Beat the Heat Recap: The Best New Books According to Liz and Brian
We're still bathing in the bookish afterglow of our third annual Beat the Heat event last month. Liz Sullivan and Brian Contine, our publishing reps from Random House and Penguin, respectively, stopped by to share a few of their favorite recent and upcoming releases, give away more swag than a minor league baseball team, and generally heckle one another over whose books are best. Here's the thing, though: They're all good. Looking for big names? How do Colson Whitehead, Jojo Moyes, Jacqueline Woodson, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Margaret Atwood strike you? If you fancy a debut, try the great new novels by Roselle Lim, Linda Holmes, Claire Lombardo, or Kiley Reid. Or, take a break from fiction altogether and dive into Furious Hours, Life Undercover, or Running With Sherman. The point is, we all had an excellent time talking about some of the very best books of the year, and anyone looking for a GPS for their book club could do a lot worse than the 16 great choices below.
If you couldn't make it out to the shop that night, save room on your calendar for next summer! It was such a fun evening of books, prizes, wine, and banter. And in the meantime, check out Liz and Brian's picks. Then hurry up and read them so we can talk about them together!
From the acclaimed author of As Bright as Heaven comes a novel about a German American teenager whose life changes forever when her immigrant family is sent to an internment camp in Texas during World War II. The only thing that makes the camp bearable is meeting fellow internee Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles, whose friendship empowers Elise to believe the life she knew before the war will again be hers.
Casey Cep brings the case of Reverend Willie Maxwell to life, from his shocking crimes to the courtroom drama to the racial politics of the Deep South. At the same time, she offers a deeply moving portrait of Harper Lee, who was fascinated by the case and spent years working on a true-crime book after attending the trial of Maxwell's killer.
Beloved author Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction with a unique love story set in the New York City theater world during the 1940s. Told from the perspective of an older woman as she looks back on her youth with both pleasure and regret (but mostly pleasure), City of Girls explores themes of female sexuality and promiscuity, as well as the idiosyncrasies of true love.
At the news of her mother’s death, Natalie Tan returns home. The two women hadn’t spoken since Natalie left in anger seven years ago, when her mother refused to support her chosen career as a chef. Lush and visual, chock-full of delicious recipes, Roselle Lim’s magical debut novel is about food, heritage, and finding family in the most unexpected places.
When Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson fall in love in the 1970s, they are blithely ignorant of all that's to come. By 2016, their four radically different daughters are each in a state of unrest. Spanning nearly half a century, and set against the quintessential American backdrop of Chicago and its prospering suburbs, Lombardo's debut explores the triumphs and burdens of love, the fraught tethers of parenthood and sisterhood, and the baffling mixture of affection, abhorrence, resistance, and submission we feel for those closest to us.
In a sleepy seaside town in Maine, recently widowed Eveleth “Evvie” Drake rarely leaves her large, painfully empty house nearly a year after her husband’s death in a car crash. Meanwhile, in New York City, Dean Tenney, former Major League pitcher and Andy’s childhood best friend, is wrestling with what miserable athletes living out their worst nightmares call the “yips”: he can’t throw straight anymore, and, even worse, he can’t figure out why. A joyful, hilarious, and hope-filled debut, Evvie Drake Starts Over will have you cheering for the two most unlikely comebacks of the year.
In this bravura follow-up to The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead brilliantly dramatizes another dark strand of American history through the story of two boys in Jim Crow-era Florida. Based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative that showcases a great American novelist writing at the height of his powers.
A novel of family, Midwestern values, hard work, fate, and the secrets of making a world-class beer. Here we meet a cast of lovable, funny, quintessentially American characters eager to make their mark in a world that's often stacked against them. In this deeply affecting family saga, resolution can take generations, but when it finally comes, we're surprised, moved, and delighted.
A thrilling tale of secretaries turned spies, of love and duty, and of sacrifice--inspired by the true story of the CIA plot to infiltrate the hearts and minds of Soviet Russia, not with propaganda, but with the greatest love story of the twentieth century: Doctor Zhivago. From Boris Pasternak's country estate outside Moscow to the brutalities of the Gulag, from Washington, D.C. to Paris and Milan, The Secrets We Kept captures a watershed moment in the history of literature—told with soaring emotional intensity and captivating historical detail. And at the center of this unforgettable debut is the powerful belief that a piece of art can change the world.
Before they became legendary writers, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, and Anne Brontë were detectors in this charming historical mystery. As they investigate a mysterious disapperance, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are confronted with a society that believes a woman’s place is in the home, not scouring the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the missing bride, even as they find their own lives are in great peril.
In this brilliant sequel to The Handmaid's Tale, acclaimed author Margaret Atwood answers the questions that have tantalized readers for decades. Margaret Atwood's sequel picks up the story fifteen years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead.
An extraordinary new novel about the influence of history on a contemporary family, from the author of Another Brooklyn and Brown Girl Dreaming. As it explores sexual desire and identity, ambition, gentrification, education, class and status, and the life-altering facts of parenthood, Red at the Bone most strikingly looks at the ways in which young people must so often make long-lasting decisions about their lives—even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.
A breathtaking story of five extraordinary women and their remarkable journey through the mountains of Depression-era Kentucky and beyond, from the author of Me Before You and The Peacock Emporium. Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope. At times funny, at others heartbreaking, this is a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.
Amaryllis Fox's riveting memoir tells the story of her ten years in the most elite clandestine ops unit of the CIA, hunting the world's most dangerous terrorists in sixteen countries while marrying and giving birth to a daughter. Life Undercover is exhilarating, intimate, fiercely intelligent--an impossible to put down record of an extraordinary life, and of Amaryllis Fox's astonishing courage and passion.
When Chris McDougall agreed to take in a donkey from an animal hoarder, he thought it would be no harder than the rest of the adjustments he and his family had made after moving from Philadelphia to the heart of Pennsylvania Amish country. But when he arrived, Sherman was in such bad shape he could barely move, and his hair was coming out in clumps. Chris decided to undertake a radical rehabilitation program designed not only to heal Sherman's body but to heal his mind as well. It turns out the best way to soothe a donkey is to give it a job, and so Chris decided to teach Sherman how to run. A heartwarming story about training a rescue donkey to run one of the most challenging races in America.
A striking and surprising debut novel from an exhilarating new voice, Such a Fun Age is a page-turning and big-hearted story about race and privilege, set around a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both. With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone "family," the complicated reality of being a grown up, and the consequences of doing the right thing for the wrong reason.