New Book Alert: June Edition

June 10, 2016

The Best Books of Summer

What are you reading right now? Without a doubt, my favorite part of summer is the number of big book releases. Every time I wander into my local bookstore (way too often), there are more exciting titles on display. As we head into the weekend, here are nine books I’ve recently loved or can’t wait to read soon…

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
26-year-old Gyasi’s incredible debut novel follows the divergent paths of two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, born in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married to an Englishman and lives in a castle, while Esi is sold into slavery and shipped off to America. With a sweeping 300-year scope, we meet the generations that follow, straight up through the present day. Ta-Nehisi Coates raves, “I think I needed to read a book like this to remember what is possible… Homegoing is an inspiration.” This is what I’ll be dipping into this weekend.

The Assistants by Camille Perri
The hilarious tale of Tina Fontana, a 30-year-old executive assistant who “accidentally” pays off her entire student loan debt with the help of a technical glitch. She soon finds herself embroiled in an elaborate scheme that’s way more than she bargained for. Think Robin Hood meets The Devil Wears Prada. Light and clever, this had me laughing out loud. Bonus: If you’re grappling with a thankless job or crippling student loan debt (or both!) reading this feels somewhat therapeutic.

The Bed Moved by Rebecca Schiff
If you’re in the mood for something different, check out what O Magazine called, “A wildly assured debut short-story collection featuring tales of bat mitzvahs, high school ennui, nudist hot springs, and women much smarter than the men they’re sleeping with.” Sharp, witty and wise, these stories are perfectly digestible bites to read on your subway commute or in between dips in the pool. But Schiff’s words — and the depth they convey — will stay with you long afterward.

Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti
Every so often, a book comes along that makes you want to applaud the author’s bravery and honesty, and this is one such book. Valenti’s fifth book, which has drawn comparisons to Joan Didion and Mary Karr, explores the ways she has been a sex object throughout her life. By sharing her own truths, she illustrates the myriad ways all women are objectified, in ways we may not even be aware of. Valenti reminds us of the tremendous value in sharing our stories — even and especially the messy, difficult ones.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
A modern re-telling of Pride and Prejudice, Eligible is consistently entertaining. Liz is a magazine writer in her late 30’s, Jane is a yoga instructor, and Chip Bingley was the star of a Bachelor-like reality show, Eligible. Heart surgeon Darcy is swoon-worthy as ever. Austen purists may find some of the updates to be sacrilegious, and those looking for a literary tome are advised to skip it. But anyone open to a clever satire will likely laugh out loud.

Pen and Palate: Mastering the Art of Adulthood, by Lucy Madison and Tram Nguyen
This coming-of-age memoir (from the writers of food blog Pen & Palate) is told from the alternating perspectives of two best friends. NYC-based Lucy and Chicago-based Tram spare no detail of their twenty-something struggles: first jobs, bad apartments, ill-advised flings, and friendship are all here… as are charming illustrations and recipes. Reading this book feels like sharing dinner with a trusted friend, and is every bit as fulfilling.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
You may have seen this title in one of eight gazillion features in the last few weeks (including the glowing New York Times review), but I’m including it here because it is good. Set against the backdrop of a famous NYC restaurant, we watch Tess, a recent transplant, navigate work, love and life with no shortage of drama. I especially loved the glimpses of 2006 Williamsburg, before the condos and construction fully took over the neighborhood.

Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
This novel’s unforgettable protagonist is 17-year-old Vera, recently recovering from a psychotic break. Over the course of one summer, her father takes her to the city of Vilnius, Lithuania which he hopes will aid in her recovery. Full of beautiful prose and intricate emotions, this is not a book to be taken lightly. Thorpe explores family secrets, mental illness, the Holocaust, and the bond between generations. Read it on a beach if you’d like, but don’t expect “beach reading.”

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
Emma Straub has done it again. Fans of realistic contemporary fiction will enjoy this compulsively readable story of three former bandmates nearing fifty. A lot has changed since their college days, and as secrets are revealed, their comfortable everyday lives begin to unravel. Readers are reminded of their own lives and passions, and how some things will always stay the same.


Have you read any of these yet? Any other recommendations?

Thank you so much for the interest and excitement surrounding a more interactive book club! We’re figuring out the logistics and are excited to discuss soon.

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  • Modern Lovers is on my summer reading list (loved the piece on Emma Straub in the NY Times about how she spends her Sundays)! I recently finished Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I keep catching myself thinking back to parts of this insightful novel—definitely recommended! Also, I keep seeing good things about Shoe Dog by Phil Knight…

    Congrats on the new site design—it looks great! x

  • Thanks for the recommendations! I just put Sweetbitter on hold at the library (I’m one of those rare unicorns). Two of my recent favorites are The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris and A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. The Edge of Lost fits into my typical book “type” of historical fiction with intersecting story/time lines , and A Darker Shade of Magic is a wonderfully inventive tale of four different Londons existing in parallel universes, between which only a select few magicians can travel. I highly recommend them both!

  • Nicole Brant,

    My TBR just got even longer! 😀

  • Rachael,

    Can’t wait until you start your book club!

  • I saw Homegoing on Bookpage and it’s sounding better and better. Definitely adding to my to-read list…so many good releases lately! My list is growing rapidly, but that’s a good thing 🙂 Also psyched for Sweetbitter and The Assistants.

  • Love this and so glad you’re back!

  • My TBR stack is so high it keeps falling over. And that’s just the stuff I’ve bought and not read yet, not the stuff I still need to buy. All of these look so good…

  • Rachelle,

    I just finished “Grief is the thing with feathers”by Max Porter and started “The Nest” by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. I have a vacation coming up next week so I have “Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren, “Before the Fall” by Noah Hawley and “The Clasp” by Sloane Crosley ready to go.

  • “Small city of Vilnius, Lithuania”? It’s the country’s capital. Sure, it doesn’t have the size of Mexico City, but give it some credit!

    • Oops, thank you for reading closely! The descriptions I’ve read made it sound quaint. Just changed it!

  • Loved this list–I kept hearing about Sweetbitter but thought, “I’m going to wait to see what Caroline has to say!” I think I’m most interested in Homecoming though.

  • Monica B.,

    What a great list! The Assistants is on my list which includes We Are All Made of Stars (due out this July). Now I’ve just added Sweetbitter and Homecoming. I’ve just finished reading Whose Mind Is It Anyway, Big Magic, Perfectly Imperfect, and Mister God, This Is Anna. My list is growing too! Hmm, how can I now arrange a summer reading list sabbatical?! 😉

  • That was a great list! I can’t wait to read Eligible and Sweetbitter.
    I just finished devouring The Long Winded Lady: Notes from the New Yorker by Maeve Brennan. It’s short essays and observations from a woman living alone in New York (by choice and loving it) in the 1950s-70s. It’s an amazing portrait of the city and of a woman who living her life on her terms.

  • I can’t get your blog to sync with feedly. 🙁
    All this time I thought there were no new posts!

  • Karoline,

    Pretty much all of these are on my list (currently reading Modern Lovers and really enjoying it so far)!

    I’m also eagerly anticipating the release of The Girls by Emma Cline this week – CA, 1960s, Manson-esque cult had me sold. Excited for more posts like this! 🙂

  • Maria Lara,

    Currently reading:

    Coming To Our Senses by Jon Kabat-Zinn
    Loving Amy by Janis Winehouse

  • Love this, Caroline. I am halfway through Modern Lovers and think it’s so much better than The Vacationers. Also loved Eligible and Sweetbitter – both just MADE for summer.

  • I just finished The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob and absolutely loved it. It is haunting and beautiful and such a wonderful book. I recently went on a book-buying splurge and am using my current round of [self-imposed] unemployment to devour as many as I can. Looking forward to hearing more about this virtual book club! xx

  • I just finished To Fang, With Love after stumbling on it at the library. I will admit that the cover and the title are what made me pick it up… It was so incredible! I can’t stop telling people how much I loved that book.
    Can’t wait to pick up others on this list!

  • I just finished MWF Seeks BFF and it has been on my mind since I opened the book! I’ve been inviting acquaintances to get a drink, having girls’ nights, and looking for people who need friends. Turns out – everyone wants more friends, they just don’t know how to ask for them.

  • Natalie T.,

    I couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of Eligible. A fun, enjoyable read. I’m currently reading Modern Lovers. I was disappointed by The Vacationers but the characters, thus far, in ML are much more likeable. I’m currently trying to figure out how to manage all of my holds at the library. I’m going to have to send back LaRose and get it again for July. It looks heartbreaking. I love all of your recommendations and am so glad you hvae a space of your own on the interwebs (world wide web or http://WWW…so 1998! Let’s go surfing?)

  • I am on a self imposed three month book buying ban (there are more than 100 unread books on my Kindle which really means that I don’t need to buy any more books for a year and I read a lot).

    Having said that, I am accumulating quite a “To be bought when the ban is lifted” list that includes Sweetbitter, The Assistants, and Jessi Klein’s new book of essays.

    I am currently reading Norwegian Wood (a Murakami that I had been saving) and remembering how much I love his writing. Also listening to The Eustace Diamonds by Trollope. And glad to be reminded that I already have The Sleepwalkers Guide to Dancing on my Kindle waiting for me.

  • Lindsay,

    Thank you for helping to make my summer reading list insanely long. I actually just hit my library “hold limit”. There’s a hold limit?! This is clearly the public library’s way of telling me to reign it in 🙂
    I’m currently reading The Widow by Fiona Barton. The plot is unique, dark and has had me in suspense since the first page.
    Please keep the book recs coming! Like everyone, I’m so glad you’re back!

  • Modern Lovers has been popping up on so many reading lists for the summer. I’m so intrigued! I just finished A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra, which wasn’t the lightest read ever but SO good. One of those books that stays with you long after you’ve finished reading. I’m also reading The City Lonely by Olivia Laing. It’s about the experience of being alone in New York City. It sounds a little depressing but I’m inhaling it, it’s so good. So happy you’re blogging again Caroline!

  • Great list! So far this summer I’ve read:

    I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. I can’t recommend it enough. Loved it so much, I’m currently re-reading it!

    The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. A great beach read. Very well-written and researched. Made me laugh, cry, and laugh some more.

    Here’s to Us by Elin Hilderbrand. I finished this in just a few days. Loved it! Also recommend The Rumor!