Local booksellers and librarians and an author share the new books and classics they're looking forward to picking up.
Are you the kind of book lover who makes your summer-reading choices months in advance, or does a chronic lack of foresight drive you to the best-seller rack at the airport bookstore? I’m some of both (two biographies, one poignant novel, one Dorothy Sayers … but wait! Is that the latest Lee Child?). In the interest of better books this summer I asked seven knowledgeable people in our region about their summer-reading picks — booksellers and librarians, with an author thrown in for good measure.
They answered two questions: Is there a new book that you’re excited to read this summer? And is there a classic that you hope to revisit, or read for the first time? Here are their choices:
Stesha Brandon, literature and humanities program manager, Seattle Public Library
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New book: Madeline Miller’s “Circe,” a retelling of the Greek myth about a young woman banished by the gods who learns to stand alone and fight for what’s dear to her. “I recently read the new Emily Wilson translation of ‘The Odyssey,’ ” said Brandon, “so it will be a great follow-up to that.”
Classic: James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time.” “I have had several people recommend it recently.”
Pam Cady, manager, general book department, Seattle’s University Book Store
New book: “French Exit” by Patrick deWitt, available in August. Cady’s plot summary: “When Frances Price, an infamous blueblood from the upper Eastside runs out of money, she and her son Malcolm, whose only real pastime is swimming, and her deceased husband Franklin, whose spirit is housed in the body of their cat, small Frank, relocate to Paris.” Cady called this novel “a dark comedy whose language is never disappointing and always surprising.”
Classic: “Peace Like a River” by Leif Enger, “a novel about old-fashioned miracles and a cast of characters that will break your heart open.”
Emily Calkins, readers’ services program coordinator, King County Library System
New book: “Who is Vera Kelly?” by Rosalie Knecht, “a Cold War spy thriller set in Buenos Aires and starring a feisty young heroine sounds like my ideal summer read,” said Calkins.
Classic: “I’m finally going to read ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier. I love atmospheric suspense, so I’m not sure how I’ve managed to go this long without picking up this classic gothic tale!”
Tom Nissley, owner of Seattle’s Phinney Books
New book: “In our store we are all fond of Ottessa Moshfegh’s caustic misanthropy,” said Nissley, “so how could we look at the cover of her upcoming novel, ‘My Year of Rest and Relaxation,’ with its Jane Austen-style heroine who apparently could not be bothered to find a husband, without imagining the delights inside?”
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Classic: “I’ve wanted to read C.V. Wedgwood’s 1938 history, “The Thirty Years War,” for a long time (it’s one of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ favorite books), and this summer seems a perfect time to be reminded that people have always been horrible, especially in 17th-century Europe.”
Laurie Raisys, owner, Island Books, Mercer Island
New book: The just-published “My Ex-Life” by Stephen McCauley. Raisys called this novel “a touching, witty novel about love, life and second chances. Stephen McCauley creates lovable, memorable characters you wish were your friends.”
Classic: “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott, as a companion to the current PBS “Masterpiece” series.
Jennie Shortridge, author and co-founder, Seattle7 Writers
New book: “There There” by Tommy Orange. “As a lifelong fan of Louise Erdrich,” said Shortridge, “I’m eager to crack open this multigenerational, urban Native American story by debut novelist Tommy Orange.”
Classic: “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou. Shortridge read this memoir when she was 11 years old “and felt profoundly wiser for it, yet I haven’t re-read it in all these years — which will be remedied soon in the shade of my garden.”
Tracy Taylor, general manager, Seattle’s Elliott Bay Book Co.
New book: “You Think It, I’ll Say It” by Curtis Sittenfeld. Taylor said of this new story collection: “If Curtis were my friend, I wouldn’t share any embarrassing stories with her. She obviously has a talent for putting the minutiae of our lives under a microscope. These stories are thoughtful, witty and fun.”
Classic: “I plan to reread “Rabbit, Run” by John Updike. This was a book I’ve disliked for about 30 years … I’ve struggled with the message, but the intensity has always stayed with me. I’m wondering what it will read like now and if I will still want to throw it across the room when I’m done.”
If you got this far, here are some bonus points — my two recommendations:
New book: “Warlight” by Michael Ondaatje. I just reviewed this book for The Seattle Times. It’s a dreamlike fable of secrets, lies and heartbreak during and after World War II, one of the best books ever by the author of “The English Patient.” I’m going to read it again for the pure pleasure of Ondaatje’s prose.
Classic: My son and I are planning a book club of two — we’re going to read “The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner. I first read it when I was 22 — now he’s the same age. The very definition of a classic.