The Harm in Asking by Sara Barron (Three Rivers Press)
This collection of essays by brilliant New York writer Sara Barron covers everything from her penniless Manhattan life sleeping in a friend’s broom cupboard to getting herself an imaginary pet dog. It’s the sort of book so funny you’ll be stopping to read bits out to your friends from your sunbed. If you get withdrawal symptoms when you’ve finished reading, we also highly recommend keeping up with her witticisms on twitter - @sarabarron.
The Wrong Knickers - A Decade of Chaos by Bryony Gordon (Headline)
Gordon’s chronicle of singledom makes Bridget Jones look almost twee. Some of her stories of badly-suited men and smug friends will make you cringe with familiarity - and laugh a lot. Just don’t call it ‘chick lit’, it’s way too good for that.
Wedlock by Wendy Moore (Phoenix)
This one’s a historical novel served up a great big side of feminism. It traces the life of Mary Eleanor Bowes, great-great-grandmother of the Queen Mother, who took her abusive husband to court in a groundbreaking divorce case. It’s got serious ‘YOU GO GIRL’ credentials, and Moore fills the book with such amazing trivia about Georgian everyday life it’s anything but dry.
We Need New Names by Noviolet Bulawayo (Chatto & Windus)
Bulawayo tells the story of a little girl called Darling who grows up in a grotty Zimbabwean Shanty town before emigrating to the US to live with her aunt. It’s beautifully written, and despite the hard life of its main character there are unexpected flashes of humour.
Trilobites & Other Stories by Breece D’J Pancake (Vintage)
This is the sort of classic that’s only really known about by other writers, meaning you’ll win serious intellectual points when you pull it out of your beach bag. It’s a series of short stories by the late writer Breece D’J Pancake, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize after his death. Fans of his work range from Margaret Atwood to popstar Lorde, who recently tweeted a quote from the book.
Five by Ursula P. Archer (Random House)
If you like getting your teeth into a really good psychological thriller try this debut novel by Ursula P. Archer. A woman’s body is discovered in a meadow with a series of letters and numbers tattooed on her feet leading a detective on an unexpected trail to crack the case, with plenty of ‘oh my god’ twists. You might get a bit antisocial.
By Lucy Pavia / @lucypavia