Timely cultural fiction, short stories, a time-traveler tale and personal sagas round out the best in beach reading with stories that all seem to face the challenge of how we fulfill our destinies. Or not.
Here are my Top-10 Summer reads:
- How to Stop Time by Matt Haig. Paperback. A new take on the time-traveler tale, this page-turner has heart and a message about the downside of the immortality fantasy. Lots of history, mythology and a father’s centuries long search for his daughter, make this delightful light reading.
- The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne. Paperback. A mesmerizing page-turner of a lifetime spent searching for a sense of belonging and a sense of self. An Irish orphan, and one of the more endearing narrators you’ll find in modern fiction, is destined to overcome the shortcomings of his birth, his conservative heritage and sexual orientation in a conservative world. Charming and timely.
- The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. Hardcover. What would you do if you knew when you will die? That’s the premise of this smart novel about four siblings who discover and grapple with their destiny. How do you make choices when you think you know what’s to come? The existential dilemma through a new lens. Thoughtful.
- Florida by Lauren Groff. Hardcover. You may remember this writer from Fates and Furies. She is a powerful voice and in these captivating stories reveals the unique lifestyles – crocodiles and all – in the crazy state of Florida. Gorgeous prose. Easy to pick up and put down but don’t miss one of these stories, they’re all terrific.
- Improvement by Joan Silber. Hardcover. Winner of the Pen/Faulker award for fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Silber is a favorite of mine and her latest is yet another insightful novel. A stark, minimalist mosaic of several characters, all trapped by culture and circumstance, whose lives intersect in a car accident. These characters represent the other America, the society of the lesser. Important reading.
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. Paperback. Four generations, seventy years in the lives of Koreans who ultimately land in Japan. Yes, trials and tribulations, and another reminder of the importance of community and human connection to prevail over the worst of modern cultural constraints.
- Warlight by Michael Ondaatje. Hardcover. Oh, the elegant, enchanting prose of the Indian-born writer best known for The English Patient. The metaphor is divine – that post-WWII period, a period of transition, when strangers and family reconnect, and two children abandoned to a shady surrogate find their way through the shadows. He writes like no one else.
- Educated by Tara Westover. Hardcover. One non-fiction, a terrific memoir of survival and determination. How does the child of the anti-social and anti-norms rise above to achieve the education we all take for granted and go on to a PhD from Cambridge. And survive to tell the tale, beautifully.
- /10. If you haven’t yet read Jesmyn Ward’s award-winning Sing Unburied Sing, don’t miss it. She hits all the highs and lows of contemporary marginalized lives in gorgeous prose. And for fun, read the biography of Paul Simon, Homeward Bound, by Peter Ames Carlin. Simon is a national treasure and as much our rock poet laureate as Dylan.
Print versions are safer from sand and sea, but all books are also available for your favorite e-readers.