The best and worst quality I brought to the table when applying for jobs in the publishing industry was that I read everything. I was advised against telling this to prospective HR managers because it sounds vague and unfocused, and told I should instead play up a distinctive niche in which I’m a reading expert. Swarthy corset-bound romances? Political biographies? Swedish noir? Narrative nonfiction by award-winning journalists? Alas, I still find myself reaching for vastly different styles, genres, and subjects to meet whatever mood I’m in. This is especially clear as I look back on some of the best novels I read this spring. Each has a tone, pacing, and content unique from the others—and frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sorry, career advisors!
And what are the best books you read recently? Email us. We can’t wait to hear what you’re reading.
Nora Ephron’s autobiographical debut novel is a nostalgic whirlwind of chatty humor, heartbreaking relationships, and fabulous wit. Nothing I didn’t expect from the woman who shaped my rom-com expectations. In HEARTBURN Ephron writes about the spastic trials and triumphs of a New Yorker caught between cities, a philandering husband, and her career. The perfect come-down after an NYC night when the subway never arrives, your friend stands you up, and you find yourself caught in the rain without an umbrella.
Propulsive, gritty, and unforgettable—but EILEEN is not for the fainthearted. Eileen is an unassuming, troubled woman with a dreary existence as an administrator at a juvenile detention center and an alcoholic father at home. Then one day a glamorous woman arrives in her life and Eileen is spun into actions she’s always dreamed of taking, but they also lead her to disappear from her dark life altogether.
This gritty first-person narration is one of the most captivating and suspenseful voices I’ve read recently (think HAUSFRAU with less empathy). It’s my current subway read, which has me opting for the local to have more time to read! —Elizabeth
Lauren Groff’s name may be familiar—her novel FATES AND FURIES was a National Book Award Finalist and proclaimed as a must-read by President Obama. But ARCADIA, Groff’s quiet literary masterpiece about an idyllic commune in the 1970s, reads as raw and gorgeous as ever. The story follows Bit, the first child born among the founding hippies, as he grows and the community evolves to beautifully illustrate the human essence—and faults—of idealism and family.
Flipping to the first page of THE WOMEN IN THE CASTLE I thought I knew what to expect. World War II vistas, sad orphans, travails of the innocent against the evil of men... basically standard fare that—sorry to sound cynical—always sells historical fiction. (No shade! I’m over here reading it too!) Yet Jessica Shattuck surprised me with her tale of three German widows thrown together in the war’s aftermath. With their specific morals, passions, and secrets tinged with regret, these multi-faceted characters offer a new understanding of what it was like to live under the Nazi regime.
On the exhaustive subject of World War II, Jessica Shattuck has found a fresh perspective and an interesting viewpoint of the typical German citizen struggling against their homeland to do the right thing. This kind of bravery seems welcome and essential for today’s reader. —Stuart
How had I never read Rebecca Barry before? I will be recommending this novel in stories to everyone this summer. It’s a fast and addicting read with colorful characters, bites of humor, and chapters that can be read in any order (which reflects Barry’s writing genius rather than any sense of disorder). The stories center around the patrons of Lucy’s Tavern, a bar where the locals drink bourbon straight, fall in love quick, and shuffle against the frustrations of small-town America to tragically comic effect. Perfect for when you have 10 minutes to read something that will put a smile on your face, remind you of an old friend, and deliver one-liners that capture feelings you thought were beyond words.