This will not be the feel good reading list of summer. In fact, it’s more than a little dark. However, if your concept of a page turner or screen refresher runs to the more challenging side, we have some ideas for books you can take to the beach and keep reading after dinner.
Stop me if you heard this one. Seventeen-year-old kid gets his hands cut off and drives a car across country to visit his aunt. Maybe you haven’t heard that one. Delicious Foods is deeply disturbing and dark. Kind of like Cormac McCarthy with a female lead character. On one level it’s the story of a mother, her son and the drug that threatens to destroy them. On another level it’s about the prisons we build for ourselves, and the way out.
Best novel I’ve read this year. It’s economically written and spare in the passion that would have doomed other writers with its topic. An Asian immigrant struggles to make her way in New York City when she meets a young Midwestern Iraqi war veteran trying to do the same. Love, or something like it, ensues. It’s a brilliant novel about the tribalism that drives our darker natures, and the love that creates our dreams.
His name sounds Japanese but he’s actually British. Refer to all those erudite novels like The Remains Of The Day to catch Kazuo Ishiguro’s former vibe. This novel is a complete departure. It’s a fable for Baby Boomers. Axl and Beatrice, a couple of elderly Britons, decide to set off across the gloomy and violent landscape to find the son they have not seen for years. The journey will reveal their love for each other. They will be joined on their journey by a Saxon warrior, his orphan charge, and a knight—each of them, like Axl and Beatrice, lost, but drawn toward the comfort (and the burden) of a life’s memories.
If you’re going to read one non-fiction book this summer, make it this one, because it does what all great non-fiction does. Very simply: It tells you something you didn’t know and entertains you while it’s happening. Larson tells the story of the doomed ship and threads it with fascinating characters that define the pre-War era. There’s Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat, pioneering female architect Theodate Pope, and even President Woodrow Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love.
Hardly a new book. But whenever I hear anything about 50 Shades Of Grey I wish people would read this. It was published in 1968 and is set in a small seaside New England town where everyone is having an affair. It downplays amateurish sex scenes but has enough eroticism to fire the summer libido. As The Paris Review said: “Couples is a funny thing, a bodice-ripper with a sense of entitlement. It goes on far too long. To this day, I’m neither old enough nor suburban enough to say for certain if it’s realism or not. Part of me hopes it is—if one is to while away one’s forties in a tiny New England hamlet, one might as well get laid—but the more sensible part of me suspects otherwise.”