The 12 Best New Books to Read in May
Alert: Stacey Abrams wrote a political thriller.
All together now: Summer! Okay, not officially. But May is basically the start of the season, and this year, we’re going to enjoy every last second of it. We hope you’re ready for steamy beach reads, second chance romances, and a guide to navigating your Saturn return. On what other book list will you find a political thriller by the Stacey Abrams (yes, that Stacey Abrams) and a delicious rom-com about exes who open a pop-up sex toy shop together? Nowhere. We got you. Cancel your plans and dig into the 11 best May books you need to read this month.
1. Negative Space by Lilly Dancyger, out May 1st
Lilly Dancyger’s father, Joe, was a noted artist in New York City in the ’80s. He died suddenly as she was entering adolescence, coloring her view of the world at a critical time in her life. As an adult, Lilly began to wonder if she remembered him as he truly was and how her childhood influenced who she is today. In Negative Space, she attempts to get to know the real him by studying his art and speaking with those who knew him back then. Lilly Dancyger is an extraordinary writer, and her bravely introspective memoir will blow you away.
2. The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes by Xio Axelrod, out May 4th
Toni is a gifted musician looking for her big break. When she auditions for one of the biggest all-female rock groups in the country, she’s stunned to learn one of the people she’s auditioning for is Seb, the ex who broke her heart and disappeared without any warning. Toni’s got this—or does she? You’ll feel Toni’s—and Xio Axelrod’s—passion for music on every page of this beautifully written novel.
3. Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala, out May 4th
Give us all of the culinary cozy mysteries, please and thank you. When Lila took over her Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant, she wasn’t expecting to become the prime suspect in a murder investigation. But when a food critic (her ex, Natch) drops dead shortly after a confrontation with her, that’s exactly what happens. Lila decides to get to the bottom of things and clear her name with the help of her BFF; her nosy aunties; and her Dachshund, Longanisa. It’s tasty, twisted, and tons of fun.
4. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry, out May 11th
Poppy and Alex have taken a summer vacation together every year for 10 years. On their last trip two years ago, everything fell apart. In a hail Mary attempt to save their friendship, Poppy asks Alex to take one final trip, and he agrees. If you have serious wanderlust after being cooped up for over a year, or if you loved Beach Read, you’ll eat this up with a spoon and ask for seconds.
5. While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams, out May 11th
As if Stacey Abrams, a champion for voting rights, hasn’t already given us enough, her latest gift is a political thriller set in—you guessed it—Washington, D.C. Avery is a young law clerk for a legendary Supreme Court justice. When he goes into a coma, she gets an unexpected call: He made Avery his legal guardian and power of attorney. It’s filled with exciting twists and turns that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat.
6. The Summer Job by Lizzy Dent, out May 18th
This book is begging to be read on the beach. But it’s so much more than a beach read. It’s about Birdy, a young woman pretending to be someone she’s not: her best friend, Heather. She takes a job meant for Heather at a hotel in Scotland, where she pretends to be a world-class sommelier (despite knowing next to nothing about wine). She’d probably get away with it, but then she falls in love with a chef and realizes the stakes are too high to keep lying. The Summer Job is fun, feel-good, and full of heart.
7. Happy Endings by Thien-Kim Lam, out May 18th
Trixie is a sex toy therapist trying to prove to her traditional Vietnamese parents that she can make it in a nontraditional career. Andre is a chef struggling to keep his mother’s soul food restaurant in business after her death. They decide to go into business together, creating a one-stop pop-up shop for the horny and hungry. Oh, and did we mention that they’re exes who had a bad breakup? This steamy, sex-positive story is delicious from start to finish.
8. Where the Grass Is Green and the Girls Are Pretty by Lauren Weisberger, out May 18th
Peyton is a beloved morning news anchor whose personal life is about to make national headlines: Her husband is arrested for being involved in a college admissions bribery scandal. It’s Morning Show meets Gossip Girl, and it’s the perfect summer read.
9. Imposter Syndrome by Kathy Wang, out May 25th
A feminist spy thriller about startup culture and women in tech? Sign us up. Julia is the COO of Tangerine, a prominent tech company. She also happens to be a spy recruited by a Russian intelligence agency, and she’s been sending top secret intel back to the motherland for years. Their asks are getting more demanding, and Julia must decide who she’s in it for: them, or her?
10. Saturn Return Survival Guide: Navigating This Cosmic Rite of Passage by Lisa Stardust, out May 25th
Most people experience their first Saturn return between the ages of 28 to 30. It marks the start of a new chapter—but it takes a lot of breaking down, reflecting, and rebuilding, too. This guide is an essential resource for making it through. Love the cover? There are gorgeous illustrations throughout, too.
11. Cheat Day by Liv Stratman, out May 25th
Kit is stuck in a serious rut. She’s unenthused about her 12-year marriage with her college sweetheart, bored of her job managing her sister’s bakery, and stuck in a cycle of fad diets. She finds her appetite when she meets Matt, a carpenter building new shelves for the bakery, and begins a passionate affair. It’s a darkly funny novel about hunger, indulgence, and self-control. You’ll eat it up.
12. Girls Write Now Unmuted: The Girls Write Now 2021 Anthology, out May 18th
Girls Write Now, the first writing and mentoring organization for girls and gender-expansive youth of color, is coming out with their annual anthology Girls Write Now Unmuted: The 2021 Anthology. In this anthology, you’ll find stories, poems, essays, fiction, and interviews about the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, climate change, young adulthood, racial equity, and more from young women and gender-nonconforming youth who go to New York-based high schools. While the book is ready to purchase on May 18th, the ebook will become available on June 18th.