Fill your phone or reading device with stacks of the hottest new releases for free this summer using Libby, our favorite library app.
Summer’s almost here, and that means lazy afternoons at the pool, swinging in hammocks, and generally getting some vacation downtown to relax. It also means that all of the best summer reads are here, from romance to thrillers to literary fiction.
Of course, one of the biggest problems with stacks on stacks of beautiful new hardcover books is that they aren’t free (or, honestly, very easy to pack). While we love supporting authors and publishers, buying dozens of new releases for summer can be prohibitive, especially if you’re like us and are in two or three different book clubs at a time. Enter Libby, the library book and audiobook app that we are completely obsessed with.
How Libby works
We know: it sounds way too good to be true. But it’s true. Libby is the virtual library that you can take anywhere—filled to the gills with tens of thousands of titles, available in both ebook and audiobook form.
How Libby works is easy: you download the free app, connect it to your library using your library card number, and start looking through the virtual stacks. You can search by genre, availability, or medium, and you can create lists and holds as you’d like. Basically, you can be reading a brand new book within minutes, as long as wherever you are has enough bandwidth to stream or download a selection.
Basically, it’s a saving grace for busy parents who want to read something when they have five minutes in the school pick-up line or while they wash dishes or while they feed the baby—or for any book lover on a tight budget.
The one bigger downside is very worth the upsides: sometimes there can be long waits for popular books (and yep, that more likely includes new releases). For example, I’m waiting about 4 months to listen to Fredrik Backman’s Anxious People on audiobook, but that’s about as bad as it gets). The trick here is to act fast when books are added and to be a little patient—and to remember that it’s completely free!
Libby’s picks for the best books of summer
Let’s get down to it: Libby has highlighted their favorite picks for summer reads, and we want to share them with you, too. And they’re new enough that you can jump on the hold list before the wait get too long. Let’s take a closer look.
‘With Teeth’ by Kristen Arnett
At its heart, this book is simply about a woman whose life isn’t going in the direction she had planned, and whose two central relationships—with her wife and with her son—are veering off into unknown territory as she stands by. By the best-selling author of Mostly Dead Things, Kristen Arnett’s sophomore novel is a character study that you can’t put down, and one that will certainly find and keep a place in the queer canon.
‘The Other Black Girl’ by Zakiya Dalila Harris
A mix of workplace drama and thriller, this novel by Zakiya Dalila Harris is filled with suspense and mystery. It begins at a fictional publishing house, where the main character, Nella, is happy to discover another Black woman has been hired to her team. But that’s also when things start to go wrong and take a turn for the sinister. A commentary on race, workplace discrimination, and the corporate world—this read is at once meaningful and a ride.
‘Filthy Animals’ by Brandon Taylor
Smoldering and brooding, this debut collection of short stories by Brandon Taylor makes us super-excited about this rising new voice in literature—and we savored each page. Half of the stories are connected and follow a group of young creatives living in Madison as they struggle to relate to the world. The other half (which alternative with the connected stories) are beautiful standalones (which we number among our favorites).
‘The Turnout’ by Megan Abbott
Megan Abott is a best-selling, award-winning, beloved author for a reason, and The Turnout showcases all of her talents with its quirky, sparse writing, dark setting, and complex characters. Centered on a family-run ballet school run by two sisters, this slow-burn thriller will keep you shivering with all your lights on.
‘The Chosen and the Beautiful’ by Nghi Vo
This is Nghi Vo’s debut novel, and it’s also one of the most highly anticipated of the summer. Set in the Roaring Twenties among the most elite in society, it’s a Great Gatsby retelling that is pulsing with energy and creativity. In it, we meet Jordan Baker, whose life straddles extreme privilege and extreme otherness (she’s queer and Asian in a straight, white world). Slow, atmospheric, and magical, the book—especially the party scenes—will leave you reeling.
‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’ by Sally Rooney
Sally Rooney has a following, and her books have a feeling to them that just can’t be replicated. Her newest book, which awaits her rabid fans in September, follows two couples as they navigate life in their late 20s—meditating upon love, friendship, uncertainty, and just exactly they are supposed to be doing. It’s similar to Normal People and Conversations With Friends in many ways, including Rooney’s meditative writing style and introspection, but introduces us to a new world and new characters.
‘Harlem Shuffle’ by Colson Whitehead
No joke and no exaggeration: we are obsessed with Colson Whitehead and all of his writing. The only bad thing we can think of about this new book, Harlem Shuffle, is that it doesn’t come out until the end of summer. We don’t know a ton about it yet, but we do know, according to the publisher that it contains, “heists, shakedowns, and rip-offs,” and that it’s set in Harlem in the 1960s. We are sold!
‘Seek You’ by Kristen Radtke
Part memoir, part research, part graphic novel, this genre-bending book by Kristen Radtke is an exploration of loneliness. Just as in her first book, Imagine Wanting Only This, Radtke’s heartfelt drawings and reflections make it feel like so much more than a non-fiction book as she discusses everything from professional cuddlers to laugh tracks to scientific research.
‘Afterparties’ by Anthony Veasna So
This debut collection of short stories went to auction last year and was purchased for six figures following a bidding war among publishers. Then tragically, the author, Anthony Veasna So, died unexpectedly at the age of 28, just on the brink of success and fame. What he leaves behind is a unique, funny, thoughtful book of stories all centered around the experiences of first-generation Cambodian Americans, who grew up with parents who survived the Khmer Rouge genocide. It’s a book about generational trauma and immigration, but it’s also just a book about the struggle to survive and find meaning in the modern world.
‘Velvet was the Night’ by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
From the best-selling author of Mexican Gothic, Certain Dark Things, and The Beautiful Ones comes a new read from Silvia Moreno-Garcia. In her newest effort, she switches gears away from suspense to what she calls “historical noir”— the novel takes place in 1970s Mexico City and follows a run-of-the-mill secretary who suddenly finds herself embroiled in a mystery when her neighbor goes missing and she tries to find her.
‘Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth’ by Wole Soyinka
From Nobel Prize-winning author Wole Soyinka comes a new novel that explores corruption (both person and universal). While we don’t know much about this September release yet, we do know that it’s a political whodunit by a master writer.
‘Goblin’ by Josh Malerman
From the writer of Bird Box comes a new horror book that will basically prevent you from sleeping ever again. It consists of six chilling novellas, all connected by one very creepy town. Spoiler alert: the town is called Goblin.
‘Matrix’ by Lauren Groff
In her first book since the wonderful Fates and Furies comes Lauren Groff’s Matrix. Set in the year 1158, the book follows 17-year-old Marie de France as she is booted from the royal court and exiled to a impoverished life at an abbey, surrounded by nuns. Each of Groff’s books are so different, and yet they all succeed in transporting you somewhere totally new. If you want to go to medieval England and meditate on feminism and creativity, strap in.
‘Somebody’s Daughter’ by Ashley C. Ford
In one of the most anticipated memoirs of the year, podcaster and writer Ashley C. Ford tells her own coming-of-age story—the struggle to emerge from a life of downtrodden poverty and then to rise above the racism and classism that keeps getting in her way as a Black woman. Expertly written, honest, and supremely vulnerable, this is a must-read.
‘The Heart Principle’ (Kiss Quotient #3) by Helen Hoang
Fans of Helen Hoang, one of romance’s shining stars, have been waiting so hard for this third installment of The Kiss Quotient Series. Early reviews are raves—saying that this book is the best yet from Hoang, and that’s hard to beat.
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