Holiday reads: the best books to relax with this summer

From sun-soaked romances to the most gripping crime and thriller books, here are the very best holiday reads for 2020.

10/08/2020
5 minutes to read

For many of us, summer 2020 is all about staycations, lazy long weekends and sunny days spent in the garden – all ideal opportunities to immerse yourself in a good book. From immersive literary reads to travel writing that will inspire even the most adventurous, chilling thrillers to feel-good stories of friendship, here are the best holiday reads of 2020 whether you’re staying at home or travelling further afield.

Crime & thriller holiday reads

Escape into a gripping new thriller or crime novel this summer. Here are the books that are sure to keep you on the edge of your sunbed.

Big Lies in a Small Town

by Diane Chamberlain

Book cover for 9781509808601
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Morgan Christopher is serving a sentence for a crime she didn’t commit, so when she is offered an assignment to restore an old mural in a sleepy southern town, a job which will get her released from prison, she accepts immediately. As she begins the restoration work, she discovers a painting that tells a story of madness, violence and small-town secrets. 

The mural was painted in 1940 by Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey. But when she arrives in Edenton, North Carolina, she finds herself in a town where prejudices run deep, and the price for being different could be murder. Can Morgan discover what really happened to Anna Dale?

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If I Can't Have You

by Charlotte Levin

Book cover for 9781529032390

Constance Little has met the one, and she’s sure he feels the same. They have to keep things quiet as he’s a doctor at the GP surgery where she works but there’s no doubt in Constance’s mind that this is happily ever after. So when Samuel starts to seem less sure, Constance knows she must do everything she can to hold onto love. This devastating novel will have you rooting for Constance even as you start to fear how far she will really go.

Sisters

by Michelle Frances

Book cover for 9781509877188

The sibling rivalry runs deep between Abby and Ellie. They were never close as children, and not much has changed since then. Abby always resented Ellie for being their mother’s favourite, while Ellie is jealous of Abby’s perfect husband and beautiful home on the Italian island of Elba. When Abby invites Ellie to stay, they hope they can finally put aside their differences, but with their mother also there, simmering tensions soon explode. And Abby begins to suspect that her mother and sister are keeping a dangerous secret . . .

You Are Not Alone

by Greer Hendricks

Book cover for 9781529010770
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Shay Miller has no job, no apartment and no boyfriend. When she witnesses a young woman throw herself in front of a train, she realises she could end up in the same spiral. But soon she meets a group of women who seem to have their lives together, and who invite her to join them, telling her, ‘You are not alone.’ As she is pulled deeper under the spell of the glamorous Moore sisters her life gets better and better, but what price does she have to pay? You are not alone. Is that a promise, or a threat? You Are Not Alone is set to be one of the most unforgettable psychological thrillers of 2020.

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Find Them Dead

by Peter James

Book cover for 9781529004304

Award-winning crime fiction writer Peter James is back with a thrilling new Roy Grace book. A Brighton gangster is on trial for conspiracy to murder, and on the first day of the trial, there is one person in the gallery observing the jurors with keen interest. The gangster’s henchmen need to influence two of the jurors if he is to be found not guilty – but which two? When Roy Grace is called to investigate a murder with links to the trial, he realises how powerful the accused really is.

A Nearly Normal Family

by M. T. Edvardsson

Book cover for 9781529008142
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Told from the perspectives of a father, mother and daughter, the three narratives in A Nearly Normal Family come together in a story of familial love, secrets and lies. What would you do if your child was suspected of murder? How far would you go to protect them? These are the questions at the heart of M. T. Edvardsson’s stunning legal thriller.

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Feel-good fiction and romantic holiday reads

From an author dubbed ‘Jackie Collins for a new generation’, to love affairs on the streets of Paris, if you like your summer reads with a feel-good factor or a large helping of romance, try one of these brand new novels.

The Greek Holiday

by Maeve Haran

Book cover for 9781509866533

Four old university friends return to the romantic Greek island they visited in their youth. Each is looking for something to help them through difficult times in their lives. In Kyri they discover the opportunity to reinvent themselves, embrace love and happiness and even help a community in need. But at the heart of the story is the true importance of female friendship. This hilarious and heartwarming novel is perfect summer escapism.

One Summer in Crete

by Nadia Marks

Book cover for 9781509889747
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When Calli is sent to the Greek island of Ikaria to write a magazine article, she's thrilled to have the chance to escape – her relationship has suddenly ended, and with it her hopes of starting a family are gone. The inhabitants of the island are some of the healthiest and happiest in the world, and the island has a secret that Calli is determined to uncover. But when she visits Crete, where her family is originally from, she find there may be secrets closer to home . . .

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The Hidden Beach

by Karen Swan

Book cover for 9781529006223
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Bell Everhurst is working as a nanny for Hanna and Max and their three children in Stockholm. One spring morning, Bell answers the phone and is shocked when a woman from a clinic she’s never heard of asks her to tell Hanna that her husband has woken up. When she finds out the truth – that Hanna’s first husband fell into a coma seven years ago – life changes for them all.

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An Almost Perfect Holiday

by Lucy Diamond

Book cover for 9781529026986
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It’s time for the summer holidays, and in Cornwall Lorna’s cottages are fully booked. Three women have planned what they hope will be the perfect getaways, but not everything goes quite to plan.

Em has planned a holiday with her new boyfriend Greg, but with their children coming along, can their romance survive? Maggie is hoping a holiday will help fix her relationship with her daughter, but then her ex turns up out of the blue . . . And Olivia is looking for an escape, but the past always catches up with her. Will this holiday be a scorcher, or just too hot to handle?

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The Girl Who Reads on the Metro

by Christine Féret-Fleury

Book cover for 9781509868353

This enchanting story of a young woman finding her purpose in life is guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face. Juliette takes the métro every day to her boring office job, and her only escape is in books. One day, she meets the mysterious Soliman, who believes that books have the power to change the course of a life. He offers Juliette a job, to match books to the people who need them most. Leaving her old life behind, Juliette is about to discover the true power a book can hold . . .

Only You

by Kate Eberlen

Book cover for 9781509819911
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When Letty and Alf meet in their Italian class, it's not long before they realise the language that really connects them is dance. They come from different worlds, but one waltz around the Piazza Navona, and everything changes. Both Letty and Alf have secrets though, and as their relationship deepens, it becomes harder and harder to tell the truth . . .

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The Age of Light

by Whitney Scharer

Book cover for 9781509889150
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Whitney Scherer’s immersive debut novel takes the reader from bohemian Paris to the battlefields of WWII, in a dazzling story of love, art and obsession. When model Lee Miller abandons her life in New York to pursue her passion for photography in Paris, she catches the eye of surrealist artist Man Ray. They soon embark on a creative partnership and passionate love affair.

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The Thunder Girls

by Melanie Blake

Book cover for 9781529017434

The Thunder Girls are an 80s pop sensation topping the charts, but when their careers come to an abrupt end, so does their friendship. Thirty years later, their old record label wants to get the band back together for a reunion concert, and there are vast sums of money to be made. But some need it more than others, and there are betrayals in the past that aren’t easily forgotten. And while some begin to dream of new success, someone is already plotting their deadly downfall . . . Don’t miss the debut novel by Melanie Blake, dubbed ‘Jackie Collins for a new generation’.


Historical fiction holiday reads

Travel back in time, from Victorian London to Ancient Greece, with riveting historical fiction which is sure to keep you spellbound whether at home or away.

A Thousand Ships

by Natalie Haynes

Book cover for 9781509836215
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Part history, part legend, the Trojan War often defines antiquity. Natalie Haynes’s powerful novel gives new life to the story of two ancient cultures at war. She takes a tale of heroes and kings and explores the experiences of the women caught up in these terrifying events. From slave women to queens, and even a goddess or two, Natalie Haynes’ retelling puts female voices front and centre. Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2020 and chosen as one of The Guardian's 'Best Books of 2019', if you're looking for your next historical fiction read, A Thousand Ships is not to be missed.

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The Mercies

by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Book cover for 9781529005103
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When the men of Vardø are all but wiped out in a devastating storm, the surviving women have no choice but to fend for themselves. But as the women grow increasingly independent, suspicions and rivalries grow, coming to a dangerous head with the arrival of Scottish commissioner Absalom Cornet. The Mercies is based on the true story of a devastating storm that hit the Norwegian island of Vardø in 1617 and the subsequent witch trials of 1621.

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The Animals at Lockwood Manor

by Jane Healey

Book cover for 9781529014174
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Hetty needs to find a safe place to store the animals from the Natural History Museum during the war and she finds that safe place in Lockwood Manor. At least it seemed safe enough until some of the exhibits under her care begin to go missing. Hetty must balance her determination to protect her charges with her confusing feelings for the lady of the house in this immersive 20th century story.

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The Doll Factory

by Elizabeth Macneal

Book cover for 9781529002430
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Set against the backdrop of The Great Exhibition of 1850, The Doll Factory is a vividly realised portrayal of Victorian London and an intoxicating story of a young woman searching for freedom. Iris, an aspiring artist, is asked to model for Pre-Raphaelite Louis Frost. She agrees, on the condition that he’ll teach her to paint in return. But Silas, a collector of the strange and beautiful, has also noticed her beauty, and soon his thoughts turn darker . . .

Discover 10 weird and wonderful facts about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

Read an extract from Elizabeth Macneal’s The Doll Factory

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Literary holiday reads

Holidays are the perfect time to become engrossed in a long book or to allow yourself to be transported to a different time and place by an immersive novel. These books will certainly fit the bill.

Writers and Lovers

by Lily King

Book cover for 9781529033106
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Casey has just lost her mother and is still recovering from the end of a devastating love affair. Living in a rented shed and working on the novel she’s been trying to write for the last six years, at thirty-one she feels too old to be so directionless. Then she meets two very different men, who represent very different futures. This funny and moving novel explores the terrifying and exhilarating leap between the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another.

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Akin

by Emma Donoghue

Book cover for 9781529019988

Noah’s life is thrown into chaos when a social worker calls looking for a temporary home for Michael, his eleven-year-old nephew. Noah, a retired professor, was about to leave on a trip to Nice to uncover the secrets of his mother’s past, and so the odd couple embark on an adventure together. As they unearth troubling family secrets, they realise that they may be more akin than they knew.

The Confession

by Jessie Burton

Book cover for 9781509886197
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The highly anticipated third novel from million-copy bestselling author Jessie Burton is a powerful and deeply moving story about secrets, motherhood and friendship. In 1980 Elise meets Constance, a successful writer, and quickly falls under her spell, moving to LA to be with her. Three decades later, Rose Simmons is looking for answers about her mother, who disappeared after she was born. When she learns that reclusive novelist Constance Holden was the last person to see her mother alive, she is drawn to her door in search of a confession . . .

Read Lucy Scholes on The Confession and portrayals of motherhood in literature.

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My House is Falling Down

by Mary Loudon

Book cover for 9781529005233
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Forty-two-year-old Lucy finds herself drifting away from her husband Mark and developing feelings for Angus, a pianist in his sixties. Shocked by her feelings, and adamant that she won’t lie to her husband, she instead seeks his advice. His unorthodox reaction leads to a complicated love triangle that will have lasting consequences for everyone involved.

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Amnesty

by Aravind Adiga

Book cover for 9781509879038

Full of Aravind Adiga’s signature wit and magic, this novel from the Man Booker Prize-winning author is both a universal story and a timeless moral struggle. When Danny – an illegal immigrant in Sydney who has been denied refugee status – hears about a murder that has been committed which he may have information about, he faces a moral choice. Should he come forward with his knowledge of the crime and risk deportation, or should he stay silent, protecting the life he has built but letting justice go undone?

The Hiding Game

by Naomi Wood

Book cover for 9781509892808
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Set against the turbulent era of 1920s and ‘30s Germany, Naomi Wood’s atmospheric third novel immerses the reader in the bohemian world of the Bauhaus art school. Six students arrive at the Bauhaus and quickly become friends, but as Paul falls deeply in love with the mesmerising Charlotte, it becomes clear that he’s not the only one vying for her affections. Slowly, betrayals and love affairs break apart their friendships as political tensions escalate and the Bauhaus finds itself under threat. As the Nazis rise to power, a final unspeakable tragedy leaves Paul haunted by the past.

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Self-care holiday reads

Holidays are the perfect opportunity to take some time for ourselves. These inspiring and educational books make inspiring holiday reads. 

Toxic Childhood Stress

by Dr Nadine Burke Harris

Book cover for 9781509823987

Two-thirds of us have experienced at least one adverse childhood experience, from parental divorce to abuse and neglect. Based on her groundbreaking clinical work, Dr Nadine Burke Harris reveals the science behind childhood adversity and shows us how to disrupt the cycle of trauma through interventions to retrain the mind and body, helping children, families and adults live healthier, happier lives.  This eye-opening book includes a free Adverse Childhood Experience test and is the perfect read for those looking for a deeper understanding of how childhood stress affects us.


The Moment of Lift

by Melinda Gates

Book cover for 9781529005516
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“When we lift others up, they lift us up, too.” In The Moment of Lift, Melinda Gates shares the remarkable stories of women she has met over the past twenty years and the journey she took to achieve equality in her marriage. Through these stories and the startling data about the world issues that most need our attention, Melinda presents a rousing call to action for women’s empowerment. This moving book demonstrates the power of lifting women up, rather than holding them down and is the perfect uplifting non-fiction summer read.


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Travel books that inspire

If you’re looking for inspiration for your next holiday, look no further than these fascinating travel memoirs.

The Bells of Old Tokyo

by Anna Sherman

Book cover for 9781529000498
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Part memoir, part cultural travel guide, The Bells of Old Tokyo is a love letter to the otherness of Japanese culture and an absorbing meditation on life. Anna Sherman shares her exploration of Tokyo as she searches for the bells of Edo, the public bells that the people of Tokyo relied on to tell the time many years ago.

Read Anna Sherman’s insider’s guide to Tokyo

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The Crossway

by Guy Stagg

Book cover for 9781509844593

After suffering several years of mental illness, Guy Stagg embarked on a pilgrimage from Canterbury to Jerusalem, hoping the ritual would heal him. He hiked alone for ten months, across ten countries and more than 5,500 kilometres. He climbed the Alps in the depths of winter, survived a terrorist attack in Lebanon, stayed with monks and nuns, priests and local families. This is the story of his extraordinary journey.

Find out more about Guy’s amazing journey in his photo diary


In this episode of Book Break, Emma shares even more recommendations for what you should be reading on your summer holiday: