Beach reads

All the books we're looking forward to getting sandy this summer

The book publishing industry may be in freefall, but they still know how to stack a summer with beach-tote-worthy books. You know what we mean: the kind of book that’s not too heavy, either in subject matter or actual mass. We’re getting lucky in summer 2014, which brings highly anticipated new works from lit-fic darlings Joshua Ferris, Tom Rachman and Stacey D’Erasmo; English translations from overseas heavy hitters Herman Koch, Jean-Patrick Manchette and Haruki Murakami; debuts from newcomers Edan Lepucki, Ursula DeYoung and Lauren Owen ­— and even another short story collection looking at Orlando from our own Burrow Press. So here’s a round dozen summer books — enough to have a new candidate every weekend to accompany you, your sunscreen and your flip-flops to the shore.

by Stacey D’Erasmo (available now)
There aren’t many novels based on female indie rockers over the age of 30 – well, actually, Kate Christensen’s Trouble and William Gibson’s Spook Country come to mind, but I digress. Perhaps I should say, there aren’t many of those novels written by authors with the serious chops and well-deserved literary cred of Stacey D’Erasmo. This is the fourth novel from the former alt-weekly editor (hey), and her most emotionally immediate.

The Essential Ellen Willis
edited by Nona Willis Aronowitz (available now)
And speaking of women who rock, none rocked harder than 1970s rock critic Ellen Willis, who’s often described as “the female Lester Bangs.” If Out of the Vinyl Deeps, the 2011 compilation of her best music criticism, only whetted your appetite, here comes a collection of her writing on other topics, equally incandescent and inflammatory.

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour
by Joshua Ferris (available now)
As evinced in his debut, Then We Came to the End, Joshua Ferris has the knack of examining the horrors of daily life – the existential dread induced by sitting in a cubicle farm, the Sisyphean labors of tending to the eternally refilling email inbox – and yet somehow making a reader feel, well, OK about it all. In this novel, Ferris takes on the summeriffic sport of baseball, which, speaking of unending existential dread … (What we’re saying is that baseball games are very long.)

Forget How You Found Us: 15 Views of Orlando, Volume 3
various authors (available June 1)
Burrow Press editor Nathan Holic brings out another volume of 15 Views of Orlando, this time with a YA spin. The sequence of stories covers Lake Nona, the downtown public library, Greenwood Cemetery, the Coalition for the Homeless and the Kerouac House, all from the viewpoint of local high-schoolers. Sounds like erstwhile Orlandoan John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) has a little local competish.

Summer House With Swimming Pool
by Herman Koch (available June 3)
Translated from the Dutch original by Sam Garrett (as was Koch’s 2013 best-seller, The Dinner), Summer House is already being spoken of in the same terms as Dinner: blistering, nightmarish, pitch-dark. Herman Koch has been compared to American Psycho-vintage Bret Easton Ellis, and this novel of a cynical Dr. Feelgood and an escalating series of marital tiffs promises to meet our beach-book requirements: nasty, brutish and short.

The Rise & Fall of Great Powers
by Tom Rachman (available June 10)
In another shameless pitch straight at “book people,” Tom Rachman follows up The Imperfectionists (about the staff of a failing newspaper) with The Rise & Fall of Great Powers (about a kidnapped bookseller). The globe-trotting narrative arc is classic summer-book fodder; the intricately constructed plot may make it a challenge for sun-sozzled brains, but it’s worth the furrowed brow.

The Quick
by Lauren Owen (available June 17)
An ambitious debut novel that will transport you out of the heat and into the Edwardian London demimonde? Yes, please. Lauren Owen’s The Quick does just that, telling a story of “charming young aristocrats,” “crumbling country estates” and a “sinister, labyrinthine London.” This spooky-ooky Gothic tale is exactly what you want on the beach: perfectly balanced between serious and silly.

by Ursula DeYoung (available June 24)
Also classic summer-book fodder, Ursula DeYoung’s first novel hits all the beach-read high notes: It’s a coming-of-age tale that unfolds over a summer spent with relatives at the family seaside cottage (well, the kind of “cottage” that sits on acres and employs a full-time staff of maids and gardeners). Shorecliff is set in 1920s Maine, and captures the feeling of an adolescent summer quite poignantly; plus, the cover is pure swimming-hole eye candy.

by Edan Lepucki (available July 8)
A post-apocalyptic story set in, duh, California, Edan Lepucki’s first full-length builds a lush yet terrifying home at the end of the world. The state of California is great and all – if you absolutely have to start over from scratch after civilization crumbles, doing it in a temperate zone where almost anything will grow is a plus – but no place feels secure when you’re pregnant and isolated, and you just watched the city you lived in all your life fall to the ground (taking all the hospitals with it).

The Mad and the Bad
by Jean-Patrick Manchette (available July 15)
Publisher New York Review Books specializes in bringing to light long-forgotten treasures, often in translation, and The Mad and the Bad is that in spades. Lovers of detective noir will revel in Jean-Patrick Manchette’s cold-as-ice, dry-as-vermouth crime thriller. Don’t misunderstand “thriller” to denote some flabby Dean Koontz crap – this is taut, bloody, très-Parisien fury, wrapping a consumerist critique in a mounting pile of bodies.

by Nick Harkaway (available July 29)
Nick Harkaway, master of the maximalist New Weird tale, returns for a third uncanny novel with Tigerman, an action-packed international dystopian spy-slash-superhero-saves-the-world romp. Those who don’t care to be pegged as nerds like to call books by authors of Harkaway’s ilk (see also: China Miéville, Neal Stephenson, Cory Doctorow, William Gibson) “imaginative fiction,” rather than sci-fi, and fair enough – imaginative is the weakest possible term for Harkaway’s trademark stew of parallel-universe zaniness. (Also, while looking up the pub date for this book, I discovered that Harkaway is the son of John Le Carré, which means he’s got second-generation smart-beach-read bona fides, so what are you waiting for?)

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
by Haruki Murakami (available Aug. 12)
Need we even summarize this one? Three years after every literate person in the world bought his thick-as-a-brick 1Q84, Haruki Murakami is back with another guaranteed best-seller – also a guaranteed heart-wringer, but this time, at just 400 pages, not such a guaranteed bicep-builder. Harry Potter-level long lines ensued upon publication in Japan, Korea, Spain and the Netherlands, so lace up your comfy sneakers.


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Jessica Bryce Young

Jessica Bryce Young has been working with Orlando Weekly since 2003, serving as copy editor, dining editor and arts editor before becoming editor in chief in 2016.
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