Reading: it’s the best way to enjoy your self-isolation. As the weeks roll by and Napa eases into summer weather, let’s turn our focus to books that help us keep our minds off things and help the time pass a little more quickly.
Summer reading is usually equated with beach reading, but these books can be enjoyed anywhere: on a blanket in the Oxbow Commons, on the amphitheater steps of Veterans Memorial Park, on your deck chair, in your living room with the windows thrown wide open. I always recommend books as the best form of escapism; let these reads take you far, far away from here.
Historical fiction is always a popular genre, and “Shadowplay” by Joseph O’Connor (June 16) features a familiar cast of characters from the late Victorian era. Bram Stoker is hired as Henry Irving’s assistant to manage his new West End theater, and develops a close relationship with its leading lady, Ellen Terry. But the specter of Jack the Ripper haunts the streets of London, and the dark dread of the day inspires what would become Stoker’s masterpiece: Dracula.
Mysteries and thrillers, even in these troubled times, are still selling like hotcakes. I guess there’s nothing like reading about someone else’s problems to make you forget your own! In “The Last Flight” by Julie Clark (June 23), two women desperate to flee their lives decide to switch places on each other’s plane flights. When one of the planes goes down, Claire assumes Eva’s identity, landing her in a whole new world of trouble...
An upscale wedding on a remote island provides the perfect backdrop for a locked-room thriller in “The Guest List” by Lucy Foley (June 2). Things start to gradually unravel until finally someone ends up dead, and everyone there has secrets they don’t want to reveal.
This author is a great next read for fans of Ruth Ware. You might also like “The Stone Girl” by Dirk Wittenborn (June 16). A small town in the Adirondacks hosts a criminal secret society, The Lost Boys, men who take advantage of wealthy women as a way to gain wealth and power for themselves. Evie grew up in that town but hasn’t been back in years, until a stranger claiming to be an old friend of her mother’s brings her back home in the pursuit of vengeance.
“A Burning” by Megha Majumdar (June 2) is a different kind of thriller, but propulsive nonetheless. Jivan is a Muslim girl accused of a terrorist attack on a trai. PT Sir has been lured into a right-wing political party, and as Jivan descends his own star rises. Lovely holds Jivan’s alibi, but revealing it would put herself in danger. This is a literary novel about many timely, controversial topics, coupled with the breathtaking pace of a commercial thriller.
For those readers who would instead like a book that makes them laugh, Kevin Kwan (author of “Crazy Rich Asians”) is back with “Sex and Vanity” (June 30). If you enjoyed that delicious glimpse into the lives of the ultra-rich, you’re going to love Kwan’s newest novel. Lucie hates that she’s attracted to George and does everything she can to forget about him and keep him out of her life, but even a fancy Fifth Avenue apartment and a new fiance can’t distract her from George’s charms. Set among the summer playgrounds of the East Coast wealthy, “Sex and Vanity” will give have you gawking, giggling, and gasping at each delicious twist.
If your comedy tastes run to the dark side, “Sad Janet” by Lucie Britsch (June 16) is sure to satisfy. Janet has thus far resisted her family’s attempts to medicate away her gloomy depression; she’s perfectly fine with her crappy boyfriend and job at the anarchist dog shelter. But when things start looking even grimmer, and there suddenly becomes available a pill guaranteed to make you happy for a short period of time, Janet decides to take the plunge. What follows, she could never have expected.
Rutger Bregman became instantly famous when Tucker Carlson, who had invited Rutger onto his show, cut him off angrily in the middle of his interview. In “Humankind: A Hopeful History” (June 2), Bregman argues that humans are not as bad as we’re cracked up to be, and are in fact hardwired for kindness and trust. He points to several historical and real life examples of people stepping up for each other, and argues that if we start from a point of assuming that people are inherently good, it will completely alter the shape of our society. At this point in time, when we’re all depending on each other to wear masks to keep each other safe, I cannot think of a more hopeful, positive outlook than Bregman’s.
Elayna Trucker is buyer at Napa Bookmine. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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