6 Books to Add to Your Summer TBR Pile
Hello dear readers!
I'm not only an editor and writer—I'm also an avid reader. I tweet as "Cincy Bookworm" for a darn good reason—that's who I am!
My mother gave me the greatest gift when she taught me to read before I even got to Head Start. In first grade, my amazing teacher, Julie Lauer, read us Charlotte's Web out loud, chapter by chapter, and that was it—I was a book lover for life (wherever you are Miss Lauer, thank you!).
The fact that I get to work on books every day for a living never ceases to astonish me. That little girl who was always pestering the librarians for more, and more advanced, books, still lives inside me and cannot believe her luck.
Once upon a time, I got to write a quarterly book column, and I realized that I miss it terribly. So to that end, today I am sharing with you six books that I am so excited about for summer! Fire up your Kindles, dust off your library cards, or even better—open up your local indie bookstore’s website—and get ready to read all summer long.
1: Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing, by Lauren Hough (out now)
I devoured this memoir (told in essays) by debut author Lauren Hough. I have said before that, "I love books so much I hate most of them"—I am a very particular reader. A book has about five pages to hook me. If it doesn't get the job done in that space, I'm gone, and on to the next in my teetering, towering, TBR stack. I was all the way in from Hough's Author's Note, on the very first page. By turns funny, terrifying, heartbreaking, and life-affirming, it's a stunning book. I cannot wait to read whatever words Hough shares with us next. She is an incredibly gifted writer. If, like I did, you loved Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman, Educated by Tara Westover, or The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch, you will love this one, too.
2: Brat: An '80s Story, by Andrew McCarthy (out now)
This one is up next in my TBR queue. I am so very, very Gen X that I pre-ordered a signed copy of it way back in January. I squealed with teenaged glee when it arrived earlier this month. It's beautifully produced, with lots of never-before-seen photos; exactly what you want in a celebrity memoir. We Gen Xers may have made fun of Millenials and their Team Edward vs. Team Jacob saga, but admit it, gang: We had Team Blaine vs. Team Duckie (full disclosure: young me was Team Duckie. Now that I have had, oh, several, ahem, years, to think about it, I am leaning Team Blaine. I know, I know—"That's a major appliance, that's not a name!"). I've often argued that Pretty in Pink is much more than a teen romance—it's an ode to the middle American working class, an examination of the haves and the have nots of the go-go '80s (and the haves come out looking very, very bad indeed). I've followed McCarthy's career as a travel writer, where he proved he was much more than a floppy-haired, pretty-faced, teen dream. He's a genuinely talented writer, and I've enjoyed everything by him I've ever read, so I expect great things from his memoir. It's been compared to Just Kids by Patti Smith, which is in my top ten favorite books of all time, so it's extremely promising.
3: The Souvenir Museum: Stories, by Elizabeth McCracken (out now)
I adore Elizabeth McCracken! I discovered her first novel, The Giant's House, years ago while wandering the library stacks, loved it, and have read everything she's ever written before and since. I also love short fiction. I've often said it might be my favorite form, and McCracken is a master at it. So when I heard she had a new collection out, I snapped it up right away. It is a decision I have no regrets about whatsoever; these stories are some of her best ever. A self-described "weirdo" (I had the singular privilege of interviewing her when I was Editor-in-Chief of Writer's Digest), McCracken is so witty, and writes to those of us who don't quite fit in, anywhere. I love her for that. Her many fans do, too. If you dig short fiction, and writing that's just slightly left of the dial, you will love this collection.
4: Night Came with Many Stars, by Simon Van Booy (releases 6/8)
Speaking of masters of short fiction.... Simon Van Booy has written not one, but four of my favorite collections of short stories in the entire world. I have given away no fewer than fifteen copies of his debut collection, The Secret Lives of People in Love; I call it my evangelization tract for reading. Van Booy also writes novels, and his latest, which releases very soon, is already on my desk, thanks to an advanced reading copy from his publisher. I believe it is his finest work to date. And I have read every syllable he's ever published at this point, I think. I've said in many places that Van Booy can write a perfect sentence. Many writers try for ages to write one perfect sentence; Van Booy somehow embeds them in every page. His latest work is set in my native Kentucky, making it particularly special to me, and Van Booy (who has strong ties to the great Commonwealth himself) deftly and respectfully handles the interwoven stories of its characters. He nails the dialect; and we care deeply about these people from the first page. I have not yet finished this one; I am taking my time with it, and savoring it. If you were completely absorbed, as I was, by Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock, or Once Upon a River, by Bonnie Jo Campbell, you will find yourself quite happily immersed in this one.
5: All the Little Hopes, by Leah Weiss (releases 7/27)
I know that I just rave and rave about writers, and you must wonder if they truly are as great as I say they are, but I assure you—Leah Weiss is the real deal, folks. I found her first novel, If the Creek Don't Rise (published after she turned 70—don't give up, aspiring authors!), in my endless quest for Where the Crawdads Sing readalikes. I read it in something like three days—it's an astonishing little gem of a book. So when I learned she had a second novel coming this summer, I was ecstatic. Me being me, I reached out to her on Facebook and struck up a friendship. She sent me an advance copy of her forthcoming novel, All the Little Hopes, and boy oh boy! I had to pace myself—her Southern flavored combination of well-researched historical fiction and tautly-woven mystery is just absolutely addictive. She is a fine writer, and at the height of her craft here. You will adore this story of two young girls coming of age in WWII-era North Carolina. (By the way: I asked her if she'd agree to be interviewed for this blog, and God love her, she said yes! Watch this space for her answers, and also, joy of joys, I get to have a conversation with her in July for none other than one of my favorite places on earth, Cincinnati's Mercantile Library. This makes me want to tell my childhood self, "Dream hard, little bookworm—your dreams really will come true!")
6: A Slow Fire Burning, by Paula Hawkins (releases 8/31)
There's something about a darn good thriller that just makes a perfect summer read. Paula Hawkins knows how to spin a good yarn—The Girl on the Train and Into the Water were breathless page-turners. She returns late this summer with A Slow Fire Burning, which is already receiving rave advance reviews. I know how I'll be spending Labor Day weekend this year—by a pool with Paula Hawkins!
What books are you looking forward to reading this summer? Drop me a line and share, or shout them out in the comments below.
As always, happy reading, and keep writing!