Look, I get it. The last thing you want to do right now – when the sun is out and the water’s warm and your friends are down to hang – is tuck yourself away with a book. But if you find you have some downtime at the beach (or some free time between Netflix binge sessions) this summer, try cracking the spine on one of these amazing reads.
“A Guide to Being Born” by Ramona Ausubel
I picked this book up because of its stunning cover art, but was pleasantly surprised when the stories that filled it were as beautiful and colorful as the image decorating its front. Each of Ausubel’s haunting little gems – a ship full of confused grandmothers adrift at sea, a pregnant teen convinced that there’s a wild animal growing inside her, an expectant father who develops a literal chest of drawers – explores birth, love and death with tender and imaginative care. Sad but hopeful, surreal but relatable, this collection is perfect for fans of George Saunders and Karen Russell.
“The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.” by Adelle Waldman
Nate Piven is a talented, driven, thirty-something writer whose career is finally taking off. He’s well educated and well read. He lives (of course) in Brooklyn. He’s also kind of a dick, and his love life is messy, at best. In “The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.,” Adelle Waldman highlights the challenges that modern men and women face in a dating world that rewards aloofness and detachment, a world where the person who cares less wins. Ever had a burgeoning relationship fall apart and been baffled by your ex’s sudden disinterest? This book will prove more cathartic than weeks of therapy.
“Carsick” by John Waters
This is John Waters’s account of hitchhiking across America, and if that isn’t enough to make you stop what you’re doing and go buy it, then I’m afraid you’re beyond help. Referring to the trip as his “own version of a midlife crisis
,” Waters recounts with great warmth and humor both the good and terrible rides he received on his trip from Baltimore to San Francisco. It is, predictably, awesome.
“Two Serious Ladies” by Jane Bowles
First published in 1943, Jane Bowles’ “Two Serious Ladies” has received a renewed appreciation (and an updated jacket design
) over the course of the last year. Bowles’s only novel follows two stifled upper-class women as they try to break free from their monotonous lives. Clever, hilarious, dark and unpredictable, “Two Serious Ladies” will have you laughing out loud and questioning your morals. And if you think you’ll struggle to connect with two high society ladies living in New York in the ‘40s, I leave you with this quote: “’To hell with stockings,’ said Mrs. Copperfield, who thought she was about to faint. ‘Let’s get some beer.’”
“Summer House with Swimming Pool” by Herman Koch
From its title alone, “Summer House with Swimming Pool,” sounds like it should be a pleasant beach read, a tale of lazy summer afternoons spent lounging by the water. But this is the latest novel from Herman Koch, whose twisted, best-selling novel “The Dinner” was a harrowing portrait of a family and the insane, sociopathic things they’d do for the ones they love. This time around, Koch tells the story of a doctor dealing with the fallout after he accidentally kills a beloved actor. As always, his characters are withholding and untrustworthy with a very perverse sense of right and wrong, all of which makes for another compelling read.
“Your Fathers, Where are they? And the Prophets, do They Live Forever?” by Dave Eggers
Dave Eggers – readers love him and they love to hate him. His latest work of fiction, written entirely in dialogue, takes place in an abandoned military base where a man named Thomas is interrogating a ragtag group of captives that includes a NASA astronaut and his mother. From its absurdly long title to its unconventional narrative style, “Your Fathers” is quintessential Eggers, sure to delight devotees and infuriate those who dismiss him as smug hipster trash. Either way, it’s a must-read.
“We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves” by Karen Joy Fowler
|Plenty of critics
have already pointed out
that Karen Joy Fowler’s “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves” is best enjoyed spoiler-free, which means avoiding reviews of the novel as well as the book’s jacket copy. It’s almost impossible to discuss any plot points without giving away the good stuff, but I will say this: it’s a great, great
book about family, love and the Animal Liberation Front. Its non-linear structure keeps the plot feeling fresh and unexpected, and quiet, introspective Rosemary Cooke is the perfect narrator for a story that explores the things that make us human.