Paperback Picks

Summer may be quickly coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean your elevated summer-reading habits should too. Check out these five new paperback releases for reading at home or on the go. 

“Harlem Shuffle: A Novel”

by Colson Whitehead (Anchor, $17)

Seattle Times arts critic Moira Macdonald called this novel from two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead one of her favorite books of 2021, and it’s not hard to see why. Taking place in 1960s Harlem as main character and upstanding furniture salesman Ray Carney gets involved in a jewel heist that takes him through the streets of old New York City, Whitehead weaves a spellbinding crime adventure so vivid that you feel like you experienced the lively cultural and political upheaval of the time yourself. Macdonald wrote of the book, “Whitehead lets us hear and feel and smell New York on every page, and finds time along the way to poignantly remind us how neighborhoods — uptown and downtown — slowly change, sometimes disappearing before our eyes.”

“The Shimmering State: A Novel”

by Meredith Westgate (Atria Books, $17)

There’s a new drug that allows users to relive happy moments. Would you take it? In Meredith Westgate’s debut novel, that experimental drug is called Memoroxin, or Mem for short. Meant to be used in treatment for those with Alzheimer’s, Mem has instead become a new party go-to in modern-day L.A., giving takers access to memories other than their own and causing them to lose a bit of themselves in the process. So when Lucien and Sophie meet at a rehab center for the drug, they have a nagging feeling that they’ve met before but just can’t remember … Beautifully written, immersive, and surprisingly warm, “The Shimmering State” explores the lengths we will go to lessen the hurt in our lives through a dreamlike kaleidoscope of senses and memories.  

Illustration by Jenny Kwon

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“Billy Summers”

by Stephen King (Gallery Books, $20)

Named a Wall Street Journal “Favorite Book of the Year,” the king (no pun intended) of horror’s most recent solo release is packed with nail-biting intrigue, spectacular twists and memorable characters who stick around long after the book is closed. Billy Summers is a good guy in a bad job. A killer for hire, he only takes a job if the person is actually bad. When his last hit job before retirement goes off the rails, Billy finds himself coming face to face with horrors closer to home than he could have imagined. “He may always be considered a horror novelist, but King is doing the best work of his later career when the ghosts are packed away and the monsters are all too human,” wrote Neil McRobert in The Guardian

“The Book of Delights: Essays”

by Ross Gay (Algonquin Books, $17.99)

Tracy K. Smith, Pulitzer Prize winner and U.S. poet laureate, said of “The Book of Delights,” “Ross Gay’s eye lands upon wonder at every turn, bolstering my belief in the countless small miracles that surround us.” You shouldn’t need any more convincing to pick up this essay collection after Smith’s seal of approval, but just in case, “The Book of Delights” is just that. A handheld portal to happiness, hope and beauty. Gay finds a way to find light in the ordinary, the small moments we often overlook — but shouldn’t. In a world where bad news seems to rain down on us constantly, why should we rob ourselves of the pleasures of life, no matter the size? 

“All’s Well: A Novel”

by Mona Awad (Scribner/Marysue Rucci Books, $17.99)

If you’re unfamiliar with Mona Awad’s writing — she is the author of “Bunny” and “13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl” — you’re in for a treat. A dazzling blend of Shakespeare and magical realism, “All’s Well” follows a long-suffering theater professor whose obsession with staging the Bard’s most maligned play becomes a subversive exploration of performance, women’s pain and revenge. It’s dark, it’s funny, it’s a spiral down a sparkling thespian rabbit hole. “Once I started to read the book, I just kept going and going,” Nneka McGuire wrote for The Washington Post. “Taking it in this way left me reeling, but when I was finished, I knew one thing for certain: Awad’s writing isn’t merely intoxicating. It’s incandescent.”