Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

12 Great New Paperbacks in Honor of Paperback Book Day

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Kathleen Keenan

Staff Writer

Kathleen Keenan is a writer and children's book editor in Toronto. In addition to Book Riot, she has written for Reel Honey, The Billfold, and The Canadian Press. She also edits a monthly newsletter for the indie bookstore A Novel Spot. Kathleen has an MA in English with a focus on nineteenth-century fiction, and there is nothing she loves more than a very long Victorian novel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @KathleenMKeenan or find her writing even more about books at

July 30 is Paperback Book Day. I don’t know if anyone celebrates this as a holiday, but I vote we start. The day is meant to commemorate July 30, 1935, the very first day Penguin Books began publishing cheaper paperback versions of respected popular novels. Before that day, books were mainly published only in hardcover editions, unless they were cheap pulp novels. In 1934, Penguin founder Allen Lane was at a train station and noticed there was no books for sale that were portable but still literary. Penguin Books was born. Since then, we’ve all been able to pop paperbacks into beach bags, purses, and even our back pockets so we’re never without reading material. In honor of Paperback Book Day, here are 12 new paperback reads to take on the go this summer.

While We Were Dating from Fake Dating Books 2021 |

While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory

Contemporary romance star Guillory’s latest book is being released in both hardcover and paperback this summer, luckily for us. Ben has always chosen to throw himself into his advertising work instead of focusing on relationships. Actress Anna is busy trying to become a movie star. When the two meet through a huge advertising campaign, sparks fly — but neither has the time for anything serious. Still, a little flirtation (and a casual fake relationship) never hurt anyone. That is, until they start to get closer…

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Gyasi’s second novel came out in hardcover last year and is one of this summer’s most anticipated new paperback reads. It’s about scientist Gifty, whose family has been through a tragedy that leaves her determined to uncover the mystery of the suffering she sees around her. Raised in the church by a family of Ghanaian immigrants, though, Gifty can’t quite let go of the promises of her childhood faith and the salvation it promises. How can we balance science and religion? Love and pain? Transcendent Kingdom asks these questions and more as it tells the story of one family in Alabama.

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

Set in the near future, in a world where animals are rapidly dying off, this evocative novel is about Franny Stone, a woman who loves deeply but cannot bring herself to stay in one place for long. Finding her way north to Greenland, she talks her way onto a fishing boat, determined to follow the path of the last Arctic terns as they migrate down to Antarctica. Franny’s reasons for doing so are shrouded in the secrets of her past, but as the sea voyage grows more treacherous, both she and her new crew must decide what they’re willing to risk to reach their destination.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Available on August 3, the paperback edition of this murder mystery would fit easily in your beach tote. In a retirement village where nothing exciting ever happens, four friends form a murder club to research unsolved crimes. Except one day there’s a real crime to solve — the murder of a much-disliked local developer. Joyce, Elizabeth, Ibrahim, and Ron manage to convince a local cop that they have information to share, but soon the bodies are beginning to pile up.

Incense and Sensibility by Sonali Dev

This contemporary retelling of Sense and Sensibility is the perfect paperback to read by the pool. Ten years ago, Yash Raje and India Dashwood had one magical night together. But now, Yash is a serious candidate for governor of California — the first Indian American candidate — and he believes in the power of control above all else. When that control is threatened by a hate incident at a rally, Yash’s family turns to India, now a stress management coach who doesn’t believe in repressing anything. Will they clash, or will their long-denied passion come alive again?

Radar Girls by Sara Ackerman

Radar Girls by Sarah Ackerman

If historical fiction is your summer reading flavor of choice, this paperback is for you. Daisy Wilder is all about horses and bare feet on the beach, not high society. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, she joins a secret program as a WARD, guiding pilots and tracking planes across the Pacific. But not everyone thinks women are capable of this work, and Daisy must throw herself into it with her fellow recruits to prove the naysayers wrong, even as the stakes get ever higher.

Anxious People by Fredrik Bachman

This novel by the author of Beartown came out in hardcover last year, so if you missed it then, now’s your chance. A failed bank robber takes an open house full of surprised people hostage. The hostages are all kinds of people — a retired couple looking for a fixer upper, a banker, a young couple expecting their first baby, a plucky woman in her 80s, the real estate agent, and a mystery man in the bathroom. Are any of these people, including the bank robber, who they appear to be? As they’re reluctantly forced to reveal truths to each other, they set in motion a surprising and unexpected chain of events.

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

Room author Donoghue’s latest novel came out last year, just as the pandemic was raging across North America. Now, it’s here in paperback. A wise, moving story of hope in the face of darkness, the novel is set in the maternity ward of a Dublin hospital in 1918, as another pandemic, along with a world war, is ravaging the world. Nurse Julia Power, doctor Kathleen Lynn, and volunteer Bridie Sweeney must come together to help the pregnant women in their care over the course of three long days.

cover of Daughters of Sparta

Daughters of Sparta by Claire Heywood

You’ve probably heard of the Trojan War — but here it is retold from the perspective of Helen, whose face started it all, and her sister Klytemnestra. Princesses by birth, Helen and Klytemnestra grow up with everything they could want: beauty, money, power. But their power comes from a patriarchal system in which their father can marry them off, and he does, to powerful brothers Agamemnon and Menelaus. The brothers expect their wives to bear their children and serve them. Buckling under the weight of their husbands’ cruelty and neglect, Helen and Klytemnestra seek another way to gain their freedom, something that will change everything…

Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli

This is a new paperback edition of one of last year’s buzziest debut thrillers. Winter Counts is set on a reservation in South Dakota. The people living there are used to being denied justice and take matters into their own hands, hiring local enforcer Virgil Wounded Horse to help them. Virgil’s job becomes personal when heroin finds its way into the community and to his nephew. Vowing revenge, Virgil asks his ex-girlfriend for help and follows a lead to Denver, then back to the reservation, all the while facing up to his questions about his identity as a Native American man in the 21st century.

A Burning Cover

A Burning by Megha Majumdar

Three characters’ lives intertwine in this acclaimed novel from last year, set in contemporary India and newly out in paperback. Jivan, a Muslim girl, is wrongfully accused of a terrorist attack because of a Facebook comment. PT Sir, a teacher who’s joined a right-wing political party, needs her to fall so he can rise. And Lovely, an outcast, might just be able to set Jivan free — but only at a cost.

The Tiger Mom's Tale book cover

The Tiger Mom’s Tale by Lin Liao Butler

This debut novel is about an American woman with Taiwanese heritage who has never been sure where she fits in. When Lexa’s estranged father in Taiwan dies unexpectedly, she’s left to decide the fate of his family and their wealth. Heading back to Taiwan, where she hasn’t been since a betrayal years before, Lexa has to face her family and find out what she truly wants. 

Once you’ve finished these 12 new paperback reads, you might want to learn a little more about the history of book sizes and formats. Here’s a primer on all the different book formats, and here’s a look at how and when publishers decide to release a book in hardcover versus paperback. Reading more about the history of book publishing might just tide you over until your favorite new book comes out in paperback.