Jenny Jackson is a vice president and executive editor at Alfred A. Knopf. A graduate of Williams College and the Columbia Publishing Course, she lives in Brooklyn Heights with her family. "Pineapple Street," her debut novel, is our March "GMA" Book Club pick.
Spring break is here, and whether you’re off to the beach, the mountains, or a delightful week on the couch in your pajamas, we all know the most important thing you’ll put in your beach bag, suitcase, or, um, bathrobe pocket is a book!
Here are 13 reads to put you in a vacation state of mind:
“Ghosts” by Dolly Alderton
Dolly Alderton is a #1 bestseller in the UK and her first novel, Ghosts, makes for a truly hilarious introduction for an American audience. It’s the story of a food writer, Nina, who meets the man of her dreams only to see him… disappear. He’s alive, he just slowly stops answering her texts, leaving Nina to wonder if their relationship -- late nights dancing, witty banter, genuine connection -- was all in her head.
“The Three of Us” by Ore Agbaje-Williams
We’ve all been there: Your best friend marries a guy, and you absolutely hate his guts. (Just kidding, my friends have all married pretty wonderful dudes, but there were some close calls back in our 20's!) In this sharp, taught, dark comedy that takes place over the course of one fateful day, the simmering tensions between a husband, a wife, and her best friend come to a boiling point. It’s a tense read that will have you glued to your beach chair!
“True Biz” by Sara Nović
I’ve always loved a campus novel, but True Biz brings an entirely new perspective when the story is set at a school for the deaf. Charlie is a transfer student who has never even met another deaf person before, while Austin is the big man on campus from a long line of deaf graduates. Their lives are intertwined in this novel about sign language and lip reading, community, and connection. It’s a joyful read that feels like a love letter to deaf culture.
“Exciting Times” by Naoise Dolan
If you’re a Sally Rooney fan (and who isn’t?) you’ll devour this sparkling novel of class, love and longing set in Hong Kong. It’s the story of Ava, an Irish millennial, who takes a job teaching overseas only to find herself ensnared in a love triangle with Julian, a British banker, and Edith, a wealthy Chinese lawyer. This debut novel is a wry and witty take on sex and money abroad.
“Really Good, Actually” by Monica Heisey
Monica Heisey was a writer on the television show “Schitt’s Creek,” and her first novel is filled with that same sense of absurdity and sneaky emotional wisdom. The main character, Maggie, has gotten divorced after only two years of marriage and feels, well, not really good. As Maggie tries to figure out life as a single twenty-something we both cringe and laugh -- it’s like if Bridget Jones were a divorced millennial who moved into her boss’s basement.
“Marrying the Ketchups” by Jennifer Close
Jennifer Close has been a beloved writer since her bestselling debut, Girls in White Dresses, and she brings that same wry wit and hilarious honesty to this novel about a Chicago restaurant family. Come for the story of two sisters and their favorite cousin -- one who suspects her husband is cheating, one the lead singer of a 90s cover band, one the self-proclaimed "good guy" -- but stay for the descriptions of juicy hamburgers, spicy Bloody Marys and cream-cheese-frosted sandwich loaf.
“White Ivy” by Susie Yang
This psychological thriller turns the “model minority” stereotype on its head as the protagonist, Ivy, born in Boston, and raised in China, returns to the U.S. to seduce a former classmate. It’s a book about the dark side of success, the struggles of immigrants in America and a young woman’s lies and obsession. Think The Talented Mr. Ripley meets Tell Me Lies.
“The Jetsetters” by Amanda Eyre Ward
I have never been on a cruise myself (I am very afraid of norovirus) but I loved this novel so much I might reconsider. It’s the story of a woman who wins the “Become a Jetsetter” contest and brings her adult children along on a trip to Athens and Barcelona on an over-the-top cruise ship. It’s a warm, funny escape with a family that has packed more than enough baggage.
“People We Hate at the Wedding” by Grant Ginder
Kristen Bell starred in the hilarious film adaptation of this novel, but as good as it was, the book is even better. Paul and Alice head to London to celebrate their half-sister’s wedding, even though they absolutely hate the girl. Obviously, nobody behaves well and it reads like the best morning-after-the-wedding-brunch-gossip-session. Grant Ginder is one of my very favorite writers and if you haven’t read him yet, you need to!
“The Banker’s Wife” by Cristina Alger
If you’d like to get your pulse raising this spring, skip the gym (you have my permission) and read this glamorous international thriller about a young wife trying to find the truth when her husband’s private plane crashes in the Alps. Think Laura Dave’s The Last Thing He Told Me but set among the upper echelons of New York’s social scene and hotel rooms of Geneva. The plot is so intricately crafted it will keep you guessing at every elegant turn.
“Very Nice” by Marcy Dermansky
If your spring vacation involves a swimming pool, dive into this dark comedy set at a sprawling Connecticut mansion. It’s a take on The Graduate with a writing professor, his student, and her mother that all unfolds around a sparkling pool. The professor knows it was wrong to kiss a student, and knows it’s even worse to kiss her mother, but when he arrives at their country home (with an apricot standard poodle named Princess) he somehow finds himself making some moves that are not very nice.
“The Plot” by Jean Hanff Korelitz
I’ve been a book editor for twenty years, so of course I’m a sucker for a novel set in publishing, but this chilling page-turner (called “insanely readable” by Stephen King) will hook anyone with a pulse. It’s the story of a creative writing professor who steals the story of a student and finds himself riding the wave of bestselling fame and fortune, only to discover that someone knows about his secret theft. I read this whole book desperately afraid that the reveal couldn’t live up to the premise, but instead, the finale exceeded every expectation. The plot, indeed!
“Rich and Pretty” by Rumaan Alam
You might have read Rumaan Alam’s breakout bestseller Leave the World Behind, but his first novel, Rich and Pretty, is too wonderful to be missed. It’s the story of two best friends -- one rich and one, well, you know -- and the way they struggle to stay close while also finding space to define themselves. It rings true for anyone who has ever had a best friend and shows just how versatile and talented this author truly is.