Summer feels like it’s just begun, yet it’s about half over. (Noooooooooo!) Just a heads up that this is one of those years where Rosh Hashanah comes insanely early, and therefore summer will end with a colossal BANG as we go seamlessly from Labor Day into the High Holidays.
That’s right — this year, Rosh Hashanah begins on the evening of September 6 — yep, Labor Day. The upside of the holidays rolling around early this year? Perhaps we’ll have much more warm, pleasant meals in the sukkah by the time it’s Sukkot (which begins the evening of Monday, September 20, in case you’re curious).
Fortunately it ain’t over til it’s over, as they say, so back to the season at hand. If, like me, you’re still not really traveling this summer (you know, because you have young kids who can’t be vaccinated and there’s this thing called Covid-19 still going around), you can enjoy the much more affordable armchair travel opportunity of a book. These books will take you all over, and for much less than the cost of a plane ticket. And even if you are headed away this summer — lucky you! — you’ll still need some books for the journey or for some lazy days at the beach.
These are seven recently published books that have recently rocked my world. No matter if your summer adventures take you halfway around the world or just to the kiddie pool in your backyard, I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did.
1. “Rock the Boat: A Novel” by Beck Dorey-Stein
This book, written by a former Obama staffer, is a quintessential girl-comes-home-and-reconnects-with-old-life story that has nothing to do with politics. It takes place in a Jersey Shore town that’s slowly transitioning from down-on-its-luck to red-hot destination, and the characters are all in states of change as well — from Miles, the rich handsome playboy who might be ready to put down roots, to Kate, the dumped fiancee for whom the summer is a much-needed chance for reinvention. I just loved every bit of this novel: the relatability of the characters, the ways they hide from themselves, and how beautifully it conveys that the people who know us longest sometimes know us better than we know ourselves.
2. “The Wonder Test” by Michelle Richmond
What a wild ride this book was! It is very weird and dark at parts, but it’s also so compelling that hours flew by because I was unable to put it down. This novel is about a California town and high school that’s so obsessed with a (fictitious) standardized test that they will stop at nothing to keep the town’s scores high. Like, literally nothing — kidnapping and possibly murder aren’t off the table. It’s kind of satirical, and yet kind of not. And if you wonder if parents could ever be this crazy, let me tell you that I think they could. Shudder.
3. “Last Summer At the Golden Hotel” by Elyssa Friedland
If, like me, you love “Dirty Dancing” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” you’ll love this intergenerational story of two Jewish families who own a fictitious, Kutshers-esque Catskills resort. You might come for the nostalgia factor, but you’ll stay for the drama and juicy secrets revealed as the families face the financial music and decide whether or not to sell. This novel reads so easily that you’ll wonder when you’ll get to see it on Netflix.
4. “Blush” by Jamie Brenner
Perhaps best read during golden hour, outside, with a glass of Wolffer rose by your side — the bottle that allegedly inspired the book — this is another multigenerational story about a Jewish family facing a life-changing business decision. Here, it’s the family vineyard on the North Fork that’s nearing the end of its financial viability, and each member of the family has a very different take on what they’re willing to do to keep it going. This is another highly cinematic book that will look gorgeous on film.
5. “One, Two, Three” by Laurie Frankel
The author of the amazing “This Is How It Always Is” (which I also highly recommend) has done it again with a phenomenal read. This book is about a town that’s been decimated by one family’s greed — it’s suspected, but not proven, that the family factory’s lack of environmental standards wrought devastating genetic damage and death to the residents of the fictitious town of Bourne. When the family owners of the factory return to town to start it up again, the teenage Mitchell triplets get on the case to find out how they can implicate the family for what’s happened to their world.
6. “The Guncle” by Steven Rowley
When once-famous gay sitcom star Patrick’s college best friend (and sister-in-law) dies, he unexpectedly finds himself in the role of primary guardian to his niece and nephew, who are 9 and 6. With his brother abruptly checked into rehab, Patrick has to find a way to meld his non-child-oriented life in Palm Springs with his sudden, new parenting role. “Gay Uncle Patrick” realizes quickly that it isn’t easy. It sounds super cheesy to say that both the kids and Patrick learn about what it means to actually love someone, but that’s exactly what happens. I laughed, I cried, and it was, no question, better than “CATS.”
7. “The Disappearing Act” by Catherine Steadman
Mia Eliot is a British actress trying to land a huge Hollywood role. But when she comes to LA for an audition, she finds herself in a weird web of mistaken identity where she just might have been the last person to see a woman alive. The author does an amazing job of making the reader just as confused as the protagonist, but it’s all very artfully and troublingly pulled together in the end.