Summertime means longer daylight hours, no school (for the lucky ones), and plenty of leisurely holiday time. Unlike the lackluster blockbuster season where schlock reigns, these next few months are a time to bask in the literary hits of spring and anticipate stellar new releases chock full of fantasy, romance, social issues, history, adventure, and even controversy (Go Set a Watchman, anyone?). So sit back, relax, and read on. Here’s a curated list (with more to come) of the best books to pick up right now.
In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
If you’re a woman, or happen to know a woman, chances are you’re familiar with Judy Blume. Famous for YA classic including Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Blubber, and Iggie’s House, Blume is back with her first adult novel in 17 years. Her new novel focuses on how a series of plane crashes in Elizabeth, New Jersey in the 1950s affects various generations.
Loving Day by Mat Johnson
Join Warren Duffy as he navigates (oftentimes unsuccessfully) his messy life of a failed marriage and career, discovering that he has a daughter, dealing with crack heads/ghosts, and his own misgivings about growing up biracial. Johnson pours his heart into this nerdy, haunting, and ultimately timely novel.
Get in Trouble by Kelly Link
The newest collection of stories by Kelly Link are inspired by what she calls “night time logic,”— things that don’t make sense, yet still have truth. The shorts are sometimes creepy (characters may or may not be human), sometimes magical (a woman gives birth to rabbits), and always steeped in a sense of unlimited imagination. Even if you’re not a fan of the short story, Link may just turn you on to the form.
The Last Flight of Poxl West by Daniel Torday
An impressive debut from Daniel Torday, title character Poxl publishes an acclaimed and best-selling memoir about his time as a Jewish bomber pilot in the British Royal Air Force. Complications arise when his nephew, Eli, discovers that his uncle may have fabricated some of his account. Memoir and fiction blur in the most unexpected ways without being melodramatic or predictable.
God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
Literary legend Toni Morrison focuses on color, beauty, and family relations in her latest novel. Unlike much of her work, the story is set in the present day. The title character, a woman who goes simply by Bride, has blue-black skin and a top-paying job in the cosmetics industry. In classic Morrison fashion, ghostly developments ensue and fires get lit. While God Bless the Child isn’t in line with the earth shattering Beloved or The Bluest Eye, the fact that Morrison still challenges the status quo at 84 is damn impressive.
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Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
You’re probably familiar with Aziz Ansari from Parks and Recreation and his various comedy specials. Now he can add author to his resume. This isn’t your usual comedian book offering, and it tackles a subject that we can all relate to: love and dating in the weird, crazy, and frustrating world of tech and social media. Co-written by sociologist Eric Klinenberg, the book is funny, smart, and oddly cathartic.
Balm by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Coming off of the success of her debut novel Wench, Dolen Perkins-Valdez's new novel Balm is set in Chicago after the Civil War. The book follows three memorable characters—Madge, Hemp, and Sadie—as they struggle to transition and start fresh in a world where “the best healing balm was hope.” What it means to be free, and how to rebuild and reform are just some of the pressing questions in a novel that aims to change our perspective on the war and slavery.
Follow Dana De Greff on Twitter @DanaDeGreff