2015 Summer Reading Picks
BYT at large | Jul 9, 2015 | 9:00AM |

Summer reading is the best. Winter reading is good too but you have to be careful not to read things that are too depressing in order to survive, or sometimes feel guilty about reading things you deem too frivolous or maybe there is just no time to really read. In the summer though, you pack your bags, you go on vacation, you unplug you phone and your computer, AND YOU READ. At least that’s how WE like to do it. So, we polled some BYT staff, some of our favorite book stores, our excellent local library – and arrived here with some hot picks for the hot reading months.

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1_MYSTERIES

It is no secret that BYT loves their murder mysteries. These new releases range from classic to dark to soapy and should put that little extra thrill in your pool/beachside time. Here are Svetlana’s picks for 2015…

The Luckiest Girl Alive By Jessica Knoll

At this point in time it seems it is ALMOST mandatory for a best-selling thriller to have GIRL in the title. Gone Girl, Girl On A Train, and now… The Luckiest Girl Alive. But, to Jessica Knoll’s credit – her TifAni Fanelli is a beast all her own: a glossy, soon-to-be-not-so-trophy wife and editor at a NY magazine, she clearly has a secret (clearly) but even as horrible truths (involving a prep school, natch) start tumbling out, the complexity of the situation she finds herself in is all in the details. You won’t quite see where the book is going (trust us), but when it gets there, it will feel like a definitive gut punch (trust us). Oh, and yes, it seems like Reese Witherspoon did get the book rights for this one too.

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Blood Will Out By Walter Kirn

True crime doesn’t always get a fair play on the best seller bookshelves, partially because people think they already know what happened, and where it happened and how it happened, and they feel no need to read about it some more. But Walter Kirn’s latest (FINALLY OUT IN PAPERBACK) is a game changer, and partially because Kirn himself is part of the story. You see, in the summer of 1998, Walter Kirn—then an aspiring novelist struggling with impending fatherhood and a dissolving marriage—set out on a peculiar, fateful errand: to personally deliver a crippled hunting dog from his home in Montana to the New York apartment of one Clark Rockefeller, a secretive young banker and art collector who had adopted the dog over the Internet. And with that started a decade and a half long relationship that drew Kirn deep into the insane, make believe world of a most out-there son of privilege who ultimately would be unmasked as a brazen serial impostor, child kidnapper, and brutal murderer. Some stories are just to crazy to make up. If you devoured The JINX on HBO, this is your book for the summer.

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Day Four By Sarah Lotz

It may strike some a peculiar choice to choose a book about a cruise gone (horribly? HORRIBLY?) wrong as your beach book bag addition but then… if you’re going down a thriller road, you may as well pick a seasonal one. Join hundreds of pleasure-seekers stream aboard The Beautiful Dreamer cruise ship for five days of cut-price fun in the Caribbean sun. On the fourth day, disaster strikes: smoke roils out of the engine room, and the ship is stranded in the Gulf of Mexico. When it is found, it is seemingly empty. But, as always, there is more to the story.  Also, no one really takes cruises any more. We’re fine. Right? Right?

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Dietland By Sarai Walker

Possibly the one beach read we’ve all been waiting for. On the surface, Sarai Walker wrote a chick lit book. Even worse: a chick lit book about a fat girl (not beating around the bush here, Plum Kettle, at almost 300 pounds IS fat) on the road to self-acceptance. It sounds like it may be trite and syrupy and just sort of an excuse for all of us to feel OK in our bikinis. But it is so much more. Dietland a chick lit book that is ACTUALLY a revenge fantasy, a call to the arms, a novel as complicated and dangerous and compelling as its heroine. Get ready to get angry this summer. In the best, most cathartic possible way. While probably wearing a bikini.

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5_STAFFPICS

Where we ask some of our favorite local book shops for their must have summer reads. Visit them and buy these…

Politics & Prose

Mislaid By Nell Zink

With its series of mistaken identities, matches and mismatches, lost and reunited siblings, and tour-de-force courthouse finale, Nell Zink’s second novel follows the trajectory of a Shakespeare comedy. As roles and whereabouts are repeatedly Mislaid, the role-playing itself goes on with gusto. An aspiring playwright casts herself by turns as a literary groupie, a mother, an estranged wife, and a drug dealer. A confusion between “lesbian” and “thespian” points to the fluidity of gender, while with a wave of a purloined birth certificate, a blonde, blue-eyed four year old becomes a black six year old. Unstable to the point of being meaningless, identities are stolen, borrowed, concealed, changed seemingly at will, though each category comes with unshakeable assumptions. A satire of academia, family, and race-class-gender, Zink’s sharp fiction is both understated and over the top. She spots the outrageous in American life and treats it accordingly. – Laurie Greer, Politics & Prose

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Nabokov in America: On the Road to Lolita By Robert Roper

If not quite rags to riches, the story of Nabokov in America takes our hero from obscurity to fame, even infamy, when “hurricane Lolita” struck. But between the Nabokovs’ arrival in the U.S. in 1940 and their move to Switzerland in 1960, there was teaching, Edmund Wilson, The New Yorker, an arduous translation of Eugene Onegin, and butterflies. Robert Roper is a close and sensitive reader of Nabokov’s life and work, and his book is a great summer lit-crit field trip to the adventures behind the American novels. The Russians took to their new country right away; Colorado reminded them of Crimea, and the national highway system “invite[ed] alert vagabonding.” Retracing the Nabokovs’ many road trips, complete with tacky motels and the imposing writer in shorts, capering after insects, Roper captures the difficult mix of his subject’s engaging, mischievous, arrogant, fiercely intelligent and occasionally insufferable personality. – Laurie Greer, Politics & Prose

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101 Detectives By Ivan Vladislavic

Kafka isn’t named in the catalog of 101 Detectives, but his fingerprints are all over this book. Or do they belong to Ivan Vladislavic? One of the boldest, wittiest, and most imaginative fiction writers working today, Vladislavic packs a “snub-nosed lingo” and has a knack for the uncanny. He finds it in ordinary and unlikely places. One story follows the work day of a corporate storyteller; she’s blocked until she watches a man scaling the building—literally climbing the corporate ladder. Other pieces grapple with the past. In the form of a repressed minority language, dying and taking its secrets with it, history’s value is clear. But as a set of unwieldy steamer trunks, though it may hold treasures, it’s a burden no one has time or space for. Seeing “every human action as sign, symptom, or subterfuge,” Vladislavic’s amazing fiction makes detectives of readers and writers alike. – Laurie Greer, Politics & Prose

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By Elsbeth Purdy, Librarian at Petworth Neighborhood Library

Blood-Drenched Beard By Daniel Galera

Nameless and faceless (even to himself), the protagonist in Daniel Galera’s novel takes the reader on a journey into the past. This past is a place riddled with stories, folktales, mysteries, and maybe even murder. Galera sweeps us away into the Brazilian seaside resort of Garopaba and tells us the story of a young man who sets out to start a new life for himself while also investigating the long-ago disappearance of a grandfather he never knew. If you love the beach but can’t leave town this summer, this entrancing novel should do the trick.

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Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own By Kate Bolick

Yes, I’m a librarian. Yes, I am about to tell you to read a book entitled Spinster. But wait, just hear me out. In this engaging work of non-fiction, Kate Bolick makes a convincing case for spinsterhood. Using famous “spinsters” of the past (four writers who inspired Bolick) she tells the story of how the idea of an unmarried, unmoored woman might just be slowly changing in recent culture and how incredibly freeing this cultural shift could be. Sometimes women don’t have to have it all, they can just have what they want.

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The Star Side of Bird Hill By Naomi Jackson

With honesty about the bonds that generations of women in a family have with one another, this novel also encapsulates the feelings of growing up and deciding how to find oneself within a family, a home, and the world. Centered around two sisters, this story takes place in Barbados where the two girls have come to live with their grandmother and must ultimately make a decision about what home means to them. Although it’s an adult novel, this title is also great for fans of young adult fiction.

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Get in Trouble: Stories By Kelly Link

Kelly Link can certainly tell a good story, pleasing fans of the short story and the fairytale alike. In this collection Link uses every dark corner and forgotten room to force her readers into the world of their own imaginations. Weaving together nature and the supernatural, ordinary people and superheroes, and heartbreak and joy, Get in Trouble will not disappoint. If you are a fan of reading in the summer, you can join DC Public Library’s Adult Summer Reading challenge! No library card is required. Although, why don’t you get one?

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CALE-COMICS

Did you know there are like a million Star Wars novels out there? And then when Disney bought Star Wars they declared that all of them were non-canon, meaning, they were just like alternate timelines or fun stories that had no impact on future Star Wars movies or television shows. Some nerds freaked out that their entire life now seemed meaningless, but the rest of us never even knew Star Wars novels existed, or thought they were actually canon to begin with, so who cares? Not me! Regardless of my lifelong obsession with Star Wars and in general being pretty nerdy, I had never even thought to read a Star Wars novel. But when Disney announced a slew of new ones that were just as much canon as the films, my interest was piqued. So here is your Summer Reading Guide to New Canon Star Wars Novels in the order they occur within the Star Wars timeline:

Dark Disciple By Christie Golden

This came out yesterday, so I have obviously not read it yet. It is based off un-produced scripts of the cancelled Clone Wars animated series. I watched a little of the Clone Wars when it first started and it was for babies, so I have no interest in this book, despite it being targeted for big boys and some people claiming Clone Wars got better. I don’t feel like watching all 9 seasons or whatever just to read a dumb book. But I guess if you’re a huge fan, go for it?

Rating: I dunno, but I’m gonna guess 2 out of 5

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Lords of the Sith By Paul S. Kemp

OK, if you want to read a Star Wars novel, make it this one. The story takes place between Episode III and IV and is like a buddy cop movie with Darth and The Emperor, where cops act like real cops and kill a lot of innocent people for no reason. There are also some good guys that I grew to care about. Nothing revelatory, but an exciting read and the audiobook narration is top notch (complete with pew pew sounds and John Williams score!)

Rating: 4 out of 5
Audiobook Darth Vader impression: 5 out of 5

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Tarkin By James Luceno

This is a whole entire novel about Tarkin! YESSSS! Wait, who is Tarkin? Oh yeah, that old dude on the cover, I remember him sorta. Well, do you want to know about this minor characters traumatic childhood, or his thoughts on the new Imperial uniform designs, or how he made his way up the ranks to command the Death Star? Then this book is for you! The story is relatively complex, has a bit of a political thriller vibe, and it’s competently written, but in the end it’s all pretty boring. Sorry.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Audiobook Darth Vader impression: 1 out of 5

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A New Dawn By John Jackson Miller

This book is a prequel to the new Star Wars Rebels TV series, so again, it takes place between Episode III and IV. I watched the first season of Rebels, it is also for babies. But it does have some fun moments, and a nice overall visual design inspired by the original Star Wars films + Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art as opposed to midichlorian detectors or whateverthefuck. I just couldn’t bring myself to spend the time to read a book about how these characters first met, and the whole thing just seemed like a promo tool for the show. SKIPPED.

Rating: I dunno, but I’m gonna guess 3 out of 5?

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Heir to the Jedi By Kevin Hearne

Here we go, a Star Wars book that take place within the original trilogy! This is the story of Luke after A New Hope and before The Empire Strikes Back. Sounds great! The entire plot serves to explain how Luke had progressed enough in The Force to pull his lightsaber out of the ice in the Wampa cave. Ok, so like a book length training montage? I guess that could be cool, right? Let’s do it! …UH-OH Spaghetti-O, it’s awful. Luke moves a noodle with his mind during lunch. THE END. I just spoiled the whole book for you. Don’t read it.

Rating: 1 out of 6
Audiobook Luke impression: 4 out of 5

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Battlefront By Alexander Freed

This book isn’t out until November. It also takes place between IV and V. It is a tie-in with a video game so it’s probably gonna be terrible. The game looks pretty sweet though!

Rating: N/A, but let’s say 2 our of 5

Aftermath By Chuck Wendig

Arguably the most hotly anticipated of the new canon novels, filling in the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. It doesn’t drop until Sept 4th and will be a trilogy. Sounds amazing. WHAT COULD GO WRONG?

Rating: N/A, but let’s say 5 out of 5 and then be horribly disappointed?

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Yo dawg, that’s it! That’s all you need to read to say you’ve read ALL the Star Wars books. Some nerd has been reading these books since the 70s and none of them matter any more. You’re now a Star Wars super expert and will get all the girls, congrats!

NONFICTION_PICKS_BYT

Out at Home By Glenn Burke with Erik Sherman

Did you know Burke was the first openly gay baseball player? He came out shortly after his time in the Big Show. After a few too short seasons with the Dodgers and A’s in the late 70’s, Burke was essentially blackballed by manager Billy Martin during the 1980 Spring Training when Martin said, “No faggot’s ever going to ever play on my ball club.”

Major League Baseball has taken some steps to remedy its past. Last year Burke was recognized as a gay pioneer at the 2014 All Star Game. The gesture is good but far too late. Burke passed away from AIDS-related complications in 1995, the year this book was originally published.

This new edition features a foreword by another openly gay baseball player Billy Bean (if you haven’t read Bean’s book Going the Other Way, I recommend it). Bean had similar experiences as Burke. It’s summer, it’s baseball season and gay marriage is now just marriage. It’s interesting to read this book in 2015. Hopefully things are better for the current crop of closeted ball players.

It should be noted this isn’t a wow-is-me diatribe about what could have been. Burke is a confident writer who isn’t afraid of any four letter words. He may have been victimized but he’s not a victim. -Brandon Wetherbee

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Severed: A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found By Frances Larson

Severed may be one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read. Not because it’s super groundbreaking. It’s not necessarily going to change the way you go about life, although you probably will think about disembodied heads more often than you ever did before. Nope, it’s 100% because Frances Larson is so filled to the brim with sarcasm that it oozes out of every sentence. Severed is the kind of book that makes you want to stop every couple of minutes and read aloud to whoever is in the room. It’s that good. Just read this:

“People think that large, raucous crowds at executions belong to a distant era in our past, and so they do, but the more I have read about the history of executions, the more I think that the gradual concealment of executions from the public eye over the last two hundred years—and even, to some extent, the demise of torture as a method of punishment—has had less to do with popular opinion and more to do with the preoccupations of polite society.”

Larson absolutely destroys any notion that today’s society is above our fascination with death and the dead. Again and again she examines not only our past obsession with disembodied heads, but our current obsessions as well. More than that, she does an amazing job at highlighting the problematic ways museums and museum visitors interact with and display skulls. Actually, I take back what I said about this book not being groundbreaking, because it is. It explores the area between being a human and being a literal object of possession and it does a damn fine job. -Kayee Dugan

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Modern Romance By Aziz Ansari

I thought Modern Romance would kind of be a book-length transcription of a super-long classic Aziz stand-up bit on dating, but it’s way more factual and scientific than expected. It’s an in-depth exploration of love and dating in the digital age, speckled with Aziz’s classic commentary on actual research. The only difficulty with this read is ridding myself of my internal Tom Haverford voice for long enough to process any of the information inside.

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