Summer reading . . . those very words conjure up spare time, leisure, a lounge chair on a beach or under a tree, or kicking back in the lanai, getting into a book you've been waiting to read. Or any book at all.
Even if you'll be working 12 hours a day right through summer, as many of us will, summer might feel less headlong and anxious than other seasons. You might . . . actually . . . feel like . . . reaching . . . for a book.
So below we offer a list of titles (most recent, a couple not) you might enjoy this summer. All are inviting, brimming with interesting people and compelling stories. Because summer. - John Timpane
The Alaskan Laundry
by Brendan Jones (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April). This book's got everything. A lady boxer from South Philly travels to Alaska and buys a World War II-vintage fishing boat. Of course she does! And this is written by a guy who lives on a fishing boat up there.
Barkskins by Annie Proulx (Scribner, June). We live in an era of big, long books. Proulx (Shipping News, Brokeback Mountain) weaves a huge tapestry across 300 years, set in 10 short novels. It starts in the late 1700s, when two French woodcutters, René and Sel, come to the New World and begin families - which we follow through time and around the world.
Cooking for Picasso by Camille Aubray (Ballantine, August). Based on a true interlude in Picasso's life, this novel concerns Ondine, a chef in a seaside town to which Picasso flees from his mixed-up Parisian life. There follows some model behavior.
Everybody's Fool by Richard Russo (Random House, May). Russo's hit novel Nobody's Fool came out more than 20 years ago and was made into a great Paul Newman film. Well, Sully Sullivan is back, along with Ruth, Rub Squeers, and the whole gang from North Bath, N.Y. They're worth a revisit.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf, June). Two girls of Ghana are born into different fates: one married to a rich Englishman, the other shipped off to slavery in the New World. Another cross-century sweeper, with empathy, a taste of lives in history, very beautifully told. The Ghana-born, Alabama-raised Gyasi has written a true American novel.
I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan (Penguin Random House, June). The author of How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Waiting to Exhale tells of Georgia, 55, who revisits all the men in her life to touch and be retouched. McMillan is at the Free Library at 7:30 p.m. Monday. libwww.freelibrary.org.
Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley (Simon & Schuster, June 7). Lily is a dachshund - and she is the main character, and sometimes the speaker, in this book, which is funny and sad and elevating.
Lost Along the Way by Erin Duffy (William Morrow, July 12). Three best friends forever split up in their 20s, go very separate ways, and come back together when crisis hits. Duffy (Bond Girl, On the Rocks) delivers a summery novel about friendships, with both hardship and hilarity.
The Miracle on Monhegan Island by Elizabeth Kelly (Liveright, May). We liked this book for its evocative cover. And also for the fact that it is narrated by Ned, who recounts the conflicts, intrigues, and hilarities among members of the Monahan family.
Wintering by Peter Geye (Knopf, June 8). Another family saga set in northern Minnesota. Suspense, unforgettable characters, powerful landscapes, and even more powerful emotions.
Louis C.K. and Philosophy: You Don't Get to Be Bored
(Open Court, April). This is part of a great series by Open Court in which philosophers write about pop-culture icons (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Philosophy, Hannibal Lecter and Philosophy, etc.). And Louis C.K. is ripe for such a book. Funny, thought-provoking, and straightforwardly, accessibly written.
William Tecumseh Sherman by James Lee McDonough (W.W. Norton, June). Some folks like to read a big, fat book during the summer. Call it the War and Peace thing. Maybe this is that book for summer 2016. Sherman's is surely a fascinating American life, in war and peace alike, and this packed book will beguile a whole summer with ease.
All right, class, please get out your crayons and remember to . . . do exactly as you wish. Here are two in the recent surge of adult coloring books. They look like adult fun.
Lost Ocean: 36 Postcards by Johanna Basford (Penguin, May). This book combines two old-school things: coloring and the U.S. Postal Service. Lost Ocean is 36 detachable postcards, based on Basford's best-selling full-length Lost Ocean, of marine scenes - sea horses, sailing ships, exotic fish - in the delicate, detailed pen of Scottish artist Basford. When you're done, you can mail them to your friends, who can snicker at your attempt. Or love it.
The Masters of Fashion Illustration by Wendy Piersall (Wendybird, May). Some of the great fashion designers of the art deco and art nouveau periods appear here: Helen Dryden, Erté, George Wolfe Plank, Frank Leyendecker, George Barbier, and more.
Songs from a Mountain
by Amanda Nadelberg (Coffee House Press, May). Many folks read poets for their voices, and Nadelberg's is delightful: skittery, thoughtful, anxious (she wonders "if I'm / being impossible in a new / way"), quizzical ("I've already now forgotten what all the / men I'll ever know smelled like"). She's good to be with.