6 Reads to Match Any Summer Mood
Summer is just around the corner and after more than a year of captivity, I for one, am more excited than schoolchildren for the chance to let loose, relax and get some much-needed Vitamin D. I don’t go anywhere — even the next room — without a book though, so here are a few suggestions for you whether you’ll be on a beach, hitting the road or just wallowing in the sunshine in your own backyard.
Author: Anna North
Release Date: January 5, 2021
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
272pp $26.00, hardcover
“In the year of our Lord 1894, I became an outlaw.” Great opening lines are truly a thing of beauty. The world into which 17-year-old Ada is born, however, is not. While familiar, the Old West in Ada’s story is skewed with threads of dystopia, the Handmaid’s Tale and the horrifying religious fervor. The result is that Ada’s failure to birth a child after a year of marriage leads her to being forced out of town and into a roving band of criminals in an effort to survive.
It is a deft author who can be by turns both hilarious and heart-wrenching — sometimes in the same breath. Anna North succeeds brilliantly in this book. Filled with incredible characters, snappy dialogue and a fast-paced plot — this is a great read for anyone looking for some adventure this summer.
The Other Black Girl
Author: Zakiya Dalila Harris
Release Date: June 1, 2021
Publisher: Atria Books
368pp $27.00, hardcover
I love to read about the book world. Any fiction book set in publishing already has me on the hook before I even know what I’m about to read. I’m oh so glad for that impulse, as “The Other Black Girl” is a fantastic thriller I might’ve missed otherwise.
With hints of “Gone Girl” and the movie “Get Out,” this heart-stopping mystery thriller is so good, I can hardly believe it’s a debut.
Nella Rogers is the only black woman working at a big publisher — something that weighs on her until another black woman starts at the company — Hazel. At first, everything seems great as the women bond and form a seemingly pleasant friendship- but Nella starts to wonder just who this woman is as strange notes and disturbing events start to make her question the world around her.
There is more than one twist in this fantastic book, so I’m hesitant to detail too much of the plot- but suffice to say, it is wild and unpredictable- everything I love in a good thriller. For anyone eager to find a good mystery that isn’t like all the others on the shelf, I can’t recommend this one highly enough!
Libertie: A Novel
Author: Kaitlyn Greenidge
Release Date: March 30, 2021
Publisher: Algonquin Books
336 pp $26.95, hardcover
In 2016, Greenidge gave us “We Love You, Charlie Freeman,” a gorgeous and haunting work I still think of to this day. “Libertie” is something different — softer, dreamier — but no less profound. Libertie is the daughter of a white-passing mother who practices as a doctor in Brooklyn just after the Civil War. The story follows Libertie’s struggle and growth to find herself; in art, in love, in revolution — and what freedom actually means for a black woman.
This is a stunning work of historical fiction; taken from the story of one of the first black female doctors in the US, it is a fictionalized tale that is nonetheless filled with real history. The characters are drawn with a stark beauty that doesn’t try to hide who they are both as human and as a part of the context around them. Greenidge writes the way I wish more people communicated — with both heart and clarity.
This one will be talked about in book clubs, think pieces and is begging for an adaptation on screen. Get in on the ground floor.
One Last Stop
Author: Casey McQuiston
Release Date: June 1, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
432pp $16.99, paperback
August is already a cynic at the tender age of 23 — she moves to New York not with high hopes of love and adventure, but with a sense of doom and drudgery. So it takes her a bit by surprise when a cool, punk rock woman on the subway catches her eye and suddenly, life doesn’t seem quite so dismal anymore. The woman has a secret, however, and August’s blossoming crush may have more tangles than she’s prepared to handle.
McQuiston’s first novel, “Red, White and Royal Blue” shook the romance world in 2019, quickly becoming a bestseller. All of those newly-minted fans are sure to be just as enthralled in this new story of love, friendship and found family. The characters spring from the page, feeling like real people you’d love to have pancakes with — and their thrilling, funny and beautiful romance absolutely sings.
This would be a great choice for a beach read — or really for anyone in need of a happy ending. After all, what’s summer without a little romance?
The Book of Difficult Fruit: Arguments for the Tart, Tender, and Unruly (with Recipes)
Author: Kate Lebo
Release Date: April 6, 2021
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
416pp $28.00, hardcover
Who says nonfiction can’t be escapist? Genre-bending happens often in fiction, but I think it’s even more interesting when it happens in nonfiction. Kate Lebo takes us on an alphabetical tour of 26 fruits with an array of essays so varied and fascinating, it’s hard to even pick one to lure you in. Cherries that come packed in poison? Berries that act as talismans of feminism? Fruits that may cure depression or upend modern medicine? It’s all here in this astonishing collection.
I read these over the course of a weekend, and I can’t remember a book that made me feel so many different things at once — startled by poetry, musing on philosophical conundrums, hungry for plums … this may be my favorite nonfiction of the year.
Part science essay, part memoir, part cultural touchstone — this book really does have it all. If you find yourself in the mood to read this summer, but no idea what to pick up — this is the ideal book for you.
In the Quick
Author: Kate Hope Day
Release Date: March 2, 2021
Publisher: Random House
272pp $27.00, hardcover
Bad remakes are flooding the entertainment world at an alarming clip — so my telling you to read Jane Eyre in space may not be the most enticing idea. But you should do it anyway.
June is a mechanical genius who works herself incredibly hard to get the chance to go to space. When she finally achieves it, she finds herself conflicted by more than one complication. There is a mysterious missing crew June is determined to find, her family’s legacy to uphold and a handsome, brilliant scientist with whom June quickly becomes enmeshed.
With lovely language and a lot of heart — this is a beautiful take on the human drive to push limits. It all builds to make this the kind of love story that surpasses it’s time and setting. Much like the classic “Jane Eyre,” upon which it draws — I think “In the Quick” will appeal to anyone with a love of good stories. If you’re just looking for something to escape this summer, this is the book for you.
This post in in conjunction with the DSM Book Festival, which ran for four Saturdays from March 27 through April 17, 2021.
Named the #1 Best Place to Live in the Midwest and #2 Safest Place to Live, Greater Des Moines (DSM) is a city where you can have it all. Learn more about what it’s like to live here.