What to Read This Summer, Based on Where You Wish You Could Travel
From the Mexican countryside to an alternate present NYC.
Published May 28, 2020 12:00 AM
You’ll always have books. This is a constant comfort—that even if you might not be able to take that big trip you were looking forward to, or revisit the beach you always loved to visit as a child, you can still escape virtually anywhere you can imagine through the pages of a good novel. And this summer, there are plenty of compelling stories to dive into.
Whether you’re craving a full-throttle romance, or you’d rather take comfort in the distraction of a blood-rushing thriller, you can take the trip you’ve been craving from the comfort of your favorite armchair, your picnic blanket, or your bed. Your journey awaits.
If You Want to Trek Someplace Far Away
You’re ready to treat totally new waters and hopefully, in turn, discover something new about yourself. Simply put: you’re due for some adventure.
The Lightness by Emily Temple
Elevator pitch: Searching for her father who left home, a teenager finds herself enrolling in “Buddhist Boot Camp for Bad Girls.” The gist: This fever dream of a novel shows how far a group of young women will go to achieve their ultimate goal—to, quite literally, levitate. But the things they must sacrifice to achieve this kind of enlightenment aren’t quite clear.
Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh
Elevator pitch: A woman finds a note describing a murder. There is no body. The gist: Following the Hitchcockian style of her earlier novel, Eileen, this new novel unravels as a woman gets deeply invested in a crime that she might not actually have the tools to solve.
Luster by Raven Leilani
Elevator pitch: A 20-something artist who hasn’t quite found her footing meets a man with an open marriage. The gist: A funny and dynamic debut, this novel brings its protagonist to an unexpected place—the home of her lover, by the invitation of his wife. She explores her own passions and wants while treading admittedly murky open waters.
If You Want to Revisit Your Favorite Childhood Spot
When you revisit a place that once felt like home, all sorts of things can bubble up—nostalgia, as well as shifted perspectives about who you are and where you come from. These family-centric stories will give you just what you’re looking for.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Elevator pitch: Two twin sisters share a childhood—but as adults they live completely different lives. The gist: Spanning about 40 years, this story of family connections is complex and compelling: as adults, one sister lives with her family in the deep south, and the other has moved on to California, where she passes for white and goes through her world with her identity as secret. The twins may have parted, but their lives are destined to reconnect.
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
Elevator pitch: A story of loss and mystery told backward in time. The gist: From the author of Freshwater, this novel examines the complexity of loss when you didn’t fully know—or accept—the person who was taken from you. Drawing inspiration from Toni Morrison’s Love, Emezi unfolds her story to one dazzling finish.
A House Is a Body by Shruti Swamy
Elevator pitch: A collection of short stories about unexpected relationships and family connections. The gist: With fantastical imagery and deeply explored emotions, these tales explore love and connection across cultures and connections, from a sister discovering her estranged brother at the train station, to an artist befriending the god Krishna.
If You Want to Go Somewhere Familiar, Yet Exciting
So often, we forget about the places that aren’t so far from our front door, but still offer something different from our day-to-day lives. These books, which explore situations both realistic and not, are all rooted in relatability.
Want by Lynn Steger Strong
Elevator pitch: A middle-class family filing for bankruptcy contends with burnout. The gist: The protagonist of this novel is aware of her privilege—she has a loving family, a PhD, and calls New York City home—but unexpected debt makes her reconsider how easy it is for anyone to come down on their luck, thanks to a system that puts failure not far out of reach.
Talking Animals by Joni Murphy
Elevator pitch: In an alternate-present New York City, animals rule the world—but they still have to deal with our modern-day problems. The gist: Perfect for fans of Bojack Horseman, this is a tongue-in-cheek allegory about climate change, the daily grind, and prejudice. But a sprinkling of animal humor makes it extra-compelling and delightfully wacky, without losing its important messages.
Self Care by Leigh Stein
Elevator pitch: A juicy deep dive into the inner lives of the people on your social media feed who extol the values of capital-W Wellness. The gist: The “self care” that Stein is most concerned with it the kind that’s translated into pricey yoga retreats, juice cleanses, and the like—not quite things as simple as getting enough sleep and eating healthy food. The characters here are delightfully full of contradictions.
If You Want to Have a Totally Unplugged Staycation
When you want to totally forget the world around you, a splash of romance and a heavy-handed drizzle of drama make the perfect cocktail. You can find your preferred concoction amongst these new titles.
Beach Read by Emily Henry
Elevator pitch: Two authors with very different styles challenge each other to take on the other’s craft. What could happen? The gist: When polar opposites attract, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get plenty of swoon-worthy scenes. The quirky set-up of this romance shows the power of looking at the world from someone else’s point-of-view.
Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan
Elevator pitch: The author behind Crazy Rich Asians is back with a story of a well-to-do woman torn between two love interests. The gist: Like his previous novels, Kwan’s latest explores the world of the ultra-privileged, while also picking apart cultural divides: The protagonist in this book is the daughter of a Chinese-American mother and a white father, who finds herself reconsidering her own roots.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Elevator pitch: A glamorous debutante heads to an isolated manor to save her newly wed cousin from uncertain danger. The gist: Drawing together both Mexican folklore and classic tropes of classic thrillers (it doesn’t get any more gothic than a big, creepy manor), this novel makes the perfect indulgence for horror fans.
It’s hammer time: Follow @reno_notebook for easy rental updates, clever DIYs, and tips to nail your next project.