News & Politics

10 Recommendations for Good Summer Reads

Washingtonians recommend globe-hopping novels, a Texas saga, the true story of a family farm, new Stephen King, and more.

Susan Richards Shreve, George Mason University
creative-writing professor whose novels include last year’s You Are
the Love of My Life,
suggests Cinnamon and Gunpowder by
Eli Brown—“a wild adventure and epicurean love story with
pirates at sea, a kidnapped chef, and a company of strange crew.” Shreve
calls it “a delightful, touching read.”

Tania James, author most recently of the story
collection Aerogrammes, likes Nicola Keegan’s
Swimming: “It’s a debut novel that shoots from small-town Kansas
to Seoul, tracing the dizzying rise of an Olympic swimmer named Pip. The
voice is exuberant, glowing with wit, and unlike anything I’ve read.”

Ron Charles, Washington Post fiction
editor, admires Anthony Marra’s first novel, A
Constellation of Vital Phenomena
“The most moving book I’ve read in
years. By writing so beautifully about a tiny village in Chechnya, this
28-year-old Washington native has produced a timeless tragedy about the
victims of war.”

Chloë Schama—the New Republic’s story
editor and the author of the nonfiction book Wild Romance: A Victorian
Story of a Marriage, a Trial, and a Self-Made Woman
—says “the best
bits of your feminist literary-theory classes come to life” in The
Woman Upstairs
Claire Messud’s novel about a
teacher who becomes absorbed by the lives of a pupil’s family. “The main
character is a force—one of the most convincing female characters to
appear recently in fiction—and the plot is propulsive.”

Allan Fallow, book editor at AARP Media, finds
Stephen King’s new “ghost story, murder mystery, and
coming-of-age tale,” Joyland, irresistible: “Settle into the sand
with this page-turner about Devin Jones, an apprentice carny barker at an
amusement park in a North Carolina beach town. The Doors soundtrack and
Winston smokers make the novel a gritty but satisfying valentine to

Eileen McGervey, owner of Arlington’s One More
Page Books, says that in Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers’ Markets,
Local Food, and Saving the Family Farm
“shares his warm—and very funny—efforts to save his
family’s seventh-generation farm in the Shenandoah Valley.” The book
“reminds us of the importance of the family farm and how it ties into our
local food supply.”

Dinaw Mengestu—Georgetown writing teacher,
MacArthur “genius grant” winner, and author of The Beautiful Things
That Heaven Bears
and How to Read the Air—recommends
Philipp Meyer’s novel The Son, set in Texas from
the mid-19th century onward: “It’s a massive, epic narrative across
generations that’s both gripping and beautifully written.”

Vaddey Ratner, Potomac author of In the
Shadow of the Banyan,
counts Catherine Chung’s
Forgotten Country among her recent favorite novels. The book
“takes us from America to Korea, in an elegiac yet piercing exploration of
the borderless and undemarcated landscapes of a family’s love, loss, and

Dan Kois, editor of the Slate Book Review,
says he’s pushing Hugh Howey’s Wool—a novel set
in a postapocalyptic society living deep underground—on everyone he knows:
“This self-published Kindle bestseller turned sci-fi paperback from Simon
& Schuster is a great beach read: exciting, surprising, and just
shallow enough that you don’t feel guilty about putting it down to go

Arlington’s Bethanne Patrick, author of An
Uncommon History of Common Courtesy,
got a look at a book due in
August: Marisha Pessl’s Night Film, “a smart
literary thriller about artistic obsession—utterly absorbing, the kind of
book that’ll carry you through a summer afternoon regardless of sun or

This article appears in the July 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.