Four Summer Novels Everyone Will Be Talking About

Traditionally, summer reading is all about gossipy celeb tell-alls and pulpy thrillers. But just because you're on the beach doesn't mean you're limited to disposable trash. Here are four compulsively readable, vacation-perfect books that won't insult your intelligence, plus reading tips from the authors themselves.

  1. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, Harper, $26
    Why it's great: It's set both in 1960s Italy, where a young hotelier falls for an American movie star, and in present-day Hollywood, where the same man—now elderly and comically out of place—searches for his lost paramour.
    Walter recommends: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain. "Fountain finds all the absurdity of Catch-22 in the Iraq war."
  2. Capital by John Lanchester, Norton, $27
    Why it's great: This Franzen-esque epic exploits hot-button issues (terrorism, real estate) by chronicling the lives of a financier and his wife, a family of Pakistani shop owners, and a Senegalese soccer star.
    Lanchester recommends: Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman. "The closest there's ever been to a War and Peace about the Second World War."
  3. How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti, Henry Holt, $25
    Why it's great: It's tough to tell where confession ends and fiction begins in this tale of a playwright named Sheila and a group of artists based on real-life figures.
    Heti recommends: Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles. "The only novel by this brilliant American writer who was married to Paul Bowles while living as a lesbian."
  4. A Million Heavens by John Brandon, McSweeney's, $24
    Why it's great: This quirky saga about a boy's coma mixes ensemble storytelling (from the perspective of more than a dozen characters) and magical realism (one of them might be a supernatural animal).
    Brandon recommends: God's Country by Percival Everett. "It's funny on nearly every page, yet has as much plot as any non-comic Western."

—Timothy Hodler, research director at Details

• • •

Also on
Jonathan Lethem on Talking Heads
Q&A: Pulitzer Prize Winner Richard Ford
An Iconic Nineties Novelist Returns

Photographs, from left: Courtesy of Harper Collins; Courtesy of W. W. Norton & Company; Courtesy of Henry Holt; Courtesy of McSweeney's Publishing.
Details Newsletters
I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its User Agreement, and Privacy Policy.
Subscribe to Details
Newsletter Sign Up
  • Get the latest in men's style, grooming, diet, fitness and pop-culture trends every Wednesday. See Sample
  • Get the most popular articles, blog posts, and slideshows of the past week every Saturday. See Sample
I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its User Agreement, and Privacy Policy.
Powered By ZergNet
Subscribe to Details

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest in men's style, grooming, health, and pop-culture news every day.
Will be in accordance with our Privacy Policy