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Where did the summer go? On this final Friday of August, we’re looking back at the books our newsroom read and loved these past few months. Steal their choices as beach-reading season comes to a close.
If none of these pique your interest, find 28 additional recommendations on our summer reading guide.
The Beginning of Spring, by Penelope Fitzgerald
Think of this novel as the other half of A Doll’s House: It’s 1913, and Frank Reid, an English printer in Moscow, has been abandoned by his wife. The story that unfolds is evocative, beautifully controlled, and occasionally unexplained. (You’ll remember the scene with the bear forever.) This historical novel is so saturated with research that it becomes invisible; if you told people this was by a lost Russian master, they’d believe you.
— Helen Lewis, staff writer
The Office of Historical Corrections, by Danielle Evans
Through six short stories and a novella, Danielle Evans explores U.S. history, racism, and accountability. The titular novella, about a federal agency that corrects historical inaccuracies, is inventive and sharp. But the standout for me was “Boys Go to Jupiter,” a searing yet tender story about a college student photographed wearing a Confederate-flag bikini and the campus culture war that ensues.
— Morgan Ome, assistant editor
Darryl, by Jackie Ess
I opened Darryl, the debut novel by author Jackie Ess, with no knowledge about the book save what the cover promised: a story about a man, Darryl Cook, who watches men as they cuckold him with his wife. From the first page to the last, the book offered nonstop guffaws and profound insights about masculinity, sexuality, and the longing for a home within ourselves and with other people. A friend who read the book joked (rightly!) that it’s the preeminent piece of cuckold fiction, but it’s also the best book I’ve read this year, offering acerbic insight, empathy for its complicated characters, and flat-out great writing.
— Mathew Rodriguez, senior editor
God Spare the Girls, by Kelsey McKinney
Kelsey McKinney’s debut novel follows two sisters in the aftermath of a major scandal that threatens to upend not only their family but their church. The writing is evocative, and McKinney masterfully captures the nuanced dynamics of sisterhood. I wish it had been 10 times longer.
— Julie Bogen, senior editor
The Transit of Venus, by Shirley Hazzard
Is there any story more quintessential than that of two sisters, one fair-haired, gentle, and proper, and the other dark and self-possessed? Shirley Hazzard’s The Transit of Venus, reissued this year, follows Grace and Caroline Bell through three dynamic, postwar decades, and made me remember the pleasure of reading a novel. Hazzard’s prose is sumptuous and playful, and, as the title of the book suggests, the scope of her concerns—romance, empire, intimacy, mythology, one’s place in the world—is basically astronomical.
— Isabel Cristo, associate editor
Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, by T Kira Madden
I’ve been writing a memoir this year, so I’ve been reading even more than my usual share of books in the genre and relishing the infinite ways in which the story of a life can be told. T Kira Madden’s stunning debut, about growing up in Boca Raton, Florida, reads at times like fiction, which speaks not only to the vivid chaos of her childhood but also to the exquisiteness of her prose and the distinctiveness of her voice.
— Lenika Cruz, senior editor
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