Gina Vaynshteyn
June 19, 2015 6:00 am

Summer is here, and you know what that means? Shorts! Icy, sweet, citrus drinks! Finally a pool you don’t have to heat up before cannon-balling in! It also means longer, brighter days. What better way to fill up those shining, days of warmth than by reading a book? (No better way, guys.)

Best of all, summer offers some of the most brilliant, page-turning, fun, and poignant reads. Books about murder and secrets, books about make-believe doctors, books about old-timey sideshows in Long Island —they’re all here for you. So go on and hit the beach, slather on some sunscreen, and catch up on some much-needed R&R (I know I will be doing just that).

Here are some especially awesome picks that you totally need to watch out for.

1. Hollywood Notebook by Wendy C. Ortiz (Released April 15, 2015)

Structured in a series of vignettes, Hollywood Notebook‘s ninety chapters focus on a woman’s navigation through her 20s and 30s in Los Angeles. Ortiz’s style is succinct, beautiful, and captures love and loss only capable of growing and feeling in a city like LA. The way Ortiz writes is always surprising —some chapters are lists that are relatable, funny, and sorrowful. Other chapters are in first-person, and thus intimate and truly a breathtaking map of Ortiz’s brilliant brain.

2. Mr. and Mrs. Doctor by Julie Iromuanya (Released May 12, 2015)

Mr. and Mrs. Doctor, which sounds, at first, like an all-American tale of family and success and maybe even white picket fences, isn’t exactly that. The story follows Ifi and Job, who are brought together in an arranged marriage. The two end up in Nebraska where Job tries to earn respect and prosperity by becoming a doctor —an illegitimate doctor. Ifi, on the other hand, wants so badly to believe her marriage is not a major failure. Meanwhile, Job’s first wife Cheryl comes back right at the most inopportune time. This incredible, messy, beautifully written novel is one you won’t be able to put down until it’s finished.

3. The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips (Comes out August 11, 2015)

This mystery and, as novelist Leslie Jamison called it, “fever dream,” has Orwellian qualities that leave The Beautiful Bureaucrat embalmed in sorrow and a weirdness you feel the second you start reading. It’s the story of a woman who starts a strange new job and soon discovers her husband has gone missing —only to come back. Phillips masterfully creates a world that leaves you on the brink of your seat all 177 pages.

4. Dietland by Sarai Walker (Released May 26, 2015)

Dietland is about Plum Kettle, a woman who works for a popular teen girls’ magazine who is constantly surrounded by the idea of being thin and what beauty is idealized to be. So she decides to deal with her mounting body insecurities by getting weight-loss surgery, but before that happens she notices a strange, vibrant woman has started to follow her around. A story about the true costs of beauty and the dangerous industry we’re all involved in, Dietland is a fearless response to our narrow and impossible standards of what makes a person desirable.

5. Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont (Comes out July 7, 2015)

Julia Pierpont’s ambitious first novel is a funny and remarkable take on the American family and its twisted dynamics. The story follows Jack Shanely and his wife Deb, a woman who left her strenuous dance career behind to support and raise her kids. One day, a box is sent to her with all of Jack’s secrets —but it doesn’t get to Deb —the children see it first, creating a dent in a once oh-so-delicate familial structure.

6. The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein (Released June 2, 2015)

This is a book on learning how to be alone. And it’s just spectacular. The Sunlit Night follows friends Frances and Yasha whose lives are in turmoil of epic proportions. Frances is in the midst of heartbreak and Yasha needs to deal with her father’s last, incredibly crazy wish before he dies. What brings these characters back to their shaken core is love.

7. The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North (Released May 12, 2015)

At what point does an artist stop using the lives around her/him for the sake of craft? Filmmaker Sophie Stark extrapolates real-life stories from her husband and girlfriend and makes successful movies. But is the success worth it? Is it betrayal or something else entirely? This dark tale of a woman who puts her work before her loved ones is shockingly wonderful, and proves what an incredible story-teller Anna North really is.

8. The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson (Comes out June 30, 2015)

Naomi Jackson’s first novel is a striking accomplishment filled with heartbreak and characters you want to bittersweetly hug. In The Star Side of Bird Hill, two sisters are sent to Barbados after their mother is unable to take care of them in Brooklyn. There, they find love, test their family, and adapt to an entirely new world. That is, until their father suddenly comes to take them back —a reunion that feels more like a kidnapping. A story about sisterhood, family, and what “home” means, The Star Side of Bird Hill is not a book you dare to forget.

9. The Girl from the Garden by Parnaz Foroutan (Comes out August 8, 2015)

Love! Obsessions! Power struggles! The Girl from the Garden is an addicting story about a wealthy Jewish-Persian family floundering in early 20th century Iran. All this story’s father, Asher Malacouti, wants —is a son. His wife, who is trapped in their marriage grows unhappier and unhappier as she fails to deliver one. All of this tension to leads to one disastrous decision that changes everyone’s lives—for the worse.

10. Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren (Released May 5, 2015)

Everything You Ever Wanted is the memoir you MUST read this summer. Author of Some Girls, where Jillian Lauren lays it all out there (her college dropout years, her drug addiction, and her days as an international concubine) knows how to write. In her latest memoir, Lauren writes about her and her husband’s adoption, the loss of her friend to drugs, and motherhood. It’s all intense and personal and perfect.

11. You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman (Comes out August 24, 2015)

You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine is not easy to summarize —and that’s a good thing. Kleeman’s complex, often hilariously witty novel muses upon the relationships we have with our bodies, the dark side of capitalism and branding, beauty standards, and addictions It’s the kind of novel you would read in a college course and LOVE (against all odds, because arg, assigned reading).

12. Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica (Comes out July 28, 2015)

While “Pretty Baby” sounds all delicate and well, baby-ish, Mary Kubica’s Pretty Baby is anything but. The story centers around Heidi Wood, an all-around great lady. She works for a non-profit, is a cat mom to strays, and would win all the awards for Being A Nice Person if such awards existed. But when she brings a teen and her four-month old baby into her house, her husband and daughter are terrified. And for good reason. One thing is for sure: You’ll be able to read Pretty Baby from cover to cover in DAYS —it’s that mesmerizing.

13. Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry (Released May 5, 2015)

Leslie Parry’s first novel is tremendous —filled with rich historical detail of old New York and the fictional family-owned Coney Island sideshow. Its star, Belle, has disappeared into the depths of New York City, and meanwhile a woman named Alphie is stuck in an asylum because of her husband’s hateful mother. More narratives become magically interwoven, coming together to create the vast, beautiful story that is Church of Marvels.

14. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (Released May 5, 2015)

Maggie Nelson, poet and essayist and genius, offers a raw take on gender fluidity, queerness, love, and family. The Argonauts is poetic in its very nature, discussing the author’s journey through her pregnancy and her experiences in a queer family. Seamlessly included is philosophy from Susan Sontag, Judith Butler, and Roland Barthes. This little book will make you a think big thoughts.

15. The Last Love Song: A biography of Joan Didion by Tracy Daugherty (Comes out August 25, 2015)

When you think “summer” you might not think of biographies, but this one is the exception. This one is all about our light and our love, Joan Didion. The Last Love Song dives into Didion’s relationship with writer John Gregory Dunne, her time in California and New York, and what she was like as a (groundbreaking) journalist. Even if you’ve read ALL of Didion’s work, you will find yourself impossibly immersed in this intense look into Didion’s life as a writer and brilliant human.

16. Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll (Released May 12, 2015)

If you need a book to get completely absorbed in while you hit the pool (one with a lil’ bit of scandal and gossip), this is the one for you. Following Ani FaNelli, Luckiest Girl Alive is about a girl who reinvents herself completely after she’s devastatingly humiliated. Now she has an It-Girl job, a posh wardrobe, and WASP-y husband. But of course, as these things often go in books, she’s hiding a painful, destructive secret. And it’s about to wreck Ani’s brand new life.

17. In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume (Released June 2, 2015)

Based on a true story, In the Unlikely Event is about falling airplanes (which is not how you want to see an airplane). It’s 1987, and Miri Ammerman goes back to visit her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey—the town that experienced some of the worst aviation disasters in the world. These crashes plague lives, lives which Blume masterfully creates and destroys and pushes through the depths of dark times. Blume’s narration is as wonderful and talented as ever. In the Unlikely Event is the book we’ve been waiting for from our favorite author for awhile now. And it’s finally here.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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