WHETHER it takes the form of falling asleep in a hammock with your page saved against your chest, reading with booze and a silent partner at an outdoor table or on the beach, or just lying on the living room floor with an open book edged under your elbows and a fan directed right at your face, reading for fun is one of summer's greatest pleasures. If you're looking for the perfect book to take on vacation or just out to your porch, here's where to start:
Beyond the Pale Motel
by Francesca Lia Block
(St. Martin's Press)
If you're a YA junkie: Calling all fans of Veronica Roth, Suzanne Collins, John Green, and their ilk: Despite what Jonathan Franzen may say, there's no shame in loving books arbitrarily placed on the "Young Adult" shelf. Already on my YA summer reading list? Beyond the Pale Motel, the latest from YA fairy princess Francesca Lia Block. Motel was released in September, but you'll want to read it now, because it finds Block taking on addiction and crime in her signature, almost Lynchian LA. Full of sex, death, and magical ladies, it's best visited on a shimmery summer afternoon.
The New and Improved Romie Futch
by Julia Elliott
If you're in the market for a summer epic: How about the freewheeling tale of a South Carolinian taxidermist whose daily drunken internet routine is interrupted when pretentious humanities-based knowledge is downloaded into his brain as part of a research experiment? And also there's a Moby-Dick-like quest for a giant boar? Because that's what happens in the latest from award-winning fiction writer Julia Elliott (and local publisher Tin House), The New and Improved Romie Futch. If you're looking for a summer antihero, you can't do much better—or weirder—than Romie Futch.
Lucky Alan: and Other Stories
by Jonathan Lethem
If your other summer read is a comic book: Amid a surplus of literary Jonathans, Lethem may be the most interesting. Dude's written 20 books in 20 years, and eschews the lifeless Carver-lite literary realism that's so hot right now for clean prose that isn't cold, plus superheroes and sci-fi conceits. His latest short-story collection, Lucky Alan, promises to be Lethem in ideal beach-read form, with short, strange stories that mildly satirize everything from too-precious writers ("The King of Sentences") to panicky visits to SeaWorld ("Pending Vegan").
Visiting Hours: A Memoir of Friendship and Murder
by Amy Butcher
(Blue Rider Press)
If you have an obsession with true crime: Here's your literary equivalent of falling down a morbid Wikipedia hole—Amy Butcher's new book Visiting Hours: A Memoir of Friendship and Murder, which is about being best friends with a convicted murderer, and follows the years after Butcher's college buddy was found guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend. Visiting Hours is a strange, occasionally frustrating look into what it's like to know a violent criminal, and unlike an endless glut of horrifying online factoids, you can read it outside.
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