An embarrassment of riches. That’s how we’d describe the deluge of compelling new books slated for release this summer—so much that our first draft of this list included more than 30 titles. After much debate, we whittled it down to 12, including new novels from favorites Michael Chabon and Jess Walter, a collection of cartoons by Flannery O’Connor, and books from writers of faith that have the potential to challenge and change everything.
Make room in your beach bag, clear some space in your suitcase (our vacation advice is to bring half the clothes and twice the books), or charge your e-reader. Here are the summer books we can’t wait to dive into.
By Michael Chabon
Ever since we read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, we’ve been huge fans of Michael Chabon. Like, waiting-in-line-at-a-bookstore-at- midnight-on-release-day huge. As with Kavalier and Clay, Chabon gives us another epic, decades- spanning story in Telegraph Avenue—proving again his densely woven narratives don’t lend themselves to easy summary. Just know that in this story, the sins
of the past do not stay there, and the characters include the co-owners of a used vinyl store called Brokeland Records, their semi-famous midwifing wives, an ex-NFL quarterback, and a Blaxploitation star. Telegraph Avenue has been called a “NorCal Middlemarch set to the funky beat of classic vinyl soul-jazz.” We don’t know what that means, but it sounds cool.
By Jess Walter
We loved Jess Walter’s 2009 darkly funny novel, The Financial Lives of the Poets. Now Walter is back with what promises to be one of our favorite novels of 2012. Split between the present and the summer of 1962, Beautiful Ruins tells the story of a hopelessly romantic Italian innkeeper who falls for a beautiful American actress—a beautiful, dying American actress. Fifty years later, against all reason, this elderly Italian gentleman walks onto a Hollywood movie studio lot looking for the almost-love of his youth. The publisher calls Beautiful Ruins “a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel”—which is just what we’ve come to expect from Jess Walter.