Summer books are meant to be defiled. Pages should be smeared with suntan lotion and potato chip grease; covers should be sun faded and waterlogged, used as coasters for your margaritas, a landing pad for unwieldy ice cream cones. (Unless, of course, you’re checking your summer book out from the library. In which case, you weren’t raised in a barn.) Maybe you can’t make it to the beach this summer? Throw on a floppy hat and a pair of sunnies, head out to your stoop and pretend. These books will help get you there in spirit and are ready to be gripped by your beautiful, grubby hands.
So, here’s a vast generalization about the books coming out this summer: they were written during peak pandemic times, which means they skew a little dark. And that’s OK. Everyone’s grieving something—whether it’s a loved one, the loss of time, etc. So, yes, The Dead Romantics is about a young woman who falls in love with a ghost while mourning the loss of her father. But everyone who loves romance novels knows there’ll be a happy ending. And you know what? We deserve it.
Friends DM me all year long asking for recommendations for quick, light books. My latest prescription for reading pleasure is Nora Goes Off Script, a rom-com about a divorced mom who writes a screenplay that propels her life to unexpected heights. It’s the perfect palate cleanser after watching the news or tuning into whatever true crime podcast you’re hooked on these days. Actually, it might even be worth squirreling this one away for the long, cold days of winter when you’ll need a sunny boost of dopamine.
Gone Girl was released ten years ago and we’re all still chasing that same high of deciding who’s more cruel: husband or wife? The latest iteration on this theme involves Annie Barker, who’s not your average marriage counselor. Instead of prescribing John Gottman and weekly date nights, she forces couples to play by her own rules. Her new clients are wealthy suburbanites who look perfect on the surface until Annie peels back the layers of their marriage to discover a serious crime. Turns out, marital dysfunction never goes out of style!
This would make an excellent book club pick, if you can convince your crew to get on board with the bond formed between a 70-year-old widow and an octopus. Once you’re over that hump, everyone is sure to enjoy this sweet story. Tova Sullivan works as a janitor at a Seattle aquarium to keep herself busy so she doesn’t have to think too hard about the husband and son she lost. When she befriends Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus, her whole life changes. Reader beware: you won’t want to serve seafood at the book club meeting.
Do you know how hard it is to write sexy dialogue? Honestly, I don’t ‘cause I’m not a romance writer. But I’ve read enough of the low-rent stuff to know it’s not easy. Thankfully, the conversations in Good Morning, Love are popping. Carli is an aspiring musician working her way up at a major media company when she falls for Tau, an irresistible R&B star. Eventually, as you can guess, they do more than just have really good conversations. Swoon.
You’ll want one book in your arsenal for the nights when a summer thunderstorm rolls through. The Foundling drops us into the year 1927, when Mary Engle is hired as a secretary at The Nettleton State Village for Feeble Minded Women of Child Bearing Age. She doesn’t realize the fuckedupness of the eugenics movement—hey, she needed a job—until a patient forces her to see the light. If you liked Lauren Groff’s Matrix (and who didn’t?) you’ll want to dig into this page turner. Maybe you’ll even get lucky while reading it and a power outage will help ratchet up the tension.
Crazy to Leave You is crazy fun. Forty-one-year-old Lauren Leo was excited to work her way down to a size 12 and marry the love of her life. Until he left her at the altar. Now she has to face her mother, who advises her to freeze her eggs and keep dieting, and her two sisters, who both have their own sets of issues. Buckle up ‘cause it’s a wild ride watching Lauren get her career, love life, and family in check. This book also gets major bonus points for having the craziest Passover seder of all time.
Recently, I had one of those long summer lunches with a friend who was in town from London and we talked about everything except books. Then, just as she was leaving, she mentioned a “fun, murder-y” series so, of course, I had to look into it. Now I’m hooked. The Thursday Murder Club series is an entertaining whodunnit mystery featuring a group of elderly people who take their knowledge and skills from past careers to help solve murders. Each installment is delightful and, well, feels like catching up with an old friend.
Who doesn’t love a good hustle? I’ll admit to feeling the occasional rush while gaming the return policy at the expense of Mr. Bezos. But that’s small potatoes compared to the global crime ring cooked up by the protagonists in Counterfeit. The novel centers on two Asian-American women who turn their counterfeit handbag scheme into a majorly lucrative enterprise. While this is a quick read involving heists and scams, the story also skims heavier topics including the tedium of marriage and parenting. Plus, it has the most satisfying twist ending I’ve read all year. No lie.
Heads up: this is not a book you leave lying around the lake house for your mother-in-law to peruse. This plot is so racy, the author won’t let her own parents read it! A 30-year-old writer enters a relationship with an older choreographer in his fifties, spiraling into a gutsy power struggle. Alyssa Songsiridej nails what it’s like to be a bright young thing out there in the world, swept into a romance with a much older man, and the way the private cocoon they build together is ripped apart the second it’s examined from an outsider’s point of view. So I hear.
I’m going to make a wild assumption here and state that everyone reading this blog will enjoy Lessons in Chemistry. That is to say, you like smart women who cook and you like juicy stories. Elizabeth Zott is a brilliant chemist in the 1960s, when women were expected to be housewives. After her career stalls, she becomes the star of a popular TV cooking show. The character development reaches John Irving levels of storytelling and you’ll want to eat this one up with a spoon.
See Toby’s list for The Best Nonfiction Books for Summer 2022!