Life & Culture

Summer reading 2023: Our pick of the best books for the beach

Our list ranges from sharp-eyed social satires to a Killing Eve-style thriller about a heroine bent on revenge


High Time
by Hannah
Bloomsbury, £16.99

With a cast of characters including an Albanian bitcoin financier called Zamora and a vulgarian hedge- funder called Sir Tomlinson Sleet, Hannah Rothschild’s second novel about the housing woes of the aristocratic Trelawney family is full of outsized comedy.

Combine political corruption, Brexit, a marriage in crisis, an art scam involving Iranians and a dodgy business deal on almost every page and the novel sometimes bends under its own weight, but if Jilly Cooper by way of Joanna Trollope with a bit of Nancy Mitford thrown in for good measure is your cocktail of choice, then this will slip down a treat.

Best Men
by Sidney Karger
HarperCollins, £8.99

Best Men is a will-they won’t-they romance about the two gay best friends of a bride-to-be. Written by Sidney Karger, a former writer for Saturday Night Live, it’s very, very New York, and impossibly contemporary, with endless pop-culture references. The snarky, casual style won’t be for everyone.

But there are a fair few steamy moments and, hiding behind them, a thoughtful examination of friendship. Our hero Max — anxious, cynical, desperate for love — is easy to root for, especially as he realises he doesn’t have to be the comedy supporting character for ever. Light and airy summer escapism.

The Forever Moment
by Paul A Mendelson
The Book Guild, £8.99

To Kentucky, then, by way of Glasgow, in Bafta-nominated screenwriter Paul A Mendelson’s culture-clash comedy about a summer romance revisited decades later. Why did Scottish Jewish nerd, oddly called Charles Dickens, and Laura, sensitive daughter of a Waspy southern family, give up on each other after meeting during a high-school exchange?

The mystery soon settles into more conventional romance territory, but saccharine as the central premise might be, Mendelson’s characterisation makes this an enjoyable read.

The Three Graces
by Amanda Craig
Little, Brown, £18.99

Amanda Craig’s latest social comedy revolves around a wedding, introducing a cast so vast I could have done with a cheat sheet.

Our heroines are Marta, a no-nonsense German musician; Diana, an ex-debutante; and American-Jewish shrink Ruth, now organic farming in Italy.

Add the nuptials between Ruth’s grandson, a loathsome banker, and his bride Tania, an influencer with seemingly no personality outside her mobile phone, plus multiple weighty issues from the refugee crisis to the shadow cast by the British Empire, and you have a satire that’s entertaining and meaty in equal measure.

Prom Mom
by Laura Lippman
Faber, £8.99

Two decades ago, 16-year-old Amber unwittingly gave birth in a hotel room after prom (queasy spoiler: it doesn’t end well). Prom Mom follows her as an adult as she reconnects with her then-date, property developer Joe.

Throw into the mix his too-perfect wife, an extramarital affair, and a global lockdown forcing everyone into close quarters, and the tension starts to ratchet up. As the book races along, it becomes a guessing game: are there any real victims? What really happened in 1997? How reliable are any of the narrators? Prom Mom will keep you on shpilkes during even the longest long-haul flight.

Once More With Feeling
by Elissa Sussman
Piatkus, £9.99

Publicly disgraced former teen-queen pop star joins forces with a onetime boyband heartthrob to work on his Broadway directorial debut and her comeback gig. Of course, they have history.

Even a rom-com virgin will know which direction this is headed. But the fun is in the telling, and Elissa Sussman delivers a refreshingly non-neurotic Jewish heroine with a Bette Midler-shaped personality and a voice to rival Streisand, even if her male counterpart is a bit paint-by-numbers. The showbiz-insider perspective adds some sparkle to a summer read that will appeal to teenage girls and their mothers too.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow
by Gabrielle Zevin
Vintage, £9.99

This highly praised two-hander follows a half-Korean, half-Jewish boy and a Jewish girl from LA as they collaborate on a successful video game in the late 1990s, and then explores how their alliance chops and changes. Success, inevitably, will change them; but so too will the realities of adult life, the meaningful relationships that punctuate it, and the personal tragedy that befalls them.

What emerges is a beautiful meditation on the creative process, on pain and loss, and on the many different paths life can take. It’s gorgeous and special and will sweep you away this summer.

Bad Men
by Julie Mae Cohen
Zaffre, £14.99

If schlocky thrillers are more up your street, Julie Mae Cohen’s latest opens with a pre-teen bumping off an abusive stepfather, setting in train a life of dispatching men she deems irretrievably bad.

Now a socialite in her thirties with as much a taste for blood as she has for high fashion (think Killing Eve’s Villanelle and you get the idea), she risks it all by joining forces with a true-crime writer. As they dart across London trying to solve a case, will her little hobby become a deal-breaker in their budding affairs? Preposterous and silly, yet ever so fun.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive