Reader’s Digest Recommends: What to Read This Summer
From breezy reads to life-changing lit, our books editor has found something new for everyone to enjoy while under the sun.
Lucky Us by Amy Bloom
Yes, yes, lucky us—we get a new novel from the much-celebrated Bloom, this one centering on teenage half-sisters navigating the 1940s, from small-town Ohio to Hollywood and London. It opens: “My father’s wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us.” Having grabbed you by the lapels, Bloom keeps you tightly in her grip until the final elegant sentence.
The Painter by Peter Heller
Looking for suspense with literary chops? Peter Heller (whose last book was the breakout bestseller The Dog Stars) is back with a brilliant page-turner about an artist with a dark streak. It opens: “I never imagined I would shoot a man. Or be a father. Or live so far from the sea.” Heller’s gorgeous prose and the moral complexity of his narrator make this a standout.
Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers
A new Dave Eggers novel is always a buzz-filled event; his sucker-punching, rule-breaking books invariably hit the bestseller lists and snap up literary accolades. This short tale with a long title is composed entirely of dialogue between a man named Thomas and the NASA astronaut he has kidnapped (“I did it. You’re really here.”) Prepare to be unnerved.
The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas
Set in London in 1870, Thomas’s delightful new novel blends romance, intrigue, and the edgy magic of the theater world. It opens: “Hector Crumhall, known to his legions of enemies and even his few friends as Devil Wix, sauntered up the alley as if he owned every cobblestone and sooty brick.” A great escape.
Above the East China Sea by Sarah Bird
Bird’s revelatory new novel takes place on Okinawa, shifting between 1945 and the present, where the past still roils under the surface. It opens: “The choking black smoke from the fires raging below rises up, trying to claim me and my child. I climb higher. I must hurry. I must do what has to be done before the sun rises.” Her two protagonists are separated by 70 years, and yet their lives, their stories—and ours—are intertwined.
The Wolf by Lorenzo Carcaterra
Organized crime bosses versus international terrorists—could there be a bigger adrenaline rush? Carcaterra (who also wrote Sleepers) delivers a whip-smart thriller that is not only about high-stakes crime, but also about family, love, and revenge. Sample: “My name is Vincent Marelli and I own your life.” We’re paying attention.
Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson
This much-awaited debut novel, set in the Montana wilderness, is centered around a troubled social worker, a nearly feral boy who lives in the back woods, and the social worker’s own teenage daughter. It opens, “The cop flicked his cigarette to the dirt and gravel road in front of the house, and touched back his hat over his hairline as the social worker drove up in a dusty Toyota Corolla.” You’ll be thinking about it long after it ends.
Guests on Earth by Lee Smith
Smith is one of our best living Southern-fiction writers. Her intricate novel about Zelda Fitzgerald, an orphaned 13-year-old, and the mental institution to which they’ve been admitted is at once rich in historical detail and deeply moving. Now out in paperback, it opens: “For years I have intended to write my own impressions of Mrs. Zelda Fitzgerald, from the first time I encountered her when I was but a child myself at Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1937, and then a decade later during the several months leading up to the mysterious tragedy of 1948.”
Paper Lantern: Love Stories by Stuart Dybek
Dybek is widely considered a master of the short story; this new collection of slyly inventive love stories is a delight. Don’t expect business as usual. Sample: “We were working late on the time machine in the little makeshift lab upstairs. The moon was stuck like the whorl of a frozen fingerprint to the skylight.”
Life Drawing by Robin Black
Black is drawing big big buzz for her debut novel, following the well-received story collection If I Loved You I Would Tell You This. Here, she draws an intimate portrait of a marriage marked both by betrayal and the desire to sustain love. It opens: “In the days leading up to my husband Owen’s death, he visited Alison’s house every afternoon.” Black pulls off the feat of creating a story as suspenseful as it is smart.