Sign up today and save up to 83% on a Hartford Courant digital subscription
CT Now

Rounding up this year's summer reads

This past winter, when temperatures routinely dipped below freezing, the promise of eventual summer was the only thing that kept our spirits afloat. Trudging through a dispiriting "wide landscape of snows" — to borrow a phrase from Herman Melville — we'd daydream of warmer days: a sunny afternoon spent on the edge of the city, perhaps on Lake Michigan, nose in a book, light breezes rustling the pages.

Summer is finally lapping at our shores, and with it comes a steady wave of new releases. Here (and throughout this week's issue) we highlight forthcoming titles in various genres: absorbing suspense thrillers, harrowing memoirs, exciting new fiction – whatever floats your boat.


This piece first ran in Printers Row Journal, delivered to Printers Row members with the Sunday Chicago Tribune and by digital edition via email. Click here to learn about joining Printers Row.


Sailing back in time: historical fiction

In the Wolf's Mouth by Adam Foulds

June 3, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 336 pages, $26

The British writer — praised for both his poetry and poetic prose — situates his latest novel in North Africa and Sicily at the end of World War II, as the Allies attempt to chase the Nazis toward mainland Italy. The story orbits around two soldiers, an English field security officer and an Italian-American GI, who are forced to confront both the vagaries of war and the Sicilian Mafia.

Motor City Burning by Bill Morris

July 15, Pegasus, 288 pages, $24.95

Set in Detroit in the late '60s, Bill Morris' latest novel unfolds amid race riots, social upheaval and Tiger Stadium's Opening Day. It stars Willie Bledsoe, a young former black activist, who must confront the injustice and turmoil that swirl around him.

... And historical nonfiction

The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century by David Reynolds

Out now, W.W. Norton, 544 pages, $32.50

World War I began 100 years ago this summer, and with the centenary comes a battalion of new books. This new release by David Reynolds stands out for its in-depth analysis of WWI's impact — much of which seems to have slipped from American memory, if it ever was truly understood. He discusses broad themes, such as democracy and nationalism across the 20th century, as well as art and poetry, offering a multidimensional portrait of how the War to End All Wars cast a long shadow.

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides

Aug. 5, Doubleday, 480 pages, $28.95

In the late 19th century — before everything could be spotted on Google Maps — the North Pole held mysterious appeal as one of the last uncharted places on the planet. The USS Jeannette, carrying a team of 32 men, set out to explore Arctic territory — only to become trapped in pack ice. Forced to abandon ship, the crew trekked over a frozen, unforgiving wilderness in hopes of survival. To vividly recapture the ill-fated voyage, Sides relied on lost letters, diaries, firsthand accounts and his own knack for storytelling.

Cape Fear: crime fiction and suspense thrillers

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

June 3, Scribner, 448 pages, $30

From the prolific best-selling writer comes another breezy novel to uplift and encourage. Just kidding! This characteristically dark thriller looks into the mind of a madman whose hobby is to kill people with a certain kind of luxury car — a creepy speed read.

FaceOff

June 3, Simon & Schuster, 384 pages, $26.99

Curated by the International Thriller Writers and edited by best-selling author David Baldacci, this unique story collection features a series of "face-offs" between popular thriller characters: Patrick Kenzie vs. Harry Bosch; Jack Reacher vs. Nick Heller; Lincoln Rhyme vs. Lucas Davenport, and more. Written collaboratively by acclaimed writers such as Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly, Jeffery Deaver and Lee Child, "FaceOff" is like a literary "Mortal Kombat."

Abroad by Katie Crouch

June 17, Sarah Crichton, 304 pages, $26

A fictionalized version of the Amanda Knox saga, Katie Crouch's fifth novel traces the experiences of Taz, a British student studying in Italy who falls in with a reckless group of girls, then falls for the same man as her American roommate, Claire. A psychological thriller that'll make you shiver on a warm summer's night.

California by Edan Lepucki

July 8, Little, Brown, 400 pages, $26

Offering a new spin on the post-apocalyptic novel, Edan Lepucki's debut tells the story of a couple who move to a shelter in the wilderness, eventually moving in with a guarded community that harbors terrible secrets.

The Kills by Richard House

Aug.5, Picador, 1024 pages, $35

Told in four books, Richard House's epic literary thriller "The Kills," set during the Iraq War, is perfect for fans of literary thrillers with a lot of time on their hands. Collaborating with his publisher, House produced digital and audio supplements that further probe the lives of his characters.

Desert island: page-turning literary fiction

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez

June 3, Knopf, 304 pages, $24.95

Focusing on the immigrant experience, the Chicago writer's devastating new novel gives voice to those who are often silenced. At the center is the love story of a Panamanian boy and Mexican girl — the latter of whom suffered a near-fatal accident — and the challenges they face while living with their families in a rundown apartment building in Delaware. Braided into the narrative are oral histories of other immigrants who came to the United States with great expectations, only to be confronted with a series of obstacles — racial, cultural, economic and otherwise. Together, they form a stirring chorus. (See page 8 for a Q&A with Cristina Henríquez.)

Paper Lantern and Ecstatic Cahoots by Stuart Dybek

Both due June 3 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. "Paper Lantern": 224 pages, $24; "Ecstatic Cahoots": 208 pages, $14

This summer, the distinguished author of "I Sailed With Magellan" and "The Coast of Chicago" publishes not one, but two story collections: "Paper Lantern" probes the drama of romantic love, while "Ecstatic Cahoots" collects 50 micro fictions. (See page 10 for a full review.)

A Replacement Life by Boris Fishman

June 3, Harper, 336 pages, $25.99

Boris Fishman's inventive debut novel follows a 25-year-old aspiring journalist who, rather than churn out bylined works, finds himself forging Holocaust-restitution claims for old Russian Jews. Not quite the life he'd planned. (See page 15 for a full review.)

Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch

June 3, Hogarth, 400 pages, $24

The author of "The Dinner" returns with a controversial novel about Dr. Marc Schlosser, whose patient — a famous TV actor — dies after a botched medical procedure. Just the summer before, the doc and his family were the actor's guests in his lavish Mediterranean vacation home — a holiday both nightmarish and eerily portentous. This book's protagonist gives us serious Walter White vibes. And, as with "Breaking Bad," this novel seems like it'll be hard not to finish it in one sitting.

The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman

June 10, The Dial Press, 400 pages, $27

In Tom Rachman's intricate novel, Tooly Zylberberg , a bookseller in Wales, seeks answers about her vague and troubling past. She was kidnapped as a little girl and raised by crooks who used her in global capers. When she receives an urgent message at her store, Tooly embarks on a fact-finding journey around the globe, seeking to put an end to her secrets.

Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers

June 17, Knopf, 224 pages, $25.95

Dave Eggers' new novel, just announced in April, is something of a surprise. The McSweeney's founder has had three novels in just the last three years. It's the story of a man named Thomas interrogating Kev, a NASA astronaut, at an abandoned military base. The two men are somehow connected. Other than that, we're pretty vague on the details, but intrigued nonetheless.

Tigerman by Nick Harkaway

July 29, Knopf, 352 pages, $26.95

The author of "The Gone-Away World" and "Angelmaker" delivers a novel about family, loyalty and identity, incorporating elements of suspense and old-school pulp. Following a trying tour in Afghanistan, Sgt. Lester Ferris is sent to the island of Mancreu, a former British colony threatened by ecological disaster, where he meets a comic book-loving local boy who ends up needing a hero.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Aug. 12, Knopf, 400 pages, $25.95

When it was originally released in Japan, the latest novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami — his first since "IQ84" — drew quite a crowd. Thousands of people queued up outside Tokyo bookstores in the middle of the night to grab a copy, and the book has garnered rave reviews. In fact, it sold more than a million copies in its first week. No matter how you feel about Murakami's dreamy, meandering narratives, you have to acknowledge his rock-star status. The English translation arrives this summer.

Adrift: tales of the lost (and occasionally found)

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

June 3, Knopf, 272 pages, $25.95

Rakoff's wry memoir is about a life lived in contrasts: By day, she's a 23-year-old assistant to J. D. Salinger's literary agent in New York; by night, she's the broke tenant of a shabby Brooklyn apartment (which she shares with her socialist boyfriend). Charged with answering the famous author's fan mail, Rakoff is inspired one day to stray from the form reply and start writing back. (See page 16 for a full review.)

Blacken Me, Blacken Me Growled by Cassandra Troyan

June 9, Tiny Hardcore Press, 122 pages, $10

The work of artist and writer Cassandra Troyan searches for the beauty in humans' most desperate gestures, examining our quest for meaning amid (and often despite) the most quotidian experiences. The Chicago-based writer's new book of experimental poetry from Roxane Gay's Tiny Hardcore Press expands on these themes through the lens of sex, drugs, pop culture and suburban disenchantment.

Cataract City by Craig Davidson

July 8, Graywolf, 384 pages, $16

As boys, Niagara Falls residents Duncan Diggs and Owen Stuckey were abducted in the woods, then abandoned. They grew up and eventually took very different directions in life but memories of that trauma always come rushing back. This suspenseful novel has already made waves in Canada, where the author lives.

Nobody Is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey

July 8, FSG Originals, 256 pages, $14

In this haunting debut novel, a woman named Elyria abruptly leaves Manhattan on a one-way flight to New Zealand, leaving behind a distraught, confused husband and a seemingly stable life. She drifts into unknown territories, meeting strangers and sleeping in public parks, all the while consumed by the death of her sister. The thing Elyria can't seem to escape? Her unstable mind.

The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai

July 10, Viking Adult, 352 pages, $26.95

The Chicago native, and author of "The Borrower," crafts a novel of old money and long-buried secrets in a sprawling North Shore estate called Laurelfield. Once a thriving arts colony, the mansion offers exciting research possibilities for an unemployed scholar intent on a book deal. Conveniently, the home is owned by his wife's family. So why is his mother-in-law so guarded about the colony records stowed away in the attic?

The Other Side by Lacy M. Johnson

July 15, Tin House, 232 pages, $15.95

Following a young woman who flees an abusive relationship, kidnapping, rape and imprisonment, this book is especially disturbing because it's true. Lacy Johnson's memoir weaves in FBI reports, psychological records and neurological experiments to tell the very personal story of her trauma, escape and road to recovery.

Ancient Oceans of Central Kentucky by David Connerley Nahm

Aug. 12, Two Dollar Radio, 222 pages, $15.50

This haunting debut novel explores small-town life in the middle of Kentucky and the ties — however frayed — that bind.

Discovery Bay: thought-provoking works of nonfiction

Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo and the Battle That Defined a Generation by Blake J. Harris

Out now, It Books, 576 pages, $28.99

If you're a video game fan nostalgic for game systems of the past, then this book about how scrappy upstart Sega took on industry giant Nintendo should — ahem — console you.

The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food by Dan Barber

Out now, Penguin, 496 pages, $29.95

Move over, Michael Pollan. Chef Dan Barber, of New York's Blue Hill restaurant, has a new vision for the kind of food system he believes the United States should adopt to be more sustainable in the long term. Expanding on ideas from the popular farm-to-table movement, the award-winning chef proposes a more integrated system of nutrition and food production involving the whole farm.

The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning by Marcelo Gleiser

June 3, Basic, 368 pages, $29.99

Physicist Marcelo Gleiser traces humans' attempts to understand Life's Big Questions — and science's limitations in answering them. Rather than retread familiar science-versus-religion territory, Gleiser's intention seems to be making peace with mystery.

Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton

June 10, Simon & Schuster, 656 pages, $35

America's 67th Secretary of State (and, among many other things, self-described "pantsuit aficionado"), offers her perspective on the crises, challenges and rewards of assuming that role in the Obama administration. At 600-plus pages, Clinton's memoir promises to cover a lot of ground — just as she has in her career. Time will tell if that career includes a 2016 presidential bid.

Love boats: stories of passion and regret

Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America by John Waters

June 3, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 336 pages, $26

Quirky director John Waters — he of the pencil-thin mustache and "Pink Flamingos" fame — stood on roadsides across America with a sign that said "I'm Not Psycho." Hitching rides from Baltimore to San Francisco, the eccentric filmmaker recounts what happens when he threw away his schedule and gave himself up to chance. It's a love letter to America and the open road. (See page 22 for a full review.)

The Festival of Earthly Delights by Matt Dojny

June 10, Dzanc, 462 pages, $15.95

This heartfelt coming-of-age story follows the adventures and misadventures of Boyd Darrow, who relocates to Puchai, a fictional Southwest Asian country, to give his cheating girlfriend another chance. But the primary relationship under the microscope here seems to be Boyd's shifting relationship to unfamiliar surroundings.

I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum

June 10, Touchstone, 337 pages, $25.99

This debut novel, set in London and Paris, explores art, family and a failed monogamist's creative — often hopeless — attempts to win back his wife.

Friendship by Emily Gould

July 1, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 272 pages, $26

Tracing the shape-shifting friendship between Bev and Amy, two 30-year-old women navigating adulthood with varying degrees of acceptance, hesitancy, wisdom and regret, this novel explores how friendships change as we do.

Laura Pearson is a Chicago-based journalist specializing in arts and culture reporting.

Copyright © 2015, CT Now
Related Content
Comments
Loading
74°