Just when you thought you’d made a dent in your TBR pile, here comes another most anticipated list to put you in your place. And this one’s a whopper. This May we’re raving about fifteen books that we can’t wait to read and reread all summer long. From lighthearted essential beach reads to historical fiction gems, here are the books we’re soaking up the sun with this month.
Sharon’s Pick #1: If you’re looking for a thriller with morally ambiguous characters who will do whatever it takes to protect their family, THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME is for you! The book starts with Hannah Hall trying to fathom the sudden disappearance of her husband, Owen. All she’s left with is a duffel bag full of cash and a note saying, “Protect Her,” referencing Hannah’s stepdaughter, Bailey. As Hannah tries to unravel what happened to Owen, she deals with the additional challenge of helping Bailey cope with the trauma, a challenging task since Bailey wants nothing to do with Hannah.
From internationally bestselling author Laura Dave comes a riveting new suspense novel about a woman’s search for the truth about her husband’s disappearance—no matter the cost.
We all have stories we never tell.
Before Owen Michaels disappears, he manages to smuggle a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers: Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.
As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered; as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss; as a US Marshal and FBI agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.
Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth, together. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they are also building a new future. One neither Hannah nor Bailey could have anticipated.
With its breakneck pacing, dazzling plot twists, and unforgettable characters, The Last Thing He Told Me is bestselling author Laura Dave’s finest novel yet, certain to shock you with its final, heartbreaking turn. This propulsive thriller with a heart is for fans of Liane Moriarty and Jojo Moyes.
Emily's Pick #1: First of all, this cover grabbed me from the get-go—so much so that I didn’t even need to know what it was about, I just needed to hold it. But then I read the premise and got even more excited that this might be the perfect read to fill my Succession void. The political elite of Washington, DC, aka the Cave Dwellers, live in their own bubble of privilege and secrets, separated from reality. When one of these elite families is murdered and a Black man is suspected of the crime, a young, wealthy white teen, Bunny Bartholomew, struggles to uncover the truth of the case, battling against the uncaring community and her own racist and insensitive thought processes that stem from her upbringing.
A compulsively readable novel in the vein of The Bonfire of the Vanities—by way of The Nest—about what Washington, DC’s high society members do away from the Capitol building and behind the closed doors of their stately homes.
They are the families considered worthy of a listing in the exclusive Green Book—a discriminative diary created by the niece of Edith Roosevelt’s social secretary. Their aristocratic bloodlines are woven into the very fabric of Washington—generation after generation. Their old money and manner lurk through the cobblestone streets of Georgetown, Kalorama, and Capitol Hill. They only socialize within their inner circle, turning a blind eye to those who come and go on the political merry-go-round. These parents and their children live in gilded existences of power and privilege.
But what they have failed to understand is that the world is changing. And when the family of one of their own is held hostage and brutally murdered, everything about their legacy is called into question.
They’re called The Cave Dwellers.
Heather’s Pick: I’m still all for blocking out the real world with rom-coms, so Georgia Clark’s IT HAD TO BE YOU grabbed me at “perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Casey McQuiston.” What’s more, it has a beautiful cover and a somewhat mysterious premise. How could I not be intrigued? When Liv Goldenhorn’s husband suddenly passes away, she’s shocked to learn that he willed his half of their wedding planning business to a woman named Savannah Shipley, his secret girlfriend. Liv and Savannah have some things to work through, to put it mildly! By doing exactly that, however, the two of them develop an unlikely friendship that helps them open back up to love. The result is a Love Actually-esque series of interconnected romantic entanglements that unravel beautifully.
“The book-equivalent of a perfect first date... Highly highly recommend.” —Elin Hilderbrand, #1 New York Times bestselling author of 28 Summers
The author of the “emotional, hilarious, and thought-provoking” (People) novel The Bucket List returns with a witty and heartfelt romantic comedy featuring a wedding planner, her unexpected business partner, and their coworkers in a series of linked love stories—perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Casey McQuiston.
For the past twenty years, Liv and Eliot Goldenhorn have run In Love in New York, Brooklyn’s beloved wedding-planning business. When Eliot dies unexpectedly, he even more unexpectedly leaves half of the business to his younger, blonder girlfriend, Savannah. Liv and Savannah are not a match made in heaven, to say the least. But what starts as a personal and professional nightmare transforms into something even savvy, cynical Liv Goldenhorn couldn’t begin to imagine.
It Had to Be You cleverly unites Liv, Savannah, and couples as diverse and unique as New York City itself, in a joyous Love-Actually-style braided narrative. The result is a smart, modern love story that truly speaks to our times. Second chances, secret romance, and steamy soul mates are front and center in this sexy, tender, and utterly charming rom-com.
Allie’s Pick: SWIMMING BACK TO TROUT RIVER is a breathtaking debut novel from Linda Rui Feng. Set against the backdrop of China's Cultural Revolution, this novel follows a family that has been scattered around the world as they try to reunite. Momo and Cassia both made their way to America years ago; however, they've been estranged from each other and haven’t spoken. Momo is desperately trying to reunite his family so that they can bring their young daughter, Junie, over to America with them. It's a truly gorgeous novel that seems to carry music at its very core. I highly recommend reading this one!
A lyrical novel set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution that follows a father’s quest to reunite his family before his precocious daughter’s momentous birthday, which Garth Greenwell calls “one of the most beautiful debuts I’ve read in years.”
How many times in life can we start over without losing ourselves?
In the summer of 1986 in a small Chinese village, ten-year-old Junie receives a momentous letter from her parents, who had left for America years ago: her father promises to return home and collect her by her twelfth birthday. But Junie’s growing determination to stay put in the idyllic countryside with her beloved grandparents threatens to derail her family’s shared future.
What Junie doesn’t know is that her parents, Momo and Cassia, are newly estranged from one another in their adopted country, each holding close private tragedies and histories from the tumultuous years of their youth during China’s Cultural Revolution. While Momo grapples anew with his deferred musical ambitions and dreams for Junie’s future in America, Cassia finally begins to wrestle with a shocking act of brutality from years ago. In order for Momo to fulfill his promise, he must make one last desperate attempt to reunite all three members of the family before Junie’s birthday—even if it means bringing painful family secrets to light.
“A beautifully written, poignant exploration of family, art, culture, immigration, and most of all, love,” (Jean Kwok, New York Times bestselling author of Searching for Sylvie Lee) Swimming Back to Trout River weaves together the stories of Junie, Momo, Cassia, and Dawn—a talented violinist from Momo’s past—while depicting their heartbreak and resilience, tenderly revealing the hope, compromises, and abiding ingenuity that make up the lives of immigrants.
Emily's Pick #2: Thanks to Newsies, I’m a sucker for anything involving newspaper tycoons in New York at the end of the nineteenth century. Journalist Grace Harrington is just starting out at Hearst’s paper, fighting to make her mark in the male-dominated, fast-paced industry. When a front-page story catches her eye, detailing the plight of Evangelina Cisneros, a Cuban woman unjustly imprisoned, Grace gets to work. She joins forces with Marina Perez—a courier who discreetly helps Cuban revolutionaries gain independence—and a network of colleagues who want to free Evangelina as well. The ambitions of the three women are entwined as the narrative roves between the lives of Cuban civilians threatened by war and reconcentration camps, and the turbulent Gilded Age in New York City.
Kelly’s Pick: This is not a drill: Jennifer Weiner has a new book coming out and the audiobook is narrated by Younger star and Tony Award winner Sutton Foster! You absolutely cannot miss this twisty story of intrigue, secrets, and the transformative power of female friendship. With a thriving career and a beautiful home in the Philadelphia suburbs, Daisy Shoemaker should be content—but instead she can't sleep. While Daisy tries to identify the root of her dissatisfaction, she’s also receiving misdirected emails meant for a woman named Diana Starling. When an apology leads to an invitation, the two women become friends. But as they get closer, we learn that their connection was not completely accidental. Sutton's authentic performance in the audiobook really put me in Daisy's shoes. This is the ideal listen for a sunny day—the combination of fantastic writing and immersive narration held my attention until the very end!
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Summer comes another timely and deliciously twisty novel of intrigue, secrets, and the transformative power of female friendship.
Daisy Shoemaker can’t sleep. With a thriving cooking business, full schedule of volunteer work, and a beautiful home in the Philadelphia suburbs, she should be content. But her teenage daughter can be a handful, her husband can be distant, her work can feel trivial, and she has lots of acquaintances, but no real friends. Still, Daisy knows she’s got it good. So why is she up all night?
While Daisy tries to identify the root of her dissatisfaction, she’s also receiving misdirected emails meant for a woman named Diana Starling, whose email address is just one punctuation mark away from her own. While Daisy’s driving carpools, Diana is chairing meetings. While Daisy’s making dinner, Diana’s making plans to reorganize corporations. Diana’s glamorous, sophisticated, single-lady life is miles away from Daisy’s simpler existence. When an apology leads to an invitation, the two women meet and become friends. But, as they get closer, we learn that their connection was not completely accidental. Who IS this other woman, and what does she want with Daisy?
From the manicured Main Line of Philadelphia to the wild landscape of the Outer Cape, written with Jennifer Weiner’s signature wit and sharp observations, That Summer is a story about surviving our pasts, confronting our futures, and the sustaining bonds of friendship.
Courtney’s Pick #1: Emily Henry, the author of the iconic BEACH READ, is back with a new summer must-read. Poppy and Alex, two friends with more differences than similarities, have gone on a summer vacation every year for ten years. Except two years ago something happened and they haven’t spoken since. When Poppy realizes that she can’t continue pretending Alex was never a part of her life, she convinces him to go on one last summer vacation. Will they be able to fix everything in seven days? Nothing is more fun than a vacation with friends; hopefully that holds true for these two.
Emily's Pick #3: Based on true events from London in the year 1944, the novel begins when the allure of a new aluminum metal draws a crowd to the Woolworth building. But the crowd is immediately incinerated by a German rocket, killing more than one hundred people, including five young children. The book then begins to break from reality as author Francis Spufford reimagines these five children’s lives as if the rocket had never killed them. They live out their years following their ambitions, diverging down different paths, and growing into adults as the world shifts around them. That premise itself suggests a heartbreaking read at every line and an exploration of deep themes. I can’t wait to read it.
From the critically acclaimed and award‑winning author of Golden Hill, a mesmerizing and boldly inventive novel tracing the infinite possibilities of five lives in the bustling neighborhoods of 20th-century London.
Lunchtime on a Saturday, 1944: the Woolworths on Bexford High Street in southeast London receives a delivery of aluminum saucepans. A crowd gathers to see the first new metal in ages—after all, everything’s been melted down for the war effort. An instant later, the crowd is gone; incinerated. Among the shoppers were five young children.
Who were they? What futures did they lose? This brilliantly constructed novel lets an alternative reel of time run, imagining the life arcs of these five souls as they live through the extraordinary, unimaginable changes of the bustling immensity of twentieth-century London. Their intimate everyday dramas, as sons and daughters, spouses, parents, grandparents; as the separated, the remarried, the bereaved. Through decades of social, sexual, and technological transformation, as bus conductors and landlords, as swindlers and teachers, patients and inmates. Days of personal triumphs, disasters; of second chances and redemption.
Ingenious and profound, full of warmth and beauty, Light Perpetual illuminates the shapes of experience, the extraordinariness of the ordinary, the mysteries of memory and expectation, and the preciousness of life.
Anne's Pick: This book will surprise you. When a small commercial fishing ship, The Wind Blown, and its crew of four went missing in 1984, the tragedy echoes across Montauk. Journalist Amanda M. Fairbanks tells the story of The Wind Blown through the women they left behind. I didn't think a book about commercial fishing would become one of my favorite reads of the season, but THE LOST BOYS OF MONTAUK is about so much more. It's about young men who are drawn to the sea, and live the dangerous lives of fisherman. It's about a working-class community becoming a vacation spot for the super-rich. And it's about the enduring grief and collective memory of the women who are left behind.
An immersive account of a tragedy at sea whose repercussions haunt its survivors to this day, lauded by New York Times bestselling author Ron Suskind as “an honest and touching book, and a hell of a story.”
In March of 1984, the commercial fishing boat Wind Blown left Montauk Harbor on what should have been a routine offshore voyage. Its captain, a married father of three young boys, was the boat’s owner and leader of the four-man crew, which included two locals and the blue-blooded son of a well-to-do summer family. After a week at sea, the weather suddenly turned, and the foursome collided with a nor’easter. They soon found themselves in the fight of their lives. Tragically, it was a fight they lost. Neither the boat nor the bodies of the men were ever recovered.
The fate of the Wind Blown—the second-worst nautical disaster suffered by a Montauk-based fishing vessel in over a hundred years—has become interwoven with the local folklore of the East End’s year-round population. Back then, on the easternmost tip of Long Island, before Wall Street and hedge fund money stormed into town, commercial fishing was the area’s economic lifeblood.
Amanda M. Fairbanks examines the profound shift of Montauk from a working-class village—“a drinking town with a fishing problem”—to a playground for the ultra-wealthy, seeking out the reasons that an event more than three decades old remains so startlingly vivid in people’s minds. She explores the ways in which deep, lasting grief can alter people’s memories. And she shines a light on the powerful and sometimes painful dynamics between fathers and sons, as well as the secrets that can haunt families from beyond the grave.
The story itself is a universal tale of family and brotherhood; it’s about what happens when the dreams and ambitions of affluent and working-class families collide. Captivating and powerful, The Lost Boys of Montauk explores one of the most important questions we face as humans: how do memories of the dead inform the lives of those left behind?
Courtney’s Pick #2: I’m really looking forward to reading BEFORE I SAW YOU next month. This is the story of Alice and Alfie, two people who have been in terrible accidents and share a long-term hospital room together. They slowly become friends, and possibly something more, as they each start to recover. However, they’ve never seen actually seen each other. Can their relationship survive outside of a hospital room? Or does meeting someone at your lowest doom you from the start? I, for one, can’t wait to find out the answer.
For fans of Close Enough to Touch and Me Before You comes a poignant and moving novel about two patients who fall in love as they recover from traumatic injuries in the same hospital ward…all without seeing each other.
Alice Gunnersley and Alfie Mack sleep just a few feet apart from one another. They talk for hours every day. And they’ve never seen each other face-to-face.
After being in terrible accidents, the two now share the same ward as long-term residents of St. Francis’s Hospital. Although they don’t get off to the best start, the close quarters (and Alfie’s persistence to befriend everyone he meets) brings them closer together. Pretty soon no one can make Alice laugh as hard as Alfie does, and Alfie feels like he’s finally found a true confidante in Alice. Between their late night talks and inside jokes, something more than friendship begins to slowly blossom between them.
But as their conditions improve and the end of their stay draws closer, Alfie and Alice are forced to decide whether it’s worth continuing a relationship with someone who’s seen all of the worst parts of you, but never seen your actual face.
A tender novel of healing and hope, Before I Saw You reminds us that connections can be found even in the most unexpected of places—and that love is almost always blind.
Molly’s Pick #1: I know I’m in for a treat any time I crack open the spine of a new rom-com from writing duo Christina Lauren. Without fail, they are smart, sexy, and dreamy, and THE SOULMATE EQUATION is no exception. Single mom and data scientist Jess Davis has no interest in venturing back into the dating world. But when she and her best friend hear about GeneticAlly, a matchmaking app based on DNA, they decide to give it a shot. Jess is shocked when she learns she is a 98 percent match with one of the company’s founders, Dr. River Peña, the sexy but snobby man she sees every morning at her local coffee shop. Jess knows River is not the man for her, but she agrees to get to know him and learns there may be more to the scientist than she thought. I can’t wait for everyone to read this book!
The New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners returns with a witty and effervescent novel about what happens when two people with everything on the line are thrown together by science—or is it fate? Perfect for fans of The Rosie Project and One Plus One.
Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents—who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno—Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father’s never been around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard...and lonely.
But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: This Jess understands.
At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98% compatibility with another subject in the database: GeneticAlly’s founder, Dr. River Pena. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Pena. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess—who is barely making ends meet—is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond” pairing that could make GeneticAlly a mint in stock prices, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist—and the science behind a soulmate—than she thought.
Funny, warm, and full of heart, The Soulmate Equation proves that the delicate balance between fate and choice can never be calculated.
Sharon’s Pick #2: As soon as I heard about THE ATMOSPHERIANS, it instantly became one of my most anticipated books of 2021, first for the absolutely gorgeous cover, and second for its timely and highly intriguing plot that asks the question “Can men be trained out of their toxic masculinity?” THE ATMOSPHERIANS follows Sasha Marcus, a social media darling and the mastermind behind a high-profile wellness brand for women. When a confrontation with an internet troll takes an ugly turn, Sasha finds herself canceled and doxed online, and wondering if she’ll ever restore her reputation. Enter Sasha’s childhood friend Dyson, who hatches a plan for her to become the face of his new business venture, The Atmosphere, a program designed to rid men of their toxic masculinity disguised as a job training program.
A “dazzling” (Bryan Washington, author of Lot) and brilliantly satirical debut novel for fans of Women Talking and Red Clocks about two best friends—a disgraced influencer and a struggling actor—who form The Atmosphere, a cult designed to reform problematic men.
Sasha Marcus was once the epitome of contemporary success: an internet sensation, social media darling, and a creator of a high profile wellness brand for women. But a confrontation with an abusive troll has taken a horrifying turn, and now she’s at rock bottom: canceled and doxxed online, fired from her waitress job and fortressed in her apartment while men’s rights protestors rage outside. All that once glittered now condemns.
Sasha confides in her oldest childhood friend, Dyson—a failed actor with a history of body issues—who hatches a plan for Sasha to restore her reputation by becoming the face of his new business venture, The Atmosphere: a rehabilitation community for men. Based in an abandoned summer camp and billed as a workshop for job training, it is actually a rigorous program designed to rid men of their toxic masculinity and heal them physically, emotionally, and socially. Sasha has little choice but to accept. But what horrors await her as the resident female leader of a crew of washed up, desperate men? And what exactly does Dyson want?
Explosive and wickedly funny, this “Fight Club for the millennial generation” (Mat Johnson, author of Pym) peers straight into the dark heart of wellness and woke-ness, self-mythology and self-awareness, by asking what happens when we become addicted to the performance of ourselves.
Sharon’s Pick #3: It’d be an understatement to call Stacey Abrams a woman of many talents. Not only does she have an impressive career with important work in social justice activism, but she is also a published author, having written books on politics as well as several romance novels under a pseudonym. Now, Stacey Abrams is diving into the world of political thrillers with WHILE JUSTICE SLEEPS. The book follows law clerk Avery Keene as she balances her career with her troubled family life. When her boss, the venerable Justice Howard Wynn, slips into a coma, Avery is tasked with serving as his legal guardian and power of attorney, along with deciphering the research of Justice Wynn on a controversial case presented before the court.
Molly’s Pick #2: Operation Varsity Blues meets The Morning Show meets Gossip Girl in Lauren Weisberger’s newest summer read, WHERE THE GRASS IS GREEN AND THE GIRLS ARE PRETTY. Morning news show host Peyton Marcus’s seemingly perfect life is shattered when her husband is embroiled in a college admissions scandal involving their daughter. The consequences are far reaching, even affecting Peyton’s sister Skye’s plans to open a home for academically gifted, underprivileged girls. As secrets are revealed, the sisters find it harder to hide the cracks beneath their perfect veneer. This sharp, satirical, and witty page-turner will be a fixture across beaches all summer long.
Elizabeth's Pick: You know how the old saying goes: if you give a mouse a cookie? Well, it turns out if you give your sons a pair of pet chickens, you’ll eventually end up with a muster of peacocks. . . Or, at least that’s what happened to award-winning journalist Sean Flynn (although, of course, nothing about peacocks is that simple). Fueled by both a reporter’s curiosity and inspired by his own sons’ wonder, in WHY PEACOCKS? Flynn chronicles his hilarious and heartwarming first year as a peacock owner, from learning how to build a pen to researching the birds’ history to exploring the stories and individuals who have celebrated these unforgettable creatures over time. Throughout, Flynn finds himself taking refuge from his usual work–documenting tragedies in longform reporting–in the trials and triumphs of tending his peacocks. The result is a delightfully quirky read that seamlessly captures a portrait of family, fatherhood, and lessons about the natural world. And although you may not rush out to find a scene-stealing bird of your own, you just might find your own refuge in Sean Flynn’s charming account.
An acclaimed journalist seeks to understand the mysterious allure of peacocks—and in the process discovers unexpected and valuable life lessons.
When Sean Flynn’s neighbor in North Carolina texted “Any chance you guys want a peacock? No kidding!” he stared bewilderedly at his phone. He had never considered whether he wanted a peacock. But as an award-winning magazine writer, this kind of mystery intrigued him. So he, his wife, and their two young sons became the owners of not one but three charming yet fickle birds: Carl, Ethel, and Mr. Pickle.
In Why Peacocks?, Flynn chronicles his hilarious and heartwarming first year as a peacock owner, from struggling to build a pen to assisting the local bird doctor in surgery to triumphantly watching a peahen lay her first egg. He also examines the history of peacocks, from their appearance in the Garden of Eden to their befuddling Charles Darwin to their bewitching the likes of Flannery O’Connor and Martha Stewart. And fueled by a reporter’s curiosity, he travels across the globe to learn more about the birds firsthand, with stops including a Scottish castle where peacocks have resided for centuries, a southern California community tormented by a serial killer of peacocks, and a Kansas City airport hotel hosting an annual gathering of true peafowl aficionados.
At turns comically absurd and deeply poignant, Why Peacocks? blends lively, insightful memoir and illuminating science journalism to answer the title’s question. More than that, it offers surprising lessons about love, grief, fatherhood, and family.
Sara's Pick: It's hard being a Puritan woman in the New World. The second wife of a powerful but abusive man, Mary Deerfield is looking to escape her situation and make a better life for herself. But soon rumors start among her neighbors that Mary is a witch, especially as strange events keep happening around her. Will Mary be able to escape both her marriage and a death sentence, or will she join the many women hanged for witchcraft? THE HOUR OF THE WITCH presents a twisted historical thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat as the evidence mounts against Mary, with the truth darker than anyone could have imagined.
Emily's Pick #4: If Roxane Gay gives a book a 5 out of 5 review on Goodreads, that’s an automatic add-to-cart right there! And the fact that it’s Rivers Solomon’s latest book has me especially excited. As a big fan of Rivers’s coauthored previous book, THE DEEP, I have high expectations for this newest one. After escaping into the woods, a very pregnant Vern soon gives birth to twins and decides to raise them in the wild rather than return to the religious cult she fled. But when supernatural changes transform her body, she must journey to the outside world. This novel promises to be one genre-bending read, weaving in gothic horror, science fiction, and examinations of America’s history as well.
Photo credit: iStock / R_Tee