Call them beach reads, airplane books or brain candy, but when summer hits, many of us want a book that promises an escape.
Yes, mysteries, thrillers, biographies and serious works of literature are on our summer reading lists, too, but these tomes tantalize with two of summer’s sweetest treats — exotic locales and cold drinks — and focus on the good, the bad and the absurd of those sticky matters called relationships.
We’ve also spotted a few side trends that give clues to the zeitgeist. Of the nine books listed here, three have lawyers as their central characters (and two were penned by former lawyers), three have characters who make their living writing, and three have main characters named Maya.
Four involve the island of Manhattan, two take place on the island of Nantucket, and two involve moms re-entering a workplace that is suddenly dominated by Web-savvy, tech-smart, soulless younger women who run digital magazines where Web hits and selling advertisers’ wares take priority over providing readers with actual content.
A few of these books have already hit shelves, and some have release dates in the near future. To help you with the arduous task of organizing your what-to-read-when list, we’ve organized them by release date.
So read, drink and be happy these people’s problems aren’t yours!
I Take You
In stores: Now
The destination: Key West, Fla.
The drink: Pink squirrels
The relationship(s): Lily Wilder is a New York lawyer who is back home in Key West for her wedding. She’s marrying Will, an archeologist who seems almost too good to be true. But troubles abound: The firm has a client on the island who needs to be prepped for a difficult deposition, and Lily has to do it. Family drama is running high with her dad and his three ex-wives all reunited for the big event.
Lily has also run into Teddy, the true-love boyfriend she abandoned when she left the island, and they’ve got some unresolved issues. And then there’s the fact that Lily is sleeping with a host of other men in addition to her fiance, and she’s not sure she wants to give that up.
The author: This is Eliza Kennedy’s first published novel. She is a Harvard Law grad and clerked for a federal judge, then worked at a Manhattan law firm. She told Interview magazine she conceived the book “as a very quick and comical read,” so, well done, Eliza. She’s married to novelist Joshua Ferris.
In stores: Now
The destination: Manhattan
The drink: Vintage pink Dom Perignon
The relationship(s): In this fashion industry send-up, 40-something Imogen — editor in chief of Glossy magazine, and a native Brit with unlimited connections in the fashion world — returns to work after a six-month medically necessary hiatus to find that her magazine has become an app and her 26-year-old former assistant, Eve, who recently graduated from Harvard Business School, is in charge of the online content.
Overwhelmed by how little she knows about technology, Imogen starts taking a back seat to Eve, a tyrant who has set up nap rooms at the office for her slew of overworked, anorexic young staffers, whom she taunts, terrorizes and forces onto a scale weekly. This is a funny, fast-paced novel with some over-the-top characters. The insight into today’s techie world where coders are king is fascinating.
The authors: Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza. Lucy and her sister, Plum, are NYC socialites. Lucy was once fashion director at Marie Claire and Rent the Runway. Jo Piazza is a graduate of Columbia’s School of Journalism and is managing editor for Yahoo Travel.
Eight Hundred Grapes
Simon & Schuster, $24.95
In stores: Now
The destination: Sonoma, Calif.
The drink: Wine!
The relationship(s): What would you do if you were at your final dress fitting for your wedding and you happened to look out the window and see your fiance looking cozy with his ex?! If you are Georgia Ford, the L.A.-based lawyer at the heart of this novel, you flee home to Napa, where your parents own an acclaimed vineyard.
But when Georgia gets there, things have gone awry. Her married mother has a new love interest, her brothers are not speaking to each other, and her father has signed a deal to sell the beloved vineyard. Laced with loads of wine references (800 grapes is the number it takes to make a bottle of vino), this is a page-turner of a book about romantic relationships, family and finding your own true path in life.
The author: This is Laura Dave’s fourth published novel. She has written fiction and nonfiction for a variety of publications, including O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, Self and Cosmopolitan, which once named her a “Fun and Fearless Phenom.” She grew up in New York but lives in California with her screenwriter husband.
The Third Wife
Atria Books, $25
In stores: June 9
The destination: London
The drink: In the spirit of the title, why not three? Start with vodka, segue to hot tea, then close with some wine.
The relationship(s): This book reminded us of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies — it’s a somewhat lighthearted book about relationships that begins with a death, a possible murder. The victim is Maya, the third wife of 48-year-old architect Adrian Wolfe. Almost a year later, Adrian decides it is time to find a new home for Maya’s cat, which brings a mysterious blond woman to his door.
As Adrian tries to figure out the identity of the woman and her connection to Maya, he also struggles to figure out why his two former wives and their collective five children seem to be coming apart at the seams, with all sorts of troubles of their own. Adrian has always thought he was at the heart of one big, happy if unusual family, but he begins to see that maybe he has created one big, dysfunctional mess.
The author: Lisa Jewell is a British novelist with 12 bestsellers. She lives in North London with her husband and two daughters. In a clip on her Facebook page (facebook.com/LisaJewellOfficial) she has a short video with her cat, Milly, and notes that all her books have a cat in them.
Little, Brown, $28
In stores: June 16
The destination: Nantucket, Mass.
The drinks: Mint tea and Screaming Eagle cabernet
The relationship(s): This is a novel about a Nantucket novelist with writer’s block and a bunch of good friends with lots of juicy secrets. Madeline King is desperately trying to meet her publisher’s deadline and is worried about her family’s finances, but she doesn’t have any ideas for a story until her married best friend, Grace, confides in her, confessing her feelings about her handsome landscape architect.
This is just the beginning of the tangled webs these island people — and their attractive children — weave when the whole lot of them practice to deceive. The story is packed with details of the wonder that is summer on the small, chic island off the coast of Massachusetts.
The author: Elin Hilderbrand has made a career out of writing beach reads based on life in Nantucket. This is her 15th novel. She led a panel at last year’s BookExpo America in New York, where we learned she is every bit as beautiful as she is successful (and we envied her cocktail-party sandals as we clopped around in our more practical city shoes).
St. Martin’s Press, $26.99
In stores: June 23
The destination: London and Nantucket, Mass.
The drink: Sparkling apple cider
The relationship(s): Cat, a journalist in London, is shocked when her mother reveals that her real dad is not the man she has called her father all her life but with whom she’s never felt a strong connection. She travels to Nantucket to meet this new father and his family, and everything is going so wonderfully until she drinks way too much (because of her strong relationship with alcohol) and makes some shockingly poor choices.
Fast-forward 16 years, and Cat is taking steps to stay sober, which include making amends to those she has hurt. So it’s back to Nantucket, this time with her teenage daughter in tow. But once on the island, things quickly start to go awry with her father’s other daughters, who harbor dark secrets of their own.
The author: Bestselling author Jane Green is a powerhouse in the category of women’s fiction, or chick lit, as it has been affectionately known. Her books (this is her 17th novel) are filled with memorable characters who live in dream homes in fabulous places. Jane herself was born in the U.K., lives in Connecticut, and is a chic and charming woman, and you should try to get to one of her appearances, because, if you’re like us, you’ll simply adore her.
A Better Man
Grand Central Publishing, $26
In stores: July 7
The destination: Toronto
The drink: Manhattans
The relationship(s): Maya Wakefield used to be a successful lawyer but gave that up when her twins were born. Three years later, she is a full-on, full-time mom who is still breastfeeding the children and focuses on their needs like a laser beam. She and her husband, workaholic Nick, have drifted apart. He decides he wants out and consults a divorce attorney, who is also a friend, but he learns that he has everything to lose financially if he keeps the status quo as the only income generator.
The lawyer’s advice: Be a better man. Act like the world’s best husband so he’ll fare better when the assets are split. And when Nick’s actions change, oddly, his feelings start to change. But is it too late? Expect some fun plot twists before you get your answer.
The author: Leah McLaren is a columnist for The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper, and won a gold National Magazine Award in 2013. She lives in Toronto and London with her husband and two sons. This is her second novel.
Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat?: True Stories and Confessions
St. Martin’s Press, $21.99
In stores: July 7
The destination: Manhattan and the suburbs of Philadelphia
The drink: Margaritas
The relationship(s): This is the only book on this list that is nonfiction, but it fits the bill as a summer pleasure with dozens and dozens of super-short essays by a mom-daughter duo. They write about everything from comfy chairs at movie theaters, to cats doing their business in all the wrong places, to why Beyoncé is the spiritual leader of our times.
In short, like the best humor memoirists, they take the little details and annoyances of everyday life and make them flat-out funny.
Example from the daughter, Francesca, when she has to go to the police station because her identity was stolen: “Outside of [the detective’s] office was a wall of WANTED posters with illustrations and surveillance shots for criminals of every sort. … It was like an inspiration board for nightmares. Or Police Pinterest.”
And one from the mother, Lisa: “You can even buy a Fitbit scale, which will connect to your Fitbit bracelet and a fitness app on your phone, so that all the inanimate objects in your life can talk about how fat you are behind your back.”
The authors: Lisa Scottoline, who used to be a lawyer, is best known as a New York Times bestselling, Edgar Award-winning writer, but she also writes a column for The Philadelphia Inquirer with her daughter, Francesca Serritella. This is the sixth humor memoir in their co-authored series.
Every year, Lisa invites book clubs to attend a picnic at her incredibly beautiful West Chester farmhouse. We stopped in last summer and enjoyed a hilarious presentation by mother and daughter.
How To Be a Grown-Up
Atria Books, $25
In stores: July 28
The destination: Manhattan
The drink: Coffee by day, lemon-drop shots at night
The relationship(s): Rory is married to an incredibly handsome actor who hasn’t had a steady job in a while, and the couple and their two young children are starting to feel the financial crunch. A freelance stylist for shelter magazines, she decides it’s time for her to return to the workplace full time, and she lands a job working for a website called JeuneBug, “founded by these 12-year-olds straight out of B-school,” as one character describes it.
While her husband goes a bit AWOL, she struggles to keep everything at home in line while trying to figure out what the heck her new bosses are trying to say in their tech-speak (example: “We expect decks for Halloween coverage from you guys pronto”) and how to succeed in Manhattan’s new millennial-eat-millennial world. This book is LOL funny.
The authors: Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus are a writing team whose best-known book is The Nanny Diaries, which became a movie starring Scarlett Johansson as a young college graduate who takes a job as the caretaker of the sweet child of wretched Upper East Siders Mr. and Mrs. X (Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti). The writers work together in New York.