Whether you’re at the beach (or on the long train ride to the beach), in the park or curled up in front of the AC, summer is a great time to get lost in a leisurely read. We reached out to some of the most avid readers we know, including a few who work at some of Brooklyn’s best bookstores, for their recommendations. Happy page turning.
The Unknowns, Gabriel Roth
San Francisco’s dot-com boom and computer geek culture conjure clichéd images, but in Gabriel Roth’s debut novel The Unknowns, start-up success Eric Muller defies expectations, starting from the moment he divulges an embarrassing sexual tic to a woman while high on ecstasy. It’s not the woman Muller ultimately falls in love with; when he does, he will make an even greater misstep, being more adept to the logic of programming than the messiness of the heart. As Roth toggles between Muller’s present-day, millionaire-at-24 self, and his awkward childhood and teen years, punctuated by games on the Comodore, My Little Ponies, and the shitty decisions of his deadbeat dad, he becomes even more endearing and complex. Then Muller learns that the love of his life has a dark past, and you’re not only engrossed, you’re impressed by the way Roth navigates such a surprising path. –Nicole Davis
Roth reads from The Unknowns at BookCourt in Cobble Hill this Saturday, July 13. If his recent takeover of the Little, Brown Twitter on the publication day of his book is any indication, it will be a very entertaining evening.
Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass, Mardi Jo Link
Bootstrapper opens with author Mardi Jo Link, drunk at 10am on her Northern Michigan porch, accessing her situation. Her recently estranged husband, to whom she refers as “Mr.Wonderful,” has moved out, her childhood dream of a farm is in rough shape, her home is in shambles and she has $61 to feed herself and her three sons for the next month. For those of us who fantasize about quitting the city life and starting a quaint farm of our own, Bootstrapper is a kick in the face. Mardi Jo is tough as nails and tells her story from a journalist’s perspective with hilarity and poignancy. It’s the perfect summertime memoir–reads like an iced cold beer but feels as good for you as veggies from the farmer’s market. –Lauren Griffin
The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer
A book that starts out at a summer camp is the perfect novel to lose yourself in while you’re waiting for the G train or walking long city blocks on hot July days. The Interestings is a Great American Novel in which talent is the central question. How much does talent matter when it comes to living a successful life? This is a smart read that deals with complicated friendships, privilege, and ambition. It’s a long book that you’ll devour in a short amount of time—in great, appreciative gulps.
–Michele Filgate, Community Bookstore
How Should A Person Be?, Sheila Heti
Lately, few major publishing houses are willing to take risks on edgy, literary-leaning fiction. Picador, however is often the exception, and with Sheila Heti’s new novel How Should A Person Be, they took a worthwhile risk. What’s the book about? It’s about a woman. That may seem reductive, but the fact is this novel is just one of those books that’s about the details. Friends, love and work, as well as a constant search for the answer to one very general question, make up the pages of this raw and funny novel. Heti writes with the skill of Joan Didion and unbridled honesty of Mary Gaitskill and the bravery of Lynne Tillman. –Jon Reiss
My Education, Susan Choi
This is a perfectly balanced summer book. It features all the trappings of a good beach read–surprising plot turns, sex, betrayal–without compromising its literary complexity, namely the rich characterization and the dazzling language. The protagonist, Regina, vacillates between lovers and career prospects, makes a number of bad decisions along the way, and ultimately forces the reader to reflect back on naivete and youth. —Justin Levine, powerHouse Arena
Choi will be reading at a book launch for My Education at powerHouse in Dumbo on July 17.
Fame Shark, Royal Young
Coming-of-age memoirs can be hit or miss, but Royal Young’s new literary memoir is a sharp and entertaining look at the life of a young man growing in a quirky, artistic Jewish family in Manhattan. Fame Shark is like an episode of Girls meets Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. It reads as a timely and candid portrait of a family struggling to know one another and to find themselves against the backdrop of the Lower East Side. –JR
Lexicon, Max Barry
Max Barry’s latest smart, affecting, incredibly enjoyable thriller takes place in part in the Australian outback, which is even hotter than New York in the summer. Everyone in a small Aussie town is dead, and the reason why involves a confused kidnap victim, a young con artist and a secret league of “poets” who have dramatically honed their persuasive skills. Barry neatly threads together a globe-trotting adventure, a love story, and nifty ideas about identity, connection, and the compelling power of the right words. –Molly Templeton, Word Bookstore
Taipei, Tao Lin
Your status symbol for summer, Taipei is Tao Lin’s third novel (seventh book), and one of the reasons you hear people throwing the term “alt lit” around in coffee shops and on Tumblr. Lin’s voice is captivating and expertly dramatizes the interpersonal dynamics of Internet culture–boy-girl stuff. The topic is more interesting than you’d think. Although the pace is slow at times, its subtle tendencies pay off in the end and remind us we really should turn off our smart phones when we’re eating dinner with friends. Get the hardback and avoid the ebook, you’ll want people to see you reading this one on the subway and at the beach. It’s a conversation starter. –Lon Koontz
The Fun Parts, Sam Lipsyte
If you’re not familiar with Sam Lipsyte, you must not live in Brooklyn, or read books, or have any friends who do. Lipsyte is a former punk singer/scenester and editor whose last novel, The Ask, became the novel you had to read to become a part of the conversation. In this short story collection, Lipsyte often re-visits the slackers and ne’er-do-wells who occupied the pages of his first novel, Homeland, and it’s in these stories that he seems the most comfortable–like his story about a heroin addict aspiring to write a children’s book to impress his father. Lipsyte at his best is one of the funniest authors alive. The fact that he’s so funny makes his more emotionally resonant moments icing on a rich and satisfying cake. Anyone can read and enjoy Lipsyte, but for writers and those who aspire to write, his books are a necessity, a crash course in how to write beautiful sentences that don’t slow the pace of great fiction. –JR
Astor Place Vintage, Stephanie Lehmann
The narrative of this book traverses the streets of New York City from two separate time periods, a century apart. Present-day vintage boutique owner Amanda Rosenbloom is trying to sort out some financial troubles for her shop and disentangle herself from a not-so-enchanting affair of the heart when she discovers the diary of Olive Westcott, an upper-class young woman who moves to New York City at the turn of the 20th century but quickly finds herself on the less-than glamorous side of society life. Despite the century that separates them, the two women have a lot in common–which is sad from a feminist perspective, but still makes this book an entirely engrossing read you could finish in an afternoon or two. The historical details and black-and-white photography of what NYC looked like back in the day are an added bonus. –Jordan Galloway