The Best Fiction of Summer 2014: Secretive Spouses and Suburban Addiction
For us book lovers, summer’s warm weather, extended daylight, and weekend getaways mean just one thing: more time to read. And that’s a good thing, because the options for sunny-afternoon page-turning have never been more abundant than they are this year. To help you finalize your summer reading list, we’re highlighting some of the most anticipated books of the season. With new titles from Haruki Murakami, Dave Eggers, and Robert “J. K. Rowling” Galbraith on the way, you can be sure you’ll have plenty of fictional worlds to get lost in this summer.
Surrealist shorts worth saluting
The canon of short-short fiction writers is small, and tends to be ruled by Lydia Davis. For a more fantastical and action-oriented alternative to her recent book, Can’t and Won’t, look to Stuart Dybek’s Ecstatic Cahoots, a collection of 50 stories featuring “crazed nuns hijacking streetcars, eerie adventures across frozen ponds, and a boy who is visited by a miniature bride and groom every night in his uncle’s doomsday compound.” The Millions has compared Dybek—most widely known for his 1990 collection The Coast of Chicago—to Denis Johnson, calling his prose “lusher than Johnson’s, and more openly romantic, but equally poetic.” If you dig Ecstatic Cahoots, you’ll be happy to know that another Dybek collection—Paper Lanterns: Love Stories—will be published on the same day.
On shelves: June 3
I know what you did last summer
This sharp-witted mystery by the author of the The Dinner begins with a botched surgery that leaves a famous actor dead and doctor-to-the-stars Marc Schlosser fearing an irreparable blow to his reputation. But given the patient and doctor’s history—and, in particular, their involvement in a vacation-turned-nightmare the previous summer—it seems unlikely that this was a simple incident of malpractice. With a jacket worthy of a Wes Craven movie and the author’s international reputation firmly in place, we expect Summer House will be a big hit.
On shelves: June 3
Mommy needs her medicine
In this forthcoming novel by the bestselling author (and book-world feud-starter) Jennifer Weiner, a woman uses prescription pills—not all the time! just once in a while!—to quell her growing unease about her less-than-happy family life. It’s a book that asks questions about the difference between recreation, indulgence, and addiction, particularly in contexts—here, upper-middle-class surburbia—in which genteel surfaces can mask worlds of pain and pathology brewing underneath.
On shelves: June 17
A man with a lot of questions
In recent years, Dave Eggers has been dashing off novels at a rate worthy of Joyce Carol Oates. Details about his latest work, which takes its title from a passage from the Book of Zechariah, are scant. So far, we know that it centers on a man, Thomas, holding a group of people captive in a seaside military base. Among the group: an ex-congressman, a schoolteacher, a NASA astronaut, and his own mother. If Your Fathers is anything like Eggers’ most recent novels, A Hologram for the King and The Circle, it’ll be stylish, culturally relevant, and urgently political.
On shelves: June 17
A manuscript to die for
The revelation last year that debut crime fiction author Robert Galbraith was actually Harry Potter creatrix J.K. Rowling caused an international stir—but apparently didn’t deter Rowling from taking up the pen name once again. Galbraith’s second novel, The Silkworm, concerns a novelist who goes missing after writing a book that verbally punishes basically every person he knows. Do we dare psychoanalyze? Let’s at least wait until the book comes out in June.
On shelves: June 19
We’re too old to be too young for this
In former Gawker editor Emily Gould’s debut novel, two best friends—rootless, heartbroken Bev and spoiled, arrogant Amy—find themselves turning 30 and failing to feel anything like adults. So, instead of waiting for their arrival, Grown-Up Land comes to them, as it’s wont to do, in the form of an unexpected pregnancy. The situation affords Gould the opportunity to address subjects she’s touched on her essays and nonfiction (And the Heart Says Whatever): young adulthood, aging, money, womanhood, and how friendships fare in the face of so-called Real Life.
On shelves: July 1
Stately, plump Philadelphia
Literary nerds may perk up upon hearing the title of Maya Lang’s debut novel—it’s the day on which James Joyce’s Ulysses takes place, duh. But those unfamiliar with Bloomsday need not be wary: The Sixteenth of June is an accessible social satire, focusing on two brothers whose lives are changed over the course of a single day. Leopold is a young IT manager who dreams of settling down with a family in the suburbs of Philly, while Stephen is a seventh-year grad student with no such straightforward ambitions or prospects. Lang herself being a survivor of graduate school, we expect this is where the novel’s satirical element will really shine through.
On shelves: July 3
Hellish circumstances in Hollywood
Fans of The Road and Walking Dead will eat up Edan Lepucki’s debut novel, which imagines a California ruined and rendered savage by an apocalyptic event. As the novel’s two main characters struggle to stay alive while taking care of a small child, questions of morality, mortality, and human nature move to the forefront.
On shelves: July 8
Fans of Fangirl and Eleanor & Park—and anyone interested in stories about how love and technology overlap—should plan on grabbing a copy of Rowell’s forthcoming novel, Landline. It’s the story of a Los Angeles-based TV writer, Georgie, who attempts to save her lackluster marriage using a magical phone that allows her to communicate with her husband in the past. Apple, Google: Did you guys hear that? Free idea for the taking!
On shelves: July 8
Ghost stories from a history-minded great
William T. Vollmann has written a sweeping, National Book Award-winning novel about Germany and the USSR in the early 20th century (Europe Central) as well as a seven-volume, 3,300-page history of violence (Rising Up and Rising Down). In his latest, however, we see him turning to a shorter form, with a collection of interlinked ghost stories. But who are we kidding? The thing’s 700 pages. And, with entries addressing sex, death, and history, Last Stories promises to be as richly detailed and stylistically magnificent as everything else he’s written.
On shelves: July 10
An edge-of-seat tour of mid-century America
James Lee Burke’s forthcoming novel is a peripatetic page-turner that sees its hero, 16-year-old Weldon Avery Holland, brushing elbows with Bonnie and Clyde, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, and navigating the malicious oil industry in Texas. Through the eyes of Weldon, Burke takes a wide-lens look at a particular chapter in American history, while inflecting his story with the grit and excitement his readers have come to love.
On shelves: July 15
A final act in Fillory
The third and final installment of Lev Grossman’s bestselling trilogy sees hero Quentin Coldwater ejected from the magic kingdom of Fillory and returning to the Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic, where his story first began. But when word of danger in Fillory reaches him, Quentin is forced to set off on a journey that’ll take him through old haunts and old friends before culminating in an epic, and potentially fatal, fight to save what he values most.
On shelves: August 5
Where did it all go wrong?
Cancel your plans and stock up on Advil: Haruki Murakami has a new book coming out. As with the Japanese writer’s other surrealist creations—The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, and 1Q84 among them—this one promises to charm and perplex in equal measure. It’s the story of Tsukuru Tazaki, a 36-year-old train station designer, who goes in search of his former high school pals and attempts to reconstruct their friend group. Given Murakami’s reputation for weirdness and the novel’s roaring popularity in Japan—it sold one million copies in its first week—we’re not convinced the story is as simple as it sounds.
On shelves: August 12
It’s not you, it’s my Weltschmerz
Slightly afield of Coelho’s usual G-rated territory, Adultery centers on a malaise-racked middle-aged woman who attempts to reinfuse her life with passion by having an affair with a childhood friend. Adult-onset weariness, and the various attempts we make to escape it, are common themes for the popular Brazilian author. We trust that, in his hands, even a story of cheating can attain the simplicity and clarity of a fable.
On shelves: August 19