Plenty of books will vie for your attention this summer, some by fledgling writers and others from established favorites. But for our money, these are the best and brightest new titles. To read the complete guide, including staff picks, the top 10 authors and classics to revive, and the best new writers on the rise, pick up a copy of Venus Zine's summer issue, on newsstands now.
A female take on high-stakes gambling? Sign us up. Raymer's Lay the Favorite details the author's real-life rise to fame in a world typically dominated by the guys. She chronicles her struggle to stay on top as her partners drop like flies, each succumbing to the vices of their risky lifestyle-drugs, women-and gambling it all away. Raymer tells her tale naturally, with a funny and refreshing sense of self-awareness. If you want to live vicariously through someone whose life is a little more exciting (and perhaps more dangerous) than your own, Raymer is the person to pick.
By Aimee Bender (June 1, Doubleday)
If you're looking for a thoughtful and eloquent summer companion, you could do worse than Rose Edelstein, the nine-year-old protagonist of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. Seasoned storyteller Bender develops a striking premise: Rose can taste chefs' emotions through their foods, starting with her mother's lemon-chocolate cake. Rose's cheerful and loving mom, it turns out, is deeply unsatisfied with her life. The tale examines what people reveal and what they hide, showing us what might happen if we knew the most closely guarded secrets of strangers and loved ones. Like her story collection, The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, Lemon Cake showcases Bender's easy and beautiful use of language, and ability to give her characters charming, distinctive voices.
By Bret Easton Ellis (June 15, Knopf)
Cult-favorite Ellis returns with Imperial Bedrooms, a follow-up to his revered 1985 debut, Less Than Zero. This time, we meet the original story's bored, rich, and morally compromised characters 25 years later, and the self-destructive teenagers have grown into even more self-destructive adults. Reading Ellis is a thrilling and strangely voyeuristic experience (see American Psycho, The Rules of Attraction). You feel like you're seeing into parts of people's lives that you should never see-but you can't look away.
If short essays are more your speed, check out Crosley's second book, How Did You Get This Number. As with her first collection, I Was Told There'd Be Cake, she fills the book with astute, witty, and often outrageous vignettes taken from her life. (Some have aptly likened Crosely to David Sedaris, our generation's favorite sarcastic first-person essayist.) These stories find the author, who works as a publicist for Random House, in a number of unusual misadventures all over the world. She sheds a kleptomaniac roommate in Manhattan, befriends an amateur circus clown in Lisbon, Portugal, and somehow manages to get herself forcibly removed from the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The common thread holding Crosley's work together is her die-hard city dweller sensibility. She is first and foremost a New Yorker, even when she finds herself in decidedly un-cosmopolitan circumstances. Overall, the book is episodic, but Crosley's consistently sharp sense of humor will keep you reading.
By Vendela Vida (June 22, Ecco)
Many know Vida as Dave Eggers' wife (the two co-wrote the film Away We Go), but she's also a brilliant and engaging novelist. Case in point: The Lovers. Like Vida's first two books (And Now You Can Go, Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name), the novel is told through a relatable and riveting female protagonist. Here, we follow the introspective Yvonne, a recent widow struggling to overcome heartbreak, on a visit to Turkey, where she spent her honeymoon. If Vida's beautiful prose stirs up tears, they're well-earned. Keep the Kleenex nearby.
By Allegra Goodman (July 6, The Dial Press)
If you're hesitant to pick up your dog-eared copy of Emma yet again, try The Cookbook Collector, a new love story from Goodman. Best known for her witty, well-realized portraits of Jewish families in The Family Markowitz and Kaaterskill Falls, Goodman is often compared to Austen for her complex social comedies. This tale of two sisters-one is a wealthy CEO of a Silicon Valley startup, the other is a happy part-time employee at a used bookstore-certainly fits the bill. While older sister Emily's high-powered career and long-distance relationship comes into conflict, the younger Jess begins to find her boss surprisingly alluring. While there's no Mr. Darcy, you'll find plenty to love about this beach-perfect modern romance.
By Gary Shteyngart (July 27, Random House)
Quirky, hilarious, and whip-smart author Shteyngart's satirical voice is already at work in the title of the dystopian Super Sad True Love Story. If you've read The Russian Debutante's Handbook, you already know Shteyngart's fondness for inserting humor into even the most disturbing scenarios, and this book is no exception. Set in a meticulously detailed future where the economic recession gives way to corporate conglomerate universities like Tingshua-Colombia (where students learn by live-streaming images as books are things of the past), this epic positions itself as a sort of successor to 1984. But Shteyngart creates his universe with more humor, depth, and humanity than Orwell ever allowed. If you're looking for something smart and funny to help you laugh-and cringe-your way through the recession, this is it.
By Rick Moody (July 28, Little Brown)
If one book isn't enough (or if you enjoyed the film Adaptation), Moody's The Four Fingers of Death is for you. It's a novel-within-a-novel. Well, to be fair, it's actually a novelization-of-a-movie-remake-within-a-novel. Moody, author of The Ice Storm and Garden State, gives us protagonist Montese Crandall, a writer tasked with turning the 2525 remake of 1963 cult-horror classic The Crawling Hand into a book. Moody's novel bounces with zeal between Crandall's world and the one he's writing. While the protagonist's wife is slowly dying of a terminal illness, he takes his worries out on the characters of his novel by giving them serious problems of their own. There are machete-wielding Martian colonists, drug-addicted astronauts, Mexican wrestlers, and a reanimated human arm that crash-lands from space (and may or may not be bent on destroying humanity). Still with us? Moody's book reads like a giddy, frenetically paced homage to B-movie cheesiness, which, let's be honest, is always kind of fun.
9. The Return
By Roberto Bolaño (July 29, New Directions)
The Return, translated from original Spanish, is a rare and precious collection of short stories. Bolaño is a Chilean-Mexican novelist best known for 2666, the 898-page epic he finished shortly before his death in 2003. In this posthumous release, translator Chris Andrews brings together many of Bolaño's remaining uncollected tales, most of which have never been published in English. Bolaño's work is frequently compared to master storyteller Jorge Luis Borges, and it's easy to see why. Bolaño doesn't tell short stories because he doesn't have enough words to fill a novel-he writes them because he has an effortless talent for the form, carefully staging each with intricate details. The Return transports you on as many tiny, immersive vacations as there are stories in the book.
By John Park (Sept 14, Da Capo Press)
If you're interested in learning where some of your favorite seasonal snacks come from-barbequed corn, potato chips, or watermelon-dive into Park's The Last Farmer. The book chronicles a group of small farmers who, in the late 1990s, found themselves at the receiving end of a lawsuit brought against them by the Monsanto Company, a biotech firm that manufactures agricultural products. For years, Monsanto has engaged in all kinds of dubious practices, most recently touched upon in the documentary Food, Inc.. Reportedly, the organization was behind the development of the incredibly dangerous and unreliable chemical weapon known as Agent Orange. In one of its many patent infringement lawsuits, Monsanto sued small farm owner Michael White for allegedly using black market seeds they had developed. Instead of folding, White fought the lawsuit with everything he had, and the result was a famous David vs. Goliath-type case that changed the future of farming. Park's obvious passion for these true-life events comes through, and The Last Farmer is a pleasurable and eye-opening way to finish the summer.
Source: Venus Zine