My friends are already asking me what to read on their summer vacations. The truth is, I have no idea. Unlike this time last year, there are no breakout books like Wild and Gone Girl. June looks like a slower month for book releases, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find something amazing. We all just have to look a little harder (and consult the experts on these things). I checked out best-of lists from Publisher’s Weeklyand The New York Times and O Magazine, and here are my faves:
Kiss Me First
Lottie Moggach PW writes: This disturbing, engrossing psychological thriller will keep you up nights as the founder of a website that discusses philosophy lures a lonely young woman into a twisted scenario involving identity takeover via social media. A wild and wicked debut novel.
The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living Wendy Jehanara Tremayne PW writes: Summer is a perfect time to ponder—and try—living with less. Tremayne’s whimsically illustrated back-to-the-land memoir and DIY manual, which PW called a “rollicking, inspiring tale,” convincingly advocates for a “decommodified life.” Readers will be moved to consider everything from the concept of the gift economy to recipes for homemade toothpaste and kombucha.
Gail Godwin PW writes: Charismatic Helen Anstruther, the wry adolescent narrator of Godwin’s new novel, is left in the care of the “hopelessly effusive” Flora, a young family friend. The isolated and rambling house they share once served people recovering from tuberculosis or alcoholism. It’s 1945, Helen’s father is away on business and her mother is long dead, and the summer she spends with Flora—full of boredom, desire, and ultimately heartbreak—profoundly transforms them both. Godwin knows how to deliver rich, textured tales.
The Silver Star
Jeannette Walls O writes: Twelve-year-old “Bean” Holladay and her older sister, Liz, aren’t immediately concerned when their mother abandons them to “make some time and space for myself…to find the magic again”; she’s done this before—to chase a man, or her dream of being a singer. But when she doesn’t return after two weeks, the girls, who’ve been subsisting on a diet of chicken potpies, revert to plan B—buying bus tickets from California to their mother’s hometown in Virginia—to avoid being taken away by social services.
And the Mountains Echoed Khaled Hoseinni O writes: And the Mountains Echoed opens like a thunderclap, with a fable of sacrifice told by a destitute Afghan villager to his son and daughter. What makes his sad tale even more searing is that the children are unaware their father is about to sell one of them. From this dramatic opening spins a constellation of star-crossed characters.
Sisterland Curtis Sittenfeld NYT writes: The high-concept gimmick at the heart of Ms. Sittenfeld’s new novel, “Sisterland,” is the premise of twin sisters who have strange psychic powers that enable them to foresee the future. One twin tries to suppress her ESP; like Samantha, the nose-twitching witch in “Bewitched,” she just wants to live life as an ordinary suburban housewife. The other sister cultivates her unusual gifts and becomes a professional psychic; she gains national fame when she warns that a terrible earthquake is going to hit the St. Louis area and is interviewed on the Today show. In both books Ms. Sittenfeld’s gifts for portraying the inner lives of her heroines manage to transcend the silliness and contrivance of her plots.
Bad Monkey Carl Hiassen NYT writes: A washed-up monkey, sex in a morgue, a severed arm at the end of a fishhook and other Carl Hiaasen capers make Bad Monkey his funniest novel in almost a decade.
Spring is in the air along with loads of birds. The kids and I love watching these creatures and listening to them sing. Two recent children’s picture books celebrate birds, and my kids loved both of them.
Let’s Go Hugo
by Angela Dominguez
Hugo is an affable little bird guy who lives in Paris and loves to play in the park. One day he meets a cute yellow feathered friend named Lulu. She happily hangs out with him all day and then wants to go to the Eiffel Tower. The only problem–which Hugo tries to hide at first–is that he’s afraid to fly. If you have a child who’s apprehensive about anything right now, this little picture book just might make him feel better. My kids rooted for Hugo and especially loved his little French mustache.
The Eagles are Back
by Jean Craighead George
This book covers a lot of ground. It opens with a pair of eagles who lost their baby eaglet eggs before they hatched. A little boy watches them in the field every day, and he’s very worried about the endangered American bald eagles. The story kept my kids interested even though it delivers a heady message about our nation’s great bird and protecting its environment. What reeled my readers in was the sweet story about the boy, the park ranger and the dad. The paintings–rich, emotional and timeless–expertly wrap children into this story written by the talented Jean Craighead George, a Newberry Award and Honor winner, who sadly passed away recently.
Jennifer Gilmore‘s The Mothershas become a praised and hot new novel. It’s about one couple’s struggle with infertility and then the rigors of adoption. Jennifer wrote her book after going through a similar hardships herself. Luckily, her personal story has a happy ending. Here’s more directly from Jennifer about her life and her book:
“Since we met in our late twenties, my husband and I have wanted to make a family. I’d been sick, though, and was told by my doctors I’d never be able to have children.Despite this ominous declaration, I went on to become pregnant, which ended in a miscarriage. After several rounds of unsuccessful IVF procedures, we decided to pursue domestic adoption.
We were utterly unprepared for the adoption process, despite extensive research. And the deeper we got into the world of paperwork and agencies and lawyers and the choices we had to make, the more issues of race and class, and also what motherhood means, ignited the novelist in me. I wanted to investigate not only the difficult and shocking process, but also the deep and complex wanting to be a parent and the stress not being able to make that happen puts on a relationship. I hope my new novel, The Mothers, does this.
After a long and winding and often terrifying adoption path, my husband and I have been fortunate enough to have a newborn at home with us, for good. We are adjusting—with pleasure—to the daily rhythms and changes of a growing infant. There were times we thought this would never happen, and so becoming a family of three feels delicious, something to savor.
And yet, like my friends and family who came to motherhood easily, I have some of the similar concerns. There are the financial pressures—our savings and then some went into trying to have a child—and there are the pressures of space that come when living in a New York City apartment, with or without a child. While often there is little predicting when a child enters any of our lives, adoption can be quick and unexpected, as ours was. And so we are living the same frenetic life we were before his arrival .
As a writer, I work at home. Right now, the baby is asleep in his swinging chair, but he could—and will—wake up at any moment, wanting to be held, fed, changed. I do all these things with pleasure, but as a writer works for herself, there is no maternity leave. Now, I meet my deadlines in quick spurts. And I would be disingenuous if I did not admit to being worried about the future. Beginning a novel takes huge swaths of empty time and silence and solitude. And as a novelist, I have to believe I will be working on a new book very soon.
I am not the first writer to become a mother. Women managing work and parenting has been tackled and discussed and hashed over privately and in the media for decades. For writers though, especially women, it is especially difficult to carve out time for work when there is a child right here, whom I have yearned for, waiting for me to pick him up, bring him to me, hold on to him forever.”
You’re seeing The Great Gatsby this weekend, right? It’s Mother’s Day, so you should be taken on a golden horse-drawn carriage if you wish. You should eat all of the Milk Duds you please and stay out way past your kids’ bedtime. This is what I might do considering how much I love F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic book that comes out with my boyfriend Leonardo DiCaprio tomorrow.
If you can’t make it–or even if you can–check out these Gatsy-inspired cupcakes. Book Expo America’s Book Bliss and The Huff Post Books teamed up to make these book-inspired desserts. I’m going to suggest The Great Gatsby at my next book club–but only if we agree to serve these chocolate yummies.
Macmillan books gives you this challenge: Download their audio books and workout while you listen! Don’t wait, do this now. I’ve written before about how much I love Audible books–they will change your life. And if you walk or run while you enjoy them, you’ll get healthier, too. I can’t think of a better way to make sweating more fun.