While the sun is at least hat shopping, we think it's the perfect time to start stocking up on summer reads – whether it's for a beach holiday, a long flight or just for an afternoon in the park. Check out the best books coming out in May, from the new Dan Brown to Dawn O'Porter's first novel.
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Words: Stacey Bartlett
Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O’Porter
Dawn O’Porter’s first novel is just as brilliant as you would expect from a former Stylist columnist. Loosely based on her teenage years in Guernsey, Paper Aeroplanes is a homage to high school in the nineties, with its chippy dinners, rolled-up skirts and note-writing in class – but first and foremost it’s a novel about friendship. As best friends Renée and Flo navigate the highs and lows of their teenage years both at school and at home, you cringe along with them at memories of dodgy house parties, awkward family tensions and first loves. Funny, sad and incredibly poignant, it’s the novel you wish you’d read at 15.
Maggie and Me by Damian Barr
Damian Barr could never have imagined when he wrote his memoir about his upbringing in Thatcher-era Scotland that it would be published a few weeks after the Iron Lady’s death. Raised in a working class community with separated parents – his father worked at the steelworks and his mother was on disability benefits – Barr’s childhood and teenage years were punctuated by Margaret Thatcher’s constant presence on the news and on TV. Despite suffering horrific abuse from his stepfather, being bullied and growing up gay in a straight world, Barr’s outlook is persistently sunny and Maggie and Me is an uplifting read.
Inferno by Dan Brown
The latest instalment of Robert Langdon’s Italian adventures has been a long time coming. Whether you liked it or not, The Da Vinci Code has sold more than 70 million copies worldwide, and this time Religious Symbology professor Langdon turns his hand to solving a mystery based on the works of 14th century writer Dante Alighieri, best known for his masterpiece The Divine Comedy. Twists, turns and a roller coaster of a plot are guaranteed, but that’s all we have to go off until Inferno is published on the 14 May, so pre-order your copy before someone lets slip a massive spoiler.
The Humans by Matt Haig
When Professor Andrew Martin of Cambridge University solves the greatest mathematical riddle in existence, a few hours later he is found wandering naked along the motorway after apparently losing his mind. His wife and son think he seems different, and they would be right – an alien has been sent to destroy him, inhabit his body and erase all evidence of his monumental discovery, including his family. The Humans is one of those rare books that makes your heart swell and your eyes tear up as Haig reintroduces us to the human race, with its social quirks, hidden meanings and, of course, peanut butter sandwiches.
Blood & Beauty by Sarah Dunant
The Borgias were like 16th century Italy’s version of the Kardashians – there were a lot of them, they were everywhere, and nobody knew how they got so famous. Sarah Dunant breathes life into one of the most notorious families in Italian history as we follow the dynasty of Spanish Pope Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, who buys his way into papacy and raises a litter of powerful children. Daughter Lucrezia is 12 when the novel opens and we follow her through three marriages as she scales the political ranks. Fans of the 2011 TV series and of Hilary Mantel will devour this majestic novel.
Big Brother by Lionel Shriver
Lionel Shriver won the 2005 Orange prize for We Need to Talk About Kevin, and the recent film adaptation starred Tilda Swinton as troubled mother Eva, whose son murders his classmates in a horrific high school massacre. Shriver’s writing is always topical, witty and on the cutting edge of American culture, and her new novel Big Brother is about a morbidly obese man named Edison who goes to stay with his sister and her husband. Shriver examines why people overeat, why others diet and whether it’s possible to save loved ones from themselves in this humorous and compelling novel.
Was She Pretty? by Leanne Shapton
Illustrator Leanne Shapton has created this gorgeous book that reads like a graphic novel of ex-lovers. Each short anecdote of a fictional ex-partner is almost like a Haiku (‘Josephine had a recurring dream. In it, Robert’s ex-girlfriend Alicia kept trying to give Josephine articles of used clothing’) and is accompanied by a simple line-drawing of a person or an item key to the relationship – a box; a telephone. Was She Pretty? will sit comfortably on your shelf for years and accompany you through various relationships, to be taken down and dusted off at poignant moments. See some of the spreads here.
The Hive by Gill Hornby
Gill Hornby (sister of Nick)’s excellent debut novel is Mean Girls for mums, based on the bee-like hierarchy of middle class mothers at a fictional primary school. Single mother Rachel’s husband has run off with his secretary, and just as she is navigating the school gate politics orchestrated by queen bee Beatrice, new girl Melissa arrives in the playground and threatens to upset the social ranking order the mums have worked hard to maintain. The Hive is an utterly enjoyable, sharply satirical take on starting school all over again as a parent with its PTA meetings, back-stabbings and true friendships.
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
In this chilling, time-twisting murder story, it’s 1931 and Harper Curtis finds a house with a shocking secret – it opens on to other times. He is soon on a mission to extort his violent fantasies and murder girls throughout the decades – ‘shining girls’ who dazzle with promise and potential – stalking them before leaving clues on their bodies and disappearing. Except one of his planned victims – Kirby Mazrachi, in 1989 – fights back, and decides to hunt him instead. The Shining Girls is a gripping, original novel from master thriller writer Lauren Beukes, and is definitely not one to read before bed.
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Khaled Hosseini’s debut novel The Kite Runner was an international sensation ten years ago, and his legions of fans have had a long wait since his sob-inducing A Thousand Splendid Suns in 2007. His new one is similarly epic, following family-of-three Abdullah, his little sister Pari and their father Saboor across their native Afghanistan in search of work in 1952. When they head for pastures new in Kabul they have no idea of the event that will tear their lives apart and take them across continents to Paris, Greece and San Francisco. Hosseini is a true literary heavyweight, and his latest won’t disappoint.