THE BEST BEACH READS
text by Darcy Bittner and Kathryn Brooks
Now that the triple-digits have begun, it’s perfectly acceptable to allow yourself some downtime. Whether you’re planning a getaway or just lounging at home, there’s no excuse for being without something good to read. As with our first article, The Best Beach Reads…so far, our summer book series continues. Whether you’re in the the mood for a romantic novel, a thrilling whodunnit or an exposé on the internet-age culture, here are ten additional options.
BUNNY: A NOVEL by Mona Awad
Fans of sinister girl gangs, take heart! Mona Awad’s scathing critique of the MFA-industrial complex takes place at a graduate writing program at a New England school that seems awfully similar to Brown University, the author’s own alma mater. In this dizzying tale of misandry, class anxiety and psycho-logical torment, Awad pits her outsider heroine Samantha against a clique of cooing rich girls who spend all their time together and call one another “Bunny.” When the Bunnies finally extend Samantha an invitation to their “Smut Salon,” she is drawn deeper and deeper into their mystical cult.
DEVOTION: A NOVEL by Madeline Stevens
Described as Sweetbitter meets The Perfect Nanny, this fraught psychological thriller does not disappoint. Slick and sexy, Madeline Stevens’s debut novel follows broke 26-year-old Ella Crawford as she accepts a job nannying for Lonnie, an Upper East Side wife and mother who is the same age as her. As Ella’s obsession with Lonnie grows, so does her resentment—just how far will Ella go to claim Lonnie’s life as her own? You’ll be racing to the last page to find out.
WORDSLUT: A FEMINIST GUIDE TO TAKING BACK THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE by Amanda Montell
Sometimes it seems like there’s no “right” way for a woman to talk. If we’re blunt or assertive, we’re called rude—but if we apologize, equivocate or use the word “like” more than once, we’re dismissed as frivolous and unprofessional. Fortunately, the feminist linguist and journalist Amanda Montell has a book for that. In Wordslut, the author takes readers on a dirty-sexy-funny romp through the history of language and offers insights on reclamation of fraught terms like “bitch” or “nasty woman.” If you, too, are ready to free the vocal fry, this title is unmissable.
FLEISHMAN IS IN TROUBLE by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
If 2019 is all about the female narrative, leave it to Taffy Brodesser-Akner to provide a counterweight. Fleishman is in Trouble follows the tribulations of Toby Fleishman, a recently separated father of two whose wife unexpectedly takes off one day, leaving Fleishman to care for their children by himself. In her debut novel, the author does the seemingly impossible, imbuing the classic tale of middle-aged male ennui with a sense of empathy for women.
THE SEVEN OR EIGHT DEATHS OF STELLA FORTUNA by Juliet Grames
If you’re going through author Elena Ferrante withdrawals, this is the book for you. A rich, sweeping tale of an Italian-American family and their long-buried secrets, Juliet Grames’ debut follows a probably-cursed Italian girl named Stella as she comes of age in 1920s Calabria, emigrates to America with her family in 1939 and turns her back on her once-beloved baby sister Tina. In the present day, an elderly Stella and Tina—as well as the younger generations of Fortunas—must reckon with the fallout from this enduring family feud.
PATSY: A NOVEL by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Three years after her stirring debut Here Comes the Sun put her on the map, Jamaican novelist Nicole Dennis-Benn is back with a searing new take on immigration and what it means to be a mother. Patsy will do anything to move to America and rejoin her long-lost love, Cicely—even leave her six-year-old daughter, Tru, in Jamaica. But when Patsy’s dreams of building a new life with Cicely are dashed, she must learn to survive on her own as an undocumented immigrant in New York City, and Tru must grow up with the knowledge of her mother’s choice. Passionate and urgent, Patsy explores what happens when a woman chooses herself over all else.
SEARCHING FOR SYLVIE LEE by Jean Kwok
When beautiful, brilliant Sylvie Lee vanishes while visiting her dying grandmother in the Netherlands, Sylvie’s younger sister Amy sets out to find her. As Amy retraces Sylvie’s last known steps, she stumbles upon a carefully-hidden web of family secrets. But Searching for Sylvie Lee is so much more than a globe-trotting suspense novel—it’s a moving portrait of the unintended consequences that stem from an immigrant family’s efforts to adapt, survive and provide their children with a better future.
DAISY JONES & THE SIX by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Written in the format of a documentary-style interview, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones & The Six offers a fresh, engaging take on that familiar mix of ’70s drugs and rock ’n’ roll. You’ll find yourself falling for these broken, yet talented people.
TRICK MIRROR: REFLECTIONS ON SELF-DELUSION by Jia Tolentino
For the hustlers and cynics of the 21st-century, Jezebel veteran Jia Tolentino’s incisive brand of societal criticism at The New Yorker is pretty much required reading. In Trick Mirror, the author tackles the “self-delusion” that forms the core of internet-age culture, taking readers on a mind-bending intellectual journey through scammer culture, Silicon Valley’s obsession with optimization and the hell that is social media. Read this if you want to laugh through your tears about the world we live in.
THE NICKEL BOYS by Colson Whitehead
If you thought Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Underground Railroad was a tour de force, wait until you get your hands on The Nickel Boys. In the depths of the Jim Crow South, two black boys—one a cynic and one an idealist—are sentenced to a segregated reform school where they are made to endure beatings and sexual abuse. As the two protagonists grow increasingly committed to their opposing world views, they are confronted with a decision, the consequences of which will reverberate for years to come.