20 of the best smart summer reads of 2018

Looking for the perfect book to take to the beach? Here are 20 of our favourite smart summer reads from the past year and you’ll find even more recommendations by browsing the collection below.


Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko

Kerry Salter has spent a lifetime avoiding two things: her hometown and prison. But now her Pop is dying and she’s an inch away from the lockup, so she heads south on a stolen Harley. She’s not planning to stay long but she soon discovers that Bundjalung country has a funny way of grabbing on to people. The unexpected arrival on the scene of a good-looking dugai fella intent on loving her up only adds more trouble – but then, trouble is Kerry’s middle name.


Normal People by Sally Rooney

Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. When they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years. This is an exquisite love story about how a person can change another person’s life, a simple yet profound realisation that unfolds beautifully over the course of the novel.


Less by Andrew Sean Greer

The winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2018 introduces Arthur Less, a failed novelist on the brink of fifty. When a wedding invitation arrives from an ex-boyfriend of nine years, Arthur can’t say yes – it would be too awkward; he can’t say no – it would look like defeat. So, he begins to accept the invitations on his desk to half-baked literary events around the world. Arthur almost falls in love, almost falls to his death, and puts miles between him and the plight he refuses to face.


The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon

Phoebe Lin is a glamorous student at the prestigious Edwards University. She doesn’t tell anyone she blames herself for her mother’s recent death. Will Kendall is a misfit scholarship boy who transfers to Edwards from Bible college. Will loves Phoebe. Grieving and guiltridden, Phoebe is increasingly drawn into a secretive extremist cult connected to North Korea. When the group bombs several buildings in the name of faith, killing five people, Phoebe disappears and Will’s world implodes.


Inappropriation by Lexi Freiman

Starting at a prestigious private Australian girls' school, fifteen-year-old Ziggy Klein is confronted with an alienating social hierarchy that hurls her into the arms of her grade’s most radical feminists. Plagued by fantasies of offensive sexual stereotypes and a psychotherapist mother who thinks bum-pinching is fine if it comes from the heart chakra, Ziggy sets off on a journey of self-discovery that moves from the Sydney drag scene, to the extremist underbelly of the internet to the coastal bohemia of a long-dissolved matriarchal cult.


You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld

You Think It, I’ll Say It is the first collection of short fiction from the ever-brilliant Curtis Sittenfeld. These dazzling stories demonstrate how even the cleverest people tend to misread others, and how much we all deceive ourselves. Sharp and tender, funny and wise, this collection shows Sittenfeld’s knack for creating real, believable characters that spring off the page, while also skewering contemporary mores with dry wit.


My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence. Korede should probably go to the police but as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the fit doctor where Korede works as a nurse – and who Korede happens to be in love with.


Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori)

Keiko has never really fitted in. At school and university people find her odd and her family worries she’ll never be normal. To appease them, Keiko takes a job at a newly opened convenience store. Here, she finds peace and purpose in the simple, daily tasks and routine interactions. But in Keiko’s social circle it just won’t do for an unmarried woman to spend all her time stacking shelves and re-ordering green tea. As pressure mounts, Keiko is forced to take desperate action.


Preservation by Jock Serong

On a beach not far from the isolated settlement of Sydney in 1797, a fishing boat picks up three shipwreck survivors. While walking hundreds of miles across an unforgiving landscape, they have lost 14 companions, though their accounts of the ordeal are evasive. Ordered to investigate the story, Lieutenant Joshua Grayling’s realises that those 14 deaths were contrived by one calculating mind and he begins to wonder whether the ruthless killer poses a danger to his own family.


The Wych Elm by Tana French

One night changes everything for Toby when a brutal attack leaves him traumatised. Unable to recover, he seeks refuge at the family’s ancestral home, filled with cherished memories of wild-strawberry summers and teenage parties with his cousins. When a discovery is made – a skull, tucked neatly inside the old wych elm in the garden – Toby is forced to examine everything he thought he knew about his family, his past, and himself.


The Pisces by Melissa Broder

Lucy, staying in a beautiful home overlooking Venice Beach, can find no peace from her misery – not in therapy, not in Tinder hook-ups, not in her sister’s dog’s unquestioning devotion, not in ruminating on the ancient Greeks. Yet everything changes when Lucy becomes entranced by an eerily attractive swimmer one night while sitting alone on the beach rocks…


Pink Mountain on Locust Island by Jamie Marina Lau

Monk lives in Chinatown with her washed-up painter father. When Santa Coy – possible boyfriend, potential accomplice – enters their lives, an intoxicating hunger consumes their home. So begins a heady descent into art, casino resorts, drugs, vacant swimming pools, religion, pixelated tutorial videos, and senseless violence. This modern Australian take on the classic hard-boiled novel bounces you between pulverised English, elastic Cantonese and the new dialect of a digitised world.


Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Washington Black is based on an infamous nineteenth century criminal case. Two English brothers take over a Barbados sugar plantation and Washington Black – an eleven-year-old field slave – is aghast to be selected as personal servant to one, the eccentric Christopher Wilde. After introducing Black to a world of wonder, Wilde disappears on a disastrous voyage. Later, a man appears in Black’s new life, making claims. Is this truly the long-lost Wilde? If so, why has he returned?


The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed. But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer…


Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

In the first story of this collection, ‘The Finkelstein Five’, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah presents an unstinting reckoning of the brutal prejudice of the US justice system. In ‘Zimmer Land’, he envisions a far-too-easy-to-believe imagining of racism as sport, while ‘ Friday Black’ and ‘How to Sell a Jacket as Told by Ice King’ show the horrors of consumerism. Fresh, vital and contemporary, Friday Black will appeal to anyone looking for stories that speak to the world we live in now.


Flames by Robbie Arnott

A young man named Levi McAllister decides to build a coffin for his sister, who promptly runs for her life. A water rat swims upriver in quest of the cloud god. A fisherman named Karl hunts for tuna in partnership with a seal. And a father takes form from fire. The answers to these riddles are to be found in this tale of grief and love and the bonds of a single family, tracing a journey across Tasmania that takes us full circle.


My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

Young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, our narrator lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like everything else, by her inheritance. But there is a vacuum at the heart of things that she can’t explain. And so, aided and abetted by one of the worst psychiatrists in the annals of literature, she begins an experiment in narcotic hibernation.


Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones)

In a remote Polish village, Duszejko, an eccentric woman in her sixties, recounts the events surrounding the disappearance of her two dogs. When members of a local hunting club are found murdered, she becomes involved in the investigation. Duszejko is reclusive, preferring the company of animals to people; she’s unconventional, believing in the stars, and she is fond of the poetry of William Blake. This is a subversive, entertaining noir novel.


The Fragments by Toni Jordan

Inga Karlson died in a fire in New York in the 1930s, leaving behind three things: a phenomenally successful first novel, the scorched fragments of a second book, and a literary mystery that has captivated generations of readers. Nearly 50 years later, Brisbane bookseller Caddie Walker is waiting in line to see a Karlson exhibition featuring the famous fragments when an encounter with a charismatic older woman jolts her from her no-worries life in torpid 1980s Brisbane, and drives her to investigate this famed mystery.


Pretend I’m Dead by Jen Beagin

Mona is emotionally adrift and cleaning houses to get by. Volunteering for a needle-exchange programme, she falls for a recipient she calls Mr Disgusting, who proceeds to break her heart in unimaginable ways. In search of healing, Mona decamps to Taos, New Mexico, in hope of a fresh start. But always, lurking just beneath the surface, are her memories of growing up in a chaotic, destructive family, and the crushing legacy of the past she left behind.

The Incendiaries

The Incendiaries

R. O. Kwon

$35.00Buy now

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