Pick up The Angel’s Game (Doubleday, $27, amazon.com), a long, sweeping novel that explores themes of art and money and good and evil against a lush backdrop of 1920s Barcelona.
2 of 19Josephine Schiele
If You Want a Page-Turner
Spend a few afternoons with Lisbeth Salander, the edgy heroine of The Girl Who Played With Fire (Knopf, $26, amazon.com), a superior follow-up to Stieg Larsson’s 2008 hit, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
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If You’re Dipping in and out of the Pool
Slip in and out of the funny, poignant―and short―essays by 23 writers in Love Is a Four-Letter Word (Plume Paperback, $16, amazon.com). Given the subtitle, it’s surprising the book is not a whole lot longer.
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If You Enjoy a Mystery
You’ll be absorbed by the real-life sleuthing in Perfection (Hyperion/Voice, $24, amazon.com), a riveting memoir about a widow who discovers that her late husband lived a deceptive double life.
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If a Family Reunion Is in Your Near Future
Get primed with April & Oliver (Grand Central, $24, amazon.com), an emotional drama about sibling relationships old and new.
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If Out-of-School Kids Are Killing You
Take solace in Bad Mother (Doubleday, $25, amazon.com), a wry, rueful dissection of modern parenting, which makes it encouragingly clear that there’s no “right” way to raise a child.
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If You Want to Be Inspired
Follow a former magazine editor to India, where she is transformed while learning a language, in the thought-provoking memoir Dreaming in Hindi (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26, amazon.com).
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If You’re Feeling Nostalgic
The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder (Harper, $26, amazon.com) will remind you of your first love and the power of friendship. As the saying goes, “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry.” But, really, you will.
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If You Can’t Get Away Just Yet
Take a vicarious vacation with The Scenic Route (Ecco Paperback/Harper Perennial, $14, amazon.com), a relatively short but deep novel about a deliciously unconventional heroine who finds love on the kind of European road trip most of us only dream about.
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If You Need Some Magic in Your Life
(And these days, who doesn’t?) Lose yourself in The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (Hyperion/Voice, $26, amazon.com), about a young academic who gets drawn into her family’s dark, witchy past.
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If a Family or Class Reunion Is in Your Future
Be aware that sparks might fly. Best Intentions (Atria, $25, amazon.com) examines with wit and seriousness what can happen when old passions and new lives collide.
12 of 19 Courtesy of Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
If You Love Alexander McCall Smith and Jane Austen
Read the book that could be their love child: The Marriage Bureau for Rich People (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, $25, amazon.com).
13 of 19 Courtesy of City Lights paperback
If You're Having On-Line Withdrawal
Take a peek at The Peep Diaries (City Lights paperback, $18, amazon.com), an erudite (but not too erudite) look at the culture that Facebook, Twitter, et al. have spawned.
14 of 19Courtesy of Random House
If You Think Life Is Oh-so-Boring
Consider the novel version, Home Safe (Random House, $25, amazon.com), the story of a woman who thought she had it all figured out until…
15 of 19Courtesy of Penguin
If You Never Outgrew Your Love of Picture Books
Check out The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet (Penguin, $28, amazon.com), an illustrated, note-laden, magical, realism-strewn novel about the cross-country journey of a 12-year-old mapmaking prodigy. Yep, you read that right.
16 of 19 Courtesy of Little, Brown
If You Wish You Had Taken One More Women’s-History Course
Try the fictional version of life in Salem around the time of the witch trials: The Heretic’s Daughter (Little, Brown, $25, amazon.com), a hit last year.
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These classics―old and new―will keep you glued to your beach towel all day.
A seemingly simple guy, Harry S Truman turned out to be an intriguing president. David McCullough’s Pulitzer–winning biography is a warm, satisfying read for a time when fascination with the First Family is in fashion. (Simon & Schuster, $22, amazon.com.)
Jonathan Franzen’s tragicomic epic garnered praise and controversy when it was published in 2001. Eight years later, it still stands as a very relatable story of family and forgiveness. (Picador, $16, amazon.com.)
Tolstoy? On the beach? You bet. Surprisingly easy to read, this juicy tale covers culture, art, and, oh, yeah, love, passion, and adultery. And, at phone-book length, it will see you through many a lazy summer afternoon. (Penguin Classics, $17, amazon.com.)
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Get It in Paperback
Missed them previously? Now that they’re cheaper and more portable, these great reads may be more compelling than ever.
This haunting novel by Hillary Jordan about love and murder in the Jim Crow South won the Bellwether Prize for fiction, an award for social responsibility in writing founded and funded by Barbara Kingsolver (Algonquin, $14, amazon.com).
Elizabeth Strout nabbed the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for this hugely popular ensemble of linked stories about a New England woman for whom the word backbone was invented (Random House, $14, amazon.com).
The Story of Forgetting
Stefan Merrill Block writes an emotional tale of an old man and a teenage boy who are united by their obsession with a fantastical place (Random House, $14, amazon.com).
The White Tiger
Think Slumdog Millionaire meets Life of Pi. Aravind Adiga’s slightly subversive view of the Indian working class won the Man Booker prize (Free Press, $14, amazon.com).
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Don’t let Junot Díaz’s delightful story of a 300-plus-pound Dominican “lovesick ghetto nerd” pass you by (Riverhead, $14, amazon.com).
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On My Summer List
What’s top of the pile for readers who spend the season with their nose in a book?
Says Jennifer Rhemann, a scientist with the U.S. Antarctic Program, of Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, “I’ve been told it has a positive approach to our ecological problems and leaves you feeling more hopeful” (Harper Perennial, $14, amazon.com).
Big Russ & Me
“I feel it will help me to become a better father and son,” Marc Levine, who is returning for his 20th year of duty as a lifeguard at Virginia Beach, says of the Tim Russert memoir (Miramax, $14, amazon.com).
The Forgotten Garden
“I was spellbound by her first book, The House at Riverton, and this promises to be just as compelling,” says Vivien L. Jennings, founder and president of Rainy Day Books, in Fairway, Kansas, of Kate Morton’s novel set in pre–World War I London (Atria, $26, amazon.com).
Finger Lickin’ Fifteen
Olympic gymnast Chellsie Memmel, who will be traveling to camps and competitions, is looking forward to Janet Evanovich’s latest: “I can’t wait to see the trouble bounty hunter Stephanie Plum gets into this time!” (St. Martin’s Press, $28, amazon.com).