There are a lot of reasons to look forward to summer, but if you’re a book lover, surely the top one is a relative abundance of reading time. But what to read? In Kirkus’ third annual Summer Reads issue, out next week, our editors have rounded up some of the best new fiction, nonfiction, children’s books, and young adult literature so that readers of all ages are ready to hit the beach—or simply stay home—with just the right entertainment.
In a recent interview with Kirkus, Beach Read author Emily Henry—her latest novel is Book Lovers (Berkley, May 3)—offered an excellent definition of the type of book we’re celebrating here: “A ‘beach read’ is all about compulsive readability,” Henry says, “a hook that’s so powerful you just keep your nose in your book despite any and all stimuli around you—your job, your real life, and even your vacation just fade into the background.”
I’m ready to be hooked. Here are six upcoming titles on my TBR pile for the summer, whether I'm at work or at play:
An Olive Grove in Ends by Moses McKenzie (Little, Brown, May 31): OK, I’m cheating here—I’ve already read this one, a debut novel from a 23-year-old Jamaican British writer. But it’s so good, I might just read it again before the summer is up. It’s the story of Sayon, a young drug dealer in the “Ends” neighborhood of Bristol—populated by Jamaicans and Somalis—who longs for a big house on the better side of town while thoroughly emmeshed in and loved by his sprawling community. It’s a complex tale of family and faith that is also a thrilling page-turner.
Jackie & Me by Louis Bayard (Algonquin, June 14): For a dose of Camelot-era glamour, I’m looking forward to this novel about the courtship of JFK and Jackie, as seen through the eyes of the future president’s semicloseted friend. “Romance with bite: the perfect escapism for today’s anxious times,” says our reviewer.
The Angel of Rome by Jess Walter (Harper, June 28): I’ve been a dedicated reader of anything Jess Walter writes since falling under the sway of his 2012 novel, Beautiful Ruins. “Prepare for delight,” says our reviewer of this new story collection, and that sounds like just what I want in a summer read.
The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym by Paula Byrne (HarperCollins, June 7): The author of Excellent Women and other wry novels of English life seems to be forgotten and rediscovered every decade or so; let’s hope that this biography makes Pym canonical once and for all. A “gift to fans, novices, and aspiring writers,” writes our reviewer.
Sisters in Resistance: How a German Spy, a Banker’s Wife, and Mussolini’s Daughter Outwitted the Nazis by Tilar J. Mazzeo (Grand Central Publishing, June 21). A WWII spy tale involving three women—one a double agent—trying to secure a secret diary and smuggle it into the hands of the Allies? Sounds like my idea of a juicy nonfiction read. Our review calls Sisters in Resistance a “tantalizingly novelistic history lesson.”
Joan by Katherine J. Chen (Knopf, July 5): I’m a sucker for a good historical novel, and this iconoclastic imagining of Joan of Arc, from the author of the Pride and Prejudice spinoff Mary B, looks like one I can really immerse myself in. Our review: “An elegant and engaging work of historical fiction.”
Tom Beer is the editor-in-chief.