Your alternative summer reading list

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The ES Magazine alternative summer reading list (ES Magazine )
The ES Magazine alternative summer reading list (ES Magazine )

The quit-the-rat-race-and-stay-on-holiday-forever one

Not Safe For Work, by Isabel Kaplan

If Beyoncé already has you rethinking the grind, then Kaplan’s glittering debut — a funny, spiky, compulsive story about a toxic workplaces, Lean-In culture and #MeToo — will have you doing a poolside power quit (‘Hello? Yes, I just called to say I’m done’). The (anonymous) protagonist is one of Hollywood’s rising star execs, but when she crosses paths with a bad boss, she must choose principles or complicity. Raven Luster Leilani is a fan.

4 Aug (£14.99; Penguin Michael Joseph)

The one that will make you stop wondering whether you should move to the country

Amy & Lan, by Sadie Jones

Sunday Times bestseller Jones’s latest is a bright, bittersweet novel set on a communal farm in the West Country. Amy and Lan are growing up in thrilling chaos: summer solstices, rutting animals, parents who don’t care about bedtimes. But bucolic idylls can’t last forever – and soon the very adult dramas are spoiling their barn party.

7 July (£16.99, Vintage)

The ‘ignore absolutely everyone because you cannot put it down’ one

The Last White Man, by Mohsin Hamid

Hamid’s last novel, Exit West, was a Booker-shortlisted sensation. And now his latest, The Last White Man, a disquisition on race, prejudice and power, will surely have a similar lasting impact. ‘One morning Anders, a white man, woke up to find he had turned a deep and undeniable brown,’ reads its first line; soon, there are reports of similar instances and people must confront their hardwired prejudices. A gripping, Kafka-esque premise.

11 August (£12.99; Hamish Hamilton)

The #hotmess manifesto

Square One, by Nell Frizell

In her memoir, The Panic Years, journalist Frizell captured the complexities and contradictions of womanhood and motherhood. In her fiction debut, she has written a relatable story about a slow-mo car crash version of early 30s-dom, where the Papier wedding invites just won’t stop coming and you still don’t haven’t a bloody clue. Thirty-year-old Hanna is single, back at home and living with her dad, who is also dating (shudder).

7 July (£14.99; Bantam)

The ‘don’t call her the new Sally Rooney’ one

Common Decency, by Susannah Dickey

Sad girls, married men, unanswered texts and silent, simmering resentment — so far, so Rooney-verse, but Dickey’s elan is entirely her own (not to mention, she’s from Derry and sets her books in Belfast, not Dublin). The novelist, whose thrilling 2020 debut Tennis Lessons established her as a one-to-watch, casts an unsettling, bewitching tale about loneliness, connection and obsession. Lily and Siobhan are neighbours and strangers — until Lily grows fixated on Siobhan and commences a twisted psychological campaign against her. Put it this way: it’ll put those noisy shaggers in number 6A into perspective.

21 July (£14.99; Doubleday)

The ‘don’t call it the new Secret History’ one

Disorientation, by Elaine Hseih Chou

If Donna Tartt set the bar for the noirish campus novel, Elaine Hseih Chou is setting a new bar for sharp, sideways takes on academia. When PhD student Ingrid Yang uncovers something about a famous Chinese-American poet, it leads her to a discovery that shakes her world to its core. Disorientation is witty, knowing and funny as it sends up privilege, entrenched institutions and ‘white guy’ academics.

21 July (£14.99; Picador)

The ‘wow, my family’s not so bad, I guess’ one

I’m Sorry You Feel That Way, by Rebecca Wait

Did somebody say dysfunctional? Sisters Alice and Hanna are by turns allies and enemies in the face of their disappointed, manipulative mother. Their brother Michael is a screaming bore — and don’t even mention their (mostly absent) father. The novel has earned comparisons to Meg Mason’s Sorrow and Bliss — aka everyone’s favourite book of 2020 — so bona fide hit status surely follows.

7 July (Quercus; £14.99)

The anti-rom-com

Notes on Heartbreak, by Annie Lord

Everyone gets dumped — not everyone is this eloquent on the topic of heartbreak. Vogue columnist Lord has written her own Time’s Arrow-style account of her long-term relationship, starting with the end and exploring in raw detail what went wrong after five intertwined years of in-jokes and declarations of infinite love. You’ll laugh and cry.

Out now (£16.99; Orion)

The one that’s more transportative than a long-haul flight

Pachinko Parlour, by Elisa Shua Dusapin

Claire is spending a hot, indolent summer in Tokyo, tutoring 12-year-old Meiko and living with her grandparents, who fled the Korean War for Japan and opened Shiny, a pachinko parlour in central Nipporo. This tale of shared history and identity is written in prose that crackles with intelligence and imagination.

18 August (£9.99; Daunt)


‘Slow Burn: Roe v Wade’

‘Slow Burn’ has taken on Watergate, the LA riots and the Clinton impeachment — now it will trace the roots of Roe v Wade from the 1970s to our current, terrifying moment. Vital listening. Weekly, Apple Podcasts, out now

Call Me Mother

Author, editor and presenter Shon Faye speaks to queer elders, advocates and trailblazers to tell a story about the shared history and future of the LGBTQ+ movement. Weekly, Apple Podcasts, out now



Dakota Johnson is Ann Elliot in this Netflix production of Persuasion, co-starring Cosmo Vardes, Henry Golding and Nikki Amuka-Bird. Expect bustles, bonnets and very modern sexual politics.

Out now, Netflix

Where The Crawdads Sing

This hotly anticipated adaptation of Delia Owens’ novel is produced by Reese Witherspoon and stars Daisy Edgar-Jones as Catherine ‘Kya’ Clarke, Taylor John Smith and Harris Dickinson.

Out 22 July

The Seagull

What’s a hot summer in the city without Chekhov? Emilia Clarke plays Anya Reiss in Jamie Lloyd’s production of this play about love, longing and thwarted ambition.

Until 10 September, Harold Pinter Theatre

King Lear

And if staccato Russian melodrama isn’t enough, get your garments ready for rending at this staging of the Bard’s most tragic tragedy, starring Kathryn Hunter as the blighted king.

Until 24 July, Shakespeare’s Globe


Candy-coloured covers, high imagination and exquisite writing… oh, and the occasional sex scene: 2022’s beach reads are anything but pulpy. Taylor ‘Malibu Rising’ Jenkins Reid continues her bid for world domination with Carrie Soto is Back, a novel about a former tennis ace determined to show an upstart youngster she’s still the boss (30 August, 16.99; Cornerstone). Voice-of-Gen-Z Florence Given’s first novel, Girlcrush (tagline: ‘A hot, dark story’), is a thrilling, bisexual romcom that doubles as a smart skewering of social media (9 August, £16.99; Octopus). Lastly, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow follows Sadie and Sam, who met in a hospital gaming room as children and reunite by chance as adults — going on to fame, superstardom and (inevitable) tragedy. You’ll be sobbing behind your Celine sunnies. (14 July, 16.99; Chatto & Windus)


The TikTokers have spoken and given these modern classics a new lease of life. The Song of Achilles (Bloomsbury) is Madeline  Miller’s 2011 modern re-telling of a Greek myth, while My Year of Rest and Relaxation (Vintage), a biting, misanthropic and wickedly funny novel by the It-crowd’s favourite novelist, Ottessa Moshfegh, has racked up more than 24 million mentions on the social media site. FYI it’s being turned into a movie by Margot Robbie. Then there’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (Vintage), the lyrical 2019 debut by Ocean Vuong, which has captured yet another captive audience. Read all to ensure you’re down with the kids this summer (hopefully).


Don’t call it a comeback… but publishing’s big boys return with hyped new novels in 2022. In Brit Lit, enfant terrible Irvine Welsh’s scary, sweary, new thriller, The Long Knives, an MP turns up murdered in a Leith warehouse and detective Ray Lennox must uncover the truth about what happened (15 August, £18.99; Jonathan Cape). In September, Ian McEwan returns with Lessons, a sweeping, state-of-the-nation novel told through the tale of one man’s life and loves (13 September, £20; Vintage), and Graham Norton publishes his fourth novel, Forever Home, about the tense claustrophobia of a small, gossipy Irish town (29 September, £20; Hodder). Pre-order both now for that Indian summer break to St Ives.

‘The Lock In’ by Phoebe Luckhurst, is out now (£12.99; Penguin Michael Joseph)

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