Booksellers recommend the best summer reads

We asked booksellers what they're recommending over the (hopefully) hot summer days. To choose your holiday reading, visit a local bookshop (don't forget your National Book Token!) and ask the friendly booksellers for recommendations.

Summer Reading with National Book Tokens



The Great Circle

Bella from Waterstones Tenterden in Kent: Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

"One of my favourite books to recommend is Great Circle. It's about two women: Marian Graves, a woman with a passion to fly and escape the boundaries 1950s America, and Hadley Baxter, a troubled modern-day Hollywood starlet who's equally trapped and uninspired by the expectations of others. It's empowering, adventurous, and completely enthralling, with writing so rich and vivid that it's the perfect read to get completely immersed in. If you only read one book this summer, make it this one!"

The Giant Dark

Becky from Blackwell's Oxford: The Giant Dark by Sarvat Hasin

"It was a pleasure to have my heart broken by this book. The novel is loosely based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and explores the relationships between artist, muse and lover. Aida and Ehsan’s relationships is beautifully doomed and just like them you won't be able to get enough. A scorching intense read, perfect for a summer's day."


David from Blackwell's Manchester: Nettleback by Nat Reeves

"Summer is the perfect time to lose yourself in a nice chunky novel and I absolutely adored Nettleback. Published by Cipher Press, it's a queer Victorian mystery novel narrated, in the main, by the most distinctive voice I've read in ages - our delightful heroine Henry Nettleblack. Expect missing heads, feisty ferrets and immaculate cravats in this utterly joyous romp of a debut!"

The Fair Botanists

Katharine from Ullapool Bookshop in Scotland: The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan & The Bookseller of Inverness by S G MacLean

"The Fair Botanists, out 7th August, is an historical novel is set in Edinburgh in the 1850s at the time when Inverleith Park became the Royal Botanic Garden. In the novel, we meet ladies from Edinburgh, as well as some intrigue and enjoy learning more about perfume, an unusual species at the Gardens and about life in Victorian Edinburgh too.

The Bookseller of Inverness is set in 1752, six years after the battle of Culloden, feelings for the warring Jacobites and Hanoverians still runs high in the Highlands. Our bookseller of Inverness and his father, discover The Book of Forgotten Names, but will they be in time to prevent more murders?"

The Gone and the Forgotten

Fiona from Waterstones Durham: The Gone and the Forgotten by Clare Whitfield

"The Gone and the Forgotten is full of wonderfully fantastic characters, so well-constructed they will all find a place in your heart. It is a tangle of crimes that you will gently discover and see after-effects from. The pace and plotting is superb – I read 300 pages straight, but I put it down at midnight knowing I really must sleep. I cannot wait to see what Clare writes for book three. I would happily pre-order on the basis of the brilliance of her first two books."

Somebody Loves You

Jane from Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham: Somebody Loves You by Mona Arshi & 100 Queer Poems edited by Mary Jean Chan and Andrew McMillan

"Somebody Loves You is a beautifully written novel, told from the child's view. Moving, intimate. Secondly, 100 Queer Poems edited by Mary Jean Chan and Andrew McMillan because it is a trove of treasure."

A Manual for Cleaning Women

Mirjam from A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin

"I keep buying this as a present for folks and yes, it's happened I've actually gifted it to one person twice – it's just so good! I think it's a blinder of a masterclass in short-story writing. There's such a sharp quality to her sentences – they wash over you and give you enough to hang onto, but leave a you-shaped space for interpretation that make these stories last with you."

The Dance Tree

Dan from Waterstones Cribbs Causeway in Bristol: The Dance Tree by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

"I would recommend The Dance Tree; visceral, fragile, and immaculate in its storytelling, Kiran draws you in to a world full of superstition, tenuous family relationships, all under the ever-encroaching shadow of the Dance Plague which grows in number as more women confess their reasoning for letting go and dancing themselves to death."

What A Mother's Love Don't Teach You

Carolynn from Afrori Books in Brighton: What A Mother's Love Don't Teach You by Sharma Taylor

"My summer read today (it may change tomorrow) is What A Mother's Love Don't Teach You. I just finished the proof and it really is outstanding. It had me from the first page. I love the mix of dialect and cultures through the book, it is a wonderful story of love and belonging. From beginning to end I was captivated and struggled to put it down. This one will win a lot of prizes. It is an amazing debut and reads like an established, seasoned author."

The Mab

Twitter Guy from Waterstones Swansea: The Mab written by Eloise Williams and Matt Brown, and illustrated by Max Lowe

"The book I'd like to recommend is The Mab, with a forward from Michael Sheen. It's an absolutely stunning collection of 11 epic stories from The Mabinogi, retold by a host of incredible contributors. It really is a beautiful book with very broad appeal; they're just great stories, beautifully told.

Michael Sheen puts it better than I ever could: 'These stories make the wall between worlds thrillingly thin. Their enchantment calls to us ever from the other side of the door'."

I Kissed Shara Wheeler

Rach from Bags of Books in Lewes: I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston 

"There is absolutely nothing to not love about this novel. A brilliant coming of age YA novel of unlikely friendships, finding yourself, and standing up for what you believe in. Everyone loves Shara, she's gorgeous, popular, and a A grade student. When she suddenly vanishes, Chloe, Rory and Smith are determined to find her. With absolutely nothing in common other than Shara kissed each of them before she disappeared, the three start following the clues for the scavenger hunt Shara left behind for them. Full of humour, romance and an array of loveable and inclusive characters. This is the perfect beach read for 13+."

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Autumn from Waterstones Newbury in Berkshire: Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

"Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is my ultimate recommendation this summer. It's a declaration of love for creativity, but also for platonic friendships, the kind that you can never quite let go of. Full of believable characters that you fall in love with, and the worlds that they build for you to get lost in. Read it! I know you'll love it."

Dial A for Aunties

Nika from Bags of Books in Lewes: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Sutanto

"This book is the perfect summer read for lying by a pool, with a cocktail in your hand! Meddy gets set up by her mum and aunties, and from then everything goes wrong. The blind date ends up dead, but there is a wedding to organise, so what to do with him now? With the hotel where the wedding is held being owned by Meddy's ex (aka the love of her life), she really needs to figure out how the get out of this mess, and soon... It is hilarious, so beware: people will be looking at you when you're laughing out loud on your sun lounger!"


Loved this? Check out even more bookseller recommendations for fantastic fiction set across Britain and Ireland over in Caboodlers' Corner.


Caboodlers' Corner

Caboodlers' Corner

Browse quizzes, reading lists, and recommendations from our guest booksellers.

Caboodlers' Corner
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