Summer is now officially upon us … but summer reading started a while ago (at least, mine did). Should you be in need of a new paperback to celebrate the season, here are a half-dozen fresh picks.
“Love” by Roddy Doyle (Penguin, $17). The Booker Prize-winning author of “Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha” sets his latest book in a Dublin restaurant, with two old friends raising a glass … and a few more. It’s a familiar setting, and yet “‘Love’ marks a new turn for Doyle,” wrote a Times Literary Supplement reviewer. “It is a tender and deceptively complex book that touches not just on matters of the heart, but on memory, friendship, masculinity, fatherhood, home and the difficulty of true communication.”
“A Star is Bored” by Byron Lane (St. Martin’s, $17.99). This one sounds like potentially sunny summer reading, no? Inspired by his real-life stint as Carrie Fisher’s personal assistant, Lane’s debut novel has at its center a Los Angeles writer named Charlie who takes a job as assistant to Kathi Kannon, star of the cult-favorite science fiction film “Nova Quest.” “Their dynamic will be as amusing for the reader as it is all-consuming for Charlie,” wrote a Kirkus reviewer, calling the book “charming, hilarious and memorable,” and noting that Lane “deftly navigates the complexity of inner and outer lives as well as the many facets of normal.”
“A Burning” by Megha Majumdar (Vintage/Anchor, $16.99). This one’s been on my list to read for a while: Majumdar’s debut, a 2020 bestseller, is a tale of contemporary India, in which a Muslim girl from a slum neighborhood is accused of a terrorist attack on a train after a careless Facebook comment. “Immaculately constructed, acidly observed and gripping from start to finish, ‘A Burning’ is a brilliant debut,” wrote a reviewer in The Guardian. “The novel is both a crime thriller in which Jivan battles to avoid execution, and a moral drama: will her old acquaintances risk their burgeoning careers to speak up for a vilified Muslim woman?” (The University Bookstore will present a free Zoom webinar with Majumdar on July 22; see ubookstore.com for details.)
“Tokyo Ueno Station” by Yu Miri, translated by Morgan Giles (Penguin, $16). Miri’s National Book Award winner is narrated by a ghost, a once-homeless construction worker gazing back from the afterlife. “It’s a relatively slim novel that packs an enormous emotional punch, thanks to Yu’s gorgeous, haunting writing and Morgan Giles’ wonderful translation,” wrote an NPR reviewer, summing up the book as “a stunning novel, and a harsh, uncompromising look at existential despair.”
“The Dragons, the Giant, the Women: A Memoir” by Wayétu Moore (Graywolf Press, $16). Moore’s book, named to numerous best-of-2020 lists and a finalist for the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography, looks back on an eventful life: escape from Liberia as a small child during that country’s civil war, growing up in Texas, and an eventual return to her homeland. Reviewer Grace Talusan in The New York Times called it an “immersive, exhilarating memoir.”
“All the Devils Are Here” by Louise Penny (St. Martin’s, $9.99). Another year, another Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novel — and another chance to marvel at how Penny keeps this now-16-volume series so fresh and invigorating. This one departs from the usual Quebec village setting (is Three Pines running out of corpses?) for Paris, where Gamache has traveled to see a new grandchild — and where, of course, the good detective stumbles onto a murder attempt. “Although Penny touches on a wide range of subjects in this expansive story,” wrote New York Times mystery reviewer Marilyn Stasio, “her main concern is with the sacrifices we make for those we love.”