Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Book Frog's Reads for Summer: Fiction

So much great fiction, so little time. Some of these I've read, some not. Some are out now, some are upcoming.

Carol Anshaw's Carry the One and Lauren Groff's Arcadia are, to date, my two favorite books released this year. Although utterly different from one another, both are moving, and lushly written. Anshaw's novel follows the fates of three siblings, their friends and lovers, over the course of the twenty-five years following a fatal car accident in which several are involved. And Lauren Groff's tracks the people who build a commune in upstate New York, from it's inception through its inevitable decline and beyond. Each of these books has the potential to be overly dark, each has characters that could easily degenerate into stereotype...but that never happens. Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins, consisting of related stories taking place fifty years and oceans apart, is one I eagerly awaited. The two narratives--coastal Italy in 1962, contemporary Los Angeles--are peopled with richly realized characters as well as being full of rich description, funny, and exquisitely written.

Just out today is Dave Eggers's (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) first novel since 2006's What is the What. A Hologram For the King (gorgeously packaged, as is typcial for Eggers's publishing house McSweeney's) travels around the world to "show how one man fights to hold himself and his splintering family together in the face of the global economy's gale-force winds." Jonathan Tropper is another author whose books I eagerly await; I can tell you that his new release (out 8/21) was worth the wait. One Last Thing Before I Go features the kind of guy that Tropper does so well, the hapless man-boy coming to the realization that the way he's living just isn't cutting it. But, you know, really, really funny. If you can't wait until August to start your summer reading, grab Tropper's last novel, 2009's This Is Where I Leave You, a brilliant story of family dysfunction, complete with snarky reconciliation, one-liner redemption, birthday cake, and a funeral. 

Wife 22 is Melanie Gideon's midlife crisis novel for the gal who does it all in the Facebook age. By turns hilarious, frustrating, and touching, it's a good read all the way through. And The Red Book, by Deborah Copaken Kogan, examines in-depth the lives of five former roommates at Harvard as they attend their 25th college reunion. A sprawling Texas-based soap opera, Tumbleweeds will please fans of Leila Meacham's last bestseller, Roses.

In Eleanor Brown's Weird Sisters three sisters, daughters of an artist and a Shakespeare-obssessed scholar, each suffering an upheaval in her life, head home, where they will spend the hot, humid summer helping care for their mother, who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Funnier than you might expect (the sisters have a shorthand, which they use internally and to communicate with each other, consisting of quotes from the bard), Weird Sisters is nicely written and satisfyingly quirky. Julian Barnes scored an immediate entry into the book club canon with his Man Booker winner The Sense of an Ending, an intense novel about a middle-aged man contending with a past that thrusts itself violently into his present. Translated from the original Korean, Man Asian Literary prize winner Please Look After Mom "[t]old through the piercing voices and urgent perspectives of a daughter, son, husband, and mother...is at once an authentic picture of contemporary life in Korea and a universal story of family love."

So many books, so little time, and so impossible to fit them all in one little blog post. Look for upcoming posts with suggestions of great thrillers, mysteries, science fiction, horror, fantasy, nonfiction....And, as always, come on into the store and talk to any of us. I'm sure we can find something that suits.

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