The greatest literary summers of all time

Get lost in the pages of these literary masterpieces that bring unforgettable summers to life. 

From sultry love stories and shimmering escapism to sun-soaked (and rain-drenched) thrillers, find the literary summer to suit your mood from our list guaranteed to leave an indelible impression.

The Line of Beauty

by Alan Hollinghurst

Alan Hollinghurst's Booker Prize-winning novel begins in the sweltering summer of 1983 as Nick Guest, a young graduate, moves into the attic room of the wealthy Fedden family. In the haze of those first months, Nick is swept up into the Feddens’ glamorous world – one to which he can never truly belong – and his fascination with the idea of beauty begins. Acclaimed by The Observer as, ‘A classic of our times . . . A masterpiece,’ The Line of Beauty is a stand-out holiday read, as well as being a title to tick off your literary bucket list. 


by Sarah Moss

British summers are notoriously blighted by torrential downpours and terrifying thunderstorms, and Sarah Moss’s Summerwater is set over twenty-four hours of such unseasonal weather. In a faded Scottish cabin park, twelve people find ways to pass the time whilst waiting for rain to stop. Tensions rise, and soon one family in particular draws the attention of the others. As night falls, tempers clash and a series of devastating events unfold, crescendoing like the worst of summer storms. Expertly crafted, this short but suspenseful novel is perfect holiday reading for those that love a page-turning thriller. 

Patrick Melrose Volume 1

by Edward St Aubyn

The Patrick Melrose novels are a series of semi-autobiographical books that follow one man's life from a traumatic childhood, through a hedonistic and drug-addicted youth, before reaching adulthood and a promise of salvation. Books 1 and 4 titled, Never Mind and Mother’s Milk, recount the summers spent in Provence that have most shaped Patrick’s life. St Aubyn’s writing is both searingly funny and appallingly tragic and the stories of these summers will stay with you long after the last page.


by Olivia Laing

Kathy is a writer. Kathy is getting married. It’s the summer of 2017 and the whole world is falling apart. Crudo recounts what it was like to live and love during a summer of political and social upheaval in this brilliant, funny and emphatically raw novel. Lauded by Sally Rooney as 'beautiful, strange, intelligent,' Crudo is the summer read to make you think and reflect, and will certainly make you look intellectual whether reading on the beach or on a sunny park bench.

Three Men in a Boat

by Jerome K. Jerome

For a lighter read, Jerome K. Jerome's much-loved classic Three Men in a Boat is a wonderfully entertaining novel about friendship, forgiveness and some good old-fashioned foolishness. Join J., George and Harris, along with their mischievous fox terrier Montmorency, as they take a summer boating holiday along the Thames, finding themselves totally unprepared for the various difficulties and escapades they encounter along the watery way. This timelessly funny novel continues to be praised by readers for jokes that feel just as fresh as when they were first written; a delightful read that will have you laughing all summer long. 

The Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Arguably the most iconic on this list, and certainly the most decadent, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby depicts a summer unlike any other. In just three short months, Jay Gatbsy enchants high society with lavish parties at his luxurious mansion in West Egg, Long Island. But he only desires to impress one person, Daisy Buchanan, the lost love of his life. What starts as a joyous summer of flamboyance and excess ultimately ends in tragedy; a criticism of the carelessness and cruelty of America’s wealthiest during the so-called Roaring Twenties. 

Small Worlds

by Caleb Azumah Nelson

Book cover for Small Worlds

From the author of the sensational Open Water, Small Worlds is the powerful story of a father-son relationship told across three summers, set between London and Ghana. Praised as, ‘an exhilarating new voice in British fiction’ by Vogue, Caleb Azumah Nelson writes with spellbinding intimacy as the reader follows the life of a young man who struggles to find meaning and whose only escape is dancing. Small Worlds is undoubtedly 2023’s summer must-read.

The Talented Mr Ripley

by Patricia Highsmith

Book cover for The Talented Mr Ripley

One of the BBC's 100 Novels that shaped our world, The Talented Mr Ripley will transport you to a lazy, languorous summer on the picturesque Italian coast. Tom Ripley is a struggling American student when he is offered a free trip to Europe, tasked with coaxing the charming Dickie Greenleaf into returning home. As Tom spends the summer sipping cocktails in the Mediterranean sun, sailing crystal clear waters and gallivanting through Italian resort towns with Dickie, his admiration turns to a sinister obsession. Adapted into a critically-acclaimed film starring Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, this is the ultimate summer-time thriller.

Call Me By Your Name

by Andre Aciman

Book cover for Call Me By Your Name

For some of us, our memories of first love are associated with short but meaningful summer romances. Andre Aciman's breathtaking Call Me By Your Name captures a summer love affair between two young men that proves to be life-changing. Taking place on the Italian Riviera, Elio, the son of an academic, finds himself falling for and embarking on a passionate affair with Oliver, a charming postdoctoral scholar. This beautiful and heartbreaking novel is a masterclass of writing, capturing the simmering romantic tension that grows between the two young lovers over the course of one sultry summer.