summer arts preview

Suggested summer books

What should you read this summer? What a delicious question. Aside from the unread books piled around your house, there is the ripe new bounty that publishers are just beginning to release into stores and libraries. This summer features big novels from household names, from Harper Lee to Stephen King to Milan Kundera, and debuts from young novelists whom we’ll be meeting for the very first time. There are short stories for that last hour of sun before dinner, like Ann Beattie’s linked “The State We’re In: Maine Stories.” And there are rich tales of history and adventure, whether about surfing or flying — or school desegregation. We found you 30 summer reads to choose from: Pack yourself a basket and hit the beach.



    “The Ghost Network’’ by Catie Disabato (Melville House, May)

    A high-energy, pop meta-mystery about a Lady Gaga-like star who has vanished, an anarchist 1960s political group, an abandoned subway line under Chicago, the journalist trying to connect all three — and a writer named Catie Disabato.

    “Re Jane’’ by Patricia Park (Pamela Dorman, May)

    From Park, who received her MFA in fiction at Boston University, a retelling of “Jane Eyre” set in modern-day New York City and starring a Korean-American orphan named Jane Re who becomes an au pair for a Brooklyn couple.

    “The Sage of Waterloo’’ by Leona Francombe (Norton, June)

    If you read only one literary novel this summer in which a modern-day Belgian rabbit retells the history of the Battle of Waterloo, make it this one. The author, a British-born, American-raised classical pianist, lives in Brussels.

    “Muse’’ by Jonathan Galassi (Knopf, June)

    Galassi is a famous name in the book world, as the publisher of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, a poet, and a translator. His fiction debut sticks close to home: It’s about an editor at a company that sounds exactly like FSG, and his fascination with a famous poet in Venice.

    “Safekeeping’’ by Jessamyn Hope (Fig Tree, June)

    Set on an Israeli kibbutz in the summer of 1994, a novel about a drug addict who comes from New York City carrying a priceless sapphire brooch, on a mission to bring it to a woman from his grandfather’s past.


    “The Wright Brothers’’
    by David McCullough (Simon and Schuster, May)

    The great Massachusetts historian tells the story of how a daring, brilliant pair of 19th-century Ohio bicycle manufacturers invented and built the first successful airplane. McCullough’s latest has already hit No. 1 on Amazon.

    “The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789’’ by Joseph J. Ellis (Knopf, May)

    A quadruple portrait of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison and how they shaped the American federal government, from Amherst’s Pulitzer-winning Ellis.

    “Modern Romance” by Aziz Ansari (Penguin Press, June)

    In an unusual pairing, comedian Ansari (“Parks and Recreation”) teamed up with New York University sociologist Eric Klinenberg (“Going Solo”) to conduct an international research project on love and dating in the modern era.

    “Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County:
    A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle”
    by Kristen Green (Harper, June)

    In 1964, the Supreme Court ruled that this Virginia county had to desegregate its schools, but an all-white academy hung on. Green, a former Boston Globe contributor, went back to her hometown to investigate and learned of her own family’s disturbing role.

    “Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life” by William Finnegan (Penguin Press, July)

    Longtime New Yorker staff writer Finnegan lives in Manhattan, but he is a lifelong passionate surfer. This recollection describes his life in the sport, from early days in California and Hawaii to travels all over the world.


    “Seveneves’’ by Neal Stephenson (William Morrow, May)

    From a science fiction master, a novel about a cataclysmic event on our planet that sends a small group of escapees to live in outer space. Five thousand years later, some of their three billion descendents decide to head back to Earth.

    “In the Unlikely Event’’ by Judy Blume (Knopf, June)

    The first novel for adults from kid-lit icon Blume since her No. 1 1998 bestseller, “Summer Sisters.” From the 1980s, a woman looks back on a real-life series of plane crashes in the 1950s in Elizabeth, N.J., where Blume herself grew up.

    “Finders Keepers’’ by Stephen King (Scribner, June)

    A vengeful fan kills an author who has failed to publish the latest book in a series. (This sequel to “Mr. Mercedes” comes only a year later — so back off, psychos.) Released from prison years later, the murderer will stop at nothing to get the manuscript.

    “The Festival of Insignificance’’ by Milan Kundera, translated from the French by Linda Asher (Harper, June)

    The 86-year-old author of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” returns with what an early review calls a “deceptively slight” tale of four friends discussing sex, politics, art, and other existential topics. It’s already been a bestseller in France, Italy, and Spain.

    “The Marriage of Opposites’’ by Alice Hoffman (Simon and Schuster, August)

    A young Jewish woman on the island of St. Thomas in the early 1800s will become the mother of Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro in this novel from the prolific Massachusetts-based author known for her magical, romantic touch.


    “Mislaid’’ by Nell Zink (Ecco, May)

    Championed by Jonathan Franzen, Zink climbs from the tiny press that published her first novel, “The Wallcreeper,” to the mainstream. In this short, zany novel, a white mother of two in the 1970s takes off with her daughter and hides by passing as African American.

    “The Making of Zombie Wars’’ by Aleksandar Hemon (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, May)

    Bizarre twists upend the life of a Chicago ESL teacher named Josh Levin, whose many ideas for screenplays include one called “Zombie Wars.” The publisher promises sex and violence, a departure by a writer known for the quieter “The Lazarus Project.”

    “Our Souls at Night’’ by Kent Haruf (Knopf, May)

    Finished shortly before the author’s death last fall at 71, this brief, tender novel about a lonely older man and woman who find each other has attracted excellent early reviews. It’s set in Holt, Colo., like Haruf’s earlier novels “Plainsong” and “Eventide.”

    “Confession of the Lioness’’ by Mia Couto, translated from the Portuguese by David Brookshaw (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, July)

    A tale told through interlocking diaries about a village in Mozambique menaced by lionesses — or possibly something more supernatural. Couto is a biologist as well as one of Mozambique’s most famous writers.

    “Flood of Fire’’ by Amitav Ghosh (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, August)

    From Calcutta-born Ghosh, this is the third in a trilogy following “Sea of Poppies” and “River of Smoke.” This sweeping novel set in 1839 concerns a soldier traveling through South and East Asia during the Opium Wars.


    “The Shell Seekers’’ by Rosamunde Pilcher (St. Martin’s Griffin, May)

    A classy paperback reissue of a much-lauded 1987 beach read. In Pilcher’s novel, a valuable painting called “The Shell Seekers” creates drama between the painter’s now elderly daughter and her grown children.

    “What Pet Should I Get?’' by Dr. Seuss (Random House Books for Young Readers, July)

    A new book by Dr. Seuss, who died in 1991. His widow recently rediscovered the manuscript among his effects. Middle-period simpler Seuss for early readers, starring the brother and sister from “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.”

    “Go Set a Watchman’’ by Harper Lee (Harper, July)

    An unpublished novel by the author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” featuring Scout as an adult. Is this a lost classic to which the elderly Lee is finally giving her blessing or a rejected first draft of “Mockingbird” squeezed from her by unscrupulous handlers? The debate rages on.

    “In Search of Lost Time: Swann’s Way: A Graphic Novel’’ by Marcel Proust, adapted by Stéphane Heuet, translated from the French by Arthur Goldhammer (Liveright, July)

    French comics artist Stéphane Heuet began publishing Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” in graphic-novel form in 1998. This new translation of the first book, “Swann’s Way,” is by Arthur Goldhammer, the Cambridge-based translator of Thomas Piketty.

    “Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings’’ by Shirley Jackson, edited by Laurence Hyman and Sarah Hyman DeWitt (Random House, August)

    A book of unpublished and uncollected short fiction and nonfiction by the brilliantly spooky writer of “The Lottery” and “The Haunting of Hill House.” A longtime Vermonter, Jackson died in 1965. Likely to pair well with a dark summer night.


    “On the Move: A Life’’ by Oliver Sacks (Knopf, May)

    This account of his young adult and professional years by the erudite and humane neurologist who wrote “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” is made more poignant by Sacks’s recent revelation that, at 81, he has metastatic cancer.

    “The Argonauts’’ by Maggie Nelson (Graywolf, May)

    In this frank, experimental book getting lots of attention in literary circles, Los Angeles-based poet and nonfiction writer Nelson (“The Art of Cruelty”) writes about gender, desire, language, and her domestic life with artist Harry Dodge.

    “A Field Guide to Awkward Silences’’ by Alexandra Petri (NAL, June)

    Petri, who graduated from Harvard in 2010, holds down a marquee humor column for the Washington Post; Dave Barry has called her “the funniest person in Washington.” Her self-deprecating memoir describes such exploits as her victory (victory?) at an international pun championship.

    “The Theft of Memory: Losing My Father, One Day at a Time’’ by Jonathan Kozol (Crown, June)

    Incredible early reviews abound for this memoir by longtime local educator and activist Kozol (“Death at an Early Age,” “Savage Inequalities”) describing his relationship with his father, Boston neurologist Harry Kozol, during his descent into Alzheimer’s disease.

    “The Pawnbroker’s Daughter’’ by Maxine Kumin (Norton, July)

    Kumin, the former US poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner, died in 2014. She left this memoir of her journey from young girl in Jewish Philadelphia to great American poet, deeply associated with the rural New Hampshire landscape where she lived.

Amanda Katz can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @katzish.