21 books to read this summer
“The Mutual Friend,” by Carter Bays (Dutton, June 7)
Alice tries to complete her application to take the MCAT exam, but the distractions are constant. There’s her job as a nanny, her search for a new roommate, and her millionaire tech brother’s new Buddhist enlightenment. And all those confusing links to click, like the “Blueberry Muffins or Chihuahuas?” picture quiz. Everyone is looking for something – love, success, entertainment, spirituality – but no one looks up from their screen long enough to find anything. Bays, the co-creator of “How I Met Your Mother,” delivers smart comedy of manners for the age of buzzy gadgets.
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“The Midcoast”, by Adam White (Hogarth, June 7)
Edward Thatch’s future in his family’s lobster fishery once seemed certain, but he now owns several properties in the tourist haven of Damariscotta, where his wife, Stephanie, is essentially the mayor. As former schoolmate Andrew attends a party at Ed and Steph’s flagship home in coastal Maine, his curiosity about the Thatches climb turns to concern when he comes across police photos of charred human remains in a burnt-out car. As he deepens the mystery surrounding their sudden wealth, he uncovers secrets someone can kill to keep hidden. Reminiscent of Netflix’s “Ozark” but with more lobsters, White’s intriguing debut novel examines how far parents will go to protect their families.
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“So Happy for You,” by Celia Laskey (Hanover Square Press, June 7)
Part dystopia, part satire, Laskey’s second novel imagines a world where marriage rates have plummeted and the government’s National Organization for Marriage organizes blind dates. Robin reluctantly agrees to be bridesmaid to her childhood best friend, Ellie, even though they haven’t spoken since they argued in college. As the wedding draws closer, Ellie engages the bridal party in increasingly bizarre rituals encouraged by the wedding-industrial complex, escalating into a wedding weekend that tests the limits of friendship and obsession.
“Ordinary Monsters”, by JM Miro (Flatiron, June 7)
Children with extraordinary abilities – to heal, to become invisible – are tracked by a man made of smoke, and also sought after by a Scottish Victorian institute guarding a portal between the living and the dead. Charles Dickens meets Joss Whedon in Netflix-like Miro’s otherworldly novel, the first in a planned trilogy.
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“By Her Own Design”, by Piper Huguley (William Morrow, June 7)
The dress Jacqueline Bouvier wore for her wedding to Sen. John F. Kennedy was sewn from 50 yards of silk taffeta, twice. Although the designer, Ann Lowe, created and then recreated the dress with extraordinary speed after a pipe broke on the original tailoring 10 days before the wedding, she was never credited as anything other than a ” seamstress of color”. Huguley’s fictional account, peppered with painstaking historical detail, draws attention to this unjustly forgotten creator. Lowe’s life story emerges, showing a tenacious and talented artist who overcame countless obstacles on her way to achieving her dreams.
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“Rickey: The Life and Legend of an American Original”, by Howard Bryant (Mariner, June 7)
Baseball Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson’s record speaks for itself, but that hasn’t stopped him from having a lot to say. He was known for his competitiveness as much as his colorful “Rickey style,” but there’s more to his story than his superlative talent. His outsized personality, backed by unquestionable athleticism, helped him rise to the top of the record books in an era of both expanding player salaries and persistent racial discrimination. Bryant’s vivid and detailed account, written with access to Henderson and his wife, Pamela, shines a light on this unique and charismatic legend.
“Elsewhere” by Alexis Schaitkin (Céladon, June 28)
The author of ‘Saint X’, a novel about the disappearance of a teenager from a Caribbean resort, returns with another fictionalized meditation on disappearance – in this case, a succession of mothers who disappear from a town isolated. The young girls are afraid of one day developing “the evil”, as they call the “departure” of the mothers. No one knows why this happens, but in hindsight, everyone finds missed signs that women were “failed” mothers. Schaitkin deftly questions the meaning of motherhood with all that it entails of judgment, self-doubt and deep love.
‘Saint X’ is more than the story of a missing girl. It’s a story about why such stories fascinate us.
“American Royalty,” by Tracey Livesay (Avon, June 28)
Livesay’s new series may hark back to a real-life, but hotter romance. Danielle “Duchess” Nelson, famous American rapper, is on her way to the top of her profession when she meets Prince Jameson, heir to the British throne, who prefers solitude and philosophy to star. His grandmother, the Queen, has tasked him with overseeing a royal tribute concert where the Duchess will perform. Their attraction is immediate and all-consuming, but as their relationship intensifies, the pressure from outside forces intensifies and they are faced with difficult choices between dreams and duty.
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“Dele Weds Destiny”, by Tomi Obaro (Knopf, June 28)
Three Nigerian women are inseparable in college, calling themselves the ‘Trio’, helping each other come to terms with adulthood, sexuality, love and loss. Although different choices and thousands of miles separated them, they meet 30 years later in Lagos at the wedding of one of their daughters. Over the course of three days, they rediscover their closeness by sharing intimacies about their life and their long-held dreams. Obaro’s writing lends richness and depth to female friendship, depicting the beauty of bonds that last a lifetime.
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