So many great books out this summer that I’ve felt overwhelmed. Especially since I haven’t posted any book reviews in a while. So I’m going to start with a list: books that are great vacation reading. That means fast, fascinating, fun. Ready? LET’S GO. (All links are affiliate links to Amazon Kindle books)
The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henriquez. You wouldn’t think this book all about legal and illegal immigrants living in an apartment complex in Delaware would qualify as summer reading. But this is a book that’s captivating and has a point of view, an admirable feat that’s earned it a lot of praise. At the center of the story are two families: the Mexican Riveras and the Panamanian Toros. Maribel Rivera has suffered a traumatic brain injury and her family is in America on temporary visas to get her into a special school. Mayor Toro has lived in the US for a decade, the ignored younger brother, but he’s immediately smitten by the strange and aloof Maribel. This story brings this small community to vibrant life.
California by Eden Lepucki. I’ll just come out and admit that this is by far the most hipster book on the list, whether that brings it up or down in your estimation. Cal and Frida live in a post-apocalyptic world not far into the future, alone and living off the land. Until Frida gets pregnant and they decide it’s time to find out who else is out there. This is about as non-sci-fi as post-apocalyptic novels get, it’s more about having these isolated people living off the land than it is about zombies or killer viruses.
Cop Town by Karin Slaughter. Now this is the kind of book you’d expect to see on a summer list and it certainly deserves its spot. Slaughter has written several successful thrillers that I usually count as guilty pleasures, but there’s not much guilty about this book, her best yet. Set in 1970s Atlanta stalked by a serial killer, it centers on two women on the police force. Kate is white and left a privileged family to start this job she’s not sure she’s capable of. Maggie is black and comes from a family of cops, but still can’t get taken seriously as a woman of color. They’re great characters in a super-fast-paced story.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. If you want a read that qualifies as a summer read, but one that gives you a little more depth and character drama, you can’t go wrong with this book. Ng’s debut novel is all about family secrets, but it’s told with delicate understanding. The death of teenage Lydia resurrects her troubles her family thought were long gone. The story unfolds around all the different family members, their love and their misunderstanding, and the difficulties they face as the only Chinese-American family in their 1970s Ohio town.
The Fever by Megan Abbott. It’s unlikely I’ll make it through the next few months without talking about this book again, which is good because it deserves much attention and love. Abbott writes sharp, literary crime fiction that book snobs can read without feeling guilty and casual readers can read without feeling out of their depth. The Nash family, teacher dad and two teenage kids, find themselves in the middle of what may be a hysterical outbreak when daughter Deenie’s best friends are suddenly overtaken by a mysterious illness that may be all in their heads. There are echoes of The Crucible here which Abbott gamely admits. A gripping book about the beauty and danger of the friendships of teenage girls.
Ice Shear by M. P. Cooley. If you want to read a book that will cool you off, this is a good choice. Set in the middle of a long, cold, snowy winter, Ice Shear follows June, a former FBI agent that left that life for small-town police work. This is a debut novel and a strong procedural that crime fiction fans should get their hands on. Let’s hope this isn’t the last we hear from Cooley.
The Quick by Lauren Owen. It’s so hard to write about this book because there are too many things about it that I can’t reveal if you’re going to enjoy it. But I can tell you it’s historical fiction, set in England near the turn of the last century, and it’s an unexpected genre mashup that turns it from a quaint drama into nonstop action. Those of you who are going to love it probably already know who you are just with those little details.
Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch. The new novel from the author of The Dinner, this one I leave with you with a warning. This book is not for the faint of heart. It’s darker and heavier than his last book and has one of the most unlike-able protagonists ever. But it lays it all out right off the bat, so if you make it past the first chapter you’ll probably be okay.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Lockhart writes some super strong YA and this book is all about the modern fairy tale family. Being a Sinclair means something. Every summer the family retreats to their private island where Cady and her cousins enjoy a near-perfect life. Until the summer everything goes wrong and Cady ends up hurt, confused, and unable to remember much of what happened. The book follows her quest to figure out the secrets at the heart of her strange fairy tale. I read it in one sitting.
A Wedding in Provence by Ellen Sussman. Hello, chick lit! Olivia is in her 50’s and getting married again to Brody in an idyllic spot in France. But there will be complications in the form of Olivia’s daughters, one of whom has arrived without her long-time partner and the other appears accompanied by a man she just met on the plane. Oh, and there’s the groom’s mother who’s been suddenly abandoned by her husband. And the hosts, who run the lovely B&B and appear to be having a serious marital squabble. A light read, but one I made it through easily and I’m not much of a chick lit girl.
Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers. It’s become cool to hate on Eggers, but this book is the kind you sprint through so quickly you find yourself out of breath. Don’t listen to the hype that it’s all about making a political statement. This book is a flat out thrill ride. It opens on Kev and Thomas in an abandoned military barracks. Oh, and did I mention Kev is an astronaut and Thomas has kidnapped him? Because Thomas wants to have a conversation. And that’s just the first page.
What are your summer book recommendations this year?