Hot for a summer read?
’T is the season for sun and sand, lobster and leisure, barbecues and books. Especially books. In the mood for dreamy literary fiction? A dark, twisty mystery? A gripping memoir (or perhaps a biography of the Godfather of Soul)? Sports, anyone? Here are some suggestions for your summer reading list.
“The Ministry of Utmost Happiness,’’ Arundhati Roy (Knopf)
In her first novel since 1997, Roy burns with righteous anger — at globalism’s inequities, at sectarian violence in all its forms — in language that is ferocious and, quite often, darkly funny.
James Baldwin (Vintage)
Baldwin’s novel about queer experience and expatriate life is Jamesian in its psychological acuity and stylistic fineness; it’s a great American novel, and perhaps the great American gay novel.
“The Bear and the Nightingale,’’
Katherine Arden (Del Rey)
Arden’s immersive, beautifully written debut — at once fairy tale, bildungsroman, and domestic drama — will transport you to the cold, dark forests of medieval Russia even as you’re sweltering on the beach.
“Thick as Thieves,’’ Megan Whalen Turner (Greenwillow)
Turner is a criminally underrated writer, and this stand-alone novel from her “Queen’s Thief’’ series shows her again playing with narrative perspective, mixing history with fantasy to brilliant effect.
“Pond,’’ Claire-Louise Bennett (Riverhead)
Imagine a short-story collection written by Emily Dickinson, and you’ll get the weird genius of this book, which explores the fastidious mind and odd sensibility of a woman living in an Irish cottage.
Virginia Woolf (Mariner)
“Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself”: the perfect opening for this nearly perfect novel about a single day in June of 1923.
“The Chalk Artist,’’
Allegra Goodman (Dial)
Goodman’s latest combines fantastical flourishes (an imagined video game called “UnderWorld”) and realistic Cambridge details (Grendel’s Den and Café Algiers) in a narrative about art and ambition.
Annie Dillard (Harper)
Set in Cape Cod, that most summery of places, Dillard’s slim novel helps us attend to the wonder of human existence, our transient, imperfect loves set “before the backdrop of fixed stars.”
John Keene (New Directions)
Keene’s story collection is truly radical — in its politics, in its stylistic restlessness, in its rethinking of the myths we tell ourselves about race and sexuality in the history of the Americas.
Ada Palmer (Tor)
Summer is the perfect season for a sci-fi epic, and “Seven Surrenders,’’ the second in Palmer’s “Terra Ignota’’ series, splendidly balances political philosophy, theology, and complex world-building.
T.C. Boyle (Ecco)
Amid growing climate-change fears, a group of ambitious and attractive young scientists move into a biodome as an experiment and prove that constant 80-degree temperatures aren’t the key to happiness.
“After Claude,’’ Iris Owens (New York Review Books)
Protagonist Harriet — recently dumped by the titular Claude — suffers from a personality as discomfiting as a Manhattan summer, but far funnier.
“State of Wonder,’’
Ann Patchett (HarperCollins)
A research scientist travels to the Amazonian rain forest and tangles with a highly credentialed hybrid of Kurtz and Dr. Moreau.
“The Deep Blue Good-By,’’ John D. MacDonald (Random House)
In the first installment of MacDonald’s classic crime fiction series, dissolute detective Travis McGee rescues an imperiled woman while enjoying the Florida sun from his houseboat.
“Friday,’’ Michel Tournier, translated from the French by Norman Denny (Johns Hopkins)
In this 1960s French retelling of Robinson Crusoe, our hero’s notorious Puritanism gives way to amorous feelings for his tropical surroundings.
“God Says No,’’
James Hannaham (Grove)
A confused black, gay teenager who loves Disneyland stumbles toward knowledge while bouncing around the Christian South.
Katie Kitamura (Riverhead)
When her estranged husband goes missing, a young woman travels to a rural fishing village in Greece and finds, well, other things.
“Telex From Cuba,’’
Rachel Kushner (Scribner)
American expats enjoy the fruits — both literal and metaphorical — of pre-revolutionary Cuba. Until Fidel and Raul Castro arrive.
“Two Serious Ladies,’’
Jane Bowles (Ecco)
In this acerbic art novel, a pair of fancy women yearning for experience do things unbecoming of their station, including consorting with prostitutes in hottest Panama.
Deb Olin Unferth (Grove)
A man with a misshapen head staggers around Central America to seek revenge on a man whom he believes broke up his marriage.
“Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl,” Carrie Brownstein
The cofounder of Sleater-Kinney and co-creator of “Portlandia” delivers a riveting memoir of self-discovery that recounts her impressive rise in the male-dominated field of rock music.
“The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey,” Rinker Buck (Simon & Schuster)
In a book perfect for armchair travelers, one of America’s classic pioneer tales receives a fresh update from Buck, who spent a summer retracing the 2,000-mile journey from Missouri to Oregon.
“St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street,” Ada Calhoun (Norton)
For decades, the legendary New York City street has been home to hippies, punks, anarchists, vagrants, and freaks of all stripes, and Calhoun brings it to colorful life in this vibrant history.
“The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America, from Key West to the Arctic Ocean,” Philip Caputo (Henry Holt)
Summer means travel, and Pulitzer Prize winner Caputo takes readers on the ultimate journey from Key West to Deadhorse, Alaska, all narrated from a vintage Airstream trailer.
“Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?”
Roz Chast (Bloomsbury)
One of the best graphic memoirs of the past decade, New Yorker artist Chast’s story movingly follows the last years of her parents’ life in a narrative saturated in both genuine emotion and laugh-out-loud humor.
William Finnegan (Penguin)
One of the quintessential summer pastimes gets the literary treatment in the New Yorker writer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir of surf and travel, which ranges across decades and continents.
“Fresh Off the Boat,”
Eddie Huang (Spiegel & Grau)
This sharp, hilarious coming-of-age memoir, now an ABC sitcom, is packed with tales of food, immigration, basketball, and hip-hop, and it helped launch Huang into the mainstream.
Hope Jahren (Knopf)
The recent autobiography award winner of the National Book Critics Circle, Jahren’s warm memoir testifies to a lifetime of curiosity and determination in pursuit of science.
“The World’s Largest Man,” Harrison Scott Key (Harper)
The Oxford American humor columnist grew up in rural Mississippi, and he entertainingly mines his childhood and adolescence with his eccentric father to create one of the funniest memoirs of recent years.
“Hold Still: A Memoir With Photographs,”
Sally Mann (Little, Brown)
Packed with plenty of evocative photographs, the acclaimed photographer’s memoir is a tender, heartfelt revelation of her Virginia upbringing and probing exploration of the mechanics of her art.
“Kill ’Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul,” James McBride (Spiegel & Grau)
Hardly a straightforward biography of the Godfather of Soul, McBride’s narrative proceeds through penetrating anecdotes and digressions that cohere into a rhythmic encapsulation of the essence of a one-of-a-kind artist.
“The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese,”
Michael Paterniti (Dial)
Though the tale hangs on a celebrated cheesemaker in Spain, Paterniti’s memoir/travelogue/cultural history/murder mystery is far greater than a mere celebration of food; it is a masterfully rendered page-turner that is simply impossible to put down.
“Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body,’’ Roxane Gay (Harper)
In the wake of a childhood rape, Gay writes that she “ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe.” A bold and tender exploration of trauma’s marks on the body and soul.
“Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right,’’ Jane Mayer (Anchor)
Meticulously reported and chilling in its implications, Mayer’s book follows the money trail to the ultrarich conservative donors whose financing has created, she argues, a kind of shadow political party.
Patricia Lockwood (Riverhead)
Bitingly funny and dizzyingly intelligent, this memoir by poet Lockwood chronicles her life as the daughter of a Catholic priest, one who grew up in thrall to both the sacred and the profane.
“Over the Hills and Far Away: The Life of Beatrix Potter,’’ Matthew Dennison (Pegasus)
This lively new biography traces the roots of Potter’s enduring animal stories, from a childhood steeped in art and natural history to a stifling family life in which imagination was Potter’s only freedom.
“We Are Never Meeting in Real Life,’’ Samantha Irby (Vintage)
Starting with an imaginary application to appear on television as the bachelorette, Irby’s essays tackle romance, race, beauty, health, and family. Irby’s writing is bold and honest, funny and sad, utterly entertaining.
“Richard Nixon: The Life,’’
John A. Farrell (Doubleday)
A rich new biography of the only president to have resigned from office, Farrell’s book portrays Nixon’s deep insecurities and fears while never excusing his crimes.
“My Soul Looks Back,’’
Jessica B. Harris (Scribner
A time capsule of 1970s black New York, Harris’s memoir describes a life and times defined by art, food, and fabulous friendships (with Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, and others).
“Edie: American Girl,’’
Jean Stein (Grove)
Stein’s multivoiced biography of one of Warhol’s great muses has been entrancing readers with its heroine’s dazzling, terribly brief life since it was first published in 1982.
“All the President’s Men: The Greatest Reporting Story of All Time,’’ Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (Simon & Schuster)
Behind the scenes with the journalists whose reporting exposed a corrupt and lawless presidency. Republished with a new subtitle and updates on Watergate’s legacy in 2014, the book is as relevant as ever.
“The Fire Next Time,’’
James Baldwin (Vintage)
Race has never ceased to be our most pressing national conversation, and Baldwin still tops any list of writers on the subject (or any subject).
“In Cold Blood,’’
Truman Capote (Vintage)
The original “nonfiction novel,” as Capote described it, tells the unsettling story of a murder in Kansas. True crime is a hot trend today in literature and television; this book remains at the top of the heap.
Julia Dahl (Minotaur)
Brooklyn reporter Rebekah Roberts, desperate to escape the sketchy world of tabloid journalism, gets a letter from a man convicted of murdering a family in Crown Heights yet proclaiming his innocence. His story hooks her and sets her off on an investigation that tests her loyalty to people closest to her.
“Cast the First Stone,” James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street)
In 1962 Hollywood, journalist Ellie Stone is assigned to write a profile on a hometown boy who’s just landed a big role in a film — and then goes missing. Full of humor and intrigue, the book examines Hollywood’s dehumanizing ideals as Ellie goes toe-to-toe with the Don Drapers of the film business.
David Swinson (Mulholland)
A former police detective turned PI is the novel’s morally compromised, drug-addicted anti-hero. In an understated, dialogue-driven narrative (think: “The Friends of Eddie Coyle’’) set in Washington, D.C., Frank Marr soon regrets agreeing to check up on a cousin who may be dealing drugs.
Thomas Mullen (Atria/37 Ink)
Set in Atlanta after World War II, this police procedural features the city’s first black cops, who face abuse and disrespect from white cops because they’re black and from black citizens because they’re cops. Complications mount when they’re blocked from questioning a white man suspected of murdering a young black woman.
“The Girl Before,”
J.P. Delaney (Ballantine)
This psychological thriller weaves the tales of two traumatized women (“Now-Emma” and “Then-Jane”). Seeking solace and healing in different time frames, each rents the same minimalist, high-tech house after passing muster from the creepy architect-owner. Are they being haunted or is it all an elaborate test? Read it before Ron Howard turns it into a movie.
“The Lies We Tell,”
Theresa Schwegel (Minotaur)
In Chicago, police detective Gina Simonetti is trying to keep her own debilitating health issues under wraps so she can hang onto her job and keep fostering her delightful toddler niece. We get the human and professional side of a police officer in crisis as she goes after a man who brutalizes women.
Joseph Finder (Dutton)
Returning from a business trip Michael Tanner inadvertently walks off with the wrong laptop computer after going through airport security. Tanner’s curiosity gets the better of him, and he takes a peek to see what’s on it. Big mistake. Perfect for fans of “The Fugitive.’’
“A Twist of the Knife,”
Becky Masterman (Minotaur)
In a gripping third entry of this powerhouse series, ex-FBI agent Brigid Quinn agrees to help her former partner exonerate a man convicted of killing his wife and three children, even though Brigid thinks he did it. Meanwhile, she discovers some uncomfortable truths about her dying police-officer father.
Meg Gardiner (Dutton)
An adrenaline-fueled rush, this series first has newly minted narcotics detective Caitlyn Hendrix reassigned to homicide so she can track down a sadistic serial killer, the Prophet. Her father was the lead detective who failed to bring him to justice 20 years ago. Shades of “Silence of the Lambs’’ and the Zodiac Killer.
“The Force,’’ Don Winslow (William Morrow)
Winslow brings incisively-researched details, gut-wrenching plotlines, and infinite heart to his all-too-real, highly compassionate tale of decorated New York City cop Denny Malone, who isn’t as clean as he seems and has drawn the notice of the feds.
“Since We Fell,’’
Dennis Lehane (Ecco)
Lehane’s terrific tour-de-force kicks off with a journalist determinedly searching for her long-lost father, and — after her public, on-the-job breakdown — deftly evolves into a crafty and nuanced page-turner.
“The Woman From Prague,’’ Rob Hart (Polis)
Accidental spying comes just as naturally as accidental private investigating to Ash McKenna: a mellow three months in Prague comes to a screeching halt when he encounters an evil blackmailer, a Russian assassin, and a femme fatale.
Anthony Horowitz (Harper)
This double-barreled puzzler involving a mystery writer whose work begins to anticipate real events cleverly melds vintage English-village crime fiction with a snarky contemporary murder mystery. A literary sparkler that is effervescent, riveting, and fun.
Fiona Barton (Berkley)
A gruesome discovery under a London house drives journalist Kate Waters to pursue a missing-baby story, but, this being a Barton thriller, there’s more to pretty much everything than meets the eye.
“Based on a True Story,’’
Delphine de Vigan, translated from the French by George Miller (Bloomsbury)
When a writer befriends a ghostwriter, the scene is set for a tension-filled tale about a tangled, stifling relationship that gleefully channels both Stephen King’s “Misery’’ and 1992’s “Single White Female.’’
“The Daughter of Time,’’
Josephine Tey (Scribner)
An injured policeman spends his hospital time ruminating over the mystery of Richard III and whether the king, in fact, had his nephews murdered. An elegant and provocative crime-fiction classic.
The Martin Beck police procedurals, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, translated from the Swedish by various translators (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)
Start with “Roseanna,’’ first published in Sweden in 1965, and don’t stop until you’ve read all 10 installments of this original — and still one of the best — Nordic noir series.
“Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less,’’ Jeffrey Archer
In this pitch-perfect caper, when a millionaire tricks four men out of their money, they decide to get their revenge — and their money — by conning him right back.
“Quiet as a Nun,’’
Antonia Fraser (Norton)
The first of Fraser’s entertaining mysteries featuring television journalist Jemima Shore sees Shore returning to her old convent school when a nun dies in an ancient tower under suspicious circumstances.
“Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship on and off the Court’’ (Grand Central) and “Writings on the Wall: Searching for a New Equality Beyond Black and White,’’ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Time),
The prolific Abdul-Jabbar likes to be introduced these days as a writer who used to play some basketball. “Coach Wooden’’ demonstrates how a progressive black Muslim and a conservative white Christian can create a friendship based on respect, curiosity, and open minds. “Writings on the Wall’’ explores the nation’s most critical social issue more thoughtfully than any politician has done and actually offers hope.
“Leo Durocher: Baseball’s Prodigal Son,’’
Paul Dickson (Bloomsbury)
The biography by a veteran sportswriter makes a case for the cocky and combative star shortstop and legendary manager as both charming and insufferable, which sounds about right for the guy who both championed Jackie Robinson’s arrival in Brooklyn and insulted him as fat and slow.
“The Bittersweet Science: Fifteen Writers in the Gym, in the Corner, and at Ringside,’’ edited by Carlo Rotella and Michael Ezra (University of
Essays by journalists, fiction writers, and people in the game examine boxing as business, cultural curiosity, and craft. The piece titled “Why I Fixed Fights” by Charles Farrell is especially instructive, even for those who don’t aspire to fix fights.
“Sting Like a Bee: Muhammad Ali vs. The United States of America, 1966-1971,’’
Leigh Montville (Doubleday)
Montville, who has written for the Globe and Sports Illustrated, has accomplished the unlikely: He’s written a fresh, ambitious book about one of the most written-about men in the history of sports or anything else. Shouldn’t have been surprised. He’s a writer who never disappoints.
“Kill The Ámpaya! The Best Latin American Baseball Fiction,’’ edited and translated from the Spanish by Dick Cluster
This collection reminds us through baseball stories that people are just people — a crucial lesson in these times when some of our leaders apparently don’t feel that immigrants qualify for that distinction.
“You’re Welcome, Cleveland: How I Helped LeBron James Win a Championship and Save a City,’’
Scott Raab (HarperCollins)
Embittered superfan Raab provides the antidote to his own gonzo excoriation of James for leaving the Cavs as a free agent before bringing home a championship (“The Whore of Akron: One Man’s Search for the Soul of LeBron James”). While the first book was bile-driven and hilarious, the second is a father-and-son-centered celebration of the return of the prodigal star and paradise found. In Cleveland.
“The Range Bucket List: The Golf Adventure of a Lifetime,’’ James Dodson (Simon & Schuster)
Golf writer Dodson has characterized this book as his “love letter to Arnold Palmer.” It’s that and more, and the “more” includes his revealing and entertaining account of a luncheon four years ago with Donald and Eric Trump at one of their clubs. All the signs were there.
“Long Shot: The Triumphs and Struggles of an NBA Freedom Fighter,’’ Craig Hodges with Rory Fanning (Haymarket)
Hodges makes his case that he was blackballed by pro basketball for his political activism and inclination to encourage Michael Jordan et al to consider such matters as black history and social responsibility. Hodges sued the NBA in 1996, four years after being waived by the Bulls and drawing scant interest from the other teams.
“Champion of the World,’’ Chad Dundas (Putnam)
Dundas’s debut novel harkens back to the 1920s, the days before professional wrestling became fake. It follows the unlikely comeback attempt of former-champ-turned-circus-performer Pepper Van Dean in a world of gangsters, bootleggers, and stacked decks.