This Summer’s Hottest Books

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It’s summer 2020, and you know what that means: sitting quietly by yourself inside, leaving your phone in another room and reading.

It’s certainly not the summer that we anticipated, but that doesn’t mean a good book can’t take you somewhere else for a few hours. Here’s some of the summer’s hottest new reads.


Summer books: “A Burning” Courtesy of Knopf
Summer books: “A Burning” Courtesy of Knopf

“A Burning” by Megha Majumdar (June 2)

Majumdar’s debut novel tells the story of three Indians — Jivan, PT Sir and Lovely — caught up in the complex web of politics, class and corruption. Jivan must try to clear her name after being accused of committing a terrorist act, and Lovely, the only one who could exonerate her, can’t do it. Meanwhile, PT Sir’s ambitions depend on Jivan’s failure.

“Death in Her Hands” by Ottessa Moshfegh (June 23)

“Death in Her Hands” Courtesy of Penguin Press
“Death in Her Hands” Courtesy of Penguin Press

Moshfegh, 39, might be the best young novelist in America. “Death in Her Hands,” her latest novel, delayed for a few months but now here at last, is the story of an elderly woman who thinks that she may have discovered a murder. Her last novel, “My Year of Rest and Relaxation,” grabbed the publicity, but check out her novella, “McGlue,” first.

“Cool for America: Stories” by Andrew Martin (July 7)

“Cool for America: Stories” Courtesy of Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
“Cool for America: Stories” Courtesy of Farrar, Strauss and Giroux

Andrew Martin writes stories about young people that are sad and trying hard not to be. “Cool for America,” his first collection, borrows some of the characters from his well-regarded debut novel, “Early Work,” for stories about people who doing their best not to just give up.

“Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir” by Natasha Trethewey (July 28)

“Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir” Courtesy of Ecco
“Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir” Courtesy of Ecco

Today, Trethewey is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, and has served as the United States poet laureate. But when she was 19, she was grieving her mother, murdered by her stepfather. Trethewey retraces her mother’s steps through the segregated South to that awful day on Memorial Drive, giving a history of her own childhood along the way.

“The Wild Laughter” Courtesy of Oneworld
“The Wild Laughter” Courtesy of Oneworld

“The Wild Laughter” by Caoilinn Hughes (July 30)

If you follow publishing trends closely, it seems that new literary histories of the devastation of the 2007-2008 financial crises are published every week. Hughes, however, sets her story in her native Ireland, for a change of pace. Her novel asks a deceptively simple question: What do people do when they feel they have nothing to lose?

“Via Negativa” by Daniel Hornsby (Aug. 11)

“Via Negativa” Courtesy of Knopf
“Via Negativa” Courtesy of Knopf

The newly homeless Father Dan, kicked out of his conservative diocese, is now a monk on the move, living out of his Camry as he travels the country searching for peace. He’s on his way to finding it, he believes, before he witnesses the vehicular injuring of a fox, who becomes his companion on his increasingly weird journey across America.

“The Sprawl” by Jason Diamond (Aug. 25)

“The Sprawl” Courtesy of Coffee House Press
“The Sprawl” Courtesy of Coffee House Press

The suburbs are not typically considered to be incubators of uniquely American art and culture; in fact, many stories about artists with suburban origins typically posit that their success came in spite of their surroundings. In “The Sprawl,” Diamond seeks to challenge the narrative that the suburbs are the place “where art happens despite: despite the conformity, the emptiness, the sameness.”

“The Lying Life of Adults” by Elena Ferrante (Sept. 1)

“The Lying Life of Adults” Courtesy of Europa Editions
“The Lying Life of Adults” Courtesy of Europa Editions

Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, translated from Italian, have brought her fame the world over (you can watch an adaptation of the best-known one, “My Brilliant Friend,” on HBO, and this newest novel will be adapted for Netflix). The pseudonymous writer is frequently listed in discussions regarding future Nobel Prize winners; we advise trying to get on the bandwagon as early as you can. Ferrante’s newest novel takes place in Naples yet again, but with a new cast of characters.

 

“Mother for Dinner” by Shalom Auslander (Sept. 22)

“Mother for Dinner” Courtesy of Riverhead Books
“Mother for Dinner” Courtesy of Riverhead Books

Upon the death of his mother, Seventh Seltzer, a “Cannibal-American,” is forced to confront the community tradition he’d always dreaded: He has to eat her. Seventh has to contend with the fact that the Seltzer family is flung all over country; what’s he going to do, eat her by himself? Cannibal-Americans, a once thriving ethnic group, have more or less assimilated, and only their Uncle Ishmael still knows how to undertake the eating ritual. If this insane premise works for you, give Auslander a try.

“True Believer” by Abraham Riesman, (Sept. 29)

Whether you love or hate Marvel Comics and the movies they’ve spawned, there is no denying the massive effect they’ve had on the American cultural landscape. Riesman, who frequently writes on Jewish subjects, delivers a biography of Stan Lee, the man behind it all. It’s a serious look from someone who holds an abiding love for Lee’s work, without letting it blind a critical, journalistic eye.

“True Believer” Courtesy of Crown
“True Believer” Courtesy of Crown

Jesse Bernstein is a writer for the Jewish Exponent, an affiliated publication of the Baltimore Jewish Times

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