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The Books of Summer Span Many Genres

New biographies, fantasy, memoir, sci-fi, fiction, mysteries and more are in bookstores now

By Patricia Corrigan

What's in your beach bag?

Be sure to make room in that bag — or your backpack, your pocket or your purse — for worthy reads this summer. Like what? Booksellers at independent shops in California, Minnesota and in and just outside Washington, D.C. have recommended new titles on many topics.

A person reading a book while sitting on the beach. Next Avenue, books of the summer
Summer is heading our way. Make sure you have plenty to read.  |  Credit: Getty

First, books popping up on numerous lists include "An Unfinished Love Story: A Personal History of the 1960s" by noted historian Doris Kearns Goodwin; "James" by Percival Everett, described as "a reimagining" of "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" from Jim's point of view; and Amor Towles' "Table For Two," which consists of six stories and a novella.

"As a meditation, it is both unsentimental and full of wonder. As a piece of writing, it stands beside the best of Godwin's fiction."

Up for a new celebrity memoir? Whoopi Goldberg's Bits and Pieces: My Mother, My Brother, and Me just hit bookstore shelves. If you fondly  remember "Magnum, P.I." or are a fan of "Blue Bloods," check out "You Never Know: A Memoir" by Tom Selleck and Ellis Henican.

Jazz aficionados will cope with warm weather by reading James Kaplan's "3 Shades of Blue: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, and the Lost Empire of Cool."

If President Jed Bartlet's politics appeal, "What's Next: A Backstage Pass to The West Wing, Its Cast and Crew, and Its Enduring Legacy of Service" by Melissa Fitzgerald and Mary McCormack is due out Aug. 13. Aaron Sorkin penned the foreword and Allison Janney (we miss you, CJ Cregg!) wrote the introduction.

Prolific author Gail Godwin's latest is "Getting to Know Death: A Meditation," a memoir described as the 86-year-old Godwin's "look back at what makes a life well-lived, unspooling in lovely, poetic and insightful essay reflections." Ann Patchett ("Tom Lake") is a fan. "'Getting to Know Death' could just as easily be called 'Getting to Know Life,'" Patchett said. "As a meditation, it is both unsentimental and full of wonder. As a piece of writing, it stands beside the best of Godwin's fiction."

Dragons ... and a Romance Between Characters in Their 50s

Writer Jodi Picoult's summer offering is "By Any Other Name: A Novel," a story of two women living centuries apart — one said to be the real author of Shakespeare's plays — and both go by names not their own.

A person in a book store. Next Avenue, books of the summer
Christine Bollow, Loyalty Bookstores  |  Credit: Courtesy of Christine Bollow

"You Know What You Did" by K.T. Nguyen will be big this summer, according to Christine Bollow, co-owner with Hannah Oliver Depp and director of programs at Loyalty Bookstores in Washington D.C. and Silver Springs, Maryland. "The book is a psychological domestic thriller about  a Vietnamese-American character, and it's really well done, a total page-turner," said Bollow, 42.

She tagged Kaliane's Bradley's "The Ministry of Time" as another winner. "It has time travel, spies, romance and amazing characters — take this book on vacation with you!" Bollow also recommends "The Undermining of Twyla and Frank" by Megan Bannen.

"Her last book, 'The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy,' was like 'You've Got Mail' but with zombies, and the new one is like 'When Harry Met Sally' but with dragons. It's fantasy with a sci-fi vibe and a romance between characters in their 50s."


Looking for a fun murder mystery? Bollow liked "The Perils of Lady Catherine de Bourgh" by Claudia Gray, which features twists and turns as descendants of Jane Austen characters sort through clues. She also raved about "Say Hello to My Little Friend" by Jennine Capó Crucet. "It's set in Miami with a lot of dark humor, and I read it in one sitting," Bollow said, "Plus, a lot of the chapters are told from the perspective of an orca whale."

Two Memoirs and 'Delicious, Devious Fiction'

A less fortunate whale — this one is dead — washes ashore on a remote Welsh island in Elizabeth O'Connor's novel "Whale Fall," recommended by Pamela Klinger-Horn, the event coordinator at Valley Bookseller in Stillwater, Minnesota. "This coming-of-age story, with its spare and succinct prose, is literary fiction at its finest," said Klinger-Horn, 60. 

Another suggestion is "Sociopath: A Memoir" by Patric Gagne. "The book illuminates the author's struggle to understand herself, and she divulges everything about herself with great self-awareness," Klinger-Horn said. "Brother Do You Love Me" by Manni Coe and Reuben Coe, is "a memoir of brotherly love that is gorgeously told and touches readers' hearts."

"The main character leaves her regular life and makes one bad choice after another, and then the story takes an incredible twist, and it's so much fun."

"Shanghailanders" by Juli Min features "compelling characters" and their stories are told backwards, starting in 2040. Klinger-Horn said, "Secrets, memories and the ways the characters remade themselves all are revealed."

Klinger-Horn called "Love Letters to a Serial Killer," a debut novel by Tasha Coryell, "a darkly comic look at obsession with true crime." She added, "The main character leaves her regular life and makes one bad choice after another, and then the story takes an incredible twist, and it's so much fun. This is delicious, devious fiction!"

Love Stories, a Fantasy Novella and Timely Poetry

Two works of rom-com fiction, a novel that made her weep, a fantasy novella and a book of poetry about the natural world are on a "must-read" list from Aimee LaGrandeur, store manager and marketing manager at Word After Word Books in Truckee, California.

A person in a book store. Next Avenue, books of the summer
Aimee LaGrandeur, Word After Word Books   |  Credit: Courtesy of Aimee LaGrandeur

The rom-com recommendations are "Funny Story" by  Emily Henry, which LaGrandeur called "a love letter to small towns," and "A Novel Love Story" by Ashley Poston, in which the main character, an avid reader, gets stuck in a fictional story.

"Fire Exit" by Morgan Talty left LaGrandeur, 26, in tears. Set on Maine's Penobscot Reservation, the novel explores family relationships, some revealed and some secret. "It's heart-wrenching, just more than I bargained for — and I couldn't put it down," she said. Veronica Roth's urban fantasy "When Among Crows" also resonated with her. "I was impressed at how much Slavic mythology and lore is in the world Roth creates, and it's a fun world to sink into."

LaGrandeur is especially excited about "You Are Here: Poetry in the Natural World," edited and introduced by Ada Limón, the 24th Poet Laureate of the U.S. "She commissioned 50 writers to use poetry as a tool to remind us of our humanity and our connection to nature, and to empower us to save ourselves," LaGrandeur said.

Two Different Offerings for Late Summer

If your summer goes by in a blur with no time to read, in September you can pick up two intriguing new books. One is Nicholas Sparks' "Counting Miracles: A Novel," about whether people can truly change or ever come to terms with the path they have chosen in life. Sparks wrote "The Notebook," which was made into a movie in 2004 and now is a new musical on Broadway.

Speaking of Broadway, Kelly Bishop, who originated the role of Sheila in the award-winning "A Chorus Line" some 49 (!) years ago, has written a memoir. Bishop, now 80, went on to play matriarch Emily Gilmore on the television series "Gilmore Girls," and her book's title, accordingly, is "The Third Gilmore Girl."

Rumor has it that Bishop includes stories in the book about her time filming "Dirty Dancing," in which she played Marjorie Houseman, the mother of Jennifer Grey's Frances "Baby" Houseman.

Ah, but that was then; this is now — and summer is heading our way. Make sure you have plenty to read, wherever and however you plan to spend your time.

Patricia Corrigan
Patricia Corrigan is a professional journalist, with decades of experience as a reporter and columnist at a metropolitan daily newspaper, and also a book author. She has written for Next Avenue since February 2015. Read more from Patricia at Read More
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