I’ve realized summer is for books what fall is for television. There are an impossible number of truly fantastic titles in my review pile this month. So many, in fact, that I’ve been putting off this post because I quite honestly didn’t know where to start, or how to narrow my list. I’ve managed it, but it was quite the hat trick…and it’s still long. Luckily, you still have a few weeks left of those long, sun-drenched days, and I’m determined to help you spend as many of them as possible stretched out on a chaise lounge, reading a new book you can’t put down.
This Is Where I Leave You, Jonathan Tropper (Dutton): Easily one of my favorite books of the year, this book is by turns hilarious, tragic, cringe-inducing and familiar. A jilted middle son’s father dies, and he returns home to sit shiva with his entire family for 7 days. Hilarity ensues. Tropper’s writing reminds me of Nick Hornby at his best. He is better than almost anyone at capturing the complexities of a family dynamic, and he does it with humor, which helps you forgive even the ugliest truths that come out when you spend this much time examining someone else’s life. An easy read, and a page-turner. Don’t miss it.
The Art Forger, B.A. Shapiro (Algonquin): For reasons that escape me, I am hopelessly obsessed with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, not least because of the infamous art heist that took place there back in 1990. So it’s no real surprise that this fictionalized account has me smitten. The writing is fantastic, the plot is thick, and the action is fast. If you’re into mystery, and in need of a poolside page-turner, look no further.
The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer (Riverhead): A little more dense than your typical summer read, but I loved The Interestings, which follows a group of friends who meet at summer camp through their adult lives. The writing is beautifully thick and rich, and the characters so real you’ll half expect to meet them one day. It has that flavor of nostalgic summers gone by, and will make you think of friends you’d nearly forgotten. Wolitzer’s style reminds me of Zadie Smith and Jeffrey Eugenides – if you love them, you’ll love this too.
Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter (Harper): A tragic love story set on the Italian coast during the 1960s? It’s virtually impossible not to love a book that includes glamorous movie stars, Hollywood has-beens and enough vivid descriptions of Cinque Terre to make you wish you could skip work and hop the next plane. The story jumps back and forth between the 1960s and present-day, and had just enough mystery to keep me turning pages well after I should have been asleep (I admit it, I do more bedside reading than poolside). Read this for the setting and the fumbling-yet-unforgettably-charming Italian hero, and everything else is a bonus.
Life After Life, Jill McCorkle (Algonquin): This is a poignant and well-written story of the intersecting lives that pass through a retirement home. Since I have a grandfather currently residing in one, I took to this book more than I might have otherwise – when I visit, I always find myself wondering about the other residents, and wishing someone could tell their story. McCorkle is a fantastic writer who’s easy to read, weaves characters together effortlessly, and makes you care about the whole cast more than is at all reasonable.
Everybody Has Everything, Katrina Onstad (Grand Central): I always hesitate to recommend sad books in the summertime…something about it just seems to go against what summer is all about. But if you’re up for getting down, as they say, this is the story you want. A childless couple finds themselves as the guardian of a toddler whose parents meet with an accident, and their lives begin to careen down a track they can’t possibly maneuver. It’s an emotional read – not tears, but it really makes you stop and think about life and what you’d do in the same situation.
What have you read and loved lately?