The Philadelphia Inquirer: Big summer books for 2019

- The Philadelphia Inquirer

Big summer books for 2019 by Mark Haddon, Elizabeth Gilbert, Colson Whitehead, Tan France

Good books are friends you can take to the beach or the mountains, any coast, any continent. Faithful to the end, they can help beguile a lazy summertime. Below are some choice blossoms from summer’s crop of new reads.

Start filling your book bag. Summer fiction regales us with disappeared daughters, espionage in the Bahamas, magical drinking parties (hey, it’s summer), and robot dating. Nonfiction titles promise to enlighten and entertain with insects, punctuation, fashion, history, and man fasting (see below).

But first, an honorable mention, published in April. Walt Whitman just turned 200, and you’ve probably got that big copy of Leaves of Grass on the shelf … but if you want to know old Walt of Mickle Street in Camden, pick up Walt Whitman Speaks: His Final Thoughts on Life, Writing, Spirituality, and the Promise of America, as told to Horace Traubel, edited by Brenda Wineapple (Library of America).

This little book samples his rambling chats with friend Traubel in the last years of Whitman’s life. It’s uplifting, invigorating, full of American talk. And a great read any season.


New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African Descent, edited by Margaret Busby (Amistad, May). A sequel to the popular volume Daughters of Africa, this 1,000-page gathering of poems, essays, memoirs, and more is perfect for summer dipping.

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (Riverhead, June). She gets kicked out of Vassar and goes to live with an aunt in New York — and the theater world beckons. By the author of Eat Pray Love.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (Penguin, June). A gorgeous novel about a young man and the Vietnamese mother who raised him in America.

The Porpoise by Mark Haddon (Doubleday, June). New from the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Angelica survives a plane crash, and from there her story weaves past and present, suffering and Shakespeare, all caught in the network of human lives.

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok (William Morrow, June). The successful daughter of an immigrant family goes to see her grandmother — and disappears. Dark family secrets erupt.

Stalingrad by Vasily Grossman (NYRB Classics, June). His Life and Fate is a 20th-century War and Peace, set during the war years in Russia. But that, amazingly enough, was the sequel to this book, which is now in English for the first time. If you like a big, engrossing read for the summer, here it is.

The Unbreakables by Lisa Barr (Harper, June). Your glitzy marriage collapses. What do you do? Hop on a jet to France, that’s what, to rediscover everything that makes life fizzy and delectable. A glass of tart rosé for your summer reading banquet. Speaking of wine …

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Posted in News & Other Writings on Jun 6, 2019