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Winter provides the pleasure of reading a book while enveloped in a cozy blanket, but the warmer months grant us time to read under the sun. Whether at the beach or pool, in a backyard, on a rooftop or simply a slice of ground at a park, a book and towel is all that’s needed—and we here we’ve rounded up a few of our favorites. From short stories to personal essays, historical tales to educational tomes, these are some of the titles (each paired with a beach towel) that we’re most excited about this season.

This beguiling book is made up of 15 stories by 15 writers, each exploring their relationship with their mother. What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About ($18) began as a moving personal essay by Michele Filgate, the book’s editor, and is unputdownable. Whether estranged or close, funny, tender, heartbreaking or mystifying, each of these mother/child dynamics is complex and unique—yet readers will see themselves in a lot of the beautiful stories.

Incorporating a pattern by Indianapolis-based artist and musician Nathaniel Russell, this Tidepool towel ($60) from Mollusk Surf Shop is made in California from 100% pre-shrunk cotton. With a decidedly ’60s aesthetic, this floral pattern—with its gold and orange hues—evokes a retro surf vibe.

Written by respected English music journalist Jon Savage, This searing light, the sun and everything else: Joy Division: The Oral History ($19) is essential reading for music fans. Detailing the pioneering band’s existence (from 1976 to 1980), Savage draws from interviews with surviving band members—Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Bernard Sumner—and contemporaries including their manager Rob Gretton, Factory Records co-founder Tony Wilson, art designer Peter Saville and others. This comprehensive and chronological account of the wildly influential post-punk band offers insights and stories never heard before. 

Seemingly simple at first glance, Slowtide’s Rook towel ($40) features a black and white checkered pattern, but at the center, the design shifts and the checks reorient themselves. Best of all, this product is made from material sourced from the Cotton LEADS Program, an initiative dedicated to responsible and sustainable agricultural practices, research and tech.

Penned by Man Booker-nominated author David Means, Instructions for a Funeral ($11) is a poetic and poignant collection of short stories. From a tale about fatherhood to one that follows two FBI agents on a stakeout, the stories offer lifelong lessons about compassion, love, addiction and more. Each unlike the last, these tales not only thrill, but also also provoke contemplation.

Part perverse, part playful, the art on this 100% cotton towel—from Paris-based Carne Bollente—is printed on just one side, so you can flip it over if you happen to be spending time with puritans. Sex-positive and a little silly, this delightfully colorful towel (€55) measures 130cm by 65cm.

Written by former jazz and pop critic at the New York Times, Nate Chinen, Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century ($19) is a definitive guide to jazz from both the past and present. While today’s jazz may be different, it’s rooted in the same ideals and ethos, and Chinen argues for its continued relevance while highlighting some contemporary talent. He does this while educating readers on the genre’s illustrious and influential past.

By designer and textile expert Michele Rondelli, the Tokio 2 towel/blanket ($79) is an elegant take on the humble polka dot. The cheerful but sophisticated product is crafted from woven cotton jacquard—unlike most beach towels. Plus, no crowd needs to see the same side twice since it’s reversible, featuring blue and orange spots on two different background colors.

Published by Doubleday, Colson Whitehead’s novel The Nickel Boys: A Novel ($17) takes place during Jim Crow-era Florida. Within the book, Whitehead details the lives of two black boys sentenced to endure the horrific conditions of a reform school called the Nickel School. Piercing and poignant, their stories are based on a real school that housed boys for over 100 years.

With a jacquard woven woodgrain graphic, the aptly named Woodgrain towel ($210) from Bless features a predominantly black pattern on one side and an inverted, mostly white version on the other. The swirling graphic piece has white trims and is made from a mid-weight terrycloth cotton.

Black is the Body: Stories From My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine ($17) is a memoir, made up of several personal essays that meld together the experiences of author Emily Bernard’s family. From growing up black in the South to addressing interracial marriage, international adoption and motherhood, the book tells a tale of race in America—but it’s more than that. Anchored by a horrific violent crime that changed her life, Bernard shares complex and personal—but also always universal—stories in this moving book.

Reversible and made in Turkey from 100% terry cotton, this Dusen Dusen weave towel ($80) is a cheerfully patterned but sophisticated option for beach and pool days. At 650 GSM, this towel is heavier than those intended for the bathroom, so it’s extra absorbent and comfy atop poolside tiles.

From 1914 to 1925 Henry Ford and Thomas Edison went on annual road trips under the moniker “The Vagabonds”—they only ceased because their fame made the trips impossible to coordinate. The two traveled in order to survey the condition of America’s roads, in conjunction with the exponential growth of the automotive industry. The pair may have ventured with chefs and butlers, but this book ($19)—written by former investigate journalist Jeff Guinn—focuses on the more engaging details surrounding the duo’s relationship.

Thick, soft and cozy, Bathing Culture’s Cosmic Rainbow Towel ($75) is made for use in the bathroom or at the beach. Super-absorbent, each of the colorful Turkish-style towels is hand-loomed—so washing them with a gentle soap is ideal. The SF-based company is dedicated to making high-quality products that aren’t harmful to their consumers or the planet.

Sophie Mackintosh’s The Water Cure ($18) is a deliciously sinister dystopic work of fiction about a family who inhabits an island where outsiders have not been allowed. After the father goes missing and three men wash ashore, the story turns into a tale of desire, violence, toxicity and revenge. The novel was long-listed for the 2018 Man Booker Prize in the category of best original novel in the English language.

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Extra big (180cm by 100cm), the 100% French terry cotton “Handmaiden” towel ($99) from Australian brand Perks and Mini is fit for those looking to lay out—and stand out. The design is available in black and white or black and blue, it’s soft but bold. Price is in AUD.

Amy Hempel’s fifth collection of short fiction, Sing To It: New Stories ($16), is the first in a decade from the beloved writer. Made up of vignettes, the book includes 15 stories that tackle themes including loneliness, truth and guilt. As ever, Hempel’s prose is somewhat minimal but concurrently undeniably rich.

Super-absorbent, Sunnylife’s Crocodile Rock towel ($50) features plenty of contrasts—including color and also texture, thanks to its soft velour front and terry back. Made from heavyweight 520 GSM cotton, it will hold up after repeated use—even on the sand and through exposure to salt water.

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