Summer is here, and it’s the perfect time to stretch out in front of the air conditioner with a novel. It can be a rough time, after all: ‘tis the season for sunburn, smelly garbage baking in the heat, and sweating on subway platforms. And while we don’t have any aloe vera on hand for that sunburn, these books might be just the soothing balm you need. Fall into these books, ranging from historical fiction about the space race to Paul Auster-level postmodern trickery, and forget your troubles. From strikingly impressive debuts to the return of a master (ahem, HARPER LEE), this summer is shaping up to be an incredible season for readers.
Ones and zeros
Don’t be threatened by this tome’s considerable size. Book of Numbers is already being hailed as one of the smartest works of art about the web, and is the latest in a fairly recent mini-genre of literary fiction attempting to reckon meaningfully with the enormity of the internet. Author Joshua Cohen himself appears in this novel (so, Martin Amis fans and Paul Auster fans, rejoice!) and some seriously interesting prose rounds out this pleasingly convoluted novel about the realities, limitations, and implications of life on the web. As the title suggests, a strong biblical thread underlies the narrative, imbuing the novel with a deeper layer of significance.
On shelves: June 9
Far from home
You may not know much about the Filipino diaspora, but Mia Alvar, who is from Manila, is here to change that with this stunning collection of short stories. While they exhibit a broad range in terms of time period and geographic setting, these tales are united by keenly observed detail, and tremendous heart. These are stories about leaving the place you know, making a new home, and sometimes turning around and heading back. Alvar’s voice is quietly confident—so much so that it’s hard to believe this is her debut collection.
On shelves: June 16
Novella with navels
Milan Kundera, best known for The Unbearable Lightness of Being, doesn’t waste any time making a bid for realism in The Festival of Insignificance, so readers who like their narratives straight-up should probably look elsewhere. Booklist calls this novel “classic Kundera: polyphonic, digressive, intellectual yet anti-philosophical, deliberately strange, and aggressively light.” What else can we say? There will be bellybuttons; that, we can promise you.
On shelves: June 23
Making the ordinary extraordinary
Many authors spend entire careers trying to hone their craft in just one genre of fiction. Emily Mitchell’s Viral, on the other hand, has it all: Readers will find a smattering of fiction techniques at play in the pages of this collection, from sci-fi to surrealism. This is particularly impressive given her relatively young career. Magic lurks in the background of some of these stories, transforming the everyday into something that is just a little bit stranger. It would be hard not to enjoy this collection from Mitchell–just watch out for that robotic spider.
On shelves: June 29
One smart cookie
Her name is Christine, but you may call her Oreo. You may have met her before (in 1974, to be precise), but it’s unlikely–Oreo’s first edition flew under the radar so thoroughly that Kirkus called the book “criminally overlooked.” But never fear! New Directions is issuing a reprint of the novel this summer, so it’s not too late to get on board. This satirical novel (written by Fran Ross, who was a comedy writer for Richard Pryor) follows the story of Oreo, a biracial girl who lives with her maternal grandparents in Philadelphia until one day, she heads to New York City to learn more about where she came from.
On shelves: July 7
To infinity and beyond
Space-race nerds, listen up. This book is for you. Benjamin Johncock skillfully blends the imagined with the historical in this novel about an Air Force test pilot Jim Harrison, who grapples with his professional role as part of the New Nine (a group of astronauts) as well as his evolving responsibilities in his marriage. The Last Pilot has something for everyone: family drama, space race excitement, and real historical context. We think you’ll find Johncock’s debut to be out of this world–literally.
On shelves: July 7
Years and years ago
If you don’t have a great grasp on the last several decades of Indian history, you certainly will after having read Aatish Taseer’s latest. Kirkus is calling The Way Things Were “a timeless, masterful epic.” This novel centers around the study of Sanskrit, the ancient language of India. Taseer weaves a tale about a father and son who are deeply interested in the language’s history, and its implications for both the personal and the political. This book will grab you and not let go until the very last page.
On shelves: July 7
Not just a one-hit wonder
If you haven’t heard about Harper Lee’s new novel, then you have definitely been living under a rock. Like, seriously. The super-reclusive, Pulitzer-winning author of To Kill a Mockingbird is back with a follow-up to her near-universally beloved coming of age story about the Finch family. This book picks up years later in the 1950s, and finds some of the same characters grappling with a similar set of issues in small-town Alabama. Go Set a Watchman is not to be missed. For bookworms, Christmas comes early this year.
On shelves: July 14
A fish out of water
Elisabeth Egan has been in publishing long enough to know what’s up. Egan is the books editor at Glamour, so when she writes about the literary scene in New York, you can trust that she knows what she’s talking about. In this novel, a financially floundering bookworm takes a job at an Amazon-esque company that sells books. Of course, this transition is less smooth than expected, and the tech world is less than hospitable to a young woman who is mostly dedicated to her love of the written word. Warning: this book will likely provoke the feminist in you.
On shelves: August 25
More than meets the eye
When this book first came across our desks at Bookish, we thought it was mislabeled. This had to be a celebrity tell-all about diet and exercise with a pretty condescending title, right? Wrong. Alexandra Kleeman is already garnering some serious buzz with this novel full of postmodern shenanigans, and reviewers are already making comparisons to The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon. In other words, this is the real deal, despite the initially confusing title (which, in hindsight, is pretty funny). From reality TV to chemical desserts, this book has it all.