20 new books you need to read this summer



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There was a time when “summer books” meant popcorn reads you consumed in a sunbaked afternoon — disposable books devoured and left behind for the next hotel room guest.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the joy of a high-paced thriller, the passionate heights of romance or the horror that raises goosebumps in the heat. We love them ourselves. But summer is also a time for slowing down to taste lots of literary flavors, whether it’s the spiciness of a globe-trotting adventure, the sweetness of late-life companionship or the bite of salt-and-vinegar short stories. Summer 2024 is an overflowing picnic basket of choices.

Here are 20 forthcoming books — publishing between late May and August — that we recommend to kick off the reading season. For those of us unable to travel this year, nothing beats the simple pleasure of a great book with a cold drink on a summer afternoon.

MAY

Kittentits
By Holly Wilson
Zando-Gillian Flynn Books: 368 pages, $28
(May 21)

Ten-year-old homeschooled Molly is bored with life at the nun-haunted House of Friends. Scuzzy daredevil Jeanie arrives at their living community after a disastrous fire, leaving Molly enthralled. When Jeanie fakes her own death, Molly runs away to find her at the 1992 Chicago World’s Fair and to connect with their dead moms. Molly learns a passel of thinpgs in this surrealist, carnivalesque bildungsroman.

JUNE

Swift River
By Essie Chambers
Simon & Schuster: 304 pages, $28
(June 4)

Chambers’ funny debut is set in a 1980s New England mill town in decline. Seven years after her father’s disappearance, Diamond Newberry and her mother are struggling, but Diamond’s observations provide comic leavening. During the summer of 1987, her mom files to have Pop declared dead, which is when things get complicated. Diamond receives a letter from an unknown relative, which starts her on a path to learn her family — and the nation’s — history.

Godwin
By Joseph O’Neill
Pantheon: 288 pages, $28
(June 4)

“The next Pelé” or “the next Messi” are words sure to ignite the fantasies of soccer fans anywhere. When tech writer Mark is contacted by his sports agent, half-brother Geoff, Mark leaves Pittsburgh to join him on a madcap adventure to find such a phenom: an African teenager known only as “Godwin.” O’Neill combines the brothers’ exploits with sharp observations about international business and issues like greenwashing and corruption that have tarnished the world’s game.

The Phoenix Ballroom
By Ruth Hogan
William Morrow: 320 pages, $19
(June 11)

How late is too late for a woman to change her life? In Hogan’s novel of life during widowhood, Venetia Hargreaves searches for a new self in her 70s. After 50 years of marriage, Venetia, who used to be an accomplished dancer, embraces her newly independent life. On a walk, she passes by an old building that had once been the Phoenix Ballroom, which she buys and restores. In hopes of a return to her youthful days, Venetia finds community in an entertaining motley crew of lost souls.

Sons of El Rey
By Alex Espinoza
Simon and Schuster: 384 pages, $29
(June 11)

Lucha libre took its hold in Mexico, and its high-flying masked performers are the superstars in its freestyle wrestling rings. In Espinoza’s entertaining and poignant novel, he writes of Ernesto Vega’s fame and fortune as a luchador known to his fans as El Rey Coyote. In East Los Angeles, his son, Freddy, fights to save his dad’s gym while Freddy’s gay son, Julian, seeks purpose. As Ernesto reaches the end of his life, his son and grandson will find their own answers in the streets of 1980s L.A. and the present reality of West Hollywood.

Bear
By Julia Phillips
Hogarth: 304 pages, $28
(June 25)

One of “Grimms’ Fairy Tales” inspired Phillips, a 2024 Guggenheim fellow and lauded author of “Disappearing Earth.” Sisters Sam and Elena live on an island off the coast of Washington, their birthplace that’s become a dead end for them both. When Sam spies a swimming bear from the ferry where she works, she is shocked, but it’s an even bigger surprise when the bear shows up at their house. A retelling of “Rose Red and Snow White,” “Bear” is a fantabulous delight.

Another North
By Jennifer Brice
Boreal Books: 240 pages, $18
(June 25)

Brice previously chronicled her Alaska youth in “Unlearning to Fly.” In “Another North,” she returns to Fairbanks as a divorced woman longing for a sense of home. The new collection takes readers from her life as a professor in New York‘s Leatherstocking Country to her days piloting small planes in the Alaska bush. Brice is a beautiful prose stylist, and her book navigates the turbulence of middle age with a steady — and elegant — hand.

JULY

Pink Slime
By Fernanda Trías
Scribner: 240 pages, $24
(July 2)

Trías won the National Uruguayan Literature Prize in her native country, and “Pink Slime,” newly translated by Heather Cleary, is a great display of her chops. Set in a city diminished by plague and a poisonous algae bloom, the narrator focuses her attention on her remaining relationships. In writing about the ways folks hold together during difficult times, Trías untangles the myths and realities of resilience.

The God of the Woods
by Liz Moore
Riverhead: 496 pages, $30
(July 2)

Moore takes readers to an Adirondack summer camp in the mid-’70s. When Barbara Van Laar’s bunk turns up empty one morning, it sets off a frenzied search by the surrounding community. Barbara appears to have suffered the same fate as her brother, who disappeared 14 years prior. Moore’s familiarity with the Adirondacks — and the area’s long history as a playground of the rich — inspired this multilayered novel about wealthy wilderness camp people and the blue-collar folks who must accommodate them.

All This & More
By Peng Shepherd
William Morrow: 512 pages, $30 `
(July 9)

Shepherd, a finalist for a 2023 L.A. Times Book Prize, returns with another clever novel that plays with time and space. Here readers meet Marsh (short for Marshmallow), a 45-year-old woman who is disappointed with her lot in life. Happiness beckons when she is selected to star in a reality show where all of her past mistakes can be fixed, if she is willing to accept the consequences. Shepherd includes “choose your own adventure” moments for readers so Marsh’s fate is in their hands.

The Heart in Winter
By Kevin Barry
Doubleday: 256 pages, $28
(July 9)

Irish Booker Prize nominee Kevin Barry traverses the Atlantic in this story set in 1891 Montana. Immigrant workers toil in the copper mines that build Butte’s fortunes. In the midst of the archetypical frontier town, Tom Rourke fuels himself by drinking, doping and writing. When he falls head over heels for the mine captain’s new wife, Polly, a cadre of crazy Cornishmen take off in hot pursuit of the poet and his muse.

Bad Tourists
by Caro Carver
Avid Reader: 336 pages, $29
(July 9)

In addition to malfunctioning airplanes, one of the hazards of traveling is getting caught up in a group of bad tourists. In Carver’s tropical paradise of a book, a trio of friends heads to the Maldives to make over their 40-something lives. What should be fun turns dangerous when a body shows up on the white beaches outside their resort. In both a romp and a thriller, Carver immerses readers in secret-filled waters.

The Striker and the Clock: On Being in the Game
By Georgia Cloepfil
Riverhead: 208 pages, $27
(July 16)

A watershed moment in women’s sports this past spring has cast a light on the athletes who, instead of riches, face uncertain futures after graduation. In this riveting memoir by professional soccer player Cloepfil, she takes readers on a trip with her to find a living playing in South Korea, Australia, Lithuania and other far-flung locations. A paean to the beautiful game, the book chronicles how Cloepfil overcame adversity to strike joy.

Sugar on the Bones
By Joe R. Lansdale
Mulholland: 336 pages, $29
(July 16)

Lansdale makes a triumphant return to his Hap and Leonard novels with this scorcher. When Minnie Polson comes to the duo’s PI agency seeking help, things go south after an ill-timed remark causes her to storm out. She later turns up dead and the guilt-stricken pair seeks her killer. Minnie’s family — full of eccentricities and petty grievances — are the unusual suspects.

The Bright Sword
By Lev Grossman
Viking: 688 pages, $35
(July 16)

Grossman follows up his wildly successful “The Magicians” trilogy with this tale of misfits at King Arthur’s Round Table. Arthur is dead and just a few of his knights remain in Camelot. Enter Collum — two weeks too late to serve Arthur — a young knight who teams up with Merlin’s former apprentice and Sir Bedivere, Sir Palomides and Sir Dagonet. Their journey through a land riven by conflict in search of Arthur’s successor will reveal the country’s bloody origins.

The Wilds
By Sarah Pearse
Pamela Dorman Books: 400 pages, $30
(July 16)

Detective Elin Warner can’t get a break from her job. Each time she goes on a vacation or retreat, murder follows. She travels to Portugal to immerse herself in nature but her sojourn is interrupted by a young woman’s disappearance. The missing woman’s map leads Elin into the wilderness where scenes of great beauty turn dark and threatening. Pearse has written another intriguing page-turner.

Queen B: The Story of Anne Boleyn, Witch Queen
By Juno Dawson
Penguin: 224 pages, $18
(July 23)

Dawson is the queen of young adult fiction in the U.K., and her nonfiction works have explored LGBTQ+ issues. Set in the court of Henry VIII, “Queen B” follows Lady Grace Fairfax as she seeks the traitors who betrayed Anne Boleyn. When witchfinders are sent to root out members of the condemned queen’s coven, court intrigue follows. Juno summons a tale that is the perfect length for a sultry weekend read.

The Modern Fairies
By Clare Pollard
Avid Reader: 272 pages, $28
(July 23)

Those in search of a bawdy fairy tale should look no further than Pollard’s novel set during the reign of Louis XIV. Intellectuals from Versailles gather at the home of Madame Marie D’Aulnoy. They bring court gossip and romantic desire with them, and they entertain each other with ribald tales of missing glass slippers, beauties and beasts, while remaining oblivious to the wolf that waits outside their salon door. Pollard imagines the origins of many of the tales gathered by Charles Perrault.

The Future Was Now: Madmen, Mavericks, and the Epic Sci-Fi Summer of 1982
By Chris Nashawaty
Flatiron: 304 pages, $30
(July 30)

The summer of 1982 took moviegoers on epic rides through the sci-fi worlds of a future L.A. and the Australian desert, and introduced a lost extraterrestrial trying to get home. In all, eight sci-fi adventures were released that summer, and Nashawaty, former Entertainment Weekly film critic, expertly covers their behind-the-scenes conflicts and (not surprising) ego clashes. Hollywood boldly went where it hadn’t gone before and Nashawaty chronicles the journeys.

AUGUST

Mystery Lights
By Lena Valencia
Tin House: 256, $18
(Aug. 6)

Kelly Link has praised the “gorgeous” “Mystery Lights.” It’s the debut short story collection by former L.A. resident Valencia. Among the collection’s delicious bonbons are stories about an anxious screenwriter trapped in an SUV; 20 women who need a retreat from the business retreat they’re on; and an obsessed artist who longs to capture an otherworldly light. In the umbra of these darkly tinged stories, readers will experience late-night fears and the sweet relief of daylight.



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