Summer is book season, the time of year when there’s finally an excuse to lie in the sun and get through that stack of stories you’ve had your eye on for months. Or just lie in the shade of some pages as you nap. Whatever. This year, there’s a bumper crop of good ones to bring with you to the beach or the park or on the way to your grandparents’ house. Pack one of these for your long weekend and you’ll be set.
Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique
Tiphanie Yanique was tapped earlier this year to be part of the National Book Awards’ “5 under 35,” and her debut novel, which spans four different narrative voices and several generations, explains why. in Land of Love and Drowning, Yanique explores the Virgin Islands, her own homeland, with wit, color, and a touch Gabriel Garcia Marquez-flavored magical realism.
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Naysayers who look askance at Young Adult books are missing out on the warmth and intelligence of Rainbow Rowell’s prose. Her last book, Fangirl, was one of the smartest accounts of how internet communities actually operate out there. Landline, out on July 8, is on its surface, a story about the trials of a relationship and a bizarrely magical phone that allows the user to speak to someone in the past. But it’s also about out failures to communicate in an era so laden with technology aimed at doing just that.
The Vacationers by Emma Straub
Aside from its wildly appropriate title, Emma Straub’s second novel, a look at a family on a two-week vacation in Mallorca, is exactly the kind of book you want to have in the depths of your bag while on holiday. It’s smart, sunshiney, and just a little gossipy.
Carsick by John Waters
Half hitchhiking memoir, half hitchhiking fantasy, cult film god John Waters sticks his toe into the waters of written fiction for the first time in Carsick. It’s both another spelunking trip into the caverns of Waters’ mind and a reminder that the weird, wild corners of America that he began championing in the 1960s is swiftly disappearing.
The Fever by Megan Abbott
An expertly paced, expertly creepy Lynchian thriller about a group of teenagers in the grips of madness, The Fever deserves to replace Gone Girl as the book that you can’t stop reading, not even at the dinner table, not even after it starts raining on you. Abbott executes a sort of literary wizardry by being bale to so fully inhabit and so quickly subvert the thriller genre. It’s a neat trick, but more than that, it’s a riveting read.
The Mad and the Bad by Jean-Patrick Manchette
Speaking of intellectually-pleasing pulp, what better to turn your humid July day into an unforgiving labyrinth of existential noir than this gem by French crime novelist Jean-Patrick Manchette? It’s the first time that the book, the tale of a wealthy businessman hiring a hitman to off his nephew and the child’s nanny, has been translated into English. It’s the rare detective novel that is as funny as it is gory.
Green Girl by Kate Zambreno
When it came out in 2011, Zambreno’s novel was one of those rare books that people spoke about feverishly, pressing underlined copies into their friends’ hands. Reissued this year by Harper Perennial, this portrait of a perfume-hawking expat in Paris hasn’t lost a bit of its ferocity.
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
An exploration of a woman’s kidnapping in Haiti and the ramifications that echo throughout her life, An Untamed State isn’t exactly a breezy read. But it is an enrapturing one, elegantly paced and achingly written.
Last Stories and Other Stories by William T. Vollman
William T. Vollmann has been recently prolific in his nonfiction writing, but this collection of not-quite-ghost stories is his first foray into fiction in nine years. The offerings are Vollmann’s obsessions metabolized into creepy, beckoning morsels, a platter that’s varied and rich in all the right ways.
Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush by Geoff Dyer
If poolside fiction’s not your bag, perhaps you could be tempted into the narrative account of a bemused Englishman out at sea on an American military vessel. Dyer’s observation and humor make it fly by, and it swiftly turns from military history into a narrative account that owes a debt to David Foster Wallace’s “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.”