Normally when people talk about beach reads, they’re talking about fiction. We love a good novel as much as the next person, but with all due respect, we think that nonfiction can be just as perfect for a day of sand and sea. Here, we’ve pulled the nonfiction summer releases that will grip you from the first page, and prove to be the ideal companion to your beach chair and flip flops. Whether you’re interested in keeping your mind sharp as you age, or you’re all about pirates, we’ve got something here for everyone. So come on in, the water’s great!
Not a bird or a plane
Admit it. You have always wanted to be a superhero. We know… we have, too. The good news is that this book is about as close as any of us are likely to get. In it, Mark Edlitz asks the pros (the men and women who have played these veritable pop culture giants) juicy questions about what it takes to be a superhero on the silver screen. Readers also get an up-close look at the rest of the scene, too, from sidekicks and villains to writers and directors. Whether you prefer Helen Slater’s Supergirl or Lou Ferrigno’s Incredible Hulk, this book is packed with inside information and broader discussion of the superhero’s role in American culture. Whether or not you own a cape, this book is a lot of fun.
On shelves: June 1
XOXO, Gossip Girl
If you mourned the loss of CWTV’s Gossip Girl or outgrew it, Wednesday Martin is here with your fix of Upper East Side drama. But this time, she’s focused on the mothers. Martin already shocked readers earlier this spring when she wrote in the New York Times about the practice of a wives receiving bonuses from their husbands for their performance in the domestic sphere, and she’s got even more insight into this seemingly glamorous world in her book. Despite the controversy surrounding its release, New Yorkers in particular will want to check out this book that the New York Times called “thrillingly evil.”
On shelves: June 2
Feeling so fly
Despite flying in them from time to time, most of us probably don’t know a whole lot about how planes actually work. Mark Vanhoenacker is here to fix that with Skyfaring, which gives readers an inside look at the life of a 747 and the pilots who fly them. You’ll see the cockpit of a 747 as you’ve never seen it before, and Vanhoenacker is there every step of the way to describe the precise set of calculations that go into making an enormous piece of metal machinery actually fly. Kirkus promises that this is “first-class reading,” and we agree. You’ll never see flying quite the same.
On shelves: June 2
Text me maybe
Aziz Ansari has a long history of making people laugh, and this book promises more chuckles along with some hard-won wisdom about love and dating. Co-written with sociologist Eric Klinenberg, this book delivers anecdotes about Ansari’s parents and a thorough and entertaining analysis of how dating is different today than it was when his parents were courting. Plus, Ansari and Klinenberg aren’t afraid to delve into the research, and they tackle enormous subjects like texting and dating apps, looking at the ways in which communication between dating parties has been totally upended. Modern Romance will make you laugh a lot, but it’ll also send you back out into the dating world a little bit wiser. Swipe right. Trust us.
On shelves: June 16
You could be forgiven for forgetting that this book is nonfiction. It’s so engrossing and entertaining, that it’s easy to forget that this is a reported work rather than a high-stakes thriller. Robert Kurson takes readers to the ocean floor with John Mattera and John Chatterton in search of the Golden Fleece, a pirate ship that sank in the 1680s near the present-day Dominican Republic. Along the way, Kurson paints a vivid picture of what it meant to be a pirate in the late 17th century, during a time known as the “Golden Age of Piracy.” Will Mattera and Chatterton find the Golden Fleece? You’ll have to read to find out.
On shelves: June 16
The scene of the crime
You most likely know Val McDermid for her crime novels, of which she has written 29. But crime fiction junkies, listen up: McDermid has a new nonfiction book about the science of crime scenes, and it is sure to enhance your experience of both crime novels and television series. From ballistics to blood spatter, this read isn’t recommended for the faint of heart, but it will give your enjoyment of crime narratives a whole new dimension. This book might turn you into that friend who talks through the whole episode of CSI because you’ll be that excited to share your new-found expertise. We hope your friends don’t mind.
On shelves: July 7
Age is just a number
We’ve all been told that we’re only as old as we feel (usually on birthdays we’re not thrilled about). Whether or not you believe this truism, Patricia Marx has a new book to help you fight off the creeping effects of age on your mental acuity. Marx has clearly done her homework, and takes the reader through a variety of techniques for staying young at… brain, from learning a new language to experimenting with mindfulness. All the while, Marx is quick to poke fun at herself and baby boomers for their near-obsession with keeping their minds running at full capacity. We can’t promise you’ll have a younger brain after having read this book, but we can predict that Marx will thoroughly charm and entertain you along the way.
On shelves: July 14
Confessions of a geek goddess
You may know Felicia Day from any number of places: Maybe it was her role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or maybe you happened across her web series The Guild. Perhaps it was during the Gamergate scandal. Regardless of how you first encountered her, you likely know that she is a veritable icon in geek culture, and now she has a revealing new memoir about her path to becoming the celebrated figure that she is today. This book takes you back to Day’s roots living in the South, her subsequent education as a violinist, and rise to internet fame. For geeks everywhere, this is going to be one of the hottest books of the summer, and frankly, we can’t wait.
On shelves: August 11
Never too many books
Odds are, if you’re reading this, we don’t have to convince you that reading is awesome. You’re probably like us: You’re running out of room on your bookshelves, and still actively looking for more volumes to cram in there anyway. Michael Dirda will only further justify your (excellent) life choices in Browsings, where this Pulitzer-winning book lover expounds on the joys of living amongst pages and pages of great writing. If you think you need to be told to cool it on the books front, then this is not the summer read for you. But if you, like Rory Gilmore, love the smell of a dusty volume and the crackle of a new spine, then get ready to settle in for a delightful afternoon with Dirda.
On shelves: August 15
An appetite for books
Food and books: They might not immediately seem like a great pairing (who likes crumbs in between the pages of their favorite novels?), but Cara Nicoletti‘s marriage of the two in Voracious is simply divine. Whether you have a hankering for the avocado salad described in the Bell Jar or you’re wondering what to do with fava beans and a nice Chianti (ahem, The Silence of the Lambs) then this book is for you. You’ll laugh, you’ll relive some of your favorite moments in literature, and with a little elbow grease you’ll get some great food, too. We’ll start preheating the oven.
On shelves: August 18