BEACH READS FOR AUGUST

As summer draws to a close, I wanted to recommend several recently released paperback books, all different styles and subjects but each sharing a large readership. Select a few to take with you to the beach, or just enjoy them on a lazy Sunday curled up in your favorite recliner. 

This year's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, LESS, by Andrew Sean Greer follows Arthur Less, a gay man and failed novelist on the cusp of fifty who travels the world to avoid his own problems back home. Hilarity ensues in this globetrotting satire about an American trying to find himself abroad. The New York Times said the novel was full of “arresting lyricism and beauty.” Novelist Nell Zink said of LESS, “you will sob little tears of joy.”

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn, comes SHARP OBJECTS, her 2006 debut novel, recently reissued. It tells the story of reporter, Camille Preaker, fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, who faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to her beautiful thirteen-year-old half-sister she barely knows who has an eerie grip on the town. Installed in her old bedroom in her family's Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming. The novel has been hailed as “piercingly effective and genuinely terrifying.”

ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman is a smart, warm, and uplifting story about an eccentric and regimented loner who struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say whatever she’s thinking. Eleanor’s life changes when she meets Raymond, a bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office who happens to have a big heart. This #1 New York Times bestseller is a beautiful and funny story about the importance of friendship and human connection, seen through the irresistible journey of an eccentric heroine. And it’s soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon.

John Grisham’s newest legal thriller, THE ROOSTER BAR, tackles the scams behind many for-profit law schools. Law students Mark, Todd and Zola borrowed heavily to attend a third-tier, for-profit school, aptly named Foggy Bottom Law School, so mediocre that its graduates rarely pass the bar exam, let alone get good jobs. By their third year, they realize they’ve been duped, that that their school is one of a chain owned by a shady New York hedge-fund operator who also happens to own a bank specializing in student loans. They find a cunning and risky way to escape their crushing debt, expose the bank and the scam, and make a few bucks in the process. The Rooster Bar of the title is their local watering hole, above which they keep an apartment/office to use as an address on business cards for the completely bogus firm they create. And the mischief begins.

Described as an entertaining novel of modern manners, CRAZY RICH ASIANS by Kevin Kwan has been called juicy, witty, rollicking, original and decadent. Entertainment Weekly suggests reading this novel “on an exotic beach in super-expensive sunglasses.” Here’s the story: When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country's most eligible bachelor. On Nick's arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane and, soon, her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers.

BRAIN ON FIRE by Susannah Cahalan is both a riveting medical mystery and a powerful account of one woman’s struggle to recapture her identity. When twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan wakes up alone in a hospital room, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak, she has no memory of how she’d gotten there. Days earlier, she had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: at the beginning of her first serious relationship and a promising career at a major New York newspaper. Now she is labeled violent, psychotic, a flight risk. What happened? In a swift and breathtaking narrative, Susannah tells the astonishing true story of her descent into madness, her family’s inspiring faith in her, and the lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn’t happen. This award-winning memoir and instant New York Times bestseller is an unforgettable exploration of memory and identity, faith and love, and a profoundly compelling tale of survival and perseverance that is destined to become a classic. 

Called “one of the most exceptional works of nonfiction,” “compulsively readable,” and “thought-provoking”, SAPIENS: A BRIEF HISTORY OF HUMANKIND by renowned historian Yuval Noah Harari is the groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution. The #1 international bestseller explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.” Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Harari breaks the mold with this highly original and insightful book that begins about 70,000 years ago with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, SAPIENS integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas.The book was a favorite pick of former President Barack Obama, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, and is the Gramercy Book Club selection for October, facilitated by Ohio State University Anthropologist Jeffrey Cohen.

 

Written by Linda Kass

About the author: I began my career as a magazine writer and correspondent for regional and national publications and am now an assistant editor for Narrative, an online literary magazine. My debut novel, Tasa’s Song, was inspired by my mother’s early life in eastern Poland during the Second World War. It won a Bronze Medal for Historical Fiction from the Independent Publisher Award Program and was a 2016 Foreword INDIES Award Finalist. I am also the proud owner of Gramercy Books, central Ohio’s newest indie bookstore! 

Learn more about me on my personal website.