This summer’s reading list: the essentials


If life were perfect, we’d have time to do a lot more. Organize our closets. Go to the gym. Learn French. Rewatch The Wire.

We’d also have more time to read — maybe even a new book every week.

So, this summer, let’s pretend we do. To take three whole months to luxuriate in reading what we want when we want. But where to start? There are obvious heavyweights: Finders Keepers, Stephen King’s sequel to Mr. Mercedes, is out June 2, and the long-awaited Go Set A Watchman, a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird by (we think) Harper Lee, hits shelves July 14. Controversy or not, who can resist?

Beyond that, there are plenty of other intriguing titles. Here are some suggestions, whether you plow through a book a week or plan to pick and choose. Either way, happy reading.

May 31: Where, Kit Reed (Tor): Let’s kick off the summer with a bit of sci-fi. When a smooth developer arrives on Kraven Island and starts throwing his weight around, Davy Ribault is furious at the interloper. But land grabs are the least of Davy’s problems when everyone on the island just … vanishes. Where did they go? Read and find out. And if you’re still in the mood for sci-fi, check out Neal Stephenson’s massive Seveneves, about the end of the world as we know it on a larger scale. Both out now.

June 7: Enchanted August, Brenda Bowen (Pamela Dorman): In Elizabeth van Arnim’s The Enchanted April, published in 1922, four women from London rent an Italian castle for a month and rediscover how to be happy in an impossibly romantic setting. Bowen trades gorgeous Portofino for a bucolic island in Maine and updates the action to the modern day. But the women must still learn to deal with change and what it means in their lives. Out June 2.

June 14: Loving Day, Mat Johnson (Spiegel & Grau): The author of the hilarious literary satire Pym — about a professor who sets out to discover Edgar Allan Poe’s mythical island of pure blackness — returns with this novel about family, race and identity. Biracial Warren Duffy, living in a decrepit mansion in Philadelphia’s black neighborhood, meets a daughter he didn’t know he had, and the two of them end up embroiled in a utopian mixed-race cult. Out now.

June 21: The Truth According to Us, Annie Barrows (Dial): One half of the bestselling authors of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society returns as a solo act (co-author Mary Ann Shaffer, Barrows’ aunt, died in 2008). Set in 1938 in a West Virginia mill town, the novel about a young girl, her aunt and a visitor unleashes a wealth of family secrets. If you like it, you can tell Barrows in person June 24 at Books & Books in Coral Gables. Out June 9.

June 28: The Cartel, Don Winslow (Knopf): Sure, it’s hot and sunny and you’re hanging out at the pool. But before we get too calm and settled, let’s shake things up a bit and venture into the dark side of the U.S./Mexican drug wars with the gritty author of The Power of the Dog, Savages and The Kings of Cool. In The Cartel, a DEA agent squares off with the recently-released drug lord who killed his partner. Expect violence, gore — and revenge. Out June 23.

July 5: Summerlong, Dean Bakopoulous (Ecco): Summer gets weird in a Midwestern town when married couples start behaving recklessly — as if, my God, they’re not married at all! Bakopouous, author of Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon, uses the adults’ bizarre behavior to examine ideas about marriage, happiness and that oh-so-slim line between fantasy and infidelity. Out June 16.

July 12: Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship, Robert Kurson (Random): Into each life, some nonfiction must fall. So why not check out the latest work from the author of Shadow Divers (about the adventures of two deep-wreck scuba divers)? In this new book, Kurson details two men’s harrowing search for a notorious 17th century pirate ship. Out June 16.

July 19: Saint Mazie, Jamie Attenberg (Grand Central): In Attenberg’s terrific family comedy/drama The Middlesteins, she showed she could blend humor and poignancy seamlessly. In Saint Mazie, she reanimates the past by bringing to life the proprietor of a Depression-era movie theater in New York City — and the documentarian who finds her diary decades later. Out June 2.

July 26: China Rich Girlfriend, Kevin Kwan (Doubleday): What happens when the young woman destined to marry Asia’s most eligible bachelor gets derailed by a shocking family secret? That’s what Kwan (Crazy Rich Asians) examines in this amusing, whirlwind novel about Rachel Chu, who discovers her long-lost father and falls headlong into a Shanghai — the fashion! the social climbing! the secrets! — wilder than her wildest dreams. Out June 16.

Aug. 2: Driving Hungry, Layne Mosler (Pantheon): Mosler, creator of the food blog Taxi Gourmet, hit on a great idea for restaurant recommendations: She asked a Buenos Aires cab driver for his favorite place to eat. An empire (and now a memoir) was born. Mosler extended her quest to New York City, talked to cabbies there and became one herself, then moved to Berlin. Her motto may be best explained by one of her recent Tweets: “There is no perfect place. There are only perfect instants. And perfect bites, if you're lucky.” Out July 14.

Aug. 9: Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings. Shirley Jackson (Random): You know her famous short story “The Lottery” and her horror novel The Haunting of Hill House. But she was also funny, as this new collection of essays shows. There are stories, letters and drawings here, too — more than 40 pieces previously unpublished — but Jackson’s light touch while writing about her four rambunctious kids stands out. (Penguin also just released new editions of Life Among the Savages and its sequel Raising Demons, Jackson’s memoirs about raising her family in rural Vermont).

Aug. 16: Make Your Home Among Strangers, Jennine Capó Crucet (St. Martin’s): A native Miamian and author of the story collection How to Leave Hialeah, Crucet uses a crisis familiar to South Floridians as the backdrop of her first novel: the Elián González saga. A daughter of Cuban immigrants returns home after a shaky first semester at college only to find her family — and city — in crisis over the boy, who became the center of a passionate custody battle between his father in Cuba, the Miami relatives who sheltered him after his mother died en route to Florida and the United States government. This one is pretty much a no-brainer for any reader in Miami. Out Aug. 4.

Aug. 23: Last Bus to Wisdom, Ivan Doig (Riverhead): Author of such memorable books as the novel The Whistling Season and the memoir This House of Sky, Doig died in April, leaving one last book about his beloved west. In Last Bus to Wisdom, a young Montana boy is shipped off to family in Wisconsin for the summer, where he runs afoul of his bossy aunt, who sends him back via Greyhound. Who should flee, as well, but his hen-pecked uncle? With their unlikely road trip, Doig makes his final fictional journey. Out Aug. 18.

Aug. 30: The Fall of Princes, Robert Goolrick (Algonquin): Who doesn’t like a good old-fashioned riches-to-rags tale? Set in the hedonistic 1980s, Goolrick’s latest morality tale revisits the glitz and glamor of a healthy Wall Street. Goolrick (The Reliable Wife) jets his characters around the world from Manhattan to London to Paris — and watches as their way of life crumbles. Out Aug. 25.

Sept. 6: The Gratitude Diaries, Janice Kaplan. (Dutton): Congratulations! It’s Labor Day weekend, and you’ve almost made it to fall (in Florida, that comes in November). With any luck, no hurricanes have blown down your fence or torn off your roof, the kids are heading back to school, and you have nothing staring you down except, well, the dreaded holiday season. Oh, well. Things will get crazy, but maybe this chronicle by the former Parade editor of a year spent trying to look on the bright side will be helpful anyway. Out Aug. 18.

Readers, weigh in

What summer read do you recommend? Let us know by joining our Miami Herald Books Facebook group, Readers With Attitude, and post a photo of yourself with the book on the page.