Summer’s finally here: So what’s on your reading list?
There’s a lot to be said about cracking the spine on a good book while winter rages outside, but there’s no time quite like summer for demolishing that stack of new releases you’ve been accruing. If you need a little reading inspiration to fill the long days ahead, here are our favourite titles from the last few months, from the latest must-read thrillers to the non-fiction everyone’s talking about.
The Other Black Girl
Described as ‘Get Out meets the Devil Wears Prada’, this twisty thriller about the dark machinations of office life is one of the hits of the year. It follows Nella, the only black employee at publisher Wagner Books. She welcomes the arrival of the company’s second black employee, Hazel, until she begins to receive sinister messages. A page-turner with a smart social commentary, Zakiya Dalila Harris has written a novel that will be water-cooler fodder all summer.
The Women of Troy
The Trojan mythology is hot stuff right now, with two new theatrical tellings of the fall of the famous city (one by Ivo van Hove, the other by Punchdrunk) and now this account of the aftermath of the war told from the perspective of the women left in the wreckage. Pat Barker is a master of prose and this is no exception.
The war in Ukraine has barely passed 100 days but the human toll is already unimaginable. Lucky Breaks, by Ukrainian writer, journalist, artist and photographer Yevgenia Belorusets, tells a series of stories about anonymous Ukrainian women trying to make sense of the conflict. Through these sad, surreal vignettes, Belorusets explores the trauma felt by a nation fighting for its very existence, telling its story through ordinary people just trying to make it through the day.
The story of a trans woman’s search for herself in modern America, Nevada is a kind of 21st century On the Road, with protagonist Maria screeching away from a listless New York City in a stolen car and embarking on a cross-continental road trip. First released in 2013, this is the first time Imogen Binnie’s novel has been printed in the UK.
One of the more unusual new releases, Alice Albina’s Cwen tells the tale of a female-only community on an archipelago off the coast of Britain, which faces destruction following the disappearance of its founder. But the eponymous, mysterious presence that predates our very civilization has other ideas. With themes echoing the work of Margaret Atwood – who has described the novel as “a wild ride” – this is a zeitgeist-capturing entry into this summer’s publishing calendar.
The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity
American anthropologist David Graeber, writer of books including Debt: The First 5,000 Years, and Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, died unexpectedly in 2020. His last book, The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, co-written with archaeologist David Wengrow, was published posthumously and it’s a fitting close to a laudable career. As dense, dizzying and ambitious as the title suggests, it offers a new take on 30,000 years of humanity, suggesting our present-centric focus does a disservice to the fascinating lives of our forebears, and providing fresh context for the modern condition.
Modern sport is increasingly a numbers game. Algorithms track every detail of the way sports men and women perform, and the internet provides a deep-dive into the economic and social structures of sports clubs that would once have been available to only a handful of people. This is, therefore, a golden age for sports nerds, and Crickonomics will be something of a bible for those of a cricket persuasion. Co-written by Stefan Szymanski, a professor of sport management at the University of Michigan and Tim Wigmore, the author of Cricket 2.0: Inside the T20 Revolution, Crickonomics provides a startlingly comprehensive insight into the past, present and possible future of this most English of sports.
Klara and the Sun
A new Kazuo Ishiguro novel is a literary event in itself and Klara and the Sun doesn’t disappoint. A loose companion piece to Never Let Me Go and The Buried Giant, Ishiguro once again tells his story through an unreliable narrator – this time a synthetic “artificial friend” – drip-feeding details that allow the reader to slowly piece together his sad story.
• Ryan Smith runs the Instagram book review account @More_Ritual_Reads