We've waited a long time for this summer, and with its approach comes our annual selection of the season's books that we're most looking forward to reading and anxious to share. Summer's a time to catch up with old friends, like Stephen King, whose Finders Keepers, a new crime fiction novel, follows last summer's Mr. Mercedes. Harper Lee's second book, Go Set a Watchman, arrives after 55 years with all the usual suspects from her eternal blockbuster; and Judy Blume tackles the early 50s with In the Unlikely Event, her first adult novel since 1998. Things that go bump in the night are always fitting summer fare and The Decagon House Murders, a Japanese mystery by Yukito Ayatsuji, will have you locking your screen doors. And how about learning something this summer? Dig into the art world with Grayson Perry's Playing to the Gallery, or figure out today's dating world with comedian Aziz Ansari. But for pure sensation, pick up New Yorker writer William Finnegan's memories of the beach, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life. Just try and keep the sand out of your book …and out of your sandwich. -Louisa Ermelino, Reviews Director
Your Band Sucks: What I Saw at Indie Rock's Failed Revolution (But Can No Longer Hear)
Jon Fine (Viking)
Like, well, just about everybody it seems, I too was in an indie band back in the day—and I still love to play around with my friends, even though my band went up in flames years ago. But that's not why I love this book. What I love is that this book stands in stark contrast to the usual stories of rock star depravity. Fine tells his story like he made his music: with wit, and honesty. —Andrew Albanese, senior writer
Modern Romance: An Investigation
Aziz Ansari, Eric Klinenberg (Penguin Press)
Ansari, a comedian and TV actor, has cowritten a book with a legitimate sociologist about what it means to date in the modern era. When technology and instant gratification are changing the landscape of human interactions, dating is weirder than ever, and I'm looking forward to Ansari's sense of humor and cultural criticism on the topic, which he's started to address in his stand-up. –Natasha Gilmore, associate children's editor
Maggie Nelson (Graywolf)
Reading Nelson is like sweeping the leaves out of your mental driveway: by the end of one of her books, you have a better understanding of how the world works. The Argonauts is about her relationship with Harry Dodge, her pregnancy, and becoming a mother, and it's supplemented with references to Roland Barthes, The Shining, Anne Carson, Atari games, and more. The result is one of the most intelligent, generous, and moving books of the year.—Gabe Habash, deputy reviews editor
Meanwhile There Are Letters: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and Ross Macdonald
Edited by Suzanne Marrs and Tom Nolan (Skyhorse/Arcade)
This summer, or sooner, I'm hoping to dip into this book, whose mere existence came as a surprise to me—the story of the epistolary friendship between two writers I'd never have imagined knowing each other, let alone inhabiting the same literary universe. Ross Macdonald, in particular, has fascinated me ever since I read his haunting Lew Archer detective novels, far removed from the normal run of pulp PI fiction, and the biography of Macdonald by Nolan, who edited this collection. Who knew that Macdonald was an environmental activist and spiritual counselor to rock stars, among other things. —Everett Jones, reviews editor
Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings
Shirley Jackson (Random)
Sixty years before Suzanne Collins volunteered Katniss as tribute, Jackson chose Tessie Hutchinson for certain death in "The Lottery," a staple of required-reading lists. So I was intrigued to see that this anthology of unpublished and uncollected work by Jackson—author of creep-fests in short story and novel form—includes, for example, an essay called "A Vroom for Dr. Seuss," and an entire section on humor and family. What sort of perspective does the author of The Haunting bring to, say, a piece on the craft of writing titled "Garlic in Fiction"? I'm looking forward to finding out. –Carolyn Juris, features editor
James DeVita (Milkweed Editions)
I'm a huge fan of YA fiction, and I can hardly wait to read this book by DeVita, who, in addition to being a writer, is an acclaimed professional regional stage actor. The Silenced is about a totalitarian society and a courageous young woman who forms a resistance group, the White Rose, which embarks upon a campaign of civil disobedience aimed at the reigning Zero Tolerance Party, armed "with nothing but words and her hunger for freedom." If Vita writes as well as he acts, I know I am going to read something that will cause me to jump from my seat and applaud wildly. –Claire Kirch, Midwest correspondent
The Complete Eightball 1–18
Daniel Clowes (Fantagraphics)
When I first encountered these acerbic, grotesque, empathetic stories, they were part of a "comic book" that eviscerated the medium. The feeble, self-deluded, and desperate were Clowes's early targets, but his worldview soon became less misanthropic and more painfully observant. Now elevated to a deluxe slipcased pair of hardcovers that costs about 50 times more than the first issue, these famed stories—"Ghost World," "Art School Confidential," and "Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron" among them—can be enjoyed in the context of Clowes's development into a master cartoonist. –Heidi MacDonald, comics editor
Flash: The Homeless Donkey Who Taught Me about Life, Faith, and Second Chances
Rachel Anne Ridge (Tyndale House)
It is a dirty little secret in publishing that we do indeed judge books by their covers. The cover for Flash is not the only reason I want to read this story about a donkey; everything that describes this book is so whimsical that I'm drawn to it. Whimsy is an antidote I welcome for today's excess of irony in print. I can have a donkey vicariously without having to feed it or clean up after it and enjoy a fun read for summer as the field of animal memoirs expands to include slow, endearing, and, apparently, loud donkeys. –Marcia Z. Nelson, contributing editor
Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life
William Finnegan (Penguin Press)
Like that powerful, glassy wave, great books on surfing come few and far between. This summer, New Yorker writer Finnegan recalls his teenage years in the California and Hawaii of the 1960s—when surfing was an escape for loners and outcasts. A delightful storyteller, Finnegan takes readers on a journey from Hawaii to Australia, Fiji, and South Africa, where finding those waves is as challenging as riding them. –Mark Rotella, senior editor
The Festival of Insignificance
Milan Kundera, trans. from the French by Linda Asher (Harper)
Life is absurd and frivolous, but also painful and even beautiful every once in a while. That about sums up how I feel when reading anything by Kundera. With this book, the 86-year-old Czech writer captures that sensation in less than 100 pages. A tale of four garrulous friends planning a birthday/death party in modern-day Paris, this novel of conversations is brainy, canny, and goes down smooth. –Seth Satterlee, reviews editor
Paul Griffin (Scholastic Press)
This is Griffin's first book since Burning Blue in 2012, which has stuck with me over the years, right alongside The Orange Houses before that, so I was glad to see it land on our shelves at the office. The setting—Montauk, N.Y.—screams summer, though the ominous cover image of a tiny boat being buffeted by enormous waves (along with my memories of Griffin's earlier work) make me suspect this isn't going to be a feel-good read. Don't ruin the Atlantic for me, Griffin! –John Sellers, children's reviews editor
Ghetto Brother: Warrior to Peacemaker
Julian Voloj and Claudia Ahlering (NBM)
This work of graphic nonfiction is the true story of Benjy Melendez, founder of the Ghetto Brothers, a 1970s-era gang in the Bronx during one of the most violent, drug saturated, blighted periods in New York City history. The book is also the story of how Benjy, the son of 1960s Puerto Rican immigrants (who also turn out to be secret Spanish heritage Jews), turned the Ghetto Brothers into a peace-loving, multiracial gang that preached nonviolence in the early days of hip-hop. I also interviewed Melendez and think it's great that this almost-forgotten story has been brought to life. – Calvin Reid, senior news editor
Go Set a Watchman
Harper Lee (Harper)
Scout returns to Maycomb, Ala., some 20 years after the events of To Kill a Mockingbird, to visit her father, Atticus. Lee's second novel arrives with a build-up of 55 years (almost to the day) of anticipation.
In the Unlikely Event
Judy Blume (Knopf)
Blume's first adult novel since 1998's Summer Sisters centers on the three fatal plane crashes that hit Elizabeth, N.J., during the winter of 1951–52. Through a variety of perspectives, readers are brought back to the '50s, resulting in a characteristically accessible, frequently charming, and always deeply human story.
Christian Kracht, trans. from the German by Daniel Bowles (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
This oddball novel follows a thumb-sucking vegetarian nudist named August Engelhardt and his quest to start a coconut-based utopia in the South Seas at the turn of the 20th century. Kracht's delightful adventure shifts from the philosophical to the suspenseful to the slapstick, and is just as nutty as Engelhardt's prized foodstuff.
Peter Nichols (Riverhead)
The sunny beach town of Cala Marsopa on Mallorca is the setting of Nichols's story of love and separation between former couple Lulu and Gerald, who have managed to avoid each other for almost 60 years. Readers will be transported to the wind-swept Mediterranean in this smart page-turner, perfect for taking to the beach.
The Meursault Investigation
Kamel Daoud, trans. from the French by John Cullen (Other Press)
This summer's best anti-beach read. Using as its origin point the fateful beach encounter from Camus's The Stranger between Frenchman Meursault and Algerian Arab Musa, Daoud's intensely atmospheric novel is narrated by Harun, Musa's brother. This meditation on guilt and alienation will captivate readers, and the delicious ambiguity will haunt them long after the leaves start falling.
In the Country
Mia Alvar (Knopf)
Each story in Alvar's debut collection feels as rich, as deep, and as crafted as a novel. She moves from Manila to Bahrain to Tokyo, from 1971 to 1986 to the 21st century, and elegantly addresses themes of class, race, and gender.
Death and Mr. Pickwick
Stephen Jarvis (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
If you're looking for an immersive Dickensian doorstopper this summer, look no further than Jarvis's rollicking re-creation of Dickens's publication of The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Jarvis's panoramic perspective of 19th-century London and its vibrant denizens makes for thrilling reading.
Map: Collected and Last Poems
Wislawa Szymborska (HMH)
The celebrated Polish poet, winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature, has her seven decades of work collected in this marvelous posthumous volume. Szymborska's gift for nuanced observation is on full display and fans will be able to trace her development over her storied career.
A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories
Lucia Berlin (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
What better way to spend your summer than with Berlin's cast of disaffected characters, drifting from cafeterias and laundromats, full of everyday resentments and affections. Many of these stories are just a few pages; the perfect length to pick up and come back to throughout the long, lazy summer.
The Sunken Cathedral
Kate Walbert (Scribner)
Walbert's (A Short History of Women) novel is a portrait of two 80-something widows in New York's Chelsea neighborhood venturing outside their comfort zone to take an art class. This wistful yet playful story of women reaching out during their last days of independence captures the full drama of everyday life.
Playing to the Gallery: Helping Contemporary Art in Its Struggle to Be Understood
Grayson Perry (Penguin Books)
If you're looking for insight into the bizarre world of contemporary art, spend a summer afternoon with this book. Perry, a self-described "middlebrow" "transvestite potter," who also happens to be a full-paid member of the art establishment, speaks with good faith and a whole lot of sarcasm in this romp. He coolly addresses questions of quality and taste (how do we decide if art is good?), but best are his jabs at the exclusive realm of galleries and museums. His book serves as a solid reminder that even if you are dumbfounded by the idea of Tilda Swinton asleep in a glass box, there's plenty to love about today's art world. –Annie Coreno, reviews editor
A Window Opens
Elisabeth Egan (Simon & Schuster)
In the debut novel from Glamour magazine editor Egan, Alice Pearse juggles a job at a start-up, her kids growing up, her father's illness, and supporting her husband's recent career change. Egan's story of a woman finding happiness in the modern age is a satisfying, humorous, inspiring read.
The Decagon House Murders
Yukito Ayatsuji (Locked Room International)
First published in 1987, this crime novel launched the shinhonkaku ("new orthodox") renaissance, restoring Golden Age–style plotting and fair-play clues to the Japanese mystery scene. Ayatsuji brings a distinctively Japanese sensibility to a scenario made famous by Agatha Christie—a group of people in an isolated environment who are murdered one by one.
The Flicker Men
Ted Kosmatka (Holt)
Quantum mechanics geeks will find a lot to like in this superior SF thriller. Eric Argus, a struggling physicist looking to salvage his career, redoes the classic physics experiment at a Massachusetts research center to determine whether an electron passing through a slit behaves like a wave or a particle. The result of the experiment has devastating philosophical implications for humanity.
Innocence, or Murder on Steep Street
Heda Margolius Kovály (Soho Crime)
Previously unpublished in English, this mystery by the late Czech translator and author of the memoir Under a Cruel Star, vividly depicts Communist-oppressed 1950s Prague. That Kovály's first husband was unjustly executed by the Czechoslovak Communist Party in 1952 gives her narrative of double lives and betrayal a painful veracity.
Patrick Lee (Minotaur)
A machine that foretells the future gives people a chance to change events in Lee's cinematic second Sam Dryden novel. Sam, a credible hero, must try to stop those bent on world domination from taking control of the machine.
Palace of Treason
Jason Matthews (Scribner)
Fans of retired CIA officer Matthews's debut, Red Sparrow, which won both Thriller and Edgar awards for best first novel, will be captivated by this sequel, which continues the adventures of American CIA agent Nate Nash and his Russian spy lover, Dominika
Jax Miller (Crown)
Freedom Oliver, who has been languishing in a witness protection program in Oregon, gets one last long shot at redemption in this debut thriller, which "hits like a beer bottle to the head," according to the PW review. Freedom embarks on a cross-country road trip to Kentucky to rescue the grown daughter she gave up for adoption as a child from the clutches of her sociopathic former in-laws, the Delaney clan.
Jack of Spades
Joyce Carol Oates (Grove/Atlantic/Mysterious)
Fans of horror fiction from Edgar Allan Poe to Stephen King will welcome this novel of suspense from veteran Oates in which a best-selling mystery author, Andrew Rush, billed as "the gentleman's Stephen King," writes much darker novels under a pseudonym. When a crazy woman accuses Rush of plagiarism, it's all he can do to control his own mad impulses.
Let Me Die in His Footsteps
Lori Roy (Dutton)
Inspired by the last legal public hanging in the U.S., this suspenseful coming-of-age novel from Edgar-winner Roy focuses on two generations of rural Kentucky women. An off-stage character, Juna Crowley, hovers over her relatives, a seductive, sinister force responsible for sending one man to the gallows and a boy to his death.
Don Winslow (Knopf)
Set in 2004, Winslow's masterly sequel to 2005's The Power of the Dog continues his epic story of the Mexican drug wars as experienced by DEA agent Art Keller. This exhaustively researched novel elucidates not just the situation in Mexico but the consequences of our own disastrous "war on drugs."
Fell of Dark
Patrick Downes (Philomel)
Whether I'm reading books for children or adults, I'm always seeking unconventional narratives that work, despite the "rules" they might break. In the case of YA books, I particularly respect writers who give their young readers enough credit to embrace complex storytelling. Fell of Dark is ostensibly a book about madness and grief, but it eschews the need for a standard plot or character development, relying more on symbolism and ambrosial language than relatable protagonists. Just my cup of tea. –Matia Burnett, assistant editor, children's books
Twice in a Lifetime
Dorothy Garlock (Grand Central)
Garlock's terrific story, set in mid-20th-century Missouri, pairs a lonely single mother struggling to make ends meet with a flashy auto racer who offers to fix up her broken-down truck. Thoroughly credible characters and the aw-shucks charm of their small town make this sweet historical a winner.
Alexis Hall (Riptide)
Laurie Dalziel is tall, short-tempered, and in his late 30s—the very picture of a dominant man—but all his inclinations are submissive. Skinny 19-year-old Toby Finch is a budding dominant who's very clear on what he wants, starting with Laurie on his knees. Hall delights the reader with endless reversals of expectations in this poetic, honest, and charming May-December romance with plenty of kinky heat.
Let's Stay Together
J.J. Murray (Kensington)
A newly single actress answers a sweet fan letter from a Brooklyn maintenance man and the two strike up an improbable long-distance cross-class romance. As Lauren settles into Patrick's life, not even her mother, his father, or the relentless media can dim their love for each other. This is a compulsively readable rags-to-riches love story brimming with memorable characters, magical charm, lively repartee, and delicious passion.
A Sword for His Lady
Mary Wine (Sourcebooks Casablanca)
Clever, competent Isabel of Camoys, a landholding widow, is besieged by suitors: Ramon de Segrave, a soldier sent by King Richard to help Isabel defend her estate on the Welsh border, and Jacques Raeburn, her brother-in-law, who's determined to recover his deceased brother's land. But Isabel enjoys her power and independence, and has no interest in remarrying. Kidnapping, poisoning, a wicked courtesan, and flirtatious banter all play parts in this spirited historical, helmed by a delightfully capable heroine.
Hell or High Water
Julie Ann Walker (Sourcebooks Casablanca)
This winning romantic thriller is a literal beach read set in the Florida Keys. Ex-SEAL Leo Anderson plans to dive for sunken treasure; CIA operative Olivia Mortimer wants him to help retrieve three capsules of deadly chemicals that were lost overboard by incompetent terrorists. Complications abound in this well-plotted adventure of chilling hijackings, heartbreaking goodbyes, and exciting underwater exploits.
The Red: First Light
Linda Nagata (S&S/Saga)
This powerful military SF trilogy opener is set in a near future where defense contractors call the shots. After a serious combat injury, Lt. James Shelley's body is augmented by machines, and soon he starts to believe that he's being watched by a spontaneously generated web intelligence that Shelley calls the Red. Fans of thoughtful, cynical, and not particularly jingoistic military SF will love this book.
Letters to Zell
Camille Griep (Amazon/47North)
Griep's captivating debut weaves together traditional fairy tales with scenes of 21st-century Los Angeles to create an exploration of the conflicts between destiny and desire. Readers will dive into the rich and realistic depictions of modern-day versions of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Rapunzel, and their touching efforts to navigate old and new relationships in a changing world.
Trailer Park Fae
Lilith Saintcrow (Orbit)
Saintcrow's dark and lovely urban fantasy series launch is expertly crafted with heartbreak and mistrust. War is in the offing between two Sidhe courts, and two half-humans are dragged into the conflict despite their many misgivings. Saintcrow's artful, poignant descriptions remain with the reader long after the tale's end, as does the persistent sense of dark, unsettling unease.
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street
Natasha Pulley (Bloomsbury)
Pulley's electrifying debut captures the frenetic energy of London in the time of new electrical devices and the terror of Irish nationalist bombings. A humble telegraph clerk, a female scientist, and a Japanese clockmaker become enmeshed in a mystery rooted in bigotry and exploitation. Pulley expertly employs the tools of mystery and fantasy to examine the social pressures faced by the marginalized; the heart of the story is the universal human quest for acceptance, understanding, and love.
Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Space Flight
Margaret Lazarus Dean (Graywolf)
Dean takes readers through NASA's "heroic era" of spaceflight to the "shuttle era," asking "What does it mean that we have been going to space for 50 years and have decided to stop?" It's a history and an elegy not just for the U.S. space program, but also for the optimism and sense of wonder it inspired in a nation.
Austin Grossman (Little, Brown/Mulholland)
As a Lovecraft fan, I perked up as soon as I read the phrase "Lovecraftian suspense" in the galley description of this genre-bending thriller, which is narrated by Richard Nixon some 20 years after his supposed death. Later, the following passage in chapter two caught my eye: "This is a tale of espionage and betrayal and the dark secrets of a decades-long cold war. It is a story of otherworldly horror, of strange nameless forces that lie beneath the reality we know. In other words, it is the story of a marriage." The author clearly has a sense of humor, too. That clinched this as a must-read for me. –Peter Cannon, senior reviews editor
City by City: Dispatches from the American Metropolis
Edited by Keith Gessen and Stephen Squibb (Faber and Faber/n+1)
Gessen and Squibb assemble a panoramic essay collection about the current state of the American city. A recurring story emerges over the course of the pieces—one of past economic glory, current decline or decay, and future hoped-for renewal—but the selections, each from a different writer and focusing on a different city, are most remarkable for the specificity of their insights, whether into fracking in Williston, North Dakota, or reality television in Whittier, Alaska.
Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab
Steve Inskeep (Penguin Press)
NPR Morning Edition cohost Inskeep brings fresh insight to the events leading to the Trail of Tears, setting Andrew Jackson alongside the Cherokee leader John Ross in a nuanced dual biography that reveals how democracy in the early-19th-century United States developed at the expense of Indian rights and land.
The Theft of Memory: Losing My Father, One Day at a Time
Jonathan Kozol (Crown)
Kozol (Savage Inequalities) shifts his gaze to old age and the heartbreaking but strangely consoling decline of his parents in this luminous memoir. Kozol recounts his father's last years, when Alzheimer's robbed him of his wits but not entirely of his personality. The author's approach is shrewd yet empathetic; he's raptly attuned to the emotional effects of these changes on his parents and himself. The result is a clear-eyed and deeply felt meditation on the aspects of family that age does not ravage.
Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship
Robert Kurson (Random)
Kurson (Shadow Divers) takes readers on a wild ride alongside John Chatterton and John Mattera in their conquest to locate the elusive Golden Fleece, the 17th-century ship captained by Joseph Bannister, lost somewhere in the waters near the Dominican Republic. The result is a mind-blowing pirate story, one that even the staunchest landlubber will have a hard time putting down.
Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs
Sally Mann (Little, Brown)
Mann's sensuous and searching memoir—a Southern Gothic rendering of a life with arresting images included—finds the photographer pulling out family records from the attic, raising questions about the unexamined past and how photographs "rob all of us of our memory," and calling upon ancestry to explain the mysteries of her own character.
On The Move: A Life
Oliver Sacks (Knopf)
The celebrated bard of the brain's quirks reveals a flamboyant secret life and a multitude of intellectual passions in this rangy, introspective autobiography. Sacks's writing is lucid, earnest, and straightforward, yet always raptly attuned to subtleties of character and feeling in himself and others; the result, closely following his announcement that he has terminal cancer, is a fitting retrospective of his lifelong project of making science a humanistic pursuit.
The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings—J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams
Philip and Carol Zaleski (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
The Zaleskis offer an epic-scale account of the informal Oxford literary club to which J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis belonged. According to PW's review, this group biography gives a warm, unexpected picture of the famous authors and their social circle as "a pipe-smoking, ale-drinking, loud-laughing group of friends."
Ice Cream Summer
Peter Sís (Scholastic Press)
With the jingle of ice-cream trucks signaling warm weather, the time is right to celebrate everyone's favorite frozen confection with Sís, whose story is structured as a boy's letter to his grandfather. In scenes colored in shades of strawberry, pistachio, and orange sherbet, the acclaimed author and artist revels in the boy's ice-cream-addled fantasies, giving readers a crash course in the dessert's history. Delicious.
Deborah Underwood, illus. by Meg Hunt (Chronicle)
There's no hearth in sight, but Cinderella isn't afraid to get her hands dirty in this galactic retelling—she's a skilled mechanic who can fix robots and spaceships alike with her trusty sonic socket wrench. With clever rhyming and retro-futuristic visuals, Underwood and Hunt are clearly having a blast with the premise, and readers will, too. Capable, kind, and mechanically inclined, their Cinderella is more than enough heroine for this or any other galaxy.
The Night World
Mordicai Gerstein (Little, Brown)
Caldecott Medalist Gerstein celebrates the magical otherness of the world at night and the equally magical transformation that takes place when dawn breaks. Any child who has woken up in the middle of the night intrigued by, and perhaps even apprehensive about, the unfamiliarity of the darkened domestic landscape around them will identify with Gerstein's young hero. Guided by his pet cat, he winds his way through the house and out into the yard, where friendly animals gather with him to rejoice in the sun's arrival.
Nathaniel Mackey (New Directions)
For more than 20 years, Mackey has been working on the serial poems Song of the Andoumboulou and "Mu," which combine West African music and storytelling traditions with modernist poetic experimentation. In the manner that many strains of jazz music can be alluring, yet difficult for new listeners, Mackey's poetry can initially hold new readers at arm's length. But once you get a feel for his rhythms and start to recognize his points of reference, the work opens up in breathtaking ways. —Alex Crowley, reviews editor
The Princess and the Pony
Kate Beaton (Scholastic/Levine)
Summer isn't exactly sweater weather, but don't tell that to the Vikings, who learn in this picture book, that fierce warriors don't have to hide their cuddly sides (or their "cozy sweaters"). Princess Pinecone is initially upset when the "warrior's horse" she receives for her birthday turns out to be a dumpy, dopey, doe-eyed specimen not much bigger than the princess herself. Watching the princess discover the pony's real value (as well as her own) makes for funny, empowering reading.
What This Story Needs Is a Pig in a Wig
Emma J. Virján (Harper)
Fictional characters unite! The pig of the title takes matters into her own hands (or hooves, rather) when an overzealous narrator drops her onto a boat in a moat with an ever-growing array of objects and animals that comes to include a house, "a mouse, and a panda in a blouse." It's an entertaining introduction to metafictional storytelling for families to share (perhaps while on a boat trip themselves), as well as a good choice for fledgling readers honing their skills over the summer.
Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, illus. by Sarah Watts (Holt/Ottaviano)
Book lovers will be right at home in this engaging mystery that tips its hat to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Westing Game, Kit Williams's Masquerade, and other classics while spinning a magic all its own. As bibliophilic heroine Emily Crane tries to outwit menacing forces that are after a rare copy of Edgar Allan Poe's The Gold-Bug, Bertman threads her story with puzzles for readers to decode right alongside Emily.
Cassie Beasley (Dial)
The magic of the circus and the power of belief are front and center in Beasley's debut novel, which follows fifth-grader Micah Tuttle's efforts to help his ailing grandfather. Readers will delight in Beasley's descriptions of the strange and wondrous circus—which Micah learns is actually quite real, not just something Grandpa Ephraim made up—even as they are held in the grip of the boy's pursuit of a miracle on his grandfather's behalf.
From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess
Meg Cabot (Feiwel and Friends)
While middle-grade readers may already know Cabot from her Allie Finkle series, they'll leap at the chance to get to spend time in the world of her Princess Diaries books for teens (and adults with the June publication of Royal Wedding). Here, Cabot introduces 12-year-old Olivia Harrison, whose ordinary life in New Jersey becomes anything but when she learns her absent father is actually the prince of Genovia, making Olivia half-sister to Princess Mia. A sweet, fun romp made even more so by Cabot's illustrations, which appear throughout.
Return to Augie Hobble
Lane Smith (Roaring Brook)
The acclaimed creator of picture books like Grandpa Green, It's a Book, and numerous other titles has written his first novel and—no surprise—it's plenty entertaining, as Augie suffers through a summer at a not-so-great local amusement park, tries to stretch his creative wings, and starts to wonder if there's something supernaturally sinister going on. But Smith also explores some tough topics, especially guilt and grief, in a story that's laugh-out-loud funny, heartbreaking, and thoroughly satisfying.
The Worst Class Trip Ever
Dave Barry (Disney-Hyperion)
Anything can happen on an out-of-town field trip, and that's never truer than when Dave Barry is in the driver's seat. When Wyatt Palmer's civics class heads to Washington, D.C., it isn't long before he and his friends become wrapped up in a terrorist plot—a potentially frightening premise that ends up being anything but as Barry loads the story with the sorts of comic moments that readers young and old have come to expect from him.
Eva Darrows (Rebellion/Ravenstone)
Maggie Cunningham is preparing to follow in her mother's footsteps as a monster-hunter, but first she really needs to lose her virginity—vampires tend to get a bit frenzied around virgins, so it's non-negotiable, as Maggie's "asskicker" mother makes absolutely clear. Edgy, wisecrackingly irreverent, and an all-around blast, Darrows's novel is perfect for readers who don't mind sex in their fiction (bad sex, included) and think they've seen it all where vampires are concerned.
Emmy & Oliver
Robin Benway (HarperTeen)
When Emmy's onetime neighbor Oliver returns to town years after being kidnapped by his father, it gives the teenagers a chance to reconnect with each other and to explore the tentative possibility of romance. Benway's story realistically and sensitively traces how these two teens attempt to bridge the time, distance, and circumstances that have come between them. It's a summer read with real depth.
Sophie Kinsella (Delacorte)
Plenty of teens have already found their way to Kinsella's bestselling books for adults, but she's writing for them specifically as she introduces a 14-year-old British girl, Audrey, who has taken to wearing dark glasses and staying at home following an incident at school. Luckily, Audrey has the support of her tumultuous but loving family—a bunch as memorable as Audrey herself. Watching her emerge a stronger, better person is both rewarding and entertaining.
Stephen King (Scribner)
I'm a huge fan of Stephen King's high-concept fiction, and last summer while sitting in the airport waiting to leave the American Library Association Annual Conference in Vegas, I read a review of Mr. Mercedes (which had just come out) that described it as a crime novel with the desperation of Under the Dome. I went to the airport's bookstore and picked it up, finished it in a couple days, and spent the rest of the summer reading crime fiction. I'm really excited to kick off another summer of crime fiction with the Mr. Mercedes follow-up. —Seth Dellon, digital business manager
I Am Princess X
Cherie Priest, illus. by Kali Ciesemier (Scholastic/Levine)
Part comic, part novel, and packed with emotion and adventure, Priest's story follows 16-year-old Seattle resident May as she tries to discover whether her childhood friend Libby, who died in a car accident, might still be alive. How else to explain the comics popping up online and around town that feature Princess X, a character the two girls created? It's a fast-paced yet thoughtful thriller, and Ciesemier's comics sequences both ground the story and amp up the excitement.
Noelle Stevenson (HarperTeen)
Having originated online, Stevenson's graphic novel arrives in print with an existing fan base, but it's hard to imagine the reader who won't want to join their ranks after spending time in this wonderfully imagined modern-meets-medieval world. Complex characters, sharp banter, and a nuanced take on ideas of heroism and villainy are just a few of the treats that await those who get to know fiery shapeshifter Nimona and the disgraced knight Lord Ballister Blackheart.
All That Followed
Gabriel Urza (Holt)
A foreign setting that's just exotic enough (the Basque region of Spain), a terrible crime (kidnapping and murder), a small town with complicated history and delicious superstitions (fear of la Cerda, a woman who was burned to death in a furnace as a witch during the Spanish Inquisition for holding gatherings where young girls cavorted with the Devil), and a beautiful widow are just some of the elements that make this intriguing literary debut a book to while away a summer afternoon with. The narrator is an American who has lived in the village for 50 years but acknowledges that he "would always be considered a foreigner here, a visitor passing through." Aren't we all? –Louisa Ermelino, reviews director
Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
Novik has a deep understanding of both classic European fairy tales and present-day fantasy fandom, and she's melded the two into the story of Agnieszka, a 17-year-old young woman trying to figure out what she wants from life while getting a handle on her magical talents. Every seemingly obvious metaphor—the evil forest encroaching on innocent towns, Dragon's orderly masculine magic and Agnieszka's intuitive feminine magic—unfolds into layer after layer of deep meaning. It left me breathless. I don't just want sequels; I want an entire genre of books like this. –Rose Fox, senior reviews editor