10 Must-Read Summer Books Of 2013
This has been a big year for high-profile authors. Within the first six months, we've seen huge releases from the likes of George Saunders, Elizabeth Strout, Kate Atkinson, and John le Carré. We even saw a posthumous book from Maeve Binchy. The month of May saw two of the hugest blockbusters: Dan Brown's latest romp and the long-anticipated new book from Khaled Hosseini.
So who's left to release books? Is there any hope for summer?
Luckily, the big releases have just started. June is definitely going to be the busiest month, with at least one big release coming each week, but July and August are going to be busy months too. Here's a list of ten books to keep your eyes out for, all from highly respected authors.
I know I left some out, so leave other recommendations in the comments section.
1. Colum McCann's TransAtlantic
Colum McCann has been publishing books since the mid-90s, but it was his last book, 2009's Let the Great World Spin, that really shot him into the stratosphere. In TransAtlantic, McCann intertwines multiple stories, including the story of the first flight across the Atlantic, the story of an escaped slave's new beginning in Ireland, and the story of 1998's Good Friday Peace Accords. This may sound unwieldy, but McCann's power is his ability to demonstrate the way history reverberates. Look for TransAtlantic on June 4.
2. Jonathan Alter's The Center Holds
Jonathan Alter has made a bit of a name for himself as an Obama scholar. His second book, The Promise looked at Obama's first year as president. His newest book, The Center Holds due on June 4, looks at Obama's re-election campaign. While Michiko Kakutani's New York Times review points out that a lot of Alter's book feels like "reruns," Kakutani's suggests that the real power of this book is its ability to show the context of Obama's current political woes. If you want to stay up-to-date on politics, this is probably the best book on politics coming out this summer.
3. Jeannette Walls' The Silver Star
Having shot to fame with the memoir The Glass Castle and the "true-life novel" Half Broke Horses, Jeannette Walls has built a name for herself as one of the best memoirists of our time. Able to straddle the fence between truth and fiction, Walls mines her life and the lives her predecessors to show how humans can endure great suffering. Her newest book, a work of fiction, is The Silver Star. Available June 11, The Silver Star traces the lives of two young sisters in Virginia during the '70s. While this is Jeannette Walls' first foray into pure fiction, this is looking to be a stunning piece that will have a deep impact.
4. Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Neil Gaiman hardly needs any more publicity, but it's impossible to do a "Hotly Anticipated" list without including him. Known for his excellent work in a variety of mediums, Neil Gaiman's newest book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, is his first book for adults since Anansi Boys in 2006. (Of course, Gaiman hasn't exactly been resting on his laurels — he's published nine books for kids and he's edited several story collections in the last seven years.) But June 18 marks his return to grown-up fiction. The Ocean at the End of the Lane showcases Gaiman's ability to write modern myths. This time he concentrates on memories (with ghosts, witches, and sacrifices thrown in for good measure). This is one you cannot miss.
5. Chris Bohjalian's The Light in the Ruins
The Light in the Ruins is the latest offering from the prolific author Chris Bohjalian. This novel looks at a serial killer in Italy who is systematically killing off members of the Rosati family. The Light in the Ruins is Bohjalian's take on World War II and its repercussions. Grab this book on July 9 and get a healthy dose of historical fiction and armchair traveling.
6. Mark Kurlansky's Ready for a Brand New Beat
If you've started thinking that Jonathan Alter's new book is the only piece of non-fiction coming out this summer, you can relax: on July 11, well-respected non-fiction author Mark Kurlanksy is releasing his newest book. Kurlanksy, known for tackling a variety of topics, has turned his eye to the intersection between music and social protest. Ready for a Brand New Beat traces the use of the song "Dancing in the Street" in social protests throughout the '60s and how the song came to have a special resonance with an entire generation. Kurlansky has turned his eye to this era before (1968 looked at all of the important upheavals of that year alone), but this book promises a fresh take on an important era of protest and social engagement.
7. David Rakoff's Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish
David Rakoff died almost a year ago, but on July 16, we can get another taste of his acerbic, self-denigrating wit. Rakoff became famous for his darkly comic contributions to This American Life, but he also had a solid career as a freelance journalist and an essayist (he also worked in publishing, but he hated it). Rakoff's last piece, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish, is a novel in verse that explores America throughout the 20th century. Using anapestic tetrameter, Rakoff looks at all of the social upheavals of the last 100 or so years through the eyes of three different characters. This is going to be an important summer book, so make sure you check it out (and when you're done, you'll want to look into Rakoff's essays — Half Empty is a good place to start).
8. Javier Marías' The Infatuations
Javier Marías is an important Spanish author who has just started making waves in America. August 13 sees the English-language publication of his latest book, The Infatuations (it was released in Spain two years ago as Los enamoramientos). This novel looks at the way imagination deals with the aftermath of murder. The Infatuations is being called a brilliantly inventive take on the classic murder mystery, bringing in elements of metaphysics and philosophy to create a deeply thoughtful look at reverie and truth. Don't miss this book — Marías is likely to be a household name after this one.
9. Joyce Maynard's After Her
Joyce Maynard may have entered popular culture because of her affair with J.D. Salinger, but her writing deserves more of the attention. She has been busy for the last ten years (this will be her fifth book in ten years), and has become well known for writing in a variety of genres. After Her, due out on August 20, is a thriller that looks at a San Franciscan family reeling from a close-encounter with a serial killer. Maynard specializes in this sort of writing; this book is liable to be one of the best thrillers out this summer.
10. Jane Goodall's Seeds of Hope
Closing out the busy summer reading season is Jane Goodall's newest offering, Seeds of Hope, which will be released August 27. Goodall has come under fire for this book for allegedly plagiarizing sections and, as always, scientists and journalists are accusing her of junk science, but her writing is still worth a look (if only so you can speak intelligently about all the problems). Seeds of Hope looks at the important role plants and tress play, but more importantly the book demonstrates Goodall's deep love of botany and nature. Read this book with a grain of salt, but read it.