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
Oh, hi. Didn’t see you there. It’s me, your friendly Betches Vanderpump Rules recapper and occasional book reviewer, here to talk about what I’ve been reading. Now, truthfully, I’ve been reading a lot less since quarantine started, since I’m one of those psychos who gets all her reading in during her daily subway commute. Now that I have to actually make time to sit down and read a book, I usually end up accidentally watching true crime documentaries instead. Oops!
Anyway, I’ve heard that reading is making a comeback—only took a little pandemic to get people to read things other than their phone screens. So in the spirit of books being a thing again, and also us not really having a summer so I don’t want this to be my summer reading list, here are the best books that came out during quarantine that you should read while in quarantine.
Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen (March 3, 2020)
This is a thriller, but it’s not a typical thriller. It is a cool thriller, but really, I would describe it more as a writer’s thriller. The focus is more on the striking prose and crafting vivid scenes than about having a fast-paced, action-packed read. Picture this: it’s Atlantic City, circa whatever year Atlantic City went to sh*t (I could Google it, but I’m not a historian). Two unlikely women meet and become friends: Clara Voyant, a teenage psychic, and Lily, an aspiring art curator who moves back to her hometown after being chewed up and spit out by the Manhattan art scene. Throughout all this, sex workers are being murdered and dumped in AC, and no one even notices. Told through multiple perspectives, including the “Janes” who are murdered, it’s an extremely compelling read.
BLACK WIDOW: A Sad-Funny Journey Through Grief for People Who Normally Avoid Books with Words Like “Journey” in the Title by Leslie Gray Streeter (March 10, 2020)
We’re all going through a sort of grief right now, and this “sad-funny journey through grief” just might be what we all need. Leslie Gray Streeter lost her husband to a sudden heart attack, and finds herself slapped with a label she doesn’t want: a widow. She doesn’t want pitying looks or whispered sympathies, she doesn’t want to wear a black dress and a big hat to her husband’s funeral. Black Widow takes readers through the more unexpected aspects of grief, “from coffin shopping to day-drinking, to being a grown-ass woman crying for your mommy, to breaking up and making up with God.”
The Herd by Andrea Bartz (March 24, 2020)
Yes, I know I’ve written about The Herd before, but I’m covering it again because it’s just that good. (But actually, if you remembered that I have covered it before, DM me @sarafcarter because you deserve recognition for your photographic memory of useless facts.) This thriller takes place in a famed all-female coworking space… no, not the one you’re thinking of, this one’s fictional. When the beloved founder is found dead, her best friends have to figure out who killed her, without compromising the future of the coworking space. And if you can’t get enough of Andrea Bartz’s writing, check out her articles for Betches.
A Mother’s Lie by Sarah Zettel (April 7, 2020)
Beth has spent her entire adult life running away from her past, ever since she narrowly saved her daughter from being abducted. But the thing about the past is that it, and the people from it, don’t really like to stay buried. And when those people from Beth’s past include her two grifter parents, whom she never told her daughter about, let’s just say, sh*t goes off the rails. Just a warning if you do buy this book: you may finish it in a day (speaking for myself).
The Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth (April 7, 2020)
It’s the adult debut from the author of the Divergent series, and if that didn’t sell you right there, I don’t know what to tell you. Okay, I do. An evil force called the Dark One tried to end humanity as we know it, and a group of elite teenagers called the Chosen Ones were called into battle to save the world. (Tbh, would be great if we oculd get a couple of supernatural teens to save us right about now.) Fast-forward 10 years, and the Chosen Ones are trying to resume normal lives—that is, until one of their own winds up dead, and they quickly realize the world still needs saving. Told through narrative and enhanced with magazine articles, government briefs, scholarly papers, and even stand-up comedy routine transcripts, the format is really fun and inventive.
You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle (April 7, 2020)
Need something lighthearted? You Deserve Each Other is like Bride Wars meets How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days. In it, Naomi Westfield is about to get married to her picture-perfect fiancé, Nicholas Rose. The only problem? She can’t stand him. Oh, and that they have an agreement that whoever calls off the engagement has to foot the entire bill. So when Naomi finds out that Nicholas wants out too, they are forced to go head-to-head in a battle of wits, emotional warfare, and pranks to see who will crack first.
Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan (April 14, 2020)
Tilly was a bright, carefree little girl, and when her father suddenly disappeared, she and her mom moved into Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel in Brighton. She eventually falls in love with all the other quirky people there, including Queenie. But when Tilly’s mom sends her away to boarding school without warning or explanation, Tilly is betrayed and heartbroken to leave her makeshift family. As a woman, and after her mother’s death, she returns to the Paradise Hotel, determined to find out what really happened to make her leave the hotel, and the type of person her mother really was.
The House Of Deep Water by Jeni McFarland (April 21, 2020)
While most residents of River Bend, Michigan, never imagine leaving, it’s precisely the place three women were desperate to escape. Linda Williams is perpetually dissatisfied. Her mother, Paula, is the opposite—always too sure. Beth DeWitt is one of the town’s only black daughters, now a mother of two. Linda, Paula, and Beth’s paths collide and a scandal forces Beth to deal with her past. If you just binged Little Fires Everywhere, you’ll want to pick up this debut that examines family ties, racial microaggressions, and the power of intergenerational trauma.
Summer Darlings by Brooke Lea Foster (May 5, 2020)
Heddy Winsome is a working class girl from Brooklyn who wants nothing more than to live among the wealthy. She gets a taste of that life in the summer of 1962 when she lands a gig as a nanny for a rich family out on Martha’s Vineyard. But as she falls in love with someone on the island, she’s forced to reckon with the fact that what you see on the outside (glitz, glamour, nice houses, perfectly coiffed hair) isn’t always what’s going on on the inside.
The Paris Hours by Alex George (May 5, 2020)
Sicily, 1912 Paris, 1927, between the two World Wars. While the city teems with artists and creatives, four regular people are searching for what they’ve lost. Camille, Marcel Proust’s maid, who was supposed to burn all his notebooks but hid one for herself. Souren, an Armenian refugee, who performs puppet shows for children. Guillaume, a lovesick artist who’s hounded by debt until Gertrude Stein walks into his studio. And Jean-Paul, a journalist who tells others’ stories so he can avoid telling his own. The Paris Hours is told over the course of one day in 1927, when all four characters’ stories collide.
Images: David Lezcano / Unsplash; Amazon (10)
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