Summer Reading: The Hottest New Books of the Season

Posted by Cybil on May 17, 2021
big books of spring 2020

Here’s some trivia for your next vacation get-together: The concept of the summer “beach read” book goes all the way back to the Victorian era, when advances in transportation made it possible for city people to escape to coastal areas and resort getaways during the summer months.
The publishing industry targeted this new category of potential customers by marketing books as “summer reads” ideal for the beach, or the cabin, or the Adirondack chair, or what have you. In fact, this cultural shift sent books in a whole new direction. The novel, previously considered rather vulgar, was now an acceptable pastime for those who could afford such leisure time.
Here at Goodreads, we’re always happy to participate in historical tradition. At the beginning of each summer, the Goodreads Editorial team gathers information on upcoming books published in the U.S. We also track early reviews and crunch the numbers on how many readers are adding these books to their Want to Read shelves.

This time around, we've got new fiction from Rachel Yoder and Zakiya Dalila Harris, new mysteries from Paula Hawkins and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, new horror from Mona Awad and Stephen Graham Jones, and new sci-fi/fantasy from Matt Bell and Shelley Parker-Chan. Plus YA! Nonfiction! Romance! 
Be sure to add anything that catches your eye to your Want to Read shelf, and let us know what you're reading and recommending in the comments.

The wealthy and troubled Riva family traditionally hosts the annual end-of-summer party for the locals in Malibu, California. In the long, hot August of 1983, the Riva party is about to get particularly wild. This new book from Taylor Jenkins Reid (Daisy Jones & the Six) chronicles one crazy night in the life of a complicated family.

Release date: June 1

A contemporary thriller set in the professional publishing world, The Other Black Girl follows the fate of Nella Rogers, the only Black employee at her publishing house. When newcomer Hazel joins the team, she’s happy to have a new colleague of color. But soon it becomes clear that there are sinister forces in play.

Release date: June 1

Author A. Natasha Joukovsky’s twisty debut novel follows two high-achieving big-city couples as their paths cross and tangle in the summer of 2015. Billed as an update to the ancient myth of Narcissus, the book features beautiful people doing reckless things in the name of ambition and self-actualization. America!

Release date: June 1

Winner of this summer’s unofficial Best Book Title competition, this grim yet funny debut novel from Emily R. Austin features the adventures of a morbidly anxious young woman who, for reasons too weird to explain, begins impersonating a recently deceased old lady. Recommended for fans of Mostly Dead Things and Goodbye, Vitamin.

Release date: July 6

What happens when an ambitious artist and new mom becomes convinced that she’s turning into a dog? As you might suspect, it gets a bit Kafkaesque. Billed as a sort of contemporary, satirical fairy tale, this buzzy debut from Rachel Yoder explores issues of art, family, and motherhood with a canine twist of magical realism.

Release date: July 20

Big Irish Catholic families often get a bad rap. Tracey Lange’s debut novel suggests that this is entirely appropriate. Pushing 30, Sunday Brennan has returned home to sort through family repression, resentments, and secrets. Recommended for readers of Mary Beth Keane's Ask Again, Yes and Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney's The Nest.

Release date: August 3


Winner of the 2019 Mystery & Thriller Goodreads Choice Award for The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides is back with The Maidens, a tale of scandal and murder at the University of Cambridge. A series of mysterious killings appears to reference the Greek myth of Persephone in the Underworld. An obsessed former student hopes to crack the case.

Release date: June 15

Cleverly set in the early 1990s, back before smartphones could resolve plot points instantly, this new novel from Riley Sager (Final Girls) follows a female college student sharing a ride back to Ohio with a guy who may be a serial killer. Um, you can let me off here…

Release date: June 29

Two ex-cons team up to hunt down the killers of their two respective sons in a thriller with contemporary resonance from S.A. Cosby (Blacktop Wasteland). Complication #1: Ike is Black, Buddy Lee is white. Complication #2: Their sons were married, and both fathers never quite accepted this development. Revenge! Retribution! Redemption?
Release date: July 6

Interesting backstory on this debut novel: Author T.J. Newman is a former flight attendant, and the plotline here leans into her work experience in a rather unsettling fashion. A commercial airliner is threatened when the pilot’s family is kidnapped. For his family to live, the plane must go down. The hard way.

Release date: July 6

The author of last year’s sensation Mexican Gothic returns with a nuanced noir set in the weirdness of 1970s Mexico City. Lonely secretary Maite becomes obsessed with the disappearance of her neighbor, a beautiful student radical with ties to the dissident movement. Also on tap: an eccentric assassin, Russian spies, old movies, and classic rock and roll.

Release date: August 17

Paula HawkinsThe Girl on the Train was the summer beach read of 2015. Fans of that book will want to consider A Slow Fire Burning, which concerns murder on a London houseboat and three seemingly unconnected women who knew the victim. The book’s rather menacing tagline? Look what you started. Uh-oh.

Release date: August 31


Grady Hendrix specializes in a peculiar brand of horror concerning, oh, haunted IKEA stores, the Faust legend, Rust Belt heavy metal bands—this sort of thing. His latest concerns a real-life killer who is stalking real-life final girls, those horror movie heroines who somehow escape, invariably in a sleeveless T-shirt.

Release date: July 13

Mona Awad’s 2019 novel, Bunny, was a finalist for a Goodreads Choice Award in Horror, and her new one promises a similarly sophisticated take on the genre. Pain-wracked theater professor Miranda Fitch meets three strange benefactors who promise to solve all her problems. What’s the catch? Expect some societal allegory. In a good way.

Release date: August 3

Stephen Graham Jones haunts the literary end of the horror spectrum, and he’s got a lot of cool ideas about how the genre works. His new book explores themes of colonialism and gentrification through the story of a small-town murder and a girl who really loves horror movies.

Release date: August 31


Jordan Baker is rich, beautiful, and clever. She’s also Asian, queer, and marginalized. Nghi Vo’s debut novel transposes The Great Gatsby into new realms of alternate history, fantasy, infernal pacts, and elemental magic. Rethinking F. Scott Fitzgerald is a bold flex, and advance word on this one is strong.

Release date: June 1

Let us be frank: Men have been largely running things for 10,000 years now, and results are, hmm…“mixed” may be the polite term. Author Murphy’s sci-fi thriller imagines a future in which “Miracle Babies” are conceived without male DNA. Predictably, there are some violent objections. But the babies are grown now, and they can defend themselves.

Release date: June 1

Riffing on the Little Red Riding Hood legend, Hannah F. Whitten delivers a dark fantasy about a young woman doomed to be sacrificed to the Wolf of the Wood. But Wolf isn’t really a wolf, and Red’s cursed magical powers aren’t really a curse at all. Recommended for fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale.

Release date: June 1

Billed as part speculative fiction epic, part tech thriller, and part reinvented fairy tale, Matt Bell’s Appleseed tackles the central dilemma of our age—climate change—via three stories in three timelines: the 18th century, 50 years from now, and 1,000 years into a grim future. American mythology + thoughtful sci-fi = good beach reading.

Release date: July 13

The first in her new Monk & Robot series, this intriguing story from Hugo–award-winning author Becky Chambers imagines a world where robots long ago achieved self-awareness. Sensibly, they quit working and disappeared en masse into the wilderness. The tagline is pretty great: In a world where people have what they want, does having more matter? Excellent question.

Release date: July 13

China, 1345: A bandit attack has orphaned two young children, a brother and sister. The boy has been fated for greatness. The girl has been fated for nothingness. In a monastic sanctuary, under the cruel occupation of the Mongols, fate unwinds in strange ways….

Release date: July 20


Writer and journalist Ashley C. Ford writes about her childhood experience growing up in poverty and her loving relationship with her incarcerated father. When Ford learns why her father is in prison, everything changes. Ford’s highly anticipated coming-of-age story is being released under the Oprah Book imprint.

Release date: June 1

In 1993, toddler Ly Tran and her three older brothers were moved from a small town on Vietnam’s Mekong river to a railroad apartment in Queens. Years of struggle followed. Tran’s debut is a richly detailed memoir and chronicle of one family’s passage through the American immigrant experience.

Release date: June 1  

A rigorously researched exploration of the legacy of slavery in American history, Clint Smith’s new book concentrates its focus on actual, physical places: the Monticello Plantation in Virginia, the Blandford Cemetery and the notorious Louisiana penitentiary where thousands of Black men provided free labor under the diabolical convict lease system.

Release date: June 1

Author Kate Moore (The Radium Girls) is back with another incredible true story, this one concerning 19th-century activist Elizabeth Packard and her involuntary commitment to an insane asylum. The book’s subtitle says it all: One Woman, Her Incredible Fight for Freedom, and the Men Who Tried to Make Her Disappear.

Release date: June 22


Niveus Private Academy students Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo have been selected as senior class prefects. All is well until an anonymous troll starts using text messages to undermine them. Then the game turns deadly in this suspenseful debut thriller from South London writer Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé.

Release date: June 1

Author Rainbow Rowell’s Simon Snow series concludes with Any Way the Wind Blows, which finds the gang—Simon, Baz, Penelope and Agatha—returning to England for their final adventure. Look for vampires, mages, and ghosts, plus the revelation of many secrets, the answers to all those questions, and the final resolution of the whole Snowbaz thing.

Release date: July 6

The first in a new series from Elizabeth Lim (Spin the Dawn), Six Crimson Cranes introduces Shiori, princess of Kiata, recently banished by her decidedly evil stepmother. Lim’s inventive new fantasy setting is steeped in East Asian folklore and recommended for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Tomi Adeyemi.

Release date: July 6

Dalloway School is haunted. Everyone knows this. The ancient boarding school was once home to the so-called Dalloway Five, girls who some say were witches. Felicity Morrow has returned after the tragic death of her girlfriend, and she’s determined to stay away from the dark-side stuff. But the lure of the occult is hard to resist.

Release date: August 3

Author Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop follows the strange fate of August, a 23-year-old New Yorker who discovers that her subway crush—a gorgeous punk rock girl with a very cool leather jacket—is actually a time traveler displaced from 1970s Brooklyn. New Yorkers have the weirdest problems.

Release date: June 1

What happens when two exes are forced to carpool together in a loooong ride across Britain? What if they have to share the same tiny Mini Cooper with three other passengers? Let’s say…her sister, his best friend, and some random guy from Facebook who needs a ride. Find out in the new rom-com from Beth O'Leary (The Flatshare).

Release date: June 1

Ben Stephens has been assigned to a new ad campaign featuring movie star Anna Gardiner. Both are aware that while business and pleasure certainly can mix, it’s always complicated and usually trouble. Still, a little flirting never hurt anyone, right? It’s love, Hollywood style, in Jasmine Guillory’s new romantic comedy.

Release date: July 13

This third installment of author Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient series focuses on young Anna Sun, who gets the feels for business CEO Quan Diep, even as she struggles to accommodate her own anxiety issues and OCD tendencies. Hoang’s series draws in part from the author’s own experience with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Release date: August 31

Which books are you most excited to read this season? Let us know in the comments!


Comments Showing 1-50 of 100 (100 new)

message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Seriously, no historical fiction? Also, meh, i will pass on them all.

message 2: by Ankit (new)

Ankit Saxena Aurora wrote: "Seriously, no historical fiction? Also, meh, i will pass on them all."

Same I was searching for. What a disappointment :/

my fangirlish ramblings I loved this list!! Most of the books are on my TBR. :)

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

I have multiple books on my "this summer's TBR" list, but now I added more. I want to read Malibu Rising and The Other Black Girl.

message 5: by TMR (new)

TMR Eh, no historical fiction - but I’m not picky.

I’m quite excited for these.

message 6: by Sue (new)

Sue No historical fiction? I find that could do a much better job at promoting this category.

message 7: by Amy (new)

Amy Aurora wrote: "Seriously, no historical fiction? Also, meh, i will pass on them all."


message 8: by Anissa (new)

Anissa There are a couple here that are already on my TBR.

I'm also looking forward to: The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict (historical fiction), Death and Croissants by Ian Moore (mystery), Midnight, Water City by Chris McKinney (science fiction) and about 10 other books that will debut before September. I also have a few I'm holding off reading now just to save for when we head off to the beach.

I plan on a great reading summer.

message 9: by Joe (new)

Joe Holzer Razorblade Tears can't get here soon enough.

A lot of good titles. Looking forward to Malibu Rising, Velvet Was the Night and Ace of Spades, among others.

message 10: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Lauren Just pre-ordered Malibu Rising from Target!

message 11: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Linardos I love anything by Taylor Jenkins Reid, so I'm definitely excited about "Malibu Rising." I've been reading more Romance lately, so I'm happy to add a few of those to my summer reading list!

message 12: by Suzanne (new)

Suzanne Johnson I'm with everyone missing historical fiction. Are y'all saving it for a special post?

message 13: by Mary (new)

Mary Only one on this list.... meh

message 14: by AlwaysV (new)

AlwaysV 😝 I have so many preorders on my Summer 2021 Reading Calendar😍 Zero book is on your super amazing lists❣️I'm not sad to stand alone 💦

message 15: by Charmaine (new)

Charmaine Lol. What a bunch of cry baby kill joys with these comments ^

message 16: by Patricia (new)

Patricia Sue wrote: "No historical fiction? I find that could do a much better job at promoting this category."


message 17: by Moni (new)

Moni Only two books worth reading for me.. Malibu Rising and The Maidens. List is meh

message 18: by Ro (new)

Ro Hart Amazing suggestions thanks!!!!

message 19: by DKBP73 (new)

DKBP73 Meh. For the second summer in a row.

Phyllis | Mocha Drop Aurora wrote: "Seriously, no historical fiction? Also, meh, i will pass on them all."

LOL - I noticed the omission also!

message 21: by Hope (new)

Hope Hope there is another list.

message 22: by Elyse (new)

Elyse Y'all poo-pooing no historical fic, technically Malibu Rising is as it takes place in the 1980's. And is summer generally a big historical fic push?

The Other Black Girl was an odd one!

message 23: by Wbietsch (new)

Wbietsch Yes, I was looking for historical fiction possibilites as well.

message 24: by Trish (new)

Trish I love historical fiction, but it’s nice to break out of my rut. Some of these titles look great.

I can always get historical fiction ideas from my recommendations page on goodreads

message 25: by Mike (new)

Mike Drudge Aurora wrote: "Seriously, no historical fiction? Also, meh, i will pass on them all."

Ankit wrote: "Aurora wrote: "Seriously, no historical fiction? Also, meh, i will pass on them all."

Same I was searching for. What a disappointment :/"

TMR wrote: "Eh, no historical fiction - but I’m not picky.

I’m quite excited for these."

I’m also disappointed in no Historical Fiction. I’m also baffled as to why a 74 year old man gets promotional emails intended for young adults.

message 26: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Farrell The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

This is a BOLD take-on. My curiosity trumps hesitancy to read, since Jordan Baker is one of those supporting characters I'd like to see painted in a way that does her justice.

message 27: by Elyse (new)

Elyse Mike wrote: "Aurora wrote: "Seriously, no historical fiction? Also, meh, i will pass on them all."

Ankit wrote: "Aurora wrote: "Seriously, no historical fiction? Also, meh, i will pass on them all."

Same I wa..."

This article is not directed at young adults? And you can change your email settings in your profile. Profile --> Account Settings --> Emails --> scroll down to Newsletters and Other Emails and uncheck as you wish. Then scroll to the bottom "Save email settings."

message 28: by Pamela (new)

Pamela It is from 2020 but I still have "The Mercies" on my to read historical fiction list - set in a 1600s Norwegian coastal village where 40 men have been drowned and strangers arrive, along with allegations of witchcraft . . . if anyone has read it, let me know if it is worth picking up this summer. I am also wondering about "The Pull of the Stars" set in an understaffed hospital in 1918 Ireland.

Below are two links with historical fiction that I have pulled a number of titles from to put on my to read list including: The Nature of Fragile Things and The Sweetness of Water - both coming out soon.

2021 Good Historical Fiction list from Oprah's site:

message 29: by Rachel (new)

Rachel B I'd love to see some blog posts that focus more on backlist titles.

message 30: by Jens (new)

Jens Still The Zero Signal :)

message 31: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Clement westgate I am Also sad that there is not a Historical Fiction list but, I am SUCH a bookwhore that, I plan on preordering most of these!

message 32: by Anabella (new)

Anabella Nothing very interesting here. Except for Paula Hawkins new novel that I've been waiting to come out.

message 33: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Good thing i have a lot of tbr's. There are two on this list that are on my want to read list. Two more than last year, though. I'm sure these are great choices, just not for me.

message 34: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Nice list no complaints here

message 35: by Sandra (new)

Sandra Del Rio Aurora wrote: "Seriously, no historical fiction? Also, meh, i will pass on them all."

Velvet was the Night and Survive the Night are historical fiction? If you take the time to look over the books you'll see some?

message 36: by Katie Murphy (new)

Katie Murphy More choices in Science Fiction/Fantasy genre, I'm bored to death wih AI!

message 37: by Deanna (new)

Deanna I am disappointed there is no historical fiction.

message 38: by Marisol (new)

Marisol Ravicz Ankit wrote: "Aurora wrote: "Seriously, no historical fiction? Also, meh, i will pass on them all."

Same I was searching for. What a disappointment :/"

Yeah, I was sad not to see historical fiction too.

message 39: by JJMill (last edited May 18, 2021 06:34PM) (new)

JJMill There are several historical fiction novels: Velvet Was the Night (1970s Mexico), Survive the Night (1990s thriller), The Chosen and the Beautiful (Jazz Age retelling of The Great Gatsby), She Who Became the Sun (14th century China), Malibu Rising (1980s).

message 40: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Katherine Annnnnd my TBR list just grew again haha! Such a great list!

Bernice M Hooijkaas I agree on the lack of historical fiction and there are also no beach reads easy fiction novels 🤨

message 42: by Joe (new)

Joe M Readers on the hunt for historical fiction should definitely check out Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead Even though it technically came out in May, at 600+ pages it's sure to keep you busy and enraptured for a small portion of the summer. I'm trying to read it slowly and savor it, but it's so good!

message 43: by Megamus (new)

Megamus ... No historical fiction? :(

message 44: by Audrey (new)

Audrey Aurora wrote: "Seriously, no historical fiction? Also, meh, i will pass on them all."

I was looking for that too :(

message 45: by Christeena (new)

Christeena  Thomas Missing many amazing titles !!

message 46: by Tatiana (new)

Tatiana Hirsch I love this list. On my TBT: Malibu Rising, Somebody’s Daughter, House of Sticks.

message 47: by Lonnie (new)

Lonnie What, no Historical Fiction? I agree with those who asked this question. Surely Goodreads could have found some to promote for a summer read🤷🏼‍♀️

message 48: by robin (new)

robin bickford like many others, I want to know where the Historical Fiction category went?? please bring it back!!

message 49: by Fleet (new)

Fleet Rachel wrote: "I'd love to see some blog posts that focus more on backlist titles."

same here

jas kaur wilkhu-degpal Amy wrote: "Aurora wrote: "Seriously, no historical fiction? Also, meh, i will pass on them all."


Same no historical fiction 😢😒

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