Before this weird excuse for that season we used to call summer ends, it’s about time I publish my list of the best books to read solely for your IG aesthetic. That’s right, I’m talking about my annual Instagrammable books roundup! They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but that’s exactly what we’re doing here. But don’t worry, because the books themselves are obviously worth reading.
‘Three Perfect Liars’ by Heidi Perks
(March 12, 2020)
This book has been described as Mad Men meets Big Little Lies, which is funny because the cover is very Little Fires Everywhere. And for good reason, I think! It starts when a fire (Little Fires Everywhere) destroys the office of a prestigious ad agency (Mad Men) and three ambitious women all find themselves under the microscope, since each of them has a motive for revenge.
‘The Golden Cage’ by Camilla Läckberg
(April 2, 2020)
Truthfully, I opened this book and was already not excited: woman marries super-rich, handsome guy who is clearly abusive but she’s too blinded by his looks and status to see it, then she’s left high and dry when he leaves her for a younger model? Yawn—or so I thought. What makes The Golden Cage not cliche, and, actually, a gripping page-turner, is that protagonist Faye is incredibly smart, with a dark past of her own. She won’t go down without a fight, and not before her ex-husband’s life is ruined.
‘A Burning’ by Megha Majumdar
(June 2, 2020)
Told through three different points of view, this beautiful novel is a debut for the ages that you’ll fly through in one sitting. Themes like class, fate, corruption, and justice make this book perfect for your summer reading list as three unforgettable characters with big dreams find themselves entangled in the wake of catastrophe in contemporary India.
‘Ordinary Girls’ by Jaquira Diaz
(June 16, 2020)
Fudging the requirements of this list a bit because the paperback is what’s new this summer, but I’m still counting it. And who wants to lug a hardcover to the beach anyway? Diaz’s debut earned her the 2019 Whiting Award, as well as a whole slew of critical praise, so you know it’s good. The memoir chronicles her upbringing in housing projects of Miami and Puerto Rico. She was, by her own admission, a runaway, a high school dropout, a suicide risk, and a street fighter. She was also the queer, biracial, displaced daughter of an absent father and a mother who struggled with mental illness.
‘Sex and Vanity’ by Kevin Kwan
(June 30, 2020)
From the king who brought us Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan is back with a dazzling love triangle that’s sure to spice up your summer. It follows Lucie Churchill, who is torn between her WASP-y fiancé and George Zao, the man she adamantly denies having feelings for (so relatable). This book gives those of us stuck inside our studio apartments a look at fame, fortune, and travel, all while taking a jab at racism and snobbery.
‘One To Watch’ by Kate Stayman-London
(July 7, 2020)
If you watch The Bachelor, this book is the takedown we’ve all been waiting for, and Stayman-London is hardly subtle about it, which I love (ABC is called ABS in the book, Fleiss is Faust, need I say more?). In One To Watch, plus-size fashion blogger Bea Schumacher gets drunk one night and writes a scathing hit piece on the
Bachelor Main Squeeze franchise’s lack of diversity, which goes viral overnight. But then, ABS does a surprising thing: they ask Bea to be the next Bachelorette Main Squeeze. Fun, sexy, and full of heart, you’ll devour this book in a day.
‘The Safe Place’ by Anna Downes
(July 14, 2020)
Emily Proudman just lost her job, her acting agent, and her apartment—all in one day. Rough. To say the least, she’s desperate. But when she runs into Scott Denny, the charming and successful CEO of the company she just got fired from, he offers her a summer job at his remote French estate that seems too good to be true. Her summer starts out totally Instagrammable, filled with plenty of day-drinking by the pool with Scott’s wife Nina and their mysterious daughter Aurelia, but soon, Emily realizes that Scott and his family are hiding something. If she doesn’t stop snooping, things may turn deadly.
‘The Boys’ Club’ by Erica Katz
(August 4, 2020)
I’m not even a lawyer, but this book feels so quintessential Big New York Law that anyone who even has one friend who went to law school will probably find this relatable. Alex Vogel has always been a high achiever who played by the rules: Harvard Law School, prestigious job at the biggest law firm in NYC, longtime boyfriend. But soon she gets seduced by the money of big law and the charm of her coworkers… and suddenly she might want to take a walk on the wilder side. When an incident reveals the dark culture of the firm (you can probably guess what), Alex is thrust in the middle and forced to decide between keeping her job and friends and doing the right thing.
‘The Death of Vivek Oji’ by Akwaeke Emezi
(August 4, 2020)
When a mother in southeastern Nigeria opens her front door to find her son’s body wrapped in colorful fabric, it sends a shockwave through the family. The Death of Vivek Oji explores the electrifying story of one family’s struggle to understand their mysterious child and a heart-stopping act of violence that changes their lives forever.
‘Love After Love’ by Ingrid Persaud
(August 4, 2020)
After her abusive husband dies, Trinidadian native Betty Ramdin and her son, Solo, take in a lodger, Mr. Chetan, and the three eventually pull a Modern Family and form an unconventional bond. But one night, Solo overhears his mom spill a secret, causing him to flee all the way to NYC. Mr. Chetan continues to love and support his adopted family—until a secret of his own is revealed.
‘Luster’ by Raven Leilani
(August 4, 2020)
New Yorkers, I dare you to not find this novel relatable af. Edie is stumbling around her 20s, sharing an apartment in Bushwick, hooking up with the wrong people, working a job she doesn’t care about. But then she meets Eric, a digital archivist in an open marriage with a woman who performs autopsies for a living. (I always said the next time I’d open up to someone would be on an autopsy table…) Edie then finds herself unemployed and invited to stay in Eric’s home—though not by Eric, by his wife. And then sh*t gets compliated.
‘You Had Me at Hola’ by Alexis Daria
(August 4, 2020)
Telenovela lovers unite! For those of us who have felt empty since Jane The Virgin ended, You Had Me at Hola is the cure. After Jasmine Lin Rodriguez goes through a messy public breakup, she returns home to New York City to star in a new bilingual rom-com. Jasmine is determined to be a leading lady who doesn’t need a man, but when she gets partnered with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez, they both end up with more than they bargained for. Will their mounting feelings for each other upend their lives?
‘A House Is A Body’ by Shruti Swamy
(August 11, 2020)
Even people who are “not short story people” (me tbh) will find themselves captivated by A House Is Not A Body, which has stories ranging from a young painter living alone in San Francisco who begins a secret romance with one of India’s biggest celebrities to an exhausted mother who watches as a California wildfire approaches her home and more.
‘The Heatwave’ by Kate Riordan
(August 18, 2020)
The cover is so gorgeous I can’t stop staring at it. And once you pick up this gripping thriller, you won’t want to put it down. Sylvie Durand has tried to forget La Reverie, her paradoxically named country home in the French countryside. Let’s just say, bad things have happened there. But when a fire calls her back to care for the property, she’s forced to confront the past she wants to put behind her. And that means confronting the memory of her first daughter, Elodie: beautiful, manipulative, reminiscent of one of the Manson girls, gone by age 14.
‘His Only Wife’ by Peace Adzo Medie
(September 1, 2020)
So this isn’t out until September, sue me. That’s what preorder is for!! So. Set in Ghana, His Only Wife is like a Crazy Rich Asians for West Africa. It follows Afi Tekple, a young seamstress, who is arranged to marry Eli, the successful son of her family’s benefactor. Score. Eli’s family agrees to the marriage because they want to get him away from his mistress, and Afi and Eli marry sight unseen (*Love Is Blind voice*), meaning Eli isn’t even at the wedding. Afi moves into his luxury apartment, gets used to her fancy new lifestyle, and finally meets Eli. The problem? Eli doesn’t magically stop caring about his mistress just because he’s married. *Pretends to be shocked*
Images: Jairph / Unsplash; Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (3); Farrar, Straus & Giroux; Gallery Books; HarperCollins (2); Knopf Doubleday (3); Penguin (2); Random House (2); St. Martin’s
They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but they also say not to meet men at bars and the best option is to meet through shared hobbies, and that’s gotten me about as far as the distance one can safely travel on one of those motorized scooters. Which is to say, about 5 feet before face planting! But I’m not here to gripe about my dating life (today). I’m here to help you judge a book by its cover. Sometimes you want to read a good beach reach (and for that, might I recommend my Summer Reading List?), and sometimes, you want to just Instagram your book cover on the beach. With this list, you can do both. I’ve rounded up the best summer reads that have a lot going on and are pretty to look at (aka what my dad says about me when asking why I’m still not dating anyone). Check out my favorite Instagrammable books that also happen to be good books.
‘We Came Here To Forget’ By Andrea Dunlop
This novel is quickly being hailed by the likes of Vanity Fair, Marie Claire, Popsugar, and most importantly, Betches! Duh. First of all, the cover is a gorgeous cotton candy sunset, which will look great on your feed (no filter necessary). But the actual book itself has themes similar to The Act and a twist that will take you by surprise. I won’t say any more. I will say that this book has it all: sisters, a former Olympic athlete running away from her problems, a tropical locale with sexy strangers… you’ll love it.
‘Natalie Tan’s Book Of Luck & Fortune’ By Roselle Lim
Okay, definitely don’t read this book at the pool or beach unless you have plenty of snacks on hand, because it will make you hungry af. This one follows Natalie Tan, a young woman who returns home to San Francisco after her mother’s death (safe to say, Natalie’s relationship with her mom was complicated). With no real path in life (or formal training) but a love for cooking, Natalie decides to revive her grandmother’s legacy and reopen her family’s Chinese restaurant.
‘Ayesha At Last’ By Uzma Jalaluddin
This is a romance novel in the sense that it actually details a blossoming romance, and not in the sense that it’s a euphemism for a book with a lot of sex. It’s not! Ayesha At Last and the main characters, Khalid and Ayesha, explore issues like arranged marriage, what it means to be a good Muslim, how to deal with workplace discrimination, and a whole lot more! All while trying to find love, follow their dreams, and live up to their families’ expectations. I don’t want to spoil it because there’s so much that goes on in this book, but all of it fits together and none of the plot points feel random, despite there being sooo many subplots. This was a fun read, and a nuanced portrayal that is necessary in 2019.
‘The Perfect Son’ By Lauren North
Picture this: your husband dies suddenly in a tragic accident. You have your young son to take care of by yourself. You have an overzealous brother-in-law who’s pushing you to give him control of your deceased husband’s finances, plus a grief counselor-turned-best-friend who might have ulterior motives. Who do you trust? Where do you turn? That’s what the main character, Tess, is grappling with in The Perfect Son. The triller is told in two alternating time periods that come together at the very end, with a very big twist.
‘American Royals’ By Katharine McGee
You guys know I loved Katharine McGee’s The Thousandth Floor series, and American Royals did not disappoint. Just in time for the 4th of July, American Royals is set in a world where the American Revolution never happened, and the U.S. is governed by a monarchy. There’s Beatrice, the next in line for the throne (and America’s soon-to-be first queen), who is perfectly composed and follows all the rules. Then you have troublemaker Samantha and her twin brother, Jeff. They all have to navigate typical young adult problems like falling love, deciding what to do with their future… oh yeah, and governing one of the most powerful countries in the world. All without f*cking it up.
‘What Red Was’ By Rosie Price
Is this a fun read? Absolutely not, but it’s a completely necessary read (and the cover is very photogenic). What Red Was follows the lives of Max and Kate, who become best friends at college (or, “uni”, as they say in England, where this novel takes place), despite growing up with very different backgrounds. But then, an act of violence changes Kate’s life, and her and Max’s friendship. I’m sure you can all guess what that act of violence is. Again, this book is a hard read, but it really is one you need to push through.
‘The Enlightenment of Bees’ By Rachel Linden
When Mia West is dumped by her boyfriend on their 6-year anniversary (the bastard) and she’s let go from her job (the bastards), the life she had envisioned for herself falls all the way apart. So what’s a girl to do? She joins her roommate on a humanitarian trip from Mumbai to Budapest to chase a long-forgotten dream she’d put on the backburner. But can her dream deferred become her new reality? (Check me out, a regular Langston Hughes over here.)
‘When We Left Cuba’ By Chanel Cleeton
First of all, the cover of this book is an actual portrait of how I’m trying to be all summer. If the name Chanel Cleeton sounds familiar, it’s because her 2018 novel, Next Year In Havana, was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick. The highly anticipated follow-up takes place in 1960s Florida in the wake of Fidel Castro’s ascent to power. Protagonist Beatriz (a throwback to those of you who read Next Year In Havana) feels suffocated by Palm Beach’s snobby high society, and is determined to escape. So she’s recruited by the CIA to infiltrate Fidel Castro’s inner circle (naturally), which finally gives her the chance to be more than just a superficial debutante. Of course, with the stakes so high, Beatriz is going to fall in love with the wrong man…
‘The Wedding Party’ By Jasmine Guillory
Guillory’s third novel takes on the classic enemies-to-lovers romance that I’m honestly considering putting into practice in my real life (because if the guys I actually like are all assholes, maybe I should look towards the ones I hate?). ANYWAYYYY, in this romance novel, Maddie and Theo have two things in common: a mutual best friend, and a hatred of each other. That mutual friend’s wedding puts these two frenemies in close proximity, and you know how people get with weddings. Emotions run high, physical attraction runs higher. Will they get attached? I won’t tell you, but the answer is probably yes.
‘When’s Happy Hour’ By The Betches
Look, not to toot our own horn, but we make some pretty nice looking books. And they’re nice to read, too! Our third book is all about how to boss tf up in your career. But not in like, a boring self-help way. We’ll tell you what to do (and how not to f*ck up your life) in a funny way. And the color is sooo perfect for your feed, especially during the summer.
‘Dear Wife’ By Kimberly Belle
Beth is planning to leave her abusive husband, which means she’s at her most vulnerable. Every move has to be carefully planned out, because one slip could leave her in grave danger. At the same time, hundreds of miles away, a husband returns home to find his wife missing, leaving behind only her car, with no signs of foul play. The detective on this case is piecing things together. See if you can piece them together first.
Images: Amazon (10)
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I know that “don’t judge a book by its cover” is like, the oldest running cliche in the game, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that some ugly guy made it up way before Instagram was ever invented. Sure, there are plenty of good books that have unfortunate covers, but those are not the ones that you should be reading poolside in the summer. Like, save your Nicholas Sparks books for the winter months when you’re curled up on the couch and the boring stock photo covers don’t have the opportunity to mess up your aesthetic. Here are five books to
‘The Female Persuasion’ by Meg Wolitzer
If you’re looking for a book that’s witty, empowering, and will make a great addition to your Instagram grid, you should def read The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer. This book is basically about those who send candy grams, and those who just receive them, and how you’ll someday be able to kick back and run shit.
‘Playing with Matches’ by Hannah Orenstein
Playing with Matches is pretty much a novel about what you think your life is like. It’s a comedy about a New York City matchmaker whose personal life is messy AF. Hate to break it to you, but ghostwriting your best friend’s text to her boyfriend do not qualify you as a relationship expert, and this novel will help you understand why. How can you look at this cover and not want to get a matching gel mani for the Insta?
‘I Had A Nice Time And Other Lies’ by The Betches
How far down this list did you really think you were going to get before seeing a Betches book? Do you even know us? Anyway, SPEAKING OF your dating life being a mess, we’ve come to the rescue with some brutally honest advice on how to get your shit together. Pink looks great on the ‘Gram, just saying. And if you‘ve already read it, give it another skim and snap a picture of it while you’re sipping a Spiked Seltzer next to the pool. Then check out our third book, When’s Happy Hour, out in October. It’s all about career advice and how to work hard so you can hardly work.
‘When Life Gives You LuluLemons’ by Lauren Weisberger
When Life Gives You LuluLemons is the sequel to The Devil Wears Prada, so you’re going to probably need to read it for the pop culture references alone. It follows the story of Emily, who has actually been kind of a mess since leaving her job with Miranda Priestly. It’s nice to know that she’s actually survived on the diet of not eating anything, but popping a cube of cheese when she feels like she’s going to pass out for long enough to stick around for a sequel.
‘Tell Me Lies’ by Carola Lovering
Tell Me Lies is probably the most relatable novel out there right now, so much so that this is the second time we’ve written about it. It’s about an on-again off-again relationship with the one dude whose “U up?” texts you will always respond to until the end of time. Instagramming this is kind of the summer 2018 version of posting photos of “Milk and Honey.” It lets everyone know that something fucked you up emotionally, but that you’re too smart to just tweet Drake lyrics about it.