The best smart summer reads of 2017

Looking for the perfect book to take to the beach? Here are 10 of our favourite smart summer reads from the past year and you’ll find even more recommendations by browsing the collection below.


Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Opening in Brooklyn during the Great Depression and then flashing forward to WWII, Manhattan Beach follows three characters and the ways their lives intersect. Carlton shop manager Robbie Egan says: ‘This is a brilliant, visceral portrayal of the time, and a haunting portrayal of the fractured nature of human consciousness. It is a book of history, of longing and striving, failure and strength, and it is an absolute triumph.’


Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

Sally Rooney’s debut novel has been an absolute hit with Readings staff. Marketing manager Nina Kenwood says: ‘This novel has complicated relationships, secrets, sex, and a holiday house in France, so it’s got all the ingredients you need for a juicy summer read. I loved every character, even when they made questionable choices. It’s skilfully written, utterly absorbing, fiercely intelligent, and tender in ways you don’t expect it to be.’


Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

In this exquisite story collection, Carmen Maria Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies. Digital content coordinator Bronte Coates says: ‘Machado blends horror, pop culture, fairy tales, science fiction and more to craft something that is tender yet brutal, surreal yet painfully real. This is such a gripping and immersive book, I want everyone to read it.’


Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong

Ruth’s life is falling apart. Her fiance has left her for another woman, her career has stagnated, and her father has been has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. When her mother begs her to come live with them for a year to help care for her father, Ruth unwillingly agrees. Marketing and events coordinator Stella Charls says: ‘This small miracle of a novel about family, friendship and memory is equal parts laugh-out-loud hilarious and acutely moving.’


Based on a True Story by Delphine de Vigan (translated by George Miller)

This brilliantly unsettling exploration of female friendship was a runaway bestseller in France. Reviewer Hilary Simmons says: ‘A taut, ferocious psychological thriller, it combines the masterful plotting of The Talented Mr Ripley with the manipulative malice of Notes on a Scandal. Inevitably, it will invite comparisons to Gone Girl, but Delphine de Vigan goes much further than Gillian Flynn in exploring the complex, fractious relationship between fact and fiction’.


The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser

Set over Sydney, Paris and Sri Lanka, Michelle De Kretser’s sprawling new novel is a dazzling meditation on intimacy, loneliness and our flawed perception of other people. Doncaster bookseller Ellen Cregan says: ‘Reading this novel felt a bit like being sucked into a black hole. I mean this in a positive way – once you hit your stride with this book, it is really hard to stop reading. A fantastic example of contemporary Australian literature.’


Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

Standard Deviation is a rueful examination of love, marriage, infidelity and origami. Graham Cavanaugh’s second wife is everything his first wife was not. She’s charming, spontaneous and fun, but life with her can be exhausting and after 12 years of marriage, he has his doubts. In the middle of their day-to-day difficulties and delights of raising a child with Asperger’s, his first wife reenters their orbit. Hawthorn bookseller Annie Condon says: ‘This is a brilliant, laugh-out-loud novel; an exploration of the intimate relationships that frustrate and test us, but ultimately sustain us.’


Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

Future Home of the Living God is a chilling and provocative dystopian novel. Set in the near future, evolution has reversed itself and science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. Doncaster bookseller Jo Case says: ‘I dare you to read this novel before bed and not have your sleep troubled… and I double-dare you to resist doing exactly that. I found it impossible.’


Jean Harley was Here by Heather Taylor Johnson

A woman opens her car door, knocking a passing cyclist into the path of an oncoming van. That cyclist is Jean Harley, but this is not her story. It is the stories of the people she leaves behind – her husband, her mother, her friends, her son, her former lover and the man who was driving the van. Malvern bookseller Gabrille Williams says: ‘Full of heart and soul, this book is one of the year’s best.’


Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Celeste Ng’s second novel is an emotionally complex, richly detailed drama about motherhood and belonging, class and race. Set in the mid-1990s, the novel opens with a fire and then loops back to follow two very different families over the year leading up to this event. Carlton bookseller George Delaney says: ‘I haven’t seen too much press about this novel in Australia yet, but I expect it will gain momentum over the next few months as people get wind of what a crackling treasure it is – it’s a perfect holiday read.’

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Conversations with Friends: from the internationally bestselling author of Normal People

Conversations with Friends: from the internationally bestselling author of Normal People

Sally Rooney

$19.99Buy now

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