Sometimes my book life is as barren as the Atacama desert. Someone asks me, "What books should I read?" and I give her the deer-in-the-headlights fifty-yard stare. But this summer...ah, this summer. There are so many good books forthcoming or that have come out over the past couple of months that my nights have been spent in places from the Berkshires to the wilds of eastern Oregon, all from the comfort of my bed. For all of my book buddies, this post is for you.
The first place to start is my Summer Fiction Roundup for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. While all of the books were worth a good read, my two favorites were WHERE"D YOU GO BERNADETTE by Maria Semple and TELL THE WOLVES I'M HOME by Carol Rifka Blunt. Two totally different books with two very different plots.
WHERE"D YOU GO BERNADETTE had me laughing out loud at the ridiculousness of modern-day parenting (for a taste of it, read her New Yorker piece "Dear Mountain Room Parents"). TELL THE WOLVES I'M HOME gave me that indescribable feeling of finding an author who writes to your sweet spot. You know what I'm talking about.
I've strayed from short stories lately, but found my way home with Megan Mayhew Bergman's amazing BIRDS OF A LESSER PARADISE. Paging through Harper's one day I stumbled across a fantastic story by Karl Taro Greenfeld and immediately downloaded a DRC (digital review copy) of TRIBURBIA. It reminded me of little of KISSING IN MANHATTAN by David Schickler, with more emphasis on the messy life of marriage with children.
THE WORLD WITHOUT YOU by Joshua Henkin was so good that I spontaneously teared up at the last page (unusual Yankee behavior) and Henkin will be my go-to author recommendation for everyone who comes to thank me when I gush to them about Jonathan Tropper. Speaking of the Tropper...his new book ONE LAST THING BEFORE I GO comes out 8/21. (I have the DRC which I am saving for my summer road trip.) For the summer "path not taken" read check out Jillian Medoff's I COULDN'T LOVE YOU MORE, she writes with great honesty and humor. Her personal essay at the end of the book was the cherry on top of the sundae.
SEATING ARRANGEMENTS by Maggie Shipstead, oh-so clever and capricious without deteriorating into slapstick. A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME by Wiley Cash is a fast but absorbing read, thriller-like but with really, really good writing. I just finished LITTLE CENTURY by Anna Keesey which left me mouth agape at the end...the characters...the writing...each sentence its own story. There is an excellent short interview with her in this month's Poets and Writers.
Are you still with me? Hang in there, because some of my favorite mystery/thriller writers came up with some killer novels for 2012. GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn was a nailbiter, a "War of the Roses" kind of romp. I can only describe her writing style as...evil. (That's a compliment.) Megan Abbott can see into the minds of teenage girls and it's not pretty. I was ten pages away from the end of DARE ME (out 7/31) and almost peed my pants because I couldn't...put...it...down. I know, I am a professional book reviewer and it's not very professional to say that, but let's face it, that's the sign of a really, really good book. If you can't wait until the end of July, just go get THE END OF EVERYTHING by Abbott and that should tie you over. Oh, and PHANTOM by Jo Nesbo? Two words: Surprise Ending. Well worth the wait.
This is the longest post I've written in a while, but how could I resist? So many tasty books out, I had to share. I leave you with my summer TBR list:
THE NEWLYWEDS by Nell Freudenberger
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN WINTER: A MEMOIR IN BLINDNESS by Candia McWilliam
TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS: ADVICE ON LOVE AND LIFE BY DEAR SUGAR by Cheryl Strayed (oh, and if you haven't read WILD yet, do it.)
THE OTHER HALF OF ME by Morgan McCarthy
THE TWELVE TRIBES OF HATTIE by Ayana Mathis
AFTERMATH by Rachel Cusk
HOW TO BE A WOMAN by Caitlin Moran
GOLD by Chris Cleave
BROKEN HARBOUR by Tana French
THE SUMMER OF THE BEAR by Bella Pollen
SHOUT HER LOVELY NAME by Natalie Serber
Uh oh...more summer please.