21 New Summer Books for 2023 That You Won’t Be Able to Put Down

Set that out-of-office message and escape into new worlds with the best summer books for all types of bookworms

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Summer reading lists have a certain nostalgic magic to them. While we’re firm believers that summer books are for all ages, the concept hearkens back to days when getting lost in beach reads, romance novels or even travel books helped summer break stretch just a bit longer. Now, the best summer books offer excitement and escape in a world of year-round work and too-short vacations.

Wondering what to read at the park or out by the pool this year? We’re here with a list of the best books, summer 2023 edition! Our picks include reads from critically acclaimed and bestselling authors (Emily Henry, anyone?). We’ve also got a few debut novels and books like The Summer I Turned Pretty (read: perfectly beachy). Many of these fiction books, fantasy novels, mystery books and more were chosen by Reader’s Digest editors and readers like you.

So shake out that beach towel, lay it on an empty stretch of sand or your freshly mowed lawn, grab a glass of pink lemonade and get lost in worlds and words that’ll bring wonder to your summer. (Psst! Once you’re through with these, why not read all the Elin Hilderbrand books in order or The Summer I Turned Pretty books in order?)

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Contemporary fiction

1. The Collected Regrets of Clover by Mikki Brammer

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Release date: May 9, 2023

For fans of: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig and Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Though main character Clover Brooks is a death doula—someone who grants last wishes—The Collected Regrets of Clover is a life-affirming, feel-good story. “I went into this book expecting something sad,” says Reader’s Digest books editor Tracey Neithercott. “And it is a story about death. But it’s also a wonderfully hopeful story about living your life.”

Readers rave about the joy of watching Clover face her fears and let herself wish for something bigger. Give this one a read if you’re looking for a delightfully heartwarming book that gives you a reason to keep hoping for the best.

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2. The Late Americans by Brandon Taylor

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Release date: May 23, 2023

For fans of: The Town of Babylon by Alejandro Varela

Summer reading doesn’t have to be light and fluffy. Pick up a copy of Brandon Taylor’s latest if you want something to sink your teeth into by the pool. The Late Americans is about a group of friends fighting to survive and stick together in the brutal waters of modern America. Rife with themes of sex (it’s an LGBTQ+ read, by the way), abuse and chosen family, this one will stick with you for a while.

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3. The Celebrants by Steven Rowley

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Release date: May 30, 2023

For fans of: Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley and The Half Moon by Mary Beth Keane

Could we even call this a list of must-read summer books without including Steven Rowley’s latest book about friendship? There’s a good reason The Celebrants has already appeared on our list of favorite beach reads and Buzzfeed‘s “Most Anticipated LGBTQ+ Books of 2023.” Our books editor says it’s one of the best books she’s read all month. “Rowley has created such living, breathing characters that the heartbreaking truth—this is a book about a character’s impending death—is truly heartbreaking,” she says. “I kept Kleenex in business while reading this book, but I also laughed a whole lot. It’s the sort of heartwarming story that makes me want to ring up my pals for a much-needed visit.”

The book opens with a classic reunion between five college friends. The crew has always had a penchant for gallows humor, throwing “living funerals” when life is at its worst. But this year, one of them has a secret: a real funeral may be in his future.

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4. Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

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Release date: Aug. 1, 2023

For fans of: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin and Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

It’s been more than 20 years since Ann Patchett gave us Bel Canto, cementing her as one of America’s favorite authors. She’s published several books since then, of course, and like the others, Tom Lake is sure to fly off shelves. Here’s why: It’s set in the spring of 2020 (enough said). It takes place at a cherry farm in northern Michigan, a blissful summertime setting like no other. And of course, it’s a beautiful story. The Nelson girls have come home for the summer, and ready or not, they’re about to hear about another heart-achingly beautiful summer … back when their mother dated a movie star before he got famous.

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5. Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

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Release date: May 16, 2023

For fans of: The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Bestselling fantasy book series author R.F. Kuang is back, this time with a diabolical satire full of in-your-face cultural appropriation and racial tension. Meet bestselling Asian American author Juniper Song. Or don’t, because her name isn’t really Juniper. And Juniper isn’t actually Asian. Oh, the tangled webs she’s weaved to cover her tracks after stealing a former classmate’s manuscript. The question is not if, but when or how, she will be caught red-handed.

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6. Famous in a Small Town by Viola Shipman

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Release date: June 13, 2023

For fans of: The Clover Girls by Viola Shipman and Summer Friends by Holly Chamberlin

Fans of nostalgic small-town charm and quirky characters will love Viola Shipman’s latest book for summer, Famous in a Small Town. There’s Mary Jackson, an 80-something woman who has built her life around the Very Cherry General Store in Good Hart, Michigan. She knows she needs to give up the business soon, but she’ll be darned if it has to be put into the hands of a—shudder!—man. Then there’s 40-year-old Becky Thatcher. Down on her luck and searching for meaning, she shows up to help at the general store for the summer. That is when Mary wonders if the stars might align after all.

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7. The Wishing Game by Meg Shaffer

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Release date: May 30, 2023

For fans of: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Meg Shaffer’s The Wishing Game is bound to be one of the best summer reads this year for its whimsical, escapist plot—a sort of bookish, adult take on The Westing Game and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. A mysterious, uber-rich children’s book author welcomes four strangers to his island for a chance at a life-changing competition. But, of course, the game isn’t easy. Puzzles and plot twists await the quartet of acquaintances, who are in for revelations and lessons more personal than they ever anticipated. “There’s a sense of magic and nostalgia to the book that I absolutely loved,” says Tracey Neithercott, Reader’s Digest‘s book editor. “It has everything I love—clever riddles, found family, a little romance and a lot of books—wrapped up in one heartwarming tale.”

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8. The Mythmakers by Keziah Weir

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Release date: June 13, 2023

For fans of: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This debut novel from Keziah Weir, senior editor at Vanity Fair, has already been added to countless “book to read this summer” lists. Like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, The Mythmakers is “a nesting doll of a book,” according to the publisher—an apt description for books with multiple timelines and stories for the reader to untangle as the plot unfolds. This one focuses on floundering journalist Sal Cannon, who discovers a short story that seems to be about her. Intrigued, Sal sets off to uncover the story behind the story from the author’s widow. As they trace the tangled threads of history, the lines between muse and creator blur even more.

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9. The Second Ending by Michelle Hoffman

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Release date: May 30, 2023

For fans of: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

If you love music or second chances at life, reach for summer reads that celebrate new beginnings. Michelle Hoffman’s The Second Ending is just the book for you. As a kid, Prudence Childs was a musical prodigy. Now in middle age, she spends her days on soulless advertising jingles. Twentysomething Alexei Petrov is a classical music superstar who has sacrificed his social life for success. When Alexei’s dueling-pianos reality show books Prudence for the competition, it’s a battle of the Comeback Kid versus the Reigning Champ. And it gives each a second chance to realize their dreams and live their lives on their terms. “I absolutely adored this book. It’s packed with quirky characters you can’t help but love, including our two leads—both of whom deserve to win,” says Reader’s Digest‘s book editor Tracey Neithercott. “And if you’re on the fence about the music element, know this: It never bogs down the narrative. I can’t even play ‘Chopsticks’ on the piano, but I found Hoffman’s descriptions of music easy to follow and fascinating.”

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10. None of This Is True by Lisa Jewell

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Release date: Aug. 8, 2023

For fans of: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

True crime podcast listeners, unite! After all, some of the best books for summer are gripping psychological thrillers. In None of This Is True, podcaster Alix Summer takes a chance when a perfect stranger, who happens to be her birthday twin, offers an intriguing topic for the series. As Alix gets to know her new muse, things get darker and darker. When the woman suddenly disappears, Alix has to wonder: Is she about to become the victim of her own true crime?

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11. Gone Tonight by Sarah Pekkanen

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Release date: Aug. 1, 2023

For fans of: The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks

If you love twisty psychological thrillers and unreliable narrators, this is bound to become one of your top summer books. When I picked up Gone Tonight, I thought it would be a heartwarming mother-daughter story. But soon, the plot picked up pace, and I started doubting the characters’ viewpoints and motivations. Sarah Pekkanen has spun a nail-biting tale of lies and love that might have you asking how far you would go to shield a loved one from danger. Looking for more? Here’s our collection of Greek mythology books.

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12. The Deep Sky by Yume Kitasei

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Release date: July 18, 2023

For fans of: Recursion by Blake Crouch

The Deep Sky, Yume Kitasei’s debut science fiction thriller, landed on our best books for summer list for a few reasons: It’s fast paced. It’s fun. And it’s one of the year’s most-anticipated books, according to Goodreads, BookRiot and more. As planet Earth collapses, one spaceship full of 80 people heads to a far-off planet to save humanity. But when an explosion rocks the ship and kills three people on board, Japanese American Asuka, the only witness, must find the culprit before she takes the blame.

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13. Zero Days by Ruth Ware

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Release date: June 20, 2023

For fans of: The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine

Bestselling author Ruth Ware is back with Zero Days, a must-read thriller described as a cross between Mr. and Mrs. Smith and The Fugitive. Married cybersecurity partners Jack (Jacinta) and Gabe make a great team. But after a routine job goes wrong, Jack returns to find Gabe dead in a pool of blood. As his partner, she’s the main suspect. The book unfolds at a heart-pounding pace as Jack goes on the run from the police—and on a mission to solve and avenge her beloved’s death.

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Historical fiction

14. The Beach at Summerly by Beatriz Williams

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Release date: June 27, 2023

For fans of: The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff or The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

What do you get when you smash together a sumptuous New England setting, Cold War espionage and blossoming romance? The Beach at Summerly, the latest page-turner from historical fiction author Beatriz Williams. In the 1950s, Emilia Winthrop is years past the drama of her young adult days spent on glittering, resplendent Winthrop Island. But the past comes knocking when federal intelligence agents summon her to meet with someone she turned in for espionage nearly a decade ago.

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15. Loot by Tania James

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Release date: June 13, 2023

For fans of: Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones and The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Called “a beautifully realized historical novel about art and hope and science” by Goodreads reviewer Candace, Loot is one of the richest, most complex summer books of the year. In the late 1700s, a young woodworker named Abbas is tasked with creating a massive wooden tiger for an Indian sultan. When the sultan’s kingdom falls, he boards a ship for France. Abbas navigates love, ambition and racial tension in Europe as he goes on a mission to restore his plundered artwork.

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16. The Housekeepers by Alex Hay

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Release date: July 4, 2023

For fans of: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

The Housekeepers, Alex Hay’s fun, fast-paced debut, is shot through with themes of power and class. When Mrs. King is sacked from her position as a high-society housekeeper, she gathers a group of spurned women to help her pull off the heist of the century. The plan? Infiltrate a much-anticipated costume ball and filch as many valuables as possible before the party ends. But what if some of the members of her motley crew have agendas of their own? Reader’s Digest‘s book editor raced through this one in a single day. “Historical setting? A heist? I’m all in,” she says. “If you enjoyed Oceans 11 or any of the films that followed, you’re going to want to snap this one up. I had a blast.”

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17. Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune

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Release date: May 2, 2023

For fans of: November 9 by Colleen Hoover

Colleen Hoover fans looking for another author whose work brings the drama and swoons should check out Carley Fortune’s latest, Meet Me at the Lake. Ten years ago, Fern and Will spent a magical day together. Their connection was intense—instant and undeniable. They promised to meet in the same place one year later. When Fern showed up, Will was nowhere to be found. Now, he’s appeared at her door (nine years too late!), and it’s up to her to decide whether to trust her heart and believe his story or trust her gut and protect herself from another heartbreak.

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18. Same Time Next Summer by Annabel Monaghan

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Release date: June 6, 2023

For fans of: Happy Place by Emily Henry

When I got my hands on an advance copy of Annabel Monaghan’s ultimate summer read earlier this year, I knew she’d created something special. Same Time Next Summer perfectly bottles the aching pain and passion of teenage love and asks readers to imagine: What if you got a second chance at your first love? What if, as an adult, you got to try it all with that special someone again? Samantha Holloway is engaged to a guy who’s perfect for her. But when she goes on vacation and runs into her first boyfriend, she can’t deny how her heart speeds up and her stomach flips. Is it just a strange resurgence of teenage hormones, or should she question everything?

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19. The Five-Star Weekend by Elin Hilderbrand

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Release date: June 13, 2023

For fans of: Queen Bee by Dorothea Benton Frank

We already know Elin Hilderbrand is one of the queens of summer romances, and The Five-Star Weekend only cements her reputation. Newly widowed Hollis Shaw and her four closest friends reunite on Nantucket for a perfect summer weekend. Each of the women is dealing with her own dramas and insecurities. As the weekend unfolds, the group discovers more about love, friendship and their identities as 50-something women.

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20. What Looks Like Bravery by Laurel Braitman

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Release date: March 14, 2023

For fans of: Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Laurel Braitman’s memoir gripped me from the start. In What Looks Like Bravery, she writes about grief—anticipatory and after-the-fact heartache—with refreshing candor. Braitman’s father was a larger-than-life figure who taught her to be the kind of woman who would never need a man. After his terminal cancer diagnosis, he taught her to be a survivor. Now, she revisits her childhood to untangle the threads of love, stubbornness and independence he instilled in her. This is a story of raw pain and hope and a reminder that even a life without a happily-ever-after can still be deeply good.

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21. Owner of a Lonely Heart by Beth Nguyen

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Release date: July 4, 2023

For fans of: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Beth Nguyen has spent fewer than 24 hours of adulthood with her mother. When she was still a baby, her father fled Vietnam and took her with him. Her memoir, Owner of a Lonely Heart, chronicles her American upbringing, snatched moments with her Vietnamese mother over the years and her own experience of becoming a mother. It’s a moving book about family, identity and where and how we find belonging.

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Leandra Beabout
Leandra Beabout writes for Reader's Digest and a variety of national lifestyle, wellness and travel publications and brand websites. She covers all things books and words for Reader's Digest, and when she's not on deadline, you can find her curled up with a new novel or planning her next trip.