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Editors Recommend: 10 Sizzling Reads for the Summer

July 27 2021
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There are so many good new books releasing this summer that it’s a bit hard to narrow down the list. What better people to recommend the best of the best summer reads than the editors themselves? We asked a few Simon & Schuster editors about new releases that are either already out or coming out soon this summer, and we hope you enjoy these industry-insider recommendations.

Damnation Spring
by Ash Davidson

Kathryn Belden, VP, Editorial Director, Scribner: Two of my favorite books come to mind when I read DAMNATION SPRING: SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION and ANGLE OF REPOSE. These big-shouldered novels of the West give us dramatic stories of family in transition and crisis. DAMNATION SPRING does this, too, but as much as it is a big-hearted story of a relationship and a community, Ash Davidson also grounds the book in powerful societal issues. These are the forces that bring the narrative tension—and they are what make a novel about logging in the redwood forests of California in the 1970s so relatable today.

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Damnation Spring
Ash Davidson

An epic, immersive debut, Damnation Spring is the deeply human story of a Pacific Northwest logging town wrenched in two by a mystery that threatens to derail its way of life.

For generations, Rich Gundersen’s family has chopped a livelihood out of the redwood forest along California’s rugged coast. Now Rich and his wife, Colleen, are raising their own young son near Damnation Grove, a swath of ancient redwoods on which Rich’s employer, Sanderson Timber Co., plans to make a killing. In 1977, with most of the forest cleared or protected, a grove like Damnation—and beyond it 24-7 Ridge—is a logger’s dream.

It’s dangerous work. Rich has already lived decades longer than his father, killed on the job. Rich wants better for his son, Chub, so when the opportunity arises to buy 24-7 Ridge—costing them all the savings they’ve squirreled away for their growing family—he grabs it, unbeknownst to Colleen. Because the reality is their family isn’t growing; Colleen has lost several pregnancies. And she isn’t alone. As a midwife, Colleen has seen it with her own eyes.

For decades, the herbicides the logging company uses were considered harmless. But Colleen is no longer so sure. What if these miscarriages aren’t isolated strokes of bad luck? As mudslides take out clear-cut hillsides and salmon vanish from creeks, her search for answers threatens to unravel not just Rich’s plans for the 24-7, but their marriage too, dividing a town that lives and dies on timber along the way.

Told from the perspectives of Rich, Colleen, and Chub, in prose as clear as a spring-fed creek, this intimate, compassionate portrait of a community clinging to a vanishing way of life amid the perils of environmental degradation makes Damnation Spring an essential novel for our time.

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All's Well
by Mona Awad

Marysue Rucci, VP, Editor in Chief, Simon & Schuster: What I love about Mona Awad is that she is so smart, but she is also so funny. This book is not just about a theater director trying to stage a play—the Shakespearean play All’s Well That Ends Well, at a community college even though her students are mutinous—but it's also about friendship and about magic and about artistry and about the hilarity of life as a woman in the theater, and life as a woman in the medical world. This character is suffering from chronic pain, which no one believes. It’s about whether you can be an ingenue or you have to be a hag at a certain age.

It’s a book that makes you think and makes you laugh, and Mona is just an extraordinary talent who wears it lightly, and whose book you will absolutely enjoy to its core. And if you have any interest in the works of Kevin Wilson, Ottessa Moshfegh, or Margaret Atwood, this book is right up your alley, too.

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All's Well
Mona Awad

From the author of Bunny, which Margaret Atwood hails as “genius,” comes a dazzling and darkly funny novel about a theater professor who is convinced staging Shakespeare’s most maligned play will remedy all that ails her—but at what cost?

A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF SUMMER 2021 SELECTED BY * ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY * VULTURE * LITHUB * REFINERY29 * GOODREADS * POPSUGAR * NOW MAGAZINE * BOSTON * AND MORE

“[A] sparkling valentine to the Bard. A dream of a novel, perfect for a midsummer night’s read.”OPRAH DAILY
“A dazzling wild ride of a novel—daring, fresh, entertaining, and magical.” —GEORGE SAUNDERS
“Wild and exhilarating and so fresh it takes your breath away.” —LAUREN GROFF
“Oh my lord what a fabulous novel—knocked me out!”—MARY KARR

Miranda Fitch’s life is a waking nightmare. The accident that ended her burgeoning acting career left her with excruciating, chronic back pain, a failed marriage, and a deepening dependence on painkillers. And now she’s on the verge of losing her job as a college theater director. Determined to put on Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, the play that promised, and cost, her everything, she faces a mutinous cast hellbent on staging Macbeth instead. Miranda sees her chance at redemption slip through her fingers.

That’s when she meets three strange benefactors who have an eerie knowledge of Miranda’s past and a tantalizing promise for her future: one where the show goes on, her rebellious students get what’s coming to them, and the invisible, doubted pain that’s kept her from the spotlight is made known.

With prose Margaret Atwood has described as “no punches pulled, no hilarities dodged...genius,” Mona Awad has concocted her most potent, subversive novel yet. All’s Well is the story of a woman at her breaking point and a formidable, piercingly funny indictment of our collective refusal to witness and believe female pain.

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Together We Will Go
by J. Michael Straczynski

Ed Schlesinger, Senior Editor, Gallery: J. Michael Straczynski is one of the great modern storytellers, and TOGETHER WE WILL GO finds him at his most vulnerable and intense. His busload of unforgettable characters from various backgrounds, who are traveling west toward their final sunset and paying their way through personal stories as a collective last will and testament, is simultaneously beautiful, extraordinary, provocative, and bursting with life and sincerity.

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Together We Will Go
J. Michael Straczynski

The Breakfast Club meets The Silver Linings Playbook in this powerful, provocative, and heartfelt novel about twelve endearing strangers who come together to make the most of their final days, from New York Times bestselling and award-winning author J. Michael Straczynski.

Mark Antonelli, a failed young writer looking down the barrel at thirty, is planning a cross-country road trip. He buys a beat-up old tour bus. He hires a young army vet to drive it. He puts out an ad for others to join him along the way. But this will be a road trip like no other: His passengers are all fellow disheartened souls who have decided that this will be their final journey—upon arrival in San Francisco, they will find a cliff with an amazing view of the ocean at sunset, hit the gas, and drive out of this world.

The unlikely companions include a young woman with a chronic pain sensory disorder and another who was relentlessly bullied at school for her size; a bipolar, party-loving neo-hippie; a gentle coder with a literal hole in his heart and blue skin; and a poet dreaming of a better world beyond this one. We get to know them through access to their texts, emails, voicemails, and the daily journal entries they write as the price of admission for this trip.

By turns tragic, funny, quirky, charming, and deeply moving, Together We Will Go explores the decisions that brings these characters together, and the relationships that grow between them, with some discovering love and affection for the first time. But as they cross state lines and complications to the initial plan arise, it becomes clear that this is a novel as much about the will to live as the choice to end it. The final, unforgettable moments as they hurtle toward the decisions awaiting them will be remembered for a lifetime.

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The Cave Dwellers
by Christina McDowell

Alison Callahan, VP, Executive Editor, Scout Press: I’ve always been fascinated by what goes on behind closed doors in society circles. But the lineage and desperately cutthroat secrets hidden within DC society take it to the next level. Christina’s book draws back the perfect toile curtains to reveal the real people behind the power players and exposes them for who they are: cave dwellers. Fun and gossipy and gorgeously written—a perfect beach read!

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The Cave Dwellers
Christina McDowell

A compulsively readable novel in the vein of The Bonfire of the Vanities—by way of The Nest—about what Washington, DC’s high society members do away from the Capitol building and behind the closed doors of their stately homes.

They are the families considered worthy of a listing in the exclusive Green Book—a discriminative diary created by the niece of Edith Roosevelt’s social secretary. Their aristocratic bloodlines are woven into the very fabric of Washington—generation after generation. Their old money and manner lurk through the cobblestone streets of Georgetown, Kalorama, and Capitol Hill. They only socialize within their inner circle, turning a blind eye to those who come and go on the political merry-go-round. These parents and their children live in gilded existences of power and privilege.

But what they have failed to understand is that the world is changing. And when the family of one of their own is held hostage and brutally murdered, everything about their legacy is called into question.

They’re called The Cave Dwellers.

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Revival Season
by Monica West

Carina Guiterman, Senior Editor, Simon & Schuster: Growing up, I returned to THE POISONWOOD BIBLE time and time again whenever I wanted to be transported far away from my own life. I’ve long been desperate to find a book that transported me that same way, so when I first read REVIVAL SEASON, I was thrilled that I’d finally found it. Monica West’s debut takes the reader along dusty moonlit roads and to small-town churches as we join fifteen-year-old Miriam Horton and her family for the summer revival season. Monica’s lush, atmospheric descriptions bring the Southern setting to such vivid life on the page. But perhaps my favorite thing about REVIVAL SEASON is how thoughtfully Monica writes about what it means to be a believer and whether being a person of faith means simply adhering to tradition—or whether a true believer is someone who is not afraid to question said tradition.

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Revival Season
Monica West

The daughter of one of the South’s most famous Baptist preachers discovers a shocking secret about her father that puts her at odds with both her faith and her family in this “tender and wise” (Ann Patchett, author of Commonwealth) debut novel.

Every summer, fifteen-year-old Miriam Horton and her family pack themselves tight in their old minivan and travel through small southern towns for revival season: the time when Miriam’s father—one of the South’s most famous preachers—holds massive healing services for people desperate to be cured of ailments and disease.This summer, the revival season doesn’t go as planned, and after one service in which Reverend Horton’s healing powers are tested like never before, Miriam witnesses a shocking act of violence that shakes her belief in her father—and in her faith.

When the Hortons return home, Miriam’s confusion only grows as she discovers she might have the power to heal—even though her father and the church have always made it clear that such power is denied to women. Over the course of the next year, Miriam must decide between her faith, her family, and her newfound power that might be able to save others, but, if discovered by her father, could destroy Miriam.

Celebrating both feminism and faith, Revival Season is a story of spiritual awakening and disillusionment in a Southern, black, Evangelical community. Monica West’s transporting coming-of-age novel explores complicated family and what it means to live among the community of the faithful.

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The Other Black Girl
by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Lindsay Sagnette, VP, Editorial Director, Atria Books: I can’t remember the last time I was this certain that a book was going to set the world on fire. Urgent, propulsive, brilliant, and biting, THE OTHER BLACK GIRL is a psychological masterpiece, where microaggressions and gaslighting turn a company’s “civilized” atmosphere into a slowly unraveling horror. Zakiya Dalila Harris is a storyteller of the highest order, and she will sear Nella Rogers into your consciousness. I hope you are as overcome as I was when turning the pages of this mind-blowing and important book and that you will join me in celebrating the arrival of this major new literary talent.

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The Other Black Girl
Zakiya Dalila Harris

“Riveting, fearless, and vividly original. This is an exciting debut.” —Emily St. John Mandel, New York Times bestselling author of The Glass Hotel

Get Out meets The Devil Wears Prada in this electric debut about the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing.

Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust.

Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.

It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career.

A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary that is perfect for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or overlooked in the workplace, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.

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The Shimmering State
by Meredith Westgate

Loan Le, Editor, Atria Books: Meredith Westgate’s prose strikes the right kind of balance when it comes to literary writing: it’s lush and dreamy, yet emotionally sharp and poignant. She uses speculative elements to examine memory as a commodity. Yet, interstitial, mundane scenes—sitting through L.A. traffic, entering mid-conversation at a party, hatefully waiting for your order of kale noodles—are also transformed into thought-provoking moments. I read Meredith’s examination of our obsession with “forever”—in social media and, in her world, in memory, and how we do the strangest things to maintain that lie, and I just think: Meredith gets it. She totally gets it.

Like the characters desperate to lose themselves in other people’s memories, you won’t want to leave THE SHIMMERING STATE until you’ve run out of pages.

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The Shimmering State
Meredith Westgate

“Cinematic, dreamlike, at times brutal yet poignant.” —Frances Cha, author of If I Had Your Face

“Meredith Westgate has an extraordinary ear, not only for the stories we tell ourselves in order to live, but for the ways that we endlessly revise them to suit the new selves we continue to construct.” —Adam Wilson, author of Sensation Machines

A luminous literary debut following two patients in recovery after an experimental memory drug warps their lives.

Lucien moves to Los Angeles to be with his grandmother as she undergoes an experimental memory treatment for Alzheimer’s using a new drug, Memoroxin. An emerging photographer, he’s also running from the sudden death of his mother, a well-known artist whose legacy haunts him even far from New York.

Sophie has just landed the lead in the upcoming performance of La Sylphide with the Los Angeles Ballet. She still waitresses during her off-hours at the Chateau Marmont, witnessing the recreational use of Memoroxin—or Mem—among the Hollywood elite.

When Lucien and Sophie meet at the Center, founded by the ambitious yet conflicted Dr. Angelica Sloane to treat patients who’ve abused Mem, they have no memory of how they got there—or why they feel so inexplicably drawn to one another. Is it attraction, or something they cannot remember from “before”?

Set in a city that seems to have no memory of its own, The Shimmering State is a graceful meditation on the power of story and its creation. It masterfully explores memory and how it can elude us, trap us, or even set us free.

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Did I Say You Could Go
by Melanie Gideon

Marysue Rucci, VP, Editor in Chief, Simon & Schuster: Obsessive female friendship is an evergreen thriller subject—but Melanie Gideon’s DID I SAY YOU COULD GO takes it to the next level. While the friendship in question begins between two mothers at a kindergarten social, it culminates a decade later, when the friendship between their teen daughters brings a fresh urgency—and a twist so stunning you will not see it coming. For fans of Mary Kubica and Shari Lapena—this is your next beach read!

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Did I Say You Could Go
Melanie Gideon

A suspenseful, gripping novel about families and friendships torn apart at the seams by obsession, secrets, and betrayal with relentless twists and turns that hurtle forward to a shocking confrontation.

When Ruth, a wealthy divorcé​e, offers to host the Hillside Academy kindergarten meet-and-greet, she hopes this will be a fresh start for her and her introverted daughter, Marley. Finally, they’ll be accepted into a tribe. Marley will make friends and Ruth will be welcomed by the mothers. Instead, the parents are turned off by Ruth’s ostentatious wealth and before kindergarten even begins, Ruth and Marley are outcasts.

The last guest to arrive at the meet-and-greet is Gemma, a widow and a single mother to her daughter, Bee. Ruth sets her sights on the mother-daughter duo, and soon the two families are inseparable. Ruth takes Gemma and Bee on Aspen vacations, offers VIP passes to Cirque du Soleil, and pays for dinners at Michelin-starred restaurants. For Gemma, who lives paycheck to paycheck, Ruth’s largesse is seductive, but as the years go by, she can’t shake the feeling that she’s accruing an increasingly unpayable debt. When Ruth’s affair with a married Hillside dad is exposed, and she’s publicly shunned, Gemma uses it to sever ties with Ruth.

Six years later, when Gemma finds herself embroiled in a scandal of her own—Ruth comes to her defense. Their renewed friendship rehabilitates their reputations, but once again, Gemma starts to feel trapped as Ruth grows more and more obsessed with their relationship.

A relentless page-turner, Did I Say You Could Go is the story of friendships steeped in lies and duplicity. It’s about two families who, when pushed to extremes, cross the line with devastating results.

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Animal
by Lisa Taddeo

Jofie Ferrari-Adler, VP, Publisher, Avid Reader Press: ANIMAL is the first novel by Lisa Taddeo, who is also the author of one of the best books of nonfiction I’ve ever worked on, THREE WOMEN—which came out a couple of years ago. It became a sensation and it sold more than a million copies around the world. It was a very provocative book. Lisa is an extremely provocative writer, and her first novel, ANIMAL, will not disappoint on that front.

It’s a novel about a woman named Joan. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but what I would say is that, over the course of this novel, we watch Joan basically transform herself from prey into predator. I don’t mean that literally—this is not magical realism—but they say there’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal, and that is what we have in Joan at the beginning of this book. She has been piled with trauma after trauma after trauma, and over the course of this book, we watch her fight back and get in touch with and embrace and embody her animal spirit. An animal will do whatever it takes to survive; an animal will kill, if it has to, to survive. That is what the title means, and that is what is at the core of this book. It’s an exhilarating reading experience to watch this woman finally fight back. Anybody who likes stories about strong women is going to love this book.

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Animal
Lisa Taddeo

Lisa Taddeo illustrates one woman's exhilarating transformation from prey into predator in Animal, the “ferociously beautiful” (Library Journal) debut novel from the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller and international phenomenon Three Women, named to more than thirty best-of-the-year lists and hailed as “a dazzling achievement” (Los Angeles Times) and “a heartbreaking, gripping, astonishing masterpiece” (Esquire).

I am depraved. I hope you like me.

Joan has spent a lifetime enduring the cruelties of men. But when one of them commits a shocking act of violence in front of her, she flees New York City in search of Alice, the only person alive who can help her make sense of her past. In the sweltering hills above Los Angeles, Joan unravels the horrific event she witnessed as a child—that has haunted her every waking moment—while forging the power to finally strike back.

Animal is a depiction of female rage at its rawest, and a visceral exploration of the fallout from a male-dominated society.

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Falling
by T. J. Newman

Jofie Ferrari-Adler, VP, Publisher, Avid Reader Press: FALLING is a sensational debut thriller set on an airplane. And it was actually written by a long-time flight attendant, an aspiring novelist named Torri Newman. She wrote early drafts of this book in notebooks on red-eye flights while her passengers were asleep. So, one of the things I love about it, is that it has this kind of innate authenticity, which is rare in a thriller.

The concept is this: you get on a flight with 150 other people flying from L.A. to New York. But right before the flight, the pilot’s family was kidnapped by a terrorist. The terrorist gets in touch with the pilot in the cockpit via FaceTime, and he gives him a choice: crash the plane or I kill your family. It is absolutely diabolical. The pilot says, “No, I’m not going to crash the plane. You’re not going to kill my family.” And the next five hours is like this epic clash of wills as the pilot tries to get out of this situation with everybody alive. It’s just one of the most heart-in-your-throat reading experiences I’ve ever had. If you like a good thriller, you will not be able to put this book down.

Watch Jofie talk about FALLING

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Falling
T. J. Newman

“Stunning and relentless. This is Jaws at 35,000 feet.” —Don Winslow
Falling is the best kind of thriller…Nonstop, totally authentic suspense.” —James Patterson
“Amazing...Intense suspense, shocks and scares...Chilling.” —Lee Child
“The perfect summer thriller. Relentlessly paced and unforgettable.” —Janet Evanovich

You just boarded a flight to New York.

There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.

What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.

For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.

The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.

Enjoy the flight.

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