Whether you’re lying on the sand or rocks, a pool lounge, hot tiles or a patch of grass in the park, summertime brings the joy of relaxing in the sunshine and reading a good book. From the surreal to the satirical, salient and silly, these are some of our favorite novels (each paired with a bright, boldly designed towel) this season.
Taiwanese American writer Elaine Hsieh Chou’s debut novel, Disorientation ($26), is a sharp, nuanced portrait of navigating relationships and institutions as an Asian American woman. Told through a quick-witted, satirical whodunnit, the novel follows the journey of PhD student Ingrid Yang when she uncovers a secret related to her thesis that quickly unravels her life. With gripping surrealism and pertinent characterizations, Chou captures the specific experiences plaguing those at the intersection of racism and sexism in a way that’s never been done before.
The One and Only Towel
Paris-based independent apparel brand Carne Bollente’s sex-positive ethos manifests once again in their delightfully suggestive One and Only Towel ($39). Through artist Mike Wilcox’s vivid, bright hues depicting different labia, the towel is a plush and bold celebration of vulvas.
What begins as a romantic and oftentimes comedic story of love turns into a deeper examination of class, politics and cultural difference in Monica Ali’s Love Marriage ($28). Bengali protagonist Yasmin Ghorami is happily engaged to white, upper-class Joe Sangster, but on the days leading up to the wedding the differences between their backgrounds, secrets and a mother with an Oedipus complex threaten their union. The surprising and biting novel culminates in an astute portrait of relationships and race.
Yellow Maze Towel
From Stockholm-based resort brand OAS, the Yellow Maze Towel ($80) is a summery, abstract, almost-animal-print towel made from 100% long-fiber cotton. The soft, cozy towel measures 150 by 100cm and its bright golden hue conjures up images of sunshine, the sand—and maybe a jungle animal too.
Four Treasures of the Sky
Jenny Tinghui Zhang’s debut novel, Four Treasures of the Sky ($28), is a surreal epic steeped in Chinese folklore. It follows the journey of heroine Daiyu who is kidnapped and smuggled from China to America, where the Chinese Exclusion Act is taking hold. Traversing the Idaho mountains, a San Fransisco brothel and more, the book charts Daiyu’s journey to survive an unimaginably violent country, weaving a gripping tale of historical fiction into a prescient look at the modern day.
Green Baignade Beach Towel
French textile brand Mapoésie was founded in 2010 by Elsa Poux, who blends tradition, luxury and innovation in her towels and garments. This Baignade Beach Towel (€79) is made from 100% cotton and measures a sizable 140 by 200cm. The bold green and blue waves conjure up images of the ocean without being too cliche.
The Cherry Robbers
The follow up to Sarai Walker’s Dietland, The Cherry Robbers ($28) tells the tale of an artist living under an assumed identity who is suddenly confronted with her past. It’s a spooky, Gothic thriller that also explores feminism and sexuality.
Circus Cotton Beach Towel
By Swiss Italian designer Michele Rondelli, the Circus Cotton Beach Towel (SFR 79) combines bright colors with geometric shapes that were inspired by a series of photographs. The 100% woven cotton jacquard has been manufactured and dyed using processes free of harmful chemicals and synthetics. It measures 36 by 56 inches.
Sea of Tranquility
Emily St John Mandel’s sixth novel, Sea of Tranquility ($25), playfully bends time travel, metaphysics and grief. The science fiction work juggles an ambitious amount: a young man in 1912 exiled to the Canadian wilderness, an author trapped in a pandemic-ravaged Earth, moon colonies, paranormal investigations, the 25th century and even references to Mandel’s previous works. Both meta and mind-bending, Sea of Tranquility examines the end of the world to uncover what ultimately matters.
Vintage Blue Check Beach Towel
From Business & Pleasure’s large range of beach towels, the Vintage Blue Check iteration ($59) is sophisticated and summery. Made from 100% cotton, 600gsm toweling, it measures 34 by 66 inches and has a retro resort look that’s perfect for by the pool or on the sand.
Brooklyn-based author, playwright and educator Julia May Jonas wrote Vladimir ($27) at the perfect time. It’s a story about academia, but also gender, aging, sexual politics and power. The sharp, honest, unnamed protagonist is an English professor who’s in her late-50s. She develops a crush—or an obsession—on a colleague, while her husband is under investigation for past inappropriate relationships with students. What unfolds is a gripping and dark fable.
Lateral Objects, the design lab from NYC’s Stefan Beckman Studio, channels ’60s Californian art and ’70s super-graphics, resulting in bold and colorful homewares that are full of character. Their collection of towels is just as bright, with the Exclamation Towel ($120) boasting a distinct pop art energy. The green, blue and yellow colorway is mirrored on the underside. This 100% cotton towel measures 70 by 40 inches and is made in Portugal.
Images courtesy of respective brands, hero image courtesy of Mapoésie