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Summer books 2024

2024 has been a phenomenal year for books so far. Here’s our reading list for the summer.

Images courtesy of Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster and Hogarth

Five books you should read this summer — plus a few for extra credit

It is truly a year of phenomenal books, Nerdette’s Greta Johnsen says. Here are the ones you should take to the beach with you.

So many phenomenal books have already come out this year. Some of the standouts include Kaveh Akbar’s Martyr!, Marie-Helene Bertino’s Beautyland, and Percival Everett’s James, a phenomenal retelling of Huck Finn that redefines classic American literature as we know it.

This is also one of those magical years where the stars align and three of my favorite mystery writers all have books out: Tana French’s The Hunter is one of her best yet, and I can’t wait to read Louisa Luna’s Tell Me Who You Are. Michael Bennett also gives us Return to Blood, the next installment of his Hana Westerman series.

2024 also boasts lots of highly anticipated second novels from authors with standout debuts: Mateo Askaripour’s This Great Hemisphere looks enticing, and Claire Lombardo’s Same As It Ever Was has gotten great reviews.

Some very well-loved authors are back this summer, too — Robin Sloan has Moonbound, and Rainbow Rowell’s Slow Dance is just as tender and earnest as you would want it to be. Kevin Kwan one-ups his Crazy Rich Asians series with Lies and Weddings, a luxuriously frothy book about secretly poor billionaires with love problems.

And for the short story lovers out there, Ananda Lima’s Craft: Short Stories I Wrote for the Devil should win a prize for best title.

That said, here are my five favorite summer books so far.

The Ministry of Time

The Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley

Courtesy of Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster

The Ministry of Time, Kaliane Bradley
I thought this was the perfect sci fi book. Yes, it’s got some mild time travel, but you don’t have to wrap your head into knots to figure out what’s happening. Yes, there’s a hot dude from the past. Yes, things will go terribly wrong in unanticipated ways. Bonus: The book explores a number of really fascinating bigger themes, like the inextricability of colonialism and exploration, and the audacity of existing at all. This one is a real pleasure.

Oye, Melissa Mogollon

This is one of the voice-iest novels I’ve read in a long time, and that’s partly because the entire thing is told as a series of one-sided phone conversations between Luciana, a high school senior in Florida, and her older sister who “abandoned” the family for college in Washington, D.C. This book is about growing up before you should have to, reckoning with generational trauma and embracing life in all its fullness even when it lets you down. It’s bright and funny and fantastic.

Margo’s Got Money Troubles, Rufi Thorpe (6/11)

I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH. It’s about a young college student whose college professor impregnates her and who decides to take financial matters into her own hands with an OnlyFans account. It’s also about art and tenacity and kindness, and it’s got one of the most exquisitely weird and sweetest cast of characters I’ve read in a long time. (And if you, like Kiley Reid mentioned in our January book club interview, are constantly dying for people to give you numbers, this book is deeeefinitely for you.)

Bear

Bear by Julia Phillips

Courtesy of Hogarth

Bear, Julia Phillips (6/25)

I am usually a Plot Person. I love soapy, frothy books where beautiful people do unhinged things. This book isn’t that, but it also isn’t not that. Two sisters, stifled by the conditions of their lives and directionless about how to change their circumstances, are visited by a large bear. Each reacts to the wild wanderer very differently. The story takes place on an isolated island off the coast of Washington, and it is so beautifully, deeply rooted in the mosses and trees there. This book is so many things, but at its core, it’s about ambition and honesty and reconciling expectations with reality.

The Most, Jessica Anthony (7/30)

All I want to say is that this book is about a housewife in the 1950s who won’t get out of her decrepit apartment complex’s pool on an unseasonably warm fall day. I hope that’s enough to entice you. Because it definitely got me.

***

Greta Johnsen hosts and produces WBEZ’s Nerdette podcast.

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