10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

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Leah Rachel von Essen reviews genre-bending fiction for Booklist, and writes regularly as a senior contributor at Book Riot. Her blog While Reading and Walking has over 10,000 dedicated followers over several social media outlets, including Instagram. She writes passionately about books in translation, chronic illness and bias in healthcare, queer books, twisty SFF, and magical realism and folklore. She was one of a select few bookstagrammers named to NewCity’s Chicago Lit50 in 2022. She is an avid traveler, a passionate fan of women’s basketball and soccer, and a lifelong learner. Twitter: @reading_while

Do you need some good books to read this summer? We’ve got you covered with the best beachy, summery books to bring with you to read poolside or beside your beloved air conditioner. In these recommendations for summer 2024, we have fantasy, nonfiction, magical realism, romance, and everything in between—from a new blockbuster King Arthur adaptation to a poetic book by one of our generation’s best writers on the city he grew up in, basketball, and his coming of age.

Summer is supposed to be easy. When we were kids, we had the whole thing off! Not anymore. Plus, what about this year has been even remotely easy? We could easily get stressed about current events or what’s coming (a presidential election), but I urge you to focus on your reading list instead. At least for a little while. Give yourself an hour or two off from the real world by opening a couple of these books. Because if you’re reading, the outside world can’t get you.

Pull up a chair and get an iced tea, frosty beer, or refreshing lemonade ready. Get comfortable and get ready to bury yourself in these ten awesome books to read this summer!

The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo book cover

The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo

From the author of the Grishaverse comes a new standalone fantasy set in the throes of the Spanish Inquisition. Luzia knows she has to keep her magic a secret or risk persecution for both her skills and her Jewish ancestry. But when her ‘miracles’ are discovered, she finds herself thrown into a competition full of complex politics, tightroping the line between showing off in order to win and being sent to her death. With the help of Guillén Santangel, an intimidating immortal, she’ll have to figure out a way to win a better life for herself—a safer one.

There's Always This Year: On Basketball and Ascension by Hanif Abdurraqib book coverThere's Always This Year: On Basketball and Ascension by Hanif Abdurraqib book cover

There’s Always This Year: On Basketball and Ascension by Hanif Abdurraqib

Abdurraqib could write out the phone book, and I would preorder it. His newest book is a semi-memoir: he tells the stories of his coming of age in a neighborhood of Columbus; of the importance of basketball there and to him specifically; of the rise, departure, and return of LeBron James; and of what it means to grow old and to no longer be a child. You don’t need to be a fan of basketball to love this one (though it wouldn’t hurt) because it’s a rich, heartfelt memoir all on its own. It’s a well-written book about place, longing, heartbreak, and nostalgia.

The Morningside by Téa Obreht book coverThe Morningside by Téa Obreht book cover

The Morningside by Téa Obreht

Silvia and her mother are refugees recently accepted into the repopulation program for Island City, hopeful that they’re on their way to a better life. Her mother has always forbidden her to talk about their past, and she’s in a weird position of trying to make friends while staying secretive. Her Aunt Ena tells her that the mysterious occupant of their building’s penthouse has a big, magical secret—but Ena dies before she can share it. Sil becomes obsessed, and the book unfolds from there as a novel of painful realities, climate fiction, and the desire for mystery and wonder.

The House on Biscayne Bay by Chanel Cleeton book coverThe House on Biscayne Bay by Chanel Cleeton book cover

The House on Biscayne Bay by Chanel Cleeton

After her parents die tragically, Carmen flees to her sister’s mansion, hoping to find a comfortable place to recover. But all she’ll find there are secrets going back to when Robert and Anna Barnes—wealthy and new to South Florida—came down to Biscayne Bay to build their beautiful estate, only to head straight for scandal. Carmen has to try and unspool the house’s secrets before they can take her down, too. The author, best known for her Cuban-American historical fiction series that begins with Next Year in Havana, has turned towards thriller, and readers will love speeding through this one under the summer sun.

Enlightenment by Sarah Perry book coverEnlightenment by Sarah Perry book cover

Enlightenment by Sarah Perry

Did you fall in love with 2016 book The Essex Serpent? Well, Sarah Perry is back with a new, epic story that spans decades. Two good friends, Thomas Hart (an older man living two lives) and Grace Macaulay (a younger woman dissatisfied with her life in the small town of Aldleigh), are wrapped up in the mystery of an astronomer who disappeared in the 19th century. The book unspools as the two characters drift together and apart, discovering a lot about themselves, about love, and about the nature of astronomy and what lies beyond the stars.

The Cemetery of Untold Stories by Julia Alvarez book coverThe Cemetery of Untold Stories by Julia Alvarez book cover

The Cemetery of Untold Stories by Julia Alvarez

A new novel of magical realism is out from the iconic author of In the Time of the Butterflies and How the García Girls Lost Their Accents. In this one, author Alma Cruz decides that she wants to put any unfinished manuscripts of hers to rest—literally. She buries them in the land, hoping she won’t be haunted by the plots she couldn’t finish, by unearthed manuscripts. Unfortunately, stories are hardy creatures, and soon, the forgotten characters are confronting Cruz herself, proving that there are multiple ways for a story to get told.

Lies and Weddings book coverLies and Weddings book cover

Lies and Weddings by Kevin Kwan

The author of Crazy Rich Asians has a new read, too, this time featuring Rufus Leung Gresham. His family’s lifestyles look flashy, but behind the scenes…they’re about to be super broke. They need Rufus to marry someone who will help get him and his family out of debt, and they’re hoping he can do it at his sister’s wedding, with its star-studded, dripping-with-riches guest list. Rufus has a couple options, but he’s not sure who to choose. It doesn’t help that his heart secretly yearns for his not-rich neighbor. Pick up this easy page-turner of a romance this summer.

The Jinn Daughter by Rania Hanna book coverThe Jinn Daughter by Rania Hanna book cover

The Jinn Daughter by Rania Hanna

Nadine is tasked with telling the stories of the dead in order to help them reach the afterlife. Each morning, she collects the pomegranate seeds that represent their souls and chews them down to release them. But when the seeds stop appearing, Nadine knows something is very wrong. Death then appears at her door, saying she wants Nadine’s daughter to run the afterlife. But Nadine will go on whatever dangerous quest she has to if it means keeping her daughter safe from Death. This vivid new mythological fantasy is vivid and new but influenced by rich Middle Eastern mythology and storytelling.

Not Your China Doll: The Wild and Shimmering Life of Anna May Wong by Katie Gee Salisbury book coverNot Your China Doll: The Wild and Shimmering Life of Anna May Wong by Katie Gee Salisbury book cover

Not Your China Doll: The Wild and Shimmering Life of Anna May Wong by Katie Gee Salisbury

Anna May Wong is considered the first-ever Chinese American film star in Hollywood. If you read Nghi Vo’s amazing fantasy Siren Queen, you might have a sense of her story, but Katie Gee Salisbury has written a much-needed biography of the famous actress. Salisbury writes of Wong’s rise to stardom and her refusal to accept only the stereotyped roles Hollywood wanted to give her, becoming an international film and fashion icon. Dive into the story of her fight and her glamour this steamy summer season.

The Bright Sword by Lev Grossman book coverThe Bright Sword by Lev Grossman book cover

The Bright Sword: A Novel of King Arthur by Lev Grossman (Viking, July 16)

The author of the hit series The Magicians is releasing a 700-page fantasy tale set in the world of King Arthur. Young Collum has left everything behind to become a knight of the round table. But he arrives days after King Arthur’s death. Only the lesser-known knights are still around or still alive, and they aren’t yet sure what they’re supposed to do with themselves or who they could possibly name king. Collum is left to join them on a final quest just as the age of heroes may be falling apart. Fantasy fans will want to get through the rest of the books on this list so they can dive in on July 16!

Check out our other recommended reads for summer: visit our guide to 10 new romance reads for the beach, or look at our guide to all the books that came out in paperback in spring 2024 to figure out which books will best fit in your bag this summer while you’re out in the sun!

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