Summer Book Preview

Summer Books Preview: This season's 35 hottest reads

The Yellow House (2019 book)

EW has done the (enjoyable) hard work of sifting through all the summer's literary offerings, and we've culled the following list of 35 titles we can definitively say are worth your (very precious) time.



City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert:

Gilbert's delicious new novel immerses readers in the bustle of '40s New York, where 19-year-old Vivian Morris lands after getting kicked out of college. She arrives in the city's theater scene and meets an endlessly entertaining group of artists. "There's something about dipping into that world that was so exotic to me," Gilbert, a New Yorker for 30-plus years, tells EW. "I thought, 'Oh my God, New York City in the 1940s? I want to write about that!'" —David Canfield

The Wedding Party, by Jasmine Guillory: Since The Wedding Date first hit shelves almost a year and a half ago, Jasmine Guillory has become one of romance's brightest new voices. Her second book, The Proposal, was selected for Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine book club in February and spent more than a month on the New York Times' best-seller list. Now readers are invited to The Wedding Party, which introduces Maddie and Theo — best friends of Date's heroine, Alexa. When we meet the pair, they hate each other; after a one-night stand, sparks fly. Their fling continues, but each agrees to an expiration date: Alexa's wedding. —Maureen Lee Lenker

The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead: Whitehead won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award for his previous novel, The Underground Railroad. In The Nickel Boys, he returns to another pivotal, painful setting in American history: a reform school for boys in the Jim Crow-era South. The book should further cement Whitehead as one of his generation's best. —Seija Rankin

Is There Still Sex in the City?, by Candace Bushnell: It's hard out there for a cougar. But for Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell, it's exactly the age when women need her the most. "When I wrote Sex and the City, I was writing about single women in their 30s because there weren't supposed to be single women in their 30s — you're supposed to have figured it out," she says. Her latest book addresses a different demo: women in their 50s and 60s who suddenly find themselves dating again. —Clarissa Cruz

Inland, by Téa Obreht: Obreht's novels are capital-E Events — big, ambitious, provocative reading experiences. But it's been a long wait since her lauded 2011 debut, The Tiger's Wife. At last we have Inland, a bracingly epic and imaginatively mythic journey across the American West in 1893, in which the lives of a former outlaw and a frontierswoman collide and intertwine. —DC



Very Nice, by Marcy Dermansky:

This darkly funny book vies to answer the age-old question "Just how huge is our collective appetite for tales of male novelists behaving badly?" Dermansky ( Twins) uproariously follows a Great Literary Man as he's seduced by his college pupil — and her recently divorced mother— against the backdrop of a wealthy Connecticut enclave. —SR

How Could She, by Lauren Mechling: Mechling (Dream Girl) gives the time-honored moving-to-New York City novel a refreshing update: failure. Three thirtysomething friends reckon with seemingly successful lives that aren't living up to expectations, thanks to mediocre apartments, marital strife, and the gradual dissolution of their chosen industry, print media. —SR

Reasons to Be Cheerful, by Nina Stibbe: The reliably hilarious Stibbe (Paradise Lodge) may have outdone herself with this witty, '80s-England-set exploration of one woman's struggles in early adulthood. Cheerful just won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, the only U.K. literary award for comic literature, so dig into this one expecting a very good time. —DC

The Lager Queen of Minnesota, by J. Ryan Stradal: Stradal first bubbled to the surface in 2015 with his beloved, best-selling debut, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, and his second novel has similar selling points: complex female characters, sudden tragedies, culinary descriptions that awaken all your senses. "I like to see how Midwesterners stand up to conflict," says the author, 43, who lives in Los Angeles but hails from hardy Minnesotan stock. "That's something I've been intrigued by since I was a kid." —SR

Bunny, by Mona Awad: A misfit MFA student at a thinly veiled New England Ivy (located in "a town named after a godly gesture of gratitude and fate") is seduced by a group of Heathers-esque classmates — they call one another "Bunny" — whose seeming attempts to foster creativity take a sinister turn. A surreal, darkly funny take on art, power, and female friendships. —CC

Going Dutch, by James Gregor: Call this a comedy of manners for the (very) modern age. Set in the isolating vastness of New York City, Going Dutch develops a complex, unusual relationship between a struggling young gay writer and graduate student, the ebullient female classmate who yearns for his company, and an attractive lawyer who exhibits interest in both of them. —DC

Evvie Drake Starts Over, by Linda Holmes: The NPR correspondent and Pop Culture Happy Hour host's novel explores the budding connection between a young widow and the washed-up former professional baseball player who rents out the apartment in the back of her house. —DC



The Travelers, by Regina Porter:

American history comes to vivid, engaging life in this tale of two interconnected families (one white, one black) that spans from the 1950s to Barack Obama's first year as president. The backdrop of events may be familiar (the Vietnam War, racial protests in the '60s), but the complex, beautifully drawn characters are unique and indelible. —CC

Mrs. Everything, by Jennifer Weiner: The best-selling author's latest, her most sprawling and intensely personal novel to date, attempts to answer the question "How should a woman be in the world?" It follows two sisters, Jo and Bethie, from their 1950s childhood to the present day, tackling racism, sexual identity, abuse, and how women are shaped — but not defined — by their choices. —CC

In West Mills, by De'Shawn Charles Winslow: Winslow spans decades in his infectious, empathetic portrait of Knot, a woman whose habits include reading, drinking, and bucking societal norms, and the community that grows and changes around her. Says the author: "The questions that I try to answer in the book through fiction are questions about people I knew when I was a child, that I didn't get to know a lot about." —DC

Fleishman Is in Trouble, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner: Best known for her award-winning celebrity profiles — among others, she memorably wrote about Gwyneth Paltrow and Bradley Cooper last year — Brodesser-Akner turns to fiction with this stimulating debut. Fleishman follows a father and divorcée who's forced to face reality, and his past, when his ex-wife disappears. —DC

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong: An award-winning poet, Vuong can already count Marlon James, Celeste Ng, and Emma Straub among the fans of his wrenchingly powerful debut. On Earth is a novel about the power and limits of love, framed around the letter a queer man in his 20s writes to his mother, with whom he emigrated from Vietnam as a child. —DC

Mostly Dead Things, by Kristen Arnett: If you're in the market for a blackly comic and deeply weird Florida story, you're in luck: This debut finds aimless Jessa-Lynn taking over her father's taxidermy business after he kills himself in the shop. But no coming-home is complete without family resentments and secrets boiling to the surface. —DC

Patsy, by Nicole Dennis-Benn: What does it mean to leave a child behind? Dennis-Benn follows up her acclaimed Jamaica-set debut, Here Comes the Sun, with Patsy, a pained look at the consequences faced by a Jamaican woman who abandons her family — including her young daughter, Tru — for the freedom of New York City, where she can pursue the woman she's fallen in love with. —DC



Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo:

Lisa Taddeo spent eight years reporting out this major work of nonfiction, which delves into the lives and desires of three women from dramatically different backgrounds. —DC

Chaos, by Tom O'Neill with Dan Piepenbring: What if everything we thought we knew about the Manson murders was wrong? O'Neill spent 20 years wrestling with that question, and Chaos is his final answer. Timed to the 50th anniversary of the Manson murders, it's a sweeping indictment of the Los Angeles justice system, with cover-ups reaching all the way up to the FBI and CIA. —SR

The Yellow House, by Sarah M. Broom: In her anticipated memoir, Broom offers a vitally personal story of New Orleans. Set largely in the house that she and her 11 siblings grew up in — and that her mother bought when she was 19 years old — the book wraps an intimate family story in a much larger meditation on the American dream. —DC

The Tenth Muse, by Catherine Chung: Chung (Forgotten Country) traces generations of female geniuses (both fictional and real-life historical figures) in her fascinating portrait of Katherine, a mathematician looking back at the obstacles she's faced in her career — as a woman of great ambition and intelligence pushing up against societal norms — and in her personal life, as she learns the truth about her mother and where she came from. —DC



Recursion, by Blake Crouch:

A mind-bending thriller probing the power of memory as reality starts to (literally) crumble, Recursion was acquired in a huge deal last October: Netflix announced that Shonda Rhimes and Matt Reeves would jointly adapt it — as both a movie and a series. "There are single sentences in the book that could be an entire season of television," Crouch tells EW. "This isn't a two-hour movie, but it feels bigger than the small screen, too…. Net­flix is breaking down the boundaries between film and television, and was sort of made for a book like this." —DC

FKA USA, by Reed King: This absurdist depiction of the U.S on the verge of collapse, complete with talking goats and narcissistic billionaire presidents — okay, maybe it isn't that absurd — was written over nearly a decade. "The satire has to be more than reality," says author Reed King. "I kept having to go back and change things!" Picked up by Warner Bros. in a pricey seven-figure deal, FKA USA is shrouded in mystery: King is the pseudonym of a best-selling author and TV writer. The wild mind may never be unveiled, but chances are it knows a thing or two about making the leap from page to screen. —DC

The Warehouse, by Rob Hart: Hart, the author behind the Ash McKenna crime books, is poised for a breakout with The Warehouse. His new dystopian tale, which explores capitalism run amok, was acquired at auction in April 2018 by Ron Howard's Imagine Entertainment; Howard is expected to direct the film. "Apollo 13 and Backdraft were two of my favorite movies when I was a kid," Hart tells EW. "Ron Howard was one of the first directors that I could cite by name. All of these years later, for him to be interested in a book that I wrote? It's completely surreal." —DC

This Is How You Lose the Time War, Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone: Sci-fi favorites El-Mohtar and Gladstone write alternating sections of this time-travel romance, centered on two agents on opposite sides of a vicious war who find themselves impossibly drawn to each other. Already optioned for TV, Time War intimately operates within an immersive space opera. —DC

The History of Living Forever, by Jake Wolff: The mystical and the romantic combine for a love story that also confronts the meaning of life. After his chemistry teacher — and secret lover — Sammy Tampari dies, 16-year-old Conrad attempts to see the man's mission through: by creating a drug that extends the human life span. —SR



Never Have I Ever, by Joshilyn Jackson: Jackson has been establishing herself as a master of domestic suspense for years, and her hyped latest should do little to change that. A carefree neighborhood evening of games, gossip, and wine gradually evolves into something much more sinister, as engineered by a woman harboring unsettling secrets. —DC

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone, by Felicity McLean: Dashed with the appeal of The Virgin Suicides and Picnic at Hanging Rock, this tense coming-of-age story recounts the mysterious disappearance of three sisters in a small Australian town. —DC

Girl in the Rearview Mirror, by Kelsey Rae Dimberg: In Dimberg's deserty thriller, an affable but secretive young woman enters the orbit of a powerful family in Phoenix, setting off an unpredictable chain of events. —DC

The Whisper Man, by Alex North: The Russo Brothers (Avengers: Endgame) have already put into development an adaptation of this alternately poignant and terrifying tale of a traumatized father, his 4-year-old son, and the serial killer preying on their new town's residents. Take a deep breath before diving into this one. —DC

Lady in the Lake, by Laura Lippman: Crime fiction superstar Laura Lippman, fresh off her best-sellerSunburn (one of EW's favorite crime novels of 2018), goes back in time with her eerie latest, tracking an aspiring reporter in '66 Baltimore who's investigating a murder that gets at the heart of the city's broken race relations. —DC

Big Sky, by Kate Atkinson: Anyone who loves Jackson Brodie is likely already champing at the bit for this one. Atkinson's first Brodie novel in nine years finds the ex-military police, ex-Cambridge constabulary working as a private investigator. —DC

The Turn of the Key, by Ruth Ware: This appropriately twisty Turn of the Screw update finds the Woman in Cabin 10 author in her most menacing mode, unfurling a shocking saga of murder and deception that begins with the acceptance of a luxurious live-in nanny post that seems — and proves to be — too good to be true. —DC