Book Club / Culture

Warm skin and cool water: a holiday reading list for languid days

Summer is a single day away, and our dreams of lying water-side for days on end is near on the horizon. Naturally, the holiday reading list is on our minds, and after such a year with all things considered, nothing is more appealing than heavy escapism through the pages of our favourite reads.

Indoors on the sofa, with the warm breeze lapping through a cracked doorway, or positioning your pages in front of the sun to shield yourself from its rays – these are the images conjured when we get excited about holiday reading. Rolling over and over again in the sun because your arms are numb from holding the book but the pages are too good to put down, waiting until the last minute to change for dinner because the prose has you in its grasp. Oh the longing!

If, like us, you are planning your holiday reading list for the summer season; see our new and classic suggestions, below.

1. Three Women, Lisa Taddeo

Lisa Taddeo's triumph of a novel follows Lina, a woman in a marriage on the brink of breaking down; Maggie, someone who is aching to be understood yet somehow ends up in a messy relationship with her teacher; and Sloane, who is navigating what it is to be sexualised by everyone around her. The book traverses these women's lives, thoughts, messiness, and inner worlds as they navigate their desires.


2. A Moveable Feast, Earnest Hemingway

holiday reading list

We may not be in Paris, but we'll always have A Moveable Feast. For those needing holiday indulgence, there is nothing like a classic, and Hemingway is a good one to fall back on. Written during the final year of his life, Hemingway recollects memories of his life as an unknown writer living in Paris in the 1920s. From interactions with other literary heroes to musings about his younger self, there is nothing quite like it.


3. Munkey Diaries 1957-1982, Jane Birkin

holiday reading list

A compilation of pieced together diary entries from Birkin herself from the age of 11 all the way into her life with Serge Gainsbourg. A chronicle of the extraordinary life the singer, actress, and icon she is lived from the woman herself. From clubs in Saint-Germain to life in London, escapism at its finest.


4. Nothing But My Body, Tilly Lawless

holiday reading list

Written over the course of an eight-day period of time, Lawless' debut book explores life through the after-effects of the 2019/20 bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic against a backdrop of reckoning with the self, body, queer communities and relationships. A triumph to read and a nod to the place we call home. Nothing But My Body has it all.


5. How We Love, Clementine Ford

holiday reading list

Formidable feminist writer and thought-leader Clementine Ford's newly released memoir explores love in all its many forms. She explores losing her adored mother far too young, about the pain and confusion of first love – both platonic and romantic – and the joy and heartache of adult love. Moving and transformative, if you are looking for a book on self love, this is the one.


6. Beautiful World, Where Are You, Sally Rooney

If you haven't yet read Sally Rooney's third millennial romance novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You, now is the time to do so. Alice is a two-time hit writer who has recently moved to a rambling house in a small town, where she meets Felix, a warehouse worker with a chip on his shoulder and intimacy issues. Elaine is Alice's best friend, who works in independent publishing and has a long-time will they, wont they with childhood friend Simon. The four of them are navigating life as adults in their 20s, and fumbling their way through it, all while having very horny, very consensual sex.


7. Crying in H Mart, Michelle Zauner

Michelle Zauner's best selling memoir, Crying in H Mart, was an expansion on an essay she wrote for The New Yorker in 2018. In the memoir, the author delves into her upbringing as a Korean-American, losing her mother, and reflects on the importance of food in her life and the moments she shared with her mother over meals.


8. Tender is The Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald

holiday reading list

It is in the French Riviera where film-star Rosemary meets Dick Diver and his wife. Set upon the sands of the Mediterranean in the summer time, Rosemary becomes entangled in their glamorous life, and all of the cracks it is built upon. Fitzgerald never fails.


9. Enigma Variations, Andre Aciman

holiday reading list

Andre Aciman never fails to deliver material that makes us long for warm days, and Enigma Variations is no exception. Chronicling the life and relationships of a queer man named Paul, the novel takes us on a journey from his first crush as a boy in Southern Italy to an old flame he can't stop going back to in New York. Desire is written so viscerally it is dropped into the palm of your hand.


10. Olga Dies Dreaming, Xochitl Gonzalez


Set against the backdrop of New York City in the months surrounding the most devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico's history, Olga Dies Dreaming is a story that examines political corruption, familial strife and the very notion of the American dream from the lens of Olga and her brother, Pedro 'Prieto' Acevedo, two bold-faced names in their hometown of New York. The book is gripping, emotional, and will leave you changed forever.


11. The Right to Sex, Amia Srinivasan

For some summer thinking, Amia Srinivasan's The Right to Sex examines and interrogates the politics and ethics of sex in the world, and shines a new light on a different view. It explores the framework of consent and power and they way they are intrinsically linked.


12. Open Water, Caleb Azumah Nelson

Caleb Azumah Nelson’s tender debut centres a contemporary London love affair which explores race, sex and masculinity, while serving as a joyous ode to Black art and culture through lyrical prose and aching honesty.


13. Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid

summer reading list

Emira, a young Black nanny is accused one evening of kidnapping the white child she looks after. When a stranger records the altercation, the video goes viral, and Emira is pulled between her mommy-blogger employer's guilt, her woke white boyfriend's eagerness to be a good ally, and ultimately, her sense of self. Kiley Reid executes a sprawling, witty, and sharp dissection of white saviour complex in a digital age.


14. Year of the Monkey, Patti Smith

holiday reading list

Patti Smith takes us on a road trip from Santa Cruz to Arizona in a memoir that blends memory and fiction with poetic mastery. It is a journey with Smith as she heads toward a new decade in her own life, offering her wisdom, wit, gimlet eye, and unwavering hope to the reader.

15. Everything I Know About Love, Dolly Alderton


Journalist Dolly Alderton's memoir vividly recounts falling in love, wrestling with self-sabotage, finding a job, throwing a socially disastrous Rod-Stewart themed house party, getting drunk, getting dumped, realising that Ivan from the corner shop is the only man you've ever been able to rely on, and finding that that your mates are always there at the end of every messy night out. Alderton sums up the imperfectness of life perfectly.


16. Lady Chatterly's Lover, D.H Lawrence


If you're in the mood for some good old period-drama smut, Lady Chatterly's Lover is for you. Coming to screens this year, the book was first written and published in Florence in 1928, and was only released in England four years later after being expurgated. Almost 30 full years after that was the full, 50 Shades version released in New York and London in 1960.

The hot and heavy plot follows Constance Chatterley, who is married to Sir Clifford, a wealthy land owner who is paralysed from the waist down and spends most of his time reading and focussed on his grand estate, Wragby. Feeling unlucky in love and probably quite bored/horny (our words), Constance finds herself passionately entangled with the estate’s gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors. It develops into a classic love triangle and Constance must choose between the men.


17. Persuasion, Jane Austen

A classic for every occasion. Austen's final completed novel follows 27-year-old Anne Elliot is no longer young and has few romantic prospects. Eight years earlier, she had been persuaded by her friend Lady Russell to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a handsome naval captain with neither fortunenor rank. Now, they encounter each other again, and the rest is in the novel...

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