Here's the first installment of our summer reading suggestions, this one featuring fiction picks. There are so few days to read and so many books to fill those days; let us help you narrow your choices!
I love reading. I love all kinds of books--big books and small, great ones and those of, shall we say, less significance. Reading makes me happy, always. But every once in a while a book comes along that truly elates me; this year, Amy Falls Down did just that. This hilarious, moving, thought-provoking book follows the life of Amy Gallup--a writer who had some critical success earlier in life but who has since given up writing and now teaches it--over the course of a year. As the novel opens Amy trips, falls, and conks her head on the bird bath. She knocks herself out and later in the day gives an interview to a local reporter, the contents of which are a complete surprise to her when she later reads it. The interview--in which she somehow comes across as a Zen goddess earth mother--goes viral, and Amy's life is set awhirl. In addition to creating episodes of almost ethereal beauty, such as the scene in which Amy and her dog encounter a pack of coyotes during a late night walk, author Jincy Willett delivers laugh-out-loud and often scathingly snarky observations of the publishing, writing, and reading worlds. (July 9)
Wilton Barnhardt's new novel, his first since 1998's Show World, is gorgeous and lush. Set in his home state of North Carolina, Lookaway, Lookaway delves deeply into the fortunes of the influential, if somewhat down at the heels, Johnston family. Barnhardt is possessed of keen powers of observation and a truly wicked sense of humor. Let's hope it's not another 15 years between this one and his next. (August 13)
At a summer camp for artistic teens, in the summer that Nixon resigns, a group of teens will find each other, discover their likemindedness, declare themselves inseparable and dub themselves The Interestings. Meg Wolitzer's new novel of the same name closely observes the lives of these six young people as they grow up and find various levels of success and happiness, as their early, shared brilliant promise blossoms in some instances, becomes something completely different in others.
And the Mountains Echoed is the third novel by Khaled Hosseini, author of the beloved The Kite Runner. As with his first two, this one is a sprawling novel with action from Kabul to Paris, the Greek Isles to San Francisco. I have not yet read And the Mountains Echoed but the eternally cranky Michiko Kakutani, writing in the New York Times, says that his "narrative gifts have deepened over the years." High praise from the reviewer who's hated most of the books I've loved over the last decade or so.
I have not read The Flamethrowers yet, although it's high on my list. I recommended it to a customer recently based on how much I'd loved the author's first novel, Telex From Cuba. That customer came back into the store a few days ago and could not stop raving about this book. In fact, The Flamethrowers gave him the same rare elation that Amy Falls Down gave me. The publisher's dust jacket copy calls it "an intensely engaging exploration of the mystique of the feminine, the fake, the terrorist."
Elizabeth Kelly's The Last Summer of the Camperdowns is a coming of age story and a glorious portrayal of the over-the-top dysfunction of a wealthy Cape Cod family. Set in the summer of 1972 (perhaps a good companion read to The Interestings?), the novel unfolds from the adult perspective of 12-year old Riddle James (named for Jimmy Hoffa) Camperdown, a horse crazed girl. Mom's a devastatingly beautiful former actress, dad's got political aspirations, there's a charming but sneaky horse trainer of Romany descent, a missing child, and a mysterious fire....Let me tell you, this gal can spin a tale.
The characters in Jean Thompson's The Humanity Project are all, in one way or another, seriously messed up. A teen girl who survived a school shooting is sent to live with her long-estranged father who has issues of his own. Another teen works odd jobs to support his dad who's addicted to prescription pain killers. A home health care nurse is asked by an elderly client to be the executor of a philanthropic fund which brings all these sad people, orbiting in their own little worlds of pain, toward one another.
1 month ago