Summer is halfway over, but there’s still plenty of time to read a book on a breezy, beautiful beach or—alternately stuck undergound on a hellacious subway car.
So that’s why I am here to offer you my own counterpart to Jordana’s summer books list, including a special section at the end featuring books by Kveller writers (a prolific bunch) all of which arrived on shelves in 2017. This list is 100% made up of books I have read, and therefore have my personal stamp of approval.
First up: “The Lost Letter” by Jillian Cantor is a romantic, readable thriller with heart and heft about stamp engravers fighting Hitler during World War II, and their personal and historical legacy. We interviewed Cantor yesterday.
‘Touch” by Courtney Maum and “The Answers” by Catherine Lacey are two sophisticated, philosophical slightly futuristic inquiries into love and relationships that ask the big questions about technology and intimacy. Maum’s book is warm and ultimately optimistic while Lacey’s is more of a challenge to the reader, but both are well worth exploring to see women writers at the top of their game.
Mohsin Hamid’s “Exit West” is a book about refugees and borders (and the future, and magic), but also about love and time and what the latter does to the former. Though it begins topical and sobering, it’s not a depressing read; seriously, buy it and read it now.
“The Animators” by Kayla Rae Whitaker was a surprise favorite of mine this spring, a look at a female creative team made up of two brilliant and tortured artists, a kind of working female partnership you rarely see in fiction. On the subject of friendship between women, “Marlena,” by Julie Buntin takes a stab at adolescent friendship and substance abuse in a refreshing way that avoids clichés. Scenes and moments have stayed with me all summer.
On the nonfiction side, Samantha Irby’s “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life” is funny and sharp series of essays that is an ideal book for the busy mom who can only read a few pages at a time. Rob Sheffield’s “Dreaming the Beatles” focuses on the intense relationship the Fab Four had with “the girls” in their songs and in their audience, and surprised me by its ability to reignite my interest in my preteen self’s favorite band. A lovely meditation on art.
“Swell,” by Jill Eisenstandt, is the zany, rich, sensory story of one dysfunctional family and their neighbors on Rockaway Beach after 9/11; I’m almost finished with it and I can safely say it’s the first novel I’ve ever read that sweeps murder, conversion to Judaism, teen sex and horticulture up in its fold with ease.
“The Gypsy Moth Summer” by Julia Fierro explores tensions on a seemingly-idyllic island that’s been invaded by the titular moths. “Our Short History” by Lauren Grodstein is a funny and sad tear-jerker about a very sick mom confronting her past. “What to Do About the Solomons” by Bethany Ball, which spans continents as it probes a scandal-plagued clan in Israel and the U.S., has garnered rave reviews and award nominations. “Great With Child” by Sonia Taitz looks at the work-life balance through the eyes of a high-powered pregnant woman.
Leah Caroll‘s memoir, “Down City,” takes us through the writer’s investigation into her mother’s murder, while Jessica Berger Gross’s “Estranged” (out this week!) chronicles the story of how she cut off contact with her family.