Touch by Courtney Maum
If your partner declared he was only interested in “post-sexual sex” and would prefer to touch you (and other humans) wearing only a second-skin-like Japanese fetish Zentai suit, would you be concerned about your love life? International trend forecaster Sloane Jacobson certainly is. She’s also worried that she is quickly becoming best friends with her driverless car. So begins this funny and tender satirical novel which tackles what it means to live in a world increasingly dominated by technology, at a time when yearning for human connection has never been so acute.
Crudo by Olivia Liang
Beloved British cultural critic and writer Olivia Laing was known most recently for The Lonely City, an investigation into loneliness (surprisingly, not a sad book!) by way of several iconic artists including Andy Warhol, Edward Hopper, and David Wojnarowicz. Her new book is a real-time novel about the summer of 2017, Trump and Brexit, love and anxiety. She draws from her own life—what it was like to be an artist adjusting to married life while Trump was Tweeting about nuclear war—and from the life of punk poet, writer, and counterculture experimentalist Kathy Acker. Combining forces, she creates one of the most compelling commitment-phobic protagonists to come along in years.
Educated by Tara Westover
During a European history class at Cambridge University, Tara Westover put up her hand and asked what the Holocaust was. No one believed that she didn’t know. They thought she was a racist. Westover was born around 1986 (she has no birth certificate) in the remote mountains of Idaho to Mormon survivalist parents who believed the government might invade at any moment. She and her six siblings worked at their father’s scrapyard and were given no formal education. At seventeen, she knew the only way to change her circumstances and escape her violent brother was to educate herself. And so began a process of discovering the world at the expense of losing her family. Everyone from Bill Gates to Barack Obama have included Westover’s astounding memoir on their must-read lists this year.
Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday
There’s a voyeuristic thrill in reading this debut novel that is so obviously based upon Halliday’s long-past relationship with the now deceased literary giant Philip Roth. Halliday’s protagonist Alice, is a books editor in her mid-twenties when she meets Ezra Blazer, a famous writer forty-five years her senior. The relationship is secret and strange. The obvious power imbalance isn’t lost on Alice but she enjoys her proximity to genius, even when she’s forced to grapple with his controlling nature. His frailty and physical feebleness is somewhat neutralizing. It’s also portrays snippets of their sex life, likened to a game of “Operation” which concludes when Blazer comes “like a weak water bubbler” that makes this book so juicy.
How to Be Famous by Caitlin Moran
Moran’s newest novel, the hilarious sequel to the soon-to-be adapted How to Build a Girl will transport you to grungy and gritty London during the Britpop era, when all you wanted was an Oasis CD, when a Clinton was president, Mandela was freed, and the Berlin Wall came down. In other words, when the world felt hopeful. Witty and willful Woverhampton-native Johanna Morrigan, under her pen name Dolly Wilde, has transformed herself into a fearless music journalist whose unapologetic writing (and sex life) ends up catapulting her to fame in her own right with explosive consequences.
Less by Andrew Sean-Greer
How far would you go to avoid an ex’s wedding? Would you accept every random invitation at your disposal and string together a trip so that you appear important and busy? If reading about globe-trotting adventures and mishaps from Morocco to Berlin and snafus in and out of love appeal, accompany novelist Arthur Less on his transAtlantic journey. It will leave you chuckling on the beach and wanting to read some sentences aloud to anyone who will listen. It won this year’s Pulitzer for fiction, so the writing is pretty good too.
Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee
We can get a little suspicious about books promising to deliver transformational change in a few simple steps but this book truly delivers. It’s the culmination of industrial designer Fetell Lee’s ten-year investigation into how our physical surroundings psychologically affect us, and, how we can tweak our homes, offices and even vacations to bring us more joy. As well as speaking to artists, scientists, doctors and other experts in their fields, Fetell Lee visits far-flung places like the Reverse Destiny Lofts in Tokyo and Pierre Cardin’s Palais Bulles (Bubble Palace) on the French Riviera, to unpack why particular environments and even the shapes of environments impact our wellbeing. Be warned, reading this book may prompt moving of furniture, installing monkey bars, booking a vacation, and ditching your spiky cacti.
Circe by Madeline Miller
Miller’s reimagining of the Greek myth of Circe, the sun god’s unloved daughter (who invented witchcraft and seduced Homer’s Odysseus), is a powerful and enchanting feminist parable about the binds of family and the extent to which a woman must fight for her sovereignty. If the mention of a Greek myth brings to mind a boring ancient history class, think again. This is the mesmerizing novel of your summer.
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
In 2015, Stanford dropout and founder of the biotech company, Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes was so ready to be the new Steve Jobs that she even wore the black turtleneck. Her intense unblinking stare and intensity convinced even the most seasoned investors that Theranos’s blood testing machine—“the iPod of healthcare”—would revolutionize the medical industry. After one particular round of fundraising, Theranos was valued at more than $9 billion. During this period, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal reporter Carreyrou got a tip that the technology didn’t work, that she had been misleading investors and putting patients’ lives at risk—and she didn’t care. Carreyrou’s book is a gripping account of how she deceived Silicon Valley in what’s become one of the biggest corporate frauds since Enron.
The Overstory by Richard Powers
If the trees of the earth could speak, what would they tell us? This sweeping novel is about migration and the intersecting lives of nine Americans brought together by an unfolding natural catastrophe. Ann Patchett calls it: “The best novel ever written about trees, and really, just one of the best novels, period”.
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