The dog days of summer are officially upon us, and I’ve been racing through my TBR pile lately. Good thing there are plenty of fresh new paperbacks to stack back on top! This month’s selections offer a healthy mix: there’s a comedic short story collection, a dark and twisty historical thriller, and a pop-psychology book that will make you want to dig deep and find your own grit. We have a fun novel that celebrates female friendships, a fascinating story of a coroner’s career, and lastly, a true summer adventure novel full of puzzles, conspiracies, and urban exploration. Which one will you add to the top of your pile?
I’ve really enjoyed reading collections of short stories and essays lately. There’s something so wonderful about being able to take a full book and break it up into bite-size pieces while still having the freedom to enjoy the whole thing at once. Nate Dern’s essays are whip-smart and wickedly funny. They cover a wide swath of topics ranging from an open letter to Charles Manson, to Walt Whitman teaching a spin class, to an archeologist’s journey into a suburban man cave. Though he may not be a genius, Nate Dern has still written a clever, funny collection of essays.
This dark, compelling novel blends the genres of historical fiction and thriller so well that I hate to categorize it as just one or the other. In the summer of 1956, there’s a killer on the loose in the small Cornish fishing village of St. Steele. Betty Broadbent has never left the town or ventured far outside the walls of Hotel Eden, where she works for her moody, unpredictable mother. When reporters swarm the town in the wake of the murders, Betty’s world is upended, and she begins an unlikely relationship with an older reporter named Mr. Gallagher. As the killer continues to strike, Betty and Mr. Gallagher must make an overwhelming choice that will change their lives—and the life of an innocent man—forever. Thoroughly satisfying with emotional heft, THE UNFORGOTTEN is a gripping debut.
GRIT is a leadership book, a business book, a parenting book, and more than that: it’s an illuminating pop-psychology handbook for Angela Duckworth’s theory of success. Growing up as the daughter of a scientist she was frequently told she lacked “genius,” which is certainly ironic since she was awarded a “genius grant” by the MacArthur Foundation. Once she moved into roles of teacher, business consultant and neuroscientist, she developed her theory of what really drives success, and (spoiler alert!) it’s not genius. She found the secret lies in a combination of passion and long-term perseverance. In GRIT, she shares fascinating insights and anecdotes from her studies visiting cadets struggling through West Point, young finalists in the National Spelling Bee, and understandings learned from history. This is an illuminating and inspiring book, perfect to read as we languish in these last summer days and gear up for fall.
Female friendships can be so powerful, and GOOD LUCK WITH THAT really celebrates those relationships. Written with heart and humor and full of emotion, this is the story of three friends who met as teens. When Emerson sadly passes away, her friends Georgia and Marley try to act on Emerson’s final wish: that they conquer their fears. For Marley, that means the survivor’s guilt she’s carried around since her twin sister’s death, and for Georgia, it’s about learning to accept love from her ex-husband. But as the two grow stronger, they come to realize that the entire exercise has really been about loving themselves. Compassionate and brave, GOOD LUCK WITH THAT is a book that readers will relate to in the best way.
The title alone immediately drew me in. There’s something morbidly fascinating about stories from people whose job is to work with death. Ken Holmes worked in the Coroner’s Office in Marin County, California, for 36 years, beginning as a death investigator and ending as elected coroner. Now, he recounts the skills he learned, finding hidden clues at death scenes, interviewing witnesses, and notifying families with compassion. He saw everything from high-profile deaths and serial killers to inmate murders and Golden Gate Bridge suicides. It’s an entertaining account, but it’s also a poignant and informative look at the mysterious world of death.
Need something to stir you out of a reading drought? Perhaps one more fast-paced adventure before summer winds to an end? Not only is this debut novel a wonderfully unpredictable page-turner but it’s also a moving and intellectually satisfying book. When Lee is left by her family after taking the fall for a friend, she finds a new family in a cooperative of runaways holed up in an abandoned building called the Crystal Castle. The façade of the Castle hides the more sinister agenda of a group of fanatical men bent on decoding a series of powerful secrets hidden in plain sight. They believe Lee is the key to it all. Lee teams up with Tomi, a young hacker, and escapes into the unmapped corners of the city, but the farther she goes, the more tightly the web seems to wind around her. She must face whoever is after her—and finally find out why.