It's summertime and the summer reading lists are flowing. Here's one more for your pile.
Not all the books I've listed are new, but they're books I've read and enjoyed in the past year.
1) "The Burgess Boys" by Elizabeth Strout
Reading anything by Strout, who wrote the hugely successful "Olive Kitteridge," feels like sinking into a well-cushioned chair.
Jim is the older and more successful of the Burgess brothers. Good-hearted Bob still lives like a grad student. Their rivalry and their marriages take twists and turns, from Brooklyn to their Maine hometown, which has been changed by an influx of Somali refugees.
2) "Americanah" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Like Adichie, the narrator of this novel is a highly educated Nigerian who moves to the United States, where she learns to parse the subtleties of race American-style.
The book, which takes on topics as diverse as hair and interracial relationships, sometimes veers into polemic — the main character writes a blog on race — but the characters keep the drama humming. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.
3) "The Dinner" by Herman Koch
Two brothers meet for dinner with their wives at a fancy restaurant in Amsterdam. Both couples have teenage sons. The sons have done something terrible together.
Over the course of the dinner, the brothers make discoveries that force them to confront the question: How far would you go to protect your child?
If you demand lovable characters and redemption in your novels, look elsewhere. If you like plot twists and sly digs at the fine-dining class, you'll be happy.
4) "Disgrace" by J.M. Coetzee
Shortly after Nelson Mandela died in December, I felt inspired to reread my favorite South African novel. It holds up as one of the best books ever.
David Lurie is a white, middle-aged, divorced college professor who loses his job after having an affair with a student. In the tense aftermath of apartheid, he finds refuge from humiliation on his daughter's rural farm. Then the world he has always presumed upon is further exploded.
Easy to read, sometimes difficult to stomach, brilliant.
5) "The Circle" by Dave Eggers
Creeped out by Facebook? Feel stalked by Google? Drowning in email?
It only gets worse in the world of The Circle, an Internet corporation that resembles Google, Facebook, Twitter and Fitbit all rolled into one.
The protagonist is Mae, an innocent, ambitious young woman who gets a job at The Circle's luxurious California campus then discovers her soul in peril.