It's June: the sun is beaming, the temperature is finally causing you to break a sweat, and bikini-bearers are out in full force — aka it's finally summer. June kicks off the season of backyard BBQs, beach-bound road trips, rooftop sunbathing sessions, and poolside cocktails. More importantly though, it marks the start to your epic summer reading expedition. To ensure that you leave ample time for feasting on ice cream and backstroking in the ocean, though, we've gone ahead and narrowed down that endless list of books so you can get right down to reading time.
From gothic thrillers and comic satire to heart-throbbing memoirs and romantic beach reads, our selective menu is appropriately varied to satisfy even the more robust literary appetites. Prepare for a cynical doctor, a trio of San Franciscan nightclub dancers, a lovelorn British painter, and a feisty female ice cream mogul to become your new poolside pals.
So throw on your flip flops, slip into that flattering swimsuit, and sprint to the lounge chair ASAP. It's time for that bookish retreat you've been waiting for all year.
1. CHINA DOLLS BY LISA SEE (Random House; June 3)
With stunning prose and deftly crafted heroines, acclaimed historical novelist Lisa See illuminates the dazzling world of 1930s San Francisco in her newest work China Dolls. Its world is one of ritzy forbidden nightclubs, eclectic performers, festive world fairs, and a brewing war on the horizon — one that brings together an unlikely trio of young Asian-American women from varied backgrounds to navigate the mysteries and hardships of the mercurial showbiz industry.
2. WE ARE CALLED TO RISE
BY LAURA MCBRIDE (Simon & Schuster; June 3)
3. The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez (Knopf; June 3)
In her third work of fiction, Iowa Writers Workshop graduate Cristina Henriquez brings readers a stunning cross-cultural love story under the guise of a seemingly ordinary narrative about Latino immigrant families trying to make their way in America. The result is enrapturing and heartbreaking.
The Rivera family has come to the United States from Mexico seeking a better life for their daughter Maribel after she has been injured in an accident back home. Once beautiful and dynamic, Maribel is a shell of herself post-incident; she is quiet and hermetic until she meets her neighbor, Mayor Toro. The two teens strike up a romance, which, while beginning to restore Maribel, ignites a set of events that will forever change the families. Like a music master at the harp, Henriquez elegantly plays with the human heart strings as she illustrates the complexities of the immigrant experience through the story of these two families, as well as the company with whom they surround themselves.
4. SUMMER HOUSE WITH SWIMMING POOL by Herman Koch (Hogarth; June 3)
When best-selling Dutch novelist Herman Koch published The Dinner in February 2013, readers fell in love with his dark humor and skillful satire. The disturbingly observant novel about two families keeping one terrible secret inspired raucous conversation among readers and deep internal reflection on the moral fragility of our world. Now, we're finally getting the second helping we’ve all been craving.
5. THE LEMON GROVE BY HELEN WALSH (Doubleday; June 3)
Warning: Beware of sunburns! This sultry tale of forbidden love is likely to keep you page-turning all afternoon.
6. I’LL BE RIGHT THERE BY KYUNG-SOOK SHIN (Other Press; June 3)
When the novel opens, twentysomething Jung Yoon has just received a phone call from an ex-boyfriend with whom she hasn’t spoken in 8 years. He has called to tell her that their former literature professor, beloved by many of his students, is on his deathbed and if she wants to give him a final farewell, she should visit soon. The call incites a stinging flood of memories from Yoon’s teenage years — of the intimate bond forged with her professor, of a long lost past with her first love, of her mother’s death, and of former friendships carved through a shared sense of seclusion.
7. THE ICE CREAM QUEEN OF ORCHARD STREET BY SUSAN JANE GILMAN (Grand Central; June 10)
Like a glittering mound of ice cream on a sizzling mid-June afternoon, Susan Jane Gilman’s fiction debut will be a sweet delight to any summer reading list. In The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street, Gilman wields a playful pen to craft a charming American odyssey staring feisty, irreverent protagonist Malka Treynovsky. In her raucous, abrasive voice Malka narrates her journey from a devastated farmhouse in 1913 Russia to the squalid tenements of Lower East Side Manhattan to the gilded apex of the American ice cream industry.
8. I’M HAVING SO MUCH FUN HERE WITHOUT YOU BY COURTNEY MAUM (Touchstone; June 10)
The giant, thumping heart of Courtney Maum’s debut novel beats loud and fast from its very first pages. I’m Having So Much Fun Here Without You is a deft examination of marriage told through the narrative of a lovelorn Englishman who experiences the fragility of that bond firsthand.
9. THE QUICK BY LAUREN OWEN (Random House; June 17)
Twenty-eight-year-old Lauren Owen is an impressive storyteller and with this ambitious debut, the literary world will soon take notice. Part gothic mystery, part Victorian romance, The Quick is a novel where the glamorous and the macabre collide to weave the story of James Norbury, a soft-spoken young man with dreams of becoming a poet, and his sister Charlotte, an English darling with a healthy curiosity. When James moves out of the aging family estate and in with a young, charismatic aristocrat he is introduced to the glitz and glam of the city’s high society and soon he discovers new and surprising romantic pursuits. But then, when James suddenly goes missing, Charlotte is faced with navigating a malevolent underground world to find her brother, a world that houses the city’s darkest secrets and most dangerous men. With suspenseful rhythm and illustrious prose, Owen succeeds at crafting a fresh, enchanting portrait of Victorian London wrapped around an irresistible mystery that is at once beautiful and terrifying.
10. GONE FERAL BY NOVELLA CARPENTER (Penguin Press; June 16)
In her 30s, Novella Carpenter is living a non-traditional life as a California urban farmer. As a child, she grew up on 180 acres of boundless Idaho farmland until her parents divorced when she was four and her mother decided to flee the rural lifestyle with her daughters for Washington. After the divorce, Novella's father, a Korean War vet and talented guitarist with a mountain man mentality, all but disappeared from her life.
When George finally surfaces at at ratty motel in Arizona, Novella knows her search is not yet over. As Novella navigates the wilderness alongside her stubborn and solitary father, she discovers new truths about her father and herself, truths that are more complicated than she imagined. With raw sincerity and surefire prose, Novella Carpenter delivers an emotionally riveting memoir that reflects on the indelible ties between parents and their children and reminds us of the wild in all of us.