News & Politics

Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List

Our book critic, John Wilwol, asked Washington literary folks for beach-read recommendations. As Roy Scheider’s character in "Jaws" might say—you’re gonna need a bigger tote.

Photograph by Jim Arbogast/Getty Images.

Ron Charles, Washington Post fiction editor, says Maggie Shipstead’s

Seating Arrangements
has “all the right ingredients for summer beach reading, starting with a beach in the summer.” Set on a New England island as a family prepares for a wedding, the novel is “a smart and silly romantic comedy rolled into a delicious satire of the Lilly Pulitzer set.”

Dan Kois, editor of the Slate Book Review, likes John Lanchester’s new novel,
“It’s funny and modern and thoughtful without getting heavy. And its short chapters, each focusing on a different character, are the perfect length for the beach. Read one, make sure the kids aren’t drowning; read another, make sure the kids aren’t drowning; repeat.”

Maureen Corrigan, book critic for NPR’s Fresh Air and critic-in-residence at Georgetown, recommends Michael Sims’s

The Story of Charlotte’s Web
: “It’s an atmospheric biography of E.B. White, the New York literary world of the 1930s and ’40s, and White’s busy but bucolic life on his Maine farm, where one fateful day he spied a spider web in his barn.”

Mark Athitakis, who runs the blog American Fiction Notes, likes Jess Walter’s

Beautiful Ruins,
“a madcap novel that travels from ’60s Italy to present-day Hollywood, filled with quirky moviemakers and ne’er-do-wells. Walter is one of the funniest novelists today and one of the smartest—he’s tucked a sharp meditation on art and fate between punch lines.”

Lissa Muscatine, co-owner of DC’s Politics and Prose bookstore, selects one of the year’s most poignant memoirs, Cheryl Strayed’s

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
, about the author’s solo hike from the Mojave Desert to Washington state in the wake of her broken marriage and her mother’s death.

Thomas Mallon, author of Watergate: A Novel and director of George Washington University’s creative-writing program, calls Jim Lynch’s

Truth Like the Sun
“a terrific two-track novel that alternates between—and unites—the story of Seattle in 1962, just as the Space Needle is reaching the sky, and the city’s post-dot-com gloom in 2001. The book is beautifully plotted, textured, and paced.”

Alan Cheuse—George Mason writing professor, book critic for All Things Considered, and author most recently of the novella collection Paradise, or, Eat Your Face—points to three good thrillers: “The Renegades
by Tom Young, an engrossing novel about an incident from the war in Afghanistan; Vlad by Carlos Fuentes, featuring a world-class vampire who arrives to take over Mexico City; and Mission to Paris, the new novel from Alan Furst, the best historical spy writer alive.”

Bethanne Patrick, Arlington-based executive editor of Book Riot and author of An Uncommon History of Common Courtesy, suggests Lydia Netzer’s first novel,
Shine Shine Shine
, about a woman, her NASA-engineer husband, and their autistic son: “Netzer’s voice is out of this world—weird yet comforting, fresh yet completely assured, and smart but never condescending. It’s a family romance that may just make your own family vacation more bearable.”

This article appears in the August 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.