Even if your required reading days are long over -- a sprawling period of book reports and forced enthusiasm for anachronistic classics condensed into a glinting blip in your memory -- there’s something about summertime that recalls freedom.
You can wear shorts! You can sit outside with few repercussions! Perhaps most importantly, you can read whatever the heck you want! There is no need to hide an anticipated comic issue inside your work of Important Realism. Tou can savor it in broad daylight.
To celebrate these solstice-brought freedoms, we’ve wrangled up a few wild new books, books that are unlikely to be assigned on a high school syllabus, but are whip-smart and wonderfully weird.
Enjoy. Or don’t! The choice is yours.
The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder
It’s a cliché that bears deeper exploration: Men, socialized as they are to be tough, have a hard time connecting with their friends on an emotional level. Unless, of course, there’s an activity involved; a spectacle to be commented on quantitatively, if haughtily. That’s where football comes in. Bachelder’s novel doesn’t dismiss the stereotype, but embraces the heart of it -- that the poetic eccentricities of football can unify a group of otherwise dissimilar friends.
Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty by Ramona Ausubel
Fern and Edgar lead an airy dream life, summering on East Coast beaches and raising their three children, including their plucky daughter Cricket. The couple met in high school and hasn’t wanted for much since. They’ve been comfortable living off Fern’s inheritance until, abruptly, it runs out. Fern, Edgar and Cricket each find different ways to cope with how this news conflicts with their ideals, in a '70s-set story that’s full of heart.
The After Party by Anton Disclafani
“Joan had always held her liquor like a man,” Disclafani writes, setting the scene for an intimate love story between two friends, set among the whirring, moneyed social circles of 1950s Houston. Joan may have garnered attention thanks to her displays of feminine power -- she’s been seen on the arms of some well-known male suitors -- but she and narrator Cece are reminded that, as women, their strength is easily squelched.
The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
It is, unfortunately, never a bad time to discuss the persistence of violence committed against women, and the perceived ownership of women’s bodies. Wood comes at the issue with a fresh, thrilling perspective: that of a dystopian novelist, one who constructs worlds in dire disrepair, but woefully similar to our own. Protagonist Yolanda wakes up in a strange new place and soon learns that it’s a holding cell for women who are punished for their brazen speech. But, with the help of an ally, she’s able to fight back.
The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray
A New York City farmer’s market in the present-day, a Viennese café at the turn of the century, and, oh yeah, a dusty room stuck in space-time: to call John Wray’s adventurous new novel expansive would be an understatement. The love story between Waldemar Tolliver and the object of his affections is the pulsing heart of a book about war, physics and family.
Albina and the Dog-Men by Alejandro Jodorowsky
Jodorowsky’s storytelling chops are spread out over so many mediums, it’d be difficult for fans to feel parched and rabid (George R.R. Martin, take note). His 2011 film “The Dance of Reality” is based on an autobiographical story, although it takes liberties when drawing the line between real and unreal, allowing his childhood fears and perceptions to come to life onscreen. Similarly, his surreal novel, newly translated into English, is as weird and imaginative as it is emotionally satiating. A female giant traverses a dangerous Chilean landscape in search of a magical plant that will cure her and the men who pursue her of their ailments. And yes -- it gets weirder.
The Insides by Jeremy P. Bushnell
You may want to read Bushnell’s latest effort if you find yourself on a lackadaisical beach trip, rather than, say, a Da Vinci Code-inspired romp through Europe. It’s a madcap tale about a retired street musician who puts her quick hands to use as a butcher, swearing off street performances for good. UNTIL! She discovers a magical knife, and gets wrapped up with a seedy crew that covets it.
The Girls by Emma Cline
Unearthing the violent, true story of Charles Manson and his cult of women followers, Cline’s The Girls tracks a lonely 14-year-old on her hazy, short-lived involvement with the Family. Evie Boyd is recently best friend-less, and, after her parent’s recent divorce, finds herself in the throes of domestic upheaval. To cope, she does what any teen might do: she shoplifts to break up the monotony and listens to the dogmas of a group that purports to value togetherness rather than greed.