and secrets in the past and present, as well as their capacity to determine one’s future. Readers should be aware this book contains descriptions of abuse, rape and sexual assault that might be difficult to read.
“Malibu Rising” by Taylor Jenkins Reid
From the author of “Daisy Jones & The Six” and “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” — both books that have enjoyed significant popularity on TikTok — comes “Malibu Rising.” As is typical of Taylor Jenkins Reid, her seventh novel is set in California, specifically Malibu, and breathes life into the seemingly superficial vibes of celebrity life. However, rather than detailing several decades’ worth of events like in her previous novels, Jenkins Reid refreshes readers familiar with her writing by closely following one life-changing summer day.
“Malibu Rising” focuses on siblings Nina, Hud, Jay and Kit of the famous Riva family leading up to the highly anticipated end-of-summer party Nina throws every August. Despite playing hostess, supermodel and surfer, Nina finds herself not quite in the partying mood since her husband recently left her. A secret Hud has long been keeping from his brother Jay weighs on him, while Jay hopes the girl of his dreams will show up, and Kit invites a shocking guest without telling anyone.
Ultimately, Jenkins Reid shows that when one family holds this many secrets, it’s only a matter of time before everything goes up in flames. She brilliantly reflects the constraints and excess of celebrity in her writing, so the novel reads as a tell-all — the perfect scandalous summer read.
“One Italian Summer” by Rebecca Serle
Another instant New York Times bestseller, Rebecca Serle’s “One Italian Summer” comes on the heels of her acclaimed 2020 novel “In Five Years.” She centers the intricacies of relationships in all their forms in her writing, which makes her books deeply relatable. Whereas the beauty of opposites-attract friendship is front and center in “In Five Years,” the powerful bond between mother and daughter takes center stage in “One Italian Summer.”
In the wake of her mother’s death, Katy finds herself on a plane to Positano, Italy, embarking on the vacation they had been planning together for years alone. However, once she reaches the Amalfi Coast, she feels her mother’s spirit all around her in the food, geography and the friendliness of the locals. To Katy’s surprise, a warp in time allows her mother Carol to actually appear in the flesh — thirty years old and thriving again — and Katy seizes the opportunity to spend time with the young woman she once was many summers ago.
Written in Serle’s signature heartbreakingly authentic prose, this novel considers how to move on after losing a loved one. Against the backdrop of a gorgeous summer in Italy, Serle reassures readers that those they love never truly leave.