What Are the Best 2010 Summer Books?
What Are the Best 2010 Summer Books?
Ask ten readers the names of the best books for reading this summer and you’ll get ten unique lists. Reading is a very personal thing — a great page-turner for you may be boring past my endurance. When it comes to summer reading many people are even more particular. Lying on your back on the beach isn’t necessarily the best time to crack into Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, but might be the only time of year you’d be tempted to read a romance novel or a piece of true crime writing.
Whatever your taste for beach books, this list has you covered. From poetry and non-fiction to science fiction and inspirational writing, make this the summer that you finally finish a good book.
Kings of the Earth, Jon Clinch
When a writer’s first book is as popular (both critically and among readers) as Clinch’s Finn was, you have to look forward to the follow up. Clinch delivers with this “based on a true story” novel about fratricide in rural new York. Called both “suspenseful” and “hauntingly beautiful” by critics, the story of three eccentric elderly brothers and the murder trial that introduced them to the world has all the pace of your favorite mystery book with a touch of class. This is literary writing, yes, but on a topic that pairs easily with a bottle of beer.
Dombey and Son, Charles Dickens
Not exactly new material here — Charles Dickens died 140 years ago — but you’re sure to hear a lot of murmurings about this title. Dickens is best known for decidedly un-summer writing like that found in The Adventures of Oliver Twist and Great Expectations, but critics and readers are shedding new light on this piece, originally published in the 1850s. Literary trends are hard to keep tabs on, and we at AskDeb are still more than a little perplexed about so much excitement around a text that is well over 150 years old, but if you spend any time in bookstores or book clubs this summer, you’ll hear this title. Who says summer has to be full of trash fiction?
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Aimee Bender
Those first two titles are a bit heavy, aren’t they? The best poolside books are sometimes the fluffiest. This novel, about the wacky and lovable Edelstein family, combines elements of fantasy with good old memoir. The main character has the decidedly strange ability of tasting different feelings in food. This may not be true for, but for us at AskDeb psychic phenomena and delicious descriptions of cupcakes are as wrapped up in our memories of summer as watermelon and rolling blackouts.
*Editor’s Summer Pick — Lighthead, Terrance Hayes
If you’re like most people, your poetry library is pretty skinny. Maybe there’s an old copy of The Canterbury Tales leftover from your college days or a Billy Collins book given to you as a wedding present. Summer is as good a time as any to dig into poems, especially when those poems are stuffed with laughs, lyrical brilliance, and straight up jazz. That’s what you get from Terrance Hayes’ new book Lighthead. From the beautiful meditation found in “Fish Head for Katrina” to the brilliant “Avocado” (my vote for must-read text of the year), Hayes is writing poems that rate an SPF in the thousands. In “Avocado”, Hayes manages to weave together a Kafkaesque dream narrative with a history of the Black Power movement. Poetry as summer reading? You bet. Here’s a sample, from “Lighthead’s Guide to the Galaxy”:
Maybe Art’s only purpose is to preserve the Self.
Sometimes I play a game in which my primitive craft fires
upon an alien ship whose intention is the destruction
of the earth. Other times I fall in love with a word
Now that’s an ars poetica I’d like to have a fruity drink with.
Digital Domains, edited by Ellen Datlow
I love a good science fiction anthology when it gets hot outside. If you hate a story, flip ahead three or four pages and start again. This new science fiction anthology, edited by Ellen Datlow of OMNI Online fame, is an anthology of the best science and futurism stories published by OMNI and Datlow’s other projects OMNI Online, Event Horizon, and SCIFICTION). This is not shoot ‘em up aliens and time travel type stuff — OMNI tends more toward the experimental or postmodern. Ellen Datlow is recognized as one of the top editors in speculative fiction, and she’s launched some great careers in the genre with her work at OMNI and others. This book is a collection of her favorite stories from those sources.
How Did You Get This Number, Sloane Crosley
If you need a last minute gift for the egghead reader in your life, this new title by Sloane Crosley is a safe bet. You may remember Crosley’s most famous title (I Was Told There’d be Cake) from just a few years ago, and this new collection of essays is no less weird or wonderful.
Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, by Maile Meloy
Having a younger brother who is more famous than you are must be tought. Maile Meloy’s younger brother is Colin Meloy, lead singer and most visible member of the indie rock sensation The Decemberists, now selling out a giant rock venue near you. Where her brother’s lyrics are literate, flowery, even rococo, Meloy’s writing is spare. This book, called “the sleeper hit of 2009″ by O Magazine, is just recently out in paperback. There was so much buzz about this collection of short stories, you’re sure to see this title on beach chairs and in backyards all summer long. Meloy’s writing has earned her comparisons with Bruce Springsteen and the raw and bizarro stylings of Roberto Bolano. Pick this book up for those times when you don’t want to commit to a full book but still want amazing writing. The winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship as well as multiple awards for her short story writing, Meloy is a young novelist worth keeping tabs on.
Summer reading requires a very specific book. No other season is as readily identified with a dog-eared book as the hot months. Whether you’re looking to expand your vocabulary with a classic like Dombey and Son or ignore your kids with a piece of chick lit in hand, the summer of 2010 is not slouching in the beach book department. Any one of the above books would look great covered in sand and barbecue sauce.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 7th, 2010 at 9:00 am and is filed under Books. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.