Whether you’re heading for a beach or spending time in the garden, we’ve got the holiday season covered with 12 of the hottest summer reads.

These books are thrilling, horrifying, heartwarming and heartbreaking; some are laugh-out-loud funny, some will make you wonder at the way we live our lives but all are stories very well told. From a comical novel by a national treasure to a heart-wrenching biography a sister has written about her much-loved younger brother, these are my essential book recommendations for the summer.

 

The Last Act of Love: The Story of My Brother and His Sister

Cathy Rentzenbrink

The Last Act of Love

Top of anyone’s reading pile should be this devastating story of a tragic accident and the impact it had on Cathy Rentzenbrink and her parents. Aged 16 Matty was high on life and enjoying the summer. One night, two weeks before his GCSE results, he was knocked down by a hit-and-run driver. Cathy remembers praying for her beloved brother to live. In later years she realised she “was praying for the wrong thing”. He lay in a coma for almost a decade before the family agreed to perform their last act of love for him.

Cathy Rentzenbrink reads an extract from her book and discusses her harrowing memoir on our podcast.

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Something to Hide

Deborah Moggach

Deb Mog

The bestselling author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has delivered another epic tale, this time set in West Africa, Beijing, London and Texas. Moggach is no stranger to writing about love in later life. Remember how marvellously she did that in her last novel, Heartbreak Hotel, which is now being adapted by the BBC.

Deborah Moggach discusses Something to Hide in our podcast.

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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Karen Joy Fowler

We are Completely Beside Ourselves

I read this unforgettable book a couple of years ago, before it was shortlisted for last year’s Man Booker Prize, and told friends and colleagues that if they were to only read one book that year, this was the one. Literary fiction at it’s very best, this novel is based on true events around a very unusual childhood experiment.

Karen Joy Fowler is in conversation with Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of The Last Act of Love.

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Not Quite Nice

Celia Imrie

Not Quite Nice

This lively, comical romp is made for the beach! And if you’re heading to the South of France, you couldn’t find a better pick. Theresa is fed up. Forced into early retirement and tired of her bossy daughter and obnoxious grandchildren, she quits life in England for the allure of the Cote d’Azur. Bellevue-sur-Mer is also home to a group of expats who welcome Theresa into their close-knit community, and she finds herself quickly embracing her new friends and freedom. But skeletons soon begin to emerge from numerous closets and Theresa realises that life abroad my not be quite as nice as she first thought.

Here's a sample extract from Not Quite Nice

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The Governor’s Wife

Michael Harvey

Michael Harvey

If you love old-school detective stories, you must already be familiar with Michael Harvey. John Grisham is a fan. In the latest installment of his popular Michael Kelly series, Chicago’s Ovid-loving, red-blooded loner private investigator takes on a case involving the disgraced ex-governor of Illinois. It’s a blistering thriller about family secrets; secrets that could get Michael Kelly killed…

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The Hand That Feeds You

A.J. Rich

Hand That Feeds You

In the opening pages Morgan, a 30-year-old graduate student, returns home to find that her fiancé Bennett has been savagely mauled to death by her three dogs. It’s a terrifying scene, relayed with gripping frankness. Devastated and traumatised, Morgan tries to locate Bennett's parents to tell them about their son's death. Only then does she begin to discover layer after layer of deceit. This is a tense, sexy and intriguing novel of psychological suspense about an accomplished woman involved with a man who proves to be an imposter. You’ll read it in one sitting…

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A Daughter’s Secret

Eleanor Moran

A Daughter's Secret

Mia is a high-flying child psychotherapist, hoping to be made partner in the thriving practice where she works. But then she takes on a case that threatens to uncover her own devastating secret. She has to work with Gemma, a deeply troubled 13-year-old, who was the last person to see her father before he disappeared, fleeing from a major criminal trial. The police want answers and pressurise Mia into helping them track down their missing man. Lives are about to change forever.

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You

Caroline Kepnes

You

Here is a terrifying tale for our social media obsessed age. Twitter fiend Guinevere Beck is beautiful beyond bookseller Joe’s wildest dreams. He’d kill to have her. He quickly transforms himself from a stalker into Beck’s boyfriend. If you’re a fan of Gone Girl, you’re going to love You. Creepy and claustrophobic, it takes the thriller genre to a sinister new level as it presents obsession like never before. Utterly original – and horrific – it exposes our vulnerability in this hyper-connected digital era.

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Still Alice

Lisa Genova

Still Alice

Julianne Moore deservedly won the Best Actress Oscar earlier this year playing Alice in the film adaptation of neuroscientist Lisa Genova’s novel about a 50-year-old woman who develops a rare form of early onset Alzheimer’s. Published several years ago, I only discovered the book after I saw the film and I urge you to read it. The film is deeply moving and the book gives the story extra depth. The family dynamics – Alice is married with three children – are explored in much greater detail and the nightmarish scenario is explored compassionately, philosophically and sensitively.

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Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Café

Milly Johnson

Milly Johnson

A light-hearted, breezy read, filled to the brim with warmth and likeable characters, Milly Johnson’s novel is about heartbreak, friendship – and tea. Connie’s world is shattered when she discovers that her husband Jimmy is planning to leave her for the office junior. Teaming up with an assorted group of friends who meet at the Sunflower Café, Connie plots her revenge.

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The Loney

Andrew Michael Hurley

The Loney

Andrew Hurley’s astounding debut novel is atmospheric and deeply disturbing. A modern horror crossed with a literary social comedy of manners, this is a story of faith and the uncanny, and at its heart is the relationship between two brothers, their imposing mother and a pilgrimage that will change lives forever.

Andrew Hurley reads an extract and discusses the thrilling details of The Loney in our podcast.

 

The Last Honeytrap

Louise Lee

honeytrap

Former private investigator Louise Lee’s debut detective novel introduces a sassy, feisty heroine to die for. Florence Love is a brand new sleuth for the 21st century. She’s smart, she’s sexy, and she’s very very funny. A series of books is in the pipeline, and don’t be surprised to see an adaptation for a major TV channel in the near future.

Louise Lee discusses Florence Love in detail in our podcast.

Listen to the Reader’s Digest August podcast to discover more great books to read this summer.

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