Thrilling page-turners or fascinating non-fiction? Time Out looks forward to 20 brilliant beach reads
Time Out Dubai staff
May 30, 2010 1:25 PM
Whether you do your reading by the pool or tucked up in bed the summer is a great time to tuck into a good book. Time Out selects 20 books to look out for this summer. All of these works will be available as an eBook as well.
Anthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann
We love stories like this. Originally self-published in 2003 to a massive cult following, the new and re-edited version of this novel chronicles the life of a young woman artist living in East Hampton in the 1970s, and has earned the book praises as a Catcher in the Rye for women. Take this with a grain of salt, but still consider checking it out.
Why it’s a great summer read: Because there’s no greater fantasy than being an artist in the Hamptons in the ’70s.
The Long Song by Andrea Levy
Summer reading is all about transport, and Levy brings you to 1832 Jamaica, where there’s a slave rebellion brewing. The story is told by July, a house slave seduced by her English overseer so don’t expect travels similar to the bestselling Eat, Pray, Love but the quality of the narrative will keep you going through the harder times. .
Why it’s a great summer read: Every summer, among the Blockbuster movies, there’s a more nuanced, quieter Oscar contender slipped in. The Long Song is that for books.
A Visit from the Goon Squad Jennifer Egan
Egan’s last novel, The Keep, thoroughly creeped us out by alternating the story of a weird old European castle with a story about prison. She keeps up with the varying story lines in her new novel, which strings together tales of a woman (Sasha) who works for a slightly crazed music producer (Bennie). Bennie’s immersion in the San Francisco Bay area’s ’80s punk scene, and Sasha’s later, more settled life.
Why it’s a great summer read: Two things that summer’s good for: music and new beginnings.
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
Russian-American author Shteyngart (The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, Absurdistan) takes us into the near-future, where Americans are illiterate and book-lover Lenny Abramov works for Post-Human Services, which attempts to fit rich clientele for immortality. As the country falls apart thanks to a credit crisis and an imposed military state, Lenny tries to eke out his own love story.
Why it’s a great summer read: This is one of those times you’ll wish you had that book cover to display. But if you want to start a summer fling, all you have to do is wait for someone to ask what you’re reading, and respond “Super Sad True Love Story,” and mean it.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
Mitchell’s last novel, Black Swan Green, was great but felt like a placeholder after his mind-blowing Cloud Atlas, which we rank as one of the best novels of the naughties. His new one brings all that ambition back to the table, telling the story of a young Dutch clerk who, in 1799, moves to a small island off the Japanese mainland to try to make a fortune for his wealthy fiancée back home.
Why it’s a great summer read: If you read Cloud Atlas, you know that Mitchell possesses near-mystical powers to transport his readers. Might as well pretend to be a Dutch clerk while you’re riding the Metro to work in 110-degree heat.
Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell
We’ve always enjoyed Bissell’s writing, and his last book, The Father of All Things, won him the attention he deserves. His new one takes a break from international relations to tackle something a little closer to home: video games. Part memoir and part social commentary, Bissell’s book looks at why thousands of people simply can’t put down their Nintendo Wii.
Why it’s a great summer read: It’ll keep you company while you’re outside this summer, away from your beloved Xbox.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
Few play with literary fiction the way Bender (The Girl in the Flammable Skirt) does, and this new novel stays true to form. A nine-year-old discovers she has a superpower: She can taste her mother’s emotions through the cakes she bakes. When the girl bites into some hidden family secrets, her powers become less than super.
Why it’s a great summer read: You don’t want to be seen having too much fun in the summer. It has both cake and self-loathing, depending on how you’re feeling.
Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
Though the shuttle program has been grounded, humans will still be up in space. They may want to think twice about that after reading Roach’s book about the science and weirdness of inhabiting the final frontier.
Why it’s a great summer read: If the NASA budget debate hasn’t already caught your attention—and really, who isn’t riveted by a good budget debate—then maybe you’re like us and find yourself reminded every summer night why you were fascinated by astronomy as a kid.
Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens
The irascible public intellectual has written biographies/takedowns of figures such as Mother Teresa and Bill Clinton. So it’s about time he turned his acid tongue on his own life. Considering how little he lets up on anyone else in the entire universe, we’re guessing Hitchens won’t pull many punches when it comes to himself either.
Why it’s a great summer read: Eventually, some chucklehead in a blazer is going to quote Hitchens at a party, and when he does, you can air some of Hitchens’s laundry.
Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman
Waldman (Love and Other Impossible Pursuits) follows the aftermath of two families after a young couple dies in a car crash an hour after their wedding.
Why it’s a great summer read: Because it’s the summer! Wedding season! And car crash season! And long ruminations about the way death initially unites us but also infuses all of our interactions with sublimated, unending residual pain until we finally come to an understanding of ourselves and each other season!
Kraken by China Miéville
Fresh off his win of the Arthur C. Clarke Award for his last novel, The City and the City, Miéville is proving to be one of the great contemporary sci-fi/fantasy writers. In his new one, magical underground forces in London want to release a giant squid monster, and a hapless animal expert discovers he holds the key to unleashing the beast. We repeat: giant squid monster.
Why it’s a great summer read: It should already be clear why this is a great summer read, and we’re not talking about Miéville’s award. We repeat, louder: GIANT SQUID GOD.
The 9th Judgement by James Patterson
The ninth installment of the wildly popular crime thriller series sees the all-female investigation team (made up of a detective, district attorney, medical examiner and journalist) solving crimes in California. With the glamour of A-list victims, seemingly motiveless crimes and more twists than a bloodstained corkscrew there is plenty to whet your appetite for murder.
Why it’s a great summer read: We’ve never met James Patterson so we’re only guessing when we say he must have blistered fingers from all the typing he does. A quick scan of his bibliography reveals that he has more than 10 novels coming out this year (if you include collaborations and graphic novel re-tellings) but it is perhaps his Women’s Murder Club series that is most famous.
Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich
Stephanie Plum is back for a sixteenth appearance. Expect funny fumblings, outrage on the run and worrying work for the bounty-hunting babe. After inheriting a lucky bottle from her uncle, Plum is set on a series of adventures that includes tracking down a polygamist, a drug dealer’s pet alligator and the hottest cop in the county.
Why it’s a great summer read: It is not easy for the men in the Time Out office to admit to picking up the occasional romantic novel. There is something about it that suggests a strong whiff of rose-scented pages and Barbara Cartland-esque melodrama. Janet Evanovich offers an acceptable territory. Romantic adventure is the best description for the genre so expect to find a little detective work and some action to go with the often comedic escapades of Stephanie Plum.
61 Hours by Lee Child
The 14th installment of the Jack Reacher series sees roving hero in familiar territory – Anywhere, USA. It almost goes without saying that the small town the ex-military cop finds himself hides a secret or two. A Mexican drug cartel, a climatic countdown and a spectacular icy bus crash are just a few of the obstacles in the way of Jack reaching his next destination.
Why it’s a great summer read: When debating popular culture’s toughest heroes of the twenty first century Lee Child’s Jack Reacher has to stand alongside Jack Bauer and Jason Bourne. The giant with a heart of gold and fists of steel is a classic drifter character whose troubled past is only brightened by the good deeds that shine through his inner turmoil. Reacher Creatures, as fans of the series call themselves, will be delighted to read more tough guy antics and if your new to the genre then rest assured that Child is it’s master.
Deliver Us From Evil by David Baldacci
When a seemingly respectable businessman is discovered to be a secret human trafficker his friends, neighbours and colleagues are surprised. But not as surprised as the authorities who also discover that he is also attempting to sell nuclear weapons to terrorists.
Why it’s a great summer read: Not many novelists make it onto lists of the most beautiful people in the world lists do they? But then again not many novelists are David Baldacci. Populist writing seems to be just one of the mega-sellers skills. .
Freedom: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen
What is love? Is it all really worth it? What are your neighbours up to? All of the big questions of modern life are asked, and in some cases answered, in one of the big novels of the summer. This is a darkly comic novel that showcases Franzen’s delicate storytelling and is a moving portrait of modern life.
Why it’s a great summer read: This is a novel of epic proportions. The 550+ page print edition is going to take up a hefty space in your holiday suitcase but fans of Franzen’s previous novel, The Corrections, will happily go without a change of clothes to take this on holiday with them. This is a novel about learning to live in the modern world – perfect for holiday musings.
Unchartered Territori by Tori Spelling
Tori Spelling is a semi-famous celebrity with a father who produced TV shows that made people very famous. This being the 21st century and her’s being a Hollywood story that makes Tori Spelling very famous. If that doesn’t make sense then you should read more about the socialite lifestyle to find out about her escapades on Twitter, battling paparazzi at the grocery store and celebrity friends.
Why it’s a great summer read: You might need to keep it inside a dusty copy of a Dostoevsky novel and you might have to keep a copy of Ahlan! nearby to know who is who. But there is no denying the fact that flicking through the pages of Tori’s latest attempt at a book (there are two others in the series) is bright, easy name-dropping fun.
War by Sebastian Junger
Junger’s book about his time embedded with a US battalion in Afghanistan’s dangerous Korengal Valley will inevitably incur comparisons to Michael Herr’s 1977 breakthrough on Vietnam, Dispatches, the quintessential book of war reporting. It’s hard not to see War as an attempted successor to Dispatches – a personal account of a difficult foreign war, told from the point of view of the infantrymen on the ground.
Why it’s a great summer read: Not, perhaps, an obvious choice for summer reading. But if you want something challenging yet pacey then look no further. Though the book doesn’t have much of a plot or narrative besides the pulse-pounding, near-constant firefights around Korengal, Junger – who also gave us The Perfect Storm – is keen to explore the mentality that compels soldiers to act in ways that are contrary to their instinct (why an infantryman would jump on a grenade, for example).
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer
A mini-novella to keep fans of the Twilight Saga at bay sees some of the minor characters step into the spotlight for a few chapters. The eponymous Bree Tanner was first introduced in Eclipse and this outing is sure to appeal to fans of the series as well as…well, probably nobody else. If you haven’t read the rest of the Twilight saga then that really should be your starting point.
Why it’s a great summer read: Because Summer is not about going out and tanning yourself. It is about pulling the curtains shut, hiding underneath a duvet and weeping to yourself in a morbid fashion. At least it is for vampires and Dubai residents who can’t step outside into the sunlight.
Firework by Eugene Marten
Marten has steadily amassed an cultish following with his two previous novels, In the Blind and Waste. We heard this manuscript made its way around the major publishers, but Marten refused edits. Tyrant Books took him up on the offer and this could be a masterpiece – even if a little heavy going. The story concerns Jelonnek, a blue-collar Midwesterner whose life is turned upside down after he’s caught up in a violent encounter in a convenience store.
Why it’s a great summer read: At some point, you’re going to want to pick a Big Serious Read for the summer. Don’t worry, it’s just a phase.