Summer is made for reading.
And with a mountain of books at our disposal, deciding what to pick up next can prove daunting at times. Back in May, I finally got a library card and in preparation for this season’s reading list, I checked out tons of books and gave them a test run. Generally, one chapter in, I know whether a book is worth my time or not.
To welcome summer with a splash, I’m sharing the books I can’t wait to dive into — books by popular authors I’ve never read before, titles that have sat on my to-be-read list for ages as well as a couple of hot new summer releases.
The Other Language by Francesca Marciano (2014)
Hailed by critics as “moving”, “suspenseful”, “astonishing” and “sublimely crafted”, the Rome-born author’s collection of nine short stories transports us around the world – from a summer holiday escape in a Greek village to the film festival in Venice to the tiny southern Italian village of Andrano to a dance community in India. Marciano’s stories centre on characters stepping outside their comfort zones and finding new passions.
Review: “This outstanding book has a quality I find only in the best collections: that after each chapter I cannot immediately flip to the next but need time to absorb what has just unfolded so memorably before me.” — Tom Rachman, bestselling author of The Imperfectionists
The New Yorkers by Cathleen Schine (2007)
I’ve never read anything by the bestselling author, so I decided to start with her seventh novel. Inspired by her account in The New Yorker of adopting a troubled dog named Buster, this novel is a story of neighbours overcoming shyness, making unexpected connections, and falling in and out of love. Schine introduces us to five lonely New Yorkers living on the same Manhattan block whose paths intersect thanks to their four-legged friends.
Review: ‘There’s plenty of unexpected romance, but it would be a mistake to think that this is merely a love story about dogs or their people. It’s really about Schine’s love for the city that contains them – a Manhattan of the not-so-distant past… A rich snapshot of urban life.” — Time Out (New York)
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown (2012)
Dr. Brené Brown has spent the last thirteen years studying human connection; with a focus on vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. After watching, loving and sharing her popular TED talks on the power of vulnerability and listening to shame, I decided there is no better time than now to pick up Daring Greatly. In her widely popular book, Brown challenges us to embrace vulnerability and imperfection, to be brave and to engage with our whole hearts.
Review: “Will draw readers in and have them considering what steps they would dare to take if shame and fear were not present.” — Publishers Weekly
It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario (2015)
Lynsey Addario’s work has appeared in National Geographic, Time Magazine and The New York Times (her photo of a Syrian child bride who left an abusive marriage has never left my mind). She has covered conflicts from Afghanistan to the Congo. In her memoir, the award-winning photojournalist conveys the role of gender, how she set out to prove herself in a male-dominated profession and how motherhood has helped her on the job.
Review: “Addario has written a page-turner of a memoir describing her war coverage and why and how she fell into—and stayed in—such a dangerous job.” — Booklist
The Expats by Chris Pavone (2012)
I picked up Pavone’s debut spy thriller last week and it’s been my constant travel companion. Meet Kate Moore: a woman bent on forgetting her past. So when her husband Dexter gets offered a contract from a private overseas bank, they move their family from Washington, D.C. to Luxembourg. Wife, mother and now, expat; Kate’s schedule is filled with coffee mornings and playdates. But she is also hiding a life-defining secret—one that’s become so unbearable that it begins to unravel her newly established expat life.
Review: “Expertly and intricately plotted, with a story spiraling into disaster and a satisfyingly huge amount of double-crossing, The Expats certainly doesn’t feel like a first novel.” — Guardian (London)
The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza (2015)
When Imogen Tate, 42-year-old editor in chief of Glossy magazine walks into her office after a six-month hiatus, she barely recognizes her own magazine. She discovers that her ambitious 26-year-old former assistant Eve Morton is back – armed with an MBA from Harvard and a business plan to reduce her magazine to an app! The Knockoff turns the spotlight on the ever-changing world of fashion in the digital age.
Review: “Jo Piazza and Lucy Sykes’ compulsively readable corner office drama, The Knockoff, [is] summer’s juiciest beach read.” — Elle.com
Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave (2015)
In her brand new summer release, Dave explores the messy realities of familial and romantic relationships. A week before her wedding, thirty-year-old Georgia Ford finds out her fiancé has been keeping secrets. As she’s always done: Georgia escapes to her family’s gorgeous Sonoma County vineyard, expecting the comfort of her long-married parents and her brothers. But to her surprise, her fiancé isn’t the only one who’s been keeping her in the dark.
Review: “Laura Dave paints Sonoma County and its inhabitants with both warmth and smarts in this delicious novel. Eight Hundred Grapes is fun and thought-provoking, and is guaranteed to make you deeply thirsty for some Pinot Noir.” — Emma Straub, New York Times bestselling author of The Vacationers
The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan (2012)
Buchanan’s novel, set in late-19th century Paris, tells the heart-wrenching tale of two young sisters struggling to escape the slums through the magic of ballet. Following their father’s sudden death, the van Goethem sisters find their world flipped upside down. Without his wages and their mother squandering the small amount she earns, the girls have no choice but to find work. Marie is sent to the Paris Opera where she will be trained to enter the famous ballet while her older sister, Antoinette lands a part as a laundress in Emile Zola’s naturalist play L’Assommoir.
Review: “The ethereal ballerina from Degas’s famed sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen comes to life in this richly imagined novel. Amid the glamour of tutus and art emerges a surprisingly gritty story of survival in the gutters of Belle Epoque Paris.” — Entertainment Weekly
My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff (2014)
With dreams of becoming a poet, Rakoff moves to New York City and lands a job as assistant to J.D. Salinger’s literary agent. She paints a vivid portrait of literary New York in the late nineties, a world where Dictaphones and typewriters rule. Faced with the task of answering Salinger’s fan mail, Rakoff finds herself sucked into the emotional world of Salinger’s fans. She abandons the agency’s decades-old form response, starts writing back, and finds her own voice by acting as Salinger’s.
Review: “Here is the story of a reader becoming a writer, of a young woman deciding who she will be, of the power of books.” — Maggie Shipstead, author of Seating Arrangements
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine (2014)
“By 1927 there were twelve girls who danced all night and never gave names, but by then the men had given up asking and called them all Princess.” And so begins Valentine’s retelling of the fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses. In jazz-era New York City, Joseph Hamilton, bitter over not having a male heir (his wife produced girls; twelve in all) keeps his daughters locked away in the upper rooms of his Fifth Avenue townhouse. Jo, the oldest of the twelve, mothers them, teaches them how to dance and gives the signal each night as they sneak out and escape to Manhattan’s underground speakeasies. Together, the girls elude their distant and controlling father, until he announces his plans to marry them all off.
Review: “But even more than the characters, their voices or the sharp, quiet slicing of the understated prose, what I loved about this book was its own tense dance with its source materials.” — NPR
The Oyster Catcher by Jo Thomas (2013)
In her award-winning debut novel (a runaway bestseller in ebook), Thomas introduces us to Fiona Clutterbuck. On her wedding night, Fiona finds herself alone in the Irish coastal town of Dooleybridge. After abandoning her new husband right after saying “I do”, Fi realizes she can’t go back. So she seizes the opportunity to work for Sean Thornton, the local oyster farmer. A romantic, feel-good adventure on the Irish coast.
Review: “A world you long to live in with characters you love.” — Katie Fforde
The Summer of Good Intentions by Wendy Francis (2015)
At the heart of Wendy Francis’ latest novel lies the love that brings family together and the secrets that tear them apart. The Herington girls — Maggie, Jess and Virgie, along with their newly-divorced parents, husbands and kids meet up at the family’s house in Cape Cod for their annual summer getaway. The sisters are counting on this seaside vacation to wash away their personal problems. But an accident reveals a new secret that brings the family together in heartbreak and healing.
I’d love to hear what you’re reading this summer in the comments.