A flat lay of Vintage paperback books against a yellow background

 

What do you want to read this summer? Are you looking for love stories that will sweep you off your feet? Perhaps you want non-fiction that helps you understand the world around you, or a story of knotty family relationships.

Whatever you’re after, we have you covered. These 18 Vintage paperbacks, covering a range of fiction and non-fiction genres, are so good you’ll be struggling to pick which to read (so why not read them all?!).

 

My Policeman by Bethan Roberts (2012)

Set in Brighton in the 1950s, My Policeman follows Marion, Tom and Patrick. When they first meet, Marion is smitten with policeman Tom, and determined her love will be enough for the two of them. But a few years later, Tom and Patrick meet, the latter opening Tom’s eyes to a new world. It is safer for Tom to be with Marion, but sharing Tom will break all three lives.

First published almost a decade ago, Roberts’s love story is being adapted into a film starring musician and actor Harry Styles alongside Emma Corrin, who played Princess Diana in Netflix’s The Crown.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985) 

It’s been more than 35 years since Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale, but the book’s message has only grown more pertinent. The novel tells the story of Offred, a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, the totalitarian state that has replaced the United States. Offred’s only role is to birth a child for her household, but she still holds on to the hopes and desires she had in her previous life. The hugely successful television adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, starring Elisabeth Moss, is currently airing its fourth season, but a revisit to Atwood’s original novel is always recommended. 

 

The Overstory by Richard Powers (2018)

Following nine strangers brought together by an unfolding natural catastrophe, The Overstory won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2019 and found many high-profile fans, including Margaret Atwood, Bill Gates and Barack Obama.

Among the characters are Nicholas Hoel, an artist who inherits a hundred years of photographic portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut tree, and Douggie Pavlicek, a Vietnam War veteran who reinvents himself as a radical eco-activist after being shot out of the sky and saved from falling by a banyan.

Trees and the natural world are at the centre of Powers’s novel, which will make you consider not just the stories of the characters within, but also the things we need to survive and how we’re destroying them. The New York Times said The Overstory is ‘a gigantic fable of genuine truths held together by a connective tissue of tender exchange between fictional friends, lovers, parents and children’.  

Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh (2020)  

Out for a walk in the woods with her dog near her home, widow Vesta comes across a handwritten note: ‘Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body.

So starts a curiosity that turns into a full-blown obsession: who was Magda, and how did she die?

Although in part a whodunnit, Death in Her Hands also looks astutely at isolation, making it a novel particularly relevant to our very recent history, but far enough removed that it offers an escape and new perspectives.

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara (2020)

If you’re after a protagonist whose voice you won’t forget in a hurry, then pick up Anappara’s debut novel, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line.

Set in a slum on the outskirts of an unnamed Indian city, the novel follows nine-year-old Jai, a carefree child who loves watching reality cops shows. When children in his neighbourhood start going missing, Jai enlists his best friends Pari and Faiz and decides to investigate.

Jai’s naivety makes for a funny read, but this book also touches on plenty of serious subjects, from child exploitation to poverty, and will tug on your heartstrings.

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line was named a New York Times Notable Book and Anappara was selected as one of the Observer’s 10 best debut novelists of 2020.

The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey (2020)

Named Costa Book of the Year 2020, this is a retelling of an ancient myth featuring a cursed mermaid.

Near the island of Black Conch, fisherman David sees Aycayia, an innocent young woman cursed centuries before by jealous wives to live as a mermaid.

When Aycayia is captured by American tourists, David rescues her and vows to win her trust as she slowly and painfully turns back into a woman. As David and Aycayia fall in love, others on the island are coming to terms with their own stories, and everyone realises that a curse cannot be so easily escaped.

This unforgettable love story is told in a mix of prose and song, and whisks readers into a world imbued with myths and legends.

Sisters by Daisy Johnson (2020)

Sisters July and September have moved across the country to an old family house following a terrible act of violence. In this house, they while away the days of summer, but July feels the previously unshakeable bond she’s had with September changing and slipping in ways she doesn’t understand.

Eerie and with shades of gothic horror, the Guardian said ‘This is a novel Shirley Jackson would have been proud to have written: terrifically well crafted, psychologically complex and chillingly twisted.’

Actress by Anne Enright (2020)

This examination of mother–daughter relationships follows Norah, who grew up watching her mother, theatre legend Katherine O’Dell. Katherine found early stardom in Hollywood, and had highs and lows on the stages of Dublin and London’s West End, before her fame turned to infamy when she committed a bizarre crime.

As Norah tries to uncover her mother’s secrets, she finds out more about herself along the way and gets closer to finding out what finally drove Katherine mad.

Islands of Mercy by Rose Tremain (2020)

Islands of Mercy is Tremain’s fourteenth novel, and is set between Bath and Borneo in the nineteenth century.

In Bath is Jane Adeane, the daughter of a doctor, who flees to her bohemian aunt after turning down a marriage proposal from her father’s assistant, Valentine. While there, she meets Julietta, and embarks on a love affair.

In Borneo is Edmund, Valentine’s brother, who contracts malaria and is nursed back to health by a British landowner discharged from the army for homosexuality.

The Observer’s review of the book said: ‘In her portrayal of the ways in which individual longing and frustration unfold against the constraints of forces beyond our control, Tremain has long been one of our most accomplished novelists, and here is further confirmation.’

Nightshade by Annalena McAfee (2020)

Eve Laing was once the muse of an infamous painter; 40 years later, she is now an artist herself, but has sacrificed her career for her family.

Resenting the success of her old college roommate and slowly unravelling, she takes a wrecking ball to her comfortable life, casting aside her marriage for a beautiful young lover who seems to share her creative vision.

Asking questions about sexual politics, desire, ambition and the creation of art, Nightshade shows the life of a woman going into freefall.

Push by Sapphire (1996)

This is the story of Precious Jones: sixteen years old, illiterate, pregnant by her own father for the second time and kicked out of school. Placed in an alternative teaching programme, Precious learns to read and write, finding empowerment through words and a vibrant community of young women.

First published in 1996, the novel went on to be made into the Academy Award-winning film, Precious.

This 25th anniversary edition features a new preface by Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage, and an afterword by Sapphire.

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (2011)

Earth is 4.5 billion years old, yet in that time only humans have managed to conquer it. In Sapiens, Harari takes readers on a journey through the history of humankind, looking at what it is that makes us human and how we’ve managed to take over the Earth.

Named one of the Guardian’s 100 best books of the twenty-first century, Sapiens has sold millions of copies around the world and has been translated into 60 languages.

In a review of the book, Bill Gates said: ‘Harari tells our history in such an approachable way that you’ll have a hard time putting it down.’

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez (2019)

If you’re a woman, chances are that your phone might be too big for your hand, your doctor could prescribe a drug that is wrong for your body, or you could be more likely to be involved in a car accident than a man.

That’s because over decades, government policy, technology, workplaces and more have been built for men, sometimes literally.

In this book, Criado Perez brings together case studies, stories and new research from across the world to illustrate the hidden ways in which gender bias exists, and the profound impact this has on us all.

The Truths We Hold (Young Reader’s Edition) by Kamala Harris (2020)

Written before she was elected to the position of vice president of the United States of America – the first woman, the first Black woman and the first Asian woman to take the role – The Truths We Hold is an empowering memoir charting how Harris achieved her goals.

This special edition will take young readers from Harris’s childhood, showing the impact of family and community on her life and work, through to her political career. It examines the values that Harris holds most dear: community, equality and justice. This is the perfect uplifting and inspiring summer read.

What Have I Done? by Laura Dockrill (2020)

When Dockrill gave birth to her son, she felt overwhelmed, like many mothers. But her sleep deprivation and anxiety quickly escalated into postpartum psychosis, leading to her spending a fortnight on a psychiatric ward. Separated from her family, she began to write about her frightening ordeal, and slowly to recover.

Speaking with honesty and rawness about an area of women’s health rarely addressed, this is a life-affirming memoir and a book that shatters idealised expectations of perfect motherhood, showing struggling parents they are not alone.

A Dutiful Boy by Mohsin Zaidi (2020)  

Zaidi grew up in a devout Muslim household, where it felt impossible for him to be gay. When he became the first person from his school to get into Oxford University, the new experiences he encountered there helped him to discover who he wanted to be and to find acceptance in himself and at home.

A Dutiful Boy won the LAMBDA 2021 Literary Award for Best Gay Memoir/Biography, and was named a book of 2020 by the Guardian, GQ and the New Statesman.

The Courage to Care by Christie Watson (2020)

The past two years have seen a focus on the NHS like never before, as the coronavirus pandemic has swept devastatingly across the country. Nurses have never been more important.

Watson is a bestselling author and retired nurse who returned to work in the NHS when the pandemic put a strain on the service. In The Courage to Care, she reveals the extent of the work nurses do, from the teen with stab wounds who drops the bravado when his school nurse visits, to the military nurse who synchronises the emergency department into immaculate order and focus after a pregnant woman loses frightening amounts of blood following a car accident.

Not just a story about nursing or the medical profession, this is also a story about patients and the exceptional strength they show in challenging times.

The Hungover Games by Sophie Heawood (2020)

Journalist Heawood was working as a celebrity reporter and living a carefree life in Hollywood when she unexpectedly became pregnant and had to move back to London.

This is a funny and touching memoir that explores the loneliness and challenges of being a single parent, and of becoming a grown-up when you least expect it.

The Hungover Games was named one of the best books of 2020 by the Evening Standard and Cosmopolitan.

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