Here we are again, staring into the maw of the long, hot, humid summer. How do we survive?
We read. We enter other worlds and try to forget about this one (at least for a while).
Here are some of the best ways to accomplish that goal this summer.
“The Leavers,” Lisa Ko (Algonquin): Deming Guo is a fifth-grader when his Chinese immigrant mother disappears, and he is sent to live in upstate New York with a white academic couple. They adopt him, but at 20, struggling with a gambling addiction, Deming — now Daniel — decides to find out what happened to his mom.
Ko’s striking debut novel, which alternates between the viewpoints of Deming and his mother, won the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize, awarded by Barbara Kingsolver for books that highlight social justice issues. Its unflinching look at the immigrant experience could not be more timely. Ko highlights in devastating fashion the pain of families torn apart and the struggle to find equilibrium in a foreign land.
“Perfect Little World,” Kevin Wilson (Ecco): This novel, from the author of the hilarious “The Family Fang,” came out earlier this year, but chances are you haven’t read it yet. Wait no longer. Wilson explores the boundaries and intricacies of family with humor and insight in this story about a child psychologist’s experiment to create a perfect world.
His goal: Shape 19 parents (one is a teenage single mom) and 10 children into a communal family. Resources are endless, the parents eager, the children loved (even if they don’t know which kid belongs to which parent). What could go wrong? Only the fact that “perfect” never works when it comes to human beings.
“Touch,” Courtney Maum (Putnam): The author of “I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You” takes on trend forecasting in this sharp, funny satire about a forecaster famous for her anti-child, pro-technology stance who begins to sense that what people really want is connection, not more devices. Meanwhile, her boyfriend has become a social media star for touting the concept of non-penetrative sex.
Maum has a lot of fun poking fun at our tech- and self-obsessed lives, but she also offers a compassionate plea for the importance of family, real human interaction and empathy.
“The Ministry of Utmost Happiness,” Arundhati Roy (Knopf): Fans of Roy have been waiting for 20 years for a new work of fiction from the Man Booker Prize-winning author of “The God of Small Things” (astonishingly, Roy’s first novel). Finally, it’s here. “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness” tells the stories of a huge cast of characters in Old Delhi and the new city, stretching across generations and even to the mountains of Kashmir. It almost certainly will revive the old comparisons to Dickens, Naipaul and Garcia Marquez.
“Do Not Become Alarmed,” Maile Meloy (Riverhead): Two California couples and their four children head out on a Christmas cruise to Central America. The free baby-sitting, the endless buffets and the novelty of having every need cared for lull the parents into a blissful state. Then they go ashore, the kids vanish and all hell breaks loose.
You may not think of Meloy (whose other books include “Liars and Saints,” “Half in Love” and “Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It”) as a suspense writer, but “Do Not Become Alarmed” is ripe with tension and also serves as a terrific character study.
“Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body,” Roxane Gay (Harper): “The story of my body is not a story of triumph,” writes feminist author and commentator Gay in this searing work. “There will be no picture of a thin version of me, my slender body emblazoned across this book’s cover. … Mine is not a success story.”
Gay chronicles her emotional, physical and psychological journey with brutal honesty and examines issues of body, identity and self, touching on an act of violence that shaped her life. “Hunger” is not a light read, but it’s a necessary one. (Out June 13)
“The Force,” Don Winslow (Morrow): In “The Power of the Dog” and “The Cartel,” Winslow examined the rise of the Mexican drug cartels (and the United States’ complicity in creating them). Now he turns his attention to the NYPD, and the result is incendiary.
Irish-American cop Denny Malone and his elite unit battle the most powerful drug dealers in the city, but they have stepped dangerously over the line. Winslow is a master at exposing how corruption and bureaucracy strangle well-intentioned law enforcement, and he doesn’t shy away from issues of race, culture, poverty and the dark economics on which a city thrives. (Out June 20)
“Less,” Andrew Sean Greer (Lee Boudreaux Books): Turning 50 is hard. Just ask Arthur Less, a failed gay writer who has just received a wedding invitation from his much younger former lover. Arthur’s solution to his looming midlife crisis is simple: He embarks on a trip around the world.
Greer, the author of wonderful, heartfelt novels including “The Confessions of Max Tivoli,” “The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells” and “The Story of a Marriage,” shows he has another powerful weapon in his arsenal: comedy. And who doesn’t need a laugh right about now? (Out July 18)
“The Late Show,” Michael Connelly (Little, Brown): In his 30th novel, the creator of Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller (better known as the Lincoln Lawyer) introduces a new character, Detective Renee Ballard. She has been assigned to the night shift at the LAPD after filing a sexual harassment complaint against her supervisor but refuses to stop working her cases by day.
Tough, stubborn, dedicated? Sounds like another Connelly cop we could name. And if you miss Harry? Connelly has a new Bosch novel due out in November. (Out July 18)
“Mrs. Fletcher,” Tom Perrotta (Scribner): With such terrific novels as “Election,” “Little Children,” “The Leftovers” and “The Abstinence Teacher” under his belt, the witty Perrotta is an outstanding satirist of modern American suburbia. Some of his favorite targets are back in “Mrs. Fletcher,” a novel about a divorced mother with an online obsession and her son, who’s having a tough time at college.
Sexuality, identity and the complexities of being a grown-up in contemporary America are some of the themes Perrotta brings to the forefront. (Out Aug. 1)