Sizzling stories for this sultriest of seasons
The dog days — and long, languid nights — of summer are meant for lounging in a hammock and page-turning poolside. Whether your midsummer getaway is a cabin, a beach house, or your own front step, we’ve got a sampling of our 2016 favorites to add to your packing list.
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Half-sisters Effia and Esi escape their brutal 18th-century village in Ghana, one by arranged marriage to a white man, the other in the chains of slavery. Told through eight vignettes, Gyasi’s ambitious debut novel follows the sisters and their descendants across oceans, generations, and cultural movements to witness how the expanse of time is a bridge uniting us with our heritage.
- The Girls by Emma Cline. A young girl named Evie follows a group of women to a dilapidated mansion, where she feels seen for the first time in her life (and will do anything to preserve that feeling). With loose parallels to the notorious Manson murders, first-time author Emma Cline sets this dark coming-of-age tale against the bohemian spirit of California in the 1960s. The Girls is a thoughtful inquiry into the psychology of cults and the women drawn to them.
- The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan. A provocative novel that probes three questions: Who are terrorists? What becomes of their families? How many lives does one bomb affect? Mahajan explores the complexity of the smaller terrorist attacks that occur frequently around the world, their perceptions from all sides, and the ripple effect of their fallout.
- Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen. Quindlen’s eighth novel follows the life of resourceful science geek Mimi Miller as she views the narrow ecosphere of Miller’s Valley while imagining all that must be available just beyond it. Quindlen writes about how “home” and “belonging” can be two different things while crafting a linear narrative that knits together how one family evolves from generation to generation.
- My Father Before Me by Chris Forhan. Reminiscent of Mary Karr and J.R. Moeringer, Forhan’s memoir embarks on a journey to understand his enigmatic father, who committed suicide when he was an adolescent, leaving a wife and eight children behind. Part family history, part unsolved mystery, Forhan looks for answers among public documents, relatives, and siblings to uncover the life of his father and the tragedies that killed him.
- Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work (A StoryCorps Book) by Dave Isay. A soulful glimpse into where people find meaning in work and how we are called to serve ourselves and the community in unexpected ways. Inspired by the passion of a devoted obstetrician, Isay compiles stories of bridge attendants, ironworkers, English teachers, and farmers to appreciate the myriad perspectives on meaningful work.
- Everything I Don't Remember by Jonas Hassen Khemiri. When a young man dies in a car crash, an anonymous writer sets out to interview the people closest to him to piece together his last day alive. The bigger mystery: Why does this writer care so much? Fans of Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train and Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You will appreciate Khemiri’s noirish storytelling.
- The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota. Three men and a woman from India immigrate to Sheffield, England, in hopes of supporting their families back home. They carry past struggles that both marginalize them from their new society and anchor them together in their paths forward as foreigners out in the world.
- A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin. This much-lauded collection of short stories, now in paperback, moves through melancholy, addiction, and intense observation at an equal clip. In the title tale, Berlin writes, “Cleaning women know everything,” perhaps a metaphor for the author herself.
- Shelter by Jung Yun. This debut novel, BuzzFeed’s “Most Buzzed About Book in 2016,” follows two generations of a Korean family as they navigate an unfortunate crime that forces them to confront their own history of violence and dysfunction. The story’s protagonist, Kyung, spins out of control as he realizes how much his past holds sway over his future.