Looking for the perfect book to throw in the suitcase or take to the beach? Let us help. We've polled our staff for their personal recommendations, and PW's reviews editors have put together some stellar picks in fiction, mysteries and thrillers, romance, sci-fi, graphic novels, nonfiction, and YA and children’s books. Whether you want something breezy, laugh-out-loud funny, terrifying, thought-provoking, or anything else, really, we've got you covered. Enjoy!
Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Knopf Books for Young Readers)
My favorite reads from last year were the bestselling Illuminae series, which Kaufman and Kristoff cowrote. When I learned that they were collaborating on a new trilogy, well, I don’t think I can accurately describe my excitement. An SF YA with an ensemble cast of misfits, blistering sarcasm, and characters who are really good at what they do but terrible when interacting with other people? Sign me up, please! —Drucilla Shultz, assistant editor
The October Man
Ben Aaronovitch (Subterranean)
It’s lucky that Aaronovitch turns out new additions in his Rivers of London supernatural police procedural series so often, since their deadpan humor and sexy river gods make them perfect diversions in any season. The latest entry is a spin-off, introducing a new protagonist, magic-practicing cop Tobias Winter, in a new setting: Germany. It’s a wine-related mystery I can’t wait to uncork. —Hannah Kushnick, reviews editor
The Paper Wasp
Lauren Acampora (Grove)
That feeling when you know things are about to go horribly wrong, but you’re not sure exactly how and you can’t look away? That’s the sensation of reading Acampora’s debut novel, which opens with Abby, an artistic near recluse in a dead-end job, on her way to visit Elise, a promising Hollywood actress, after they’ve reconnected at their high school reunion. Because here’s the thing about rekindling a friendship—it just might end in ashes. —Carolyn Juris, features editor
The Perfect Fraud
Ellen LaCorte (Harper)
What is a beach read exactly? For me, it’s a perfect page-turner that adds to the bliss of summer. This one hits all the marks with two women, one a reluctant fourth-generation commitment-phobic faux psychic, the other a brash single mother with a very mysteriously sick child. The tension rises as the women’s lives collide in the red rocks of Sedona. —Louisa Ermelino, editor-at-large
The Redemption of Time: A Three-Body Problem Novel (Remembrance of Earth’s Past)
Baoshu, trans. from the Chinese by Ken Liu (Tor)
Nine years ago, science fiction novelist Cixin Liu published Death’s End in China, finishing his 1,500-page Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy. “No matter how many posts we wrote, the magnificent, grand arc of the trilogy was at an end,” Baoshu writes, describing the “melancholy” that inspired him to write a fanfiction tribute. This cosmic Romeo and Juliet story takes a welcome journey back to Liu’s fictional universe (with the master’s blessing). —Jason Boog, West Coast correspondent
Red, White & Royal Blue
Casey McQuiston (Griffin)
In McQuiston’s delightful alternate universe, the U.S. elected a Texan woman president in 2016. Her half-Mexican son, Alex, is obsessed with Henry, Prince of Wales, whom he thinks a tiresome bore—until Henry gets tired of dropping hints and kisses him. Hysterical late-night texting and passionately romantic letters ensue. Their story cracked me up almost nonstop, with just enough tension, pointed politics, and happy sniffling to balance the humor. McQuiston’s unconventional royal rom-com is absolutely divine. —Rose Fox, senior reviews editor
Searching for Sylvie Lee
Jean Kwok (Morrow)
When I was invited to a promotional lunch for Kwok, the bestselling author of Girl in Translation and other mainstream novels, I thought there was some mistake. After all, I’m PW’s mystery/thriller editor. Well, it turns out Kwok’s latest centers on an insecure young woman’s search for her older sister, Sylvie, who’s gone missing. My curiosity piqued, I started to read. No surprise, the interpersonal relationships keep the pages turning. —Peter Cannon, senior editor
Vasily Grossman, trans. from the Russian by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler (New York Review Books)
Grossman (1905–1964) is best known for his excellent novel Life and Fate, a War and Peace–scale epic about the German invasion of Russia during WWII that was written in the U.S.S.R. in 1960 and banned by the Soviet authorities. But Life and Fate was a sequel whose 1952 precursor, Stalingrad, is finally being brought out in English this summer. At its center is the Battle of Stalingrad, which Grossman witnessed firsthand as a war reporter. —Daniel Berchenko, managing editor
Antoine Laurain (Gallic)
Two things I love: Paris in the fall and time travel as a plot device in fiction. Three Parisians and an American tourist share an aged bottle of Beaujolais—and the next morning wake up to a world that no longer exists. This is the perfect summer read—clever, yet light and breezy, and full of a joie de vivre that I associate with the French. We’ll always have Paris, circa 1954, thanks to Laurain’s latest charmer. —Claire Kirch, Midwest correspondent
Mona Awad (Viking)
Awad’s addictive, deviously comic novel looks at the dark side of MFA programs. Samantha Mackey, a fiction student at a top-tier New England school, meets four of her fellow writers: a ghoulish clique of women who cryptically refer to one another as Bunny. When Samantha receives an unexpected invitation from the Bunnies to join them for their “Smut Salon,” her desire for acceptance leads her down the rabbit hole. This enchanting, stunningly bizarre novel will have readers racing to find out how it all ends.
Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage
Bette Howland (A Public Space)
In this outstanding posthumous collection, Howland (1937–2017) creates stark and strange works of genius, portraying the complexities of family relationships as beautifully as she portrays her narrators’ insecurities, judgments, and anxieties. Largely autobiographical and incredibly self-aware, Howland’s stories conjure vivid portraits of her home city of Chicago; the collection’s masterpiece title novella is written from its heartbroken narrator to a “you,” a recently deceased love, following his last days living as an academic legend, famed lover of women, and devastating alcoholic.
Ezra Claytan Daniels and Ben Passmore (Fantagraphics)
This is an imaginative Afrofuturist horror story, a grisly, albeit tongue-in-cheek, urban monster tale that also lampoons the hollow racial and class-identity poseurs of the social media set. A creative collaboration between two indie comics stars, this new graphic novel directs its satirical barbs at both white and black hipsters and offers an inspired and comic literary response to the destructive impact of gentrification and racial displacement in blighted urban neighborhoods. —Calvin Reid, senior news editor
Courtney Maum (Tin House)
In Maum’s wonderful, nimble novel, the year is 1937 and Leonora Calaway, a wealthy art collector, has gathered up the artists “the Führer decided were the most degenerate in Europe” and sailed to Costalegre in Mexico, where surrealists and dadaists, writers and painters, all live together to wait out the coming war. A new figure, Dadaist sculptor Jack, enters the situation, charming everyone, especially Lara, Leonora’s neglected 14-year-old daughter, who feels magnetically drawn to him.
Alix Ohlin (Knopf)
Ohlin’s novel is the engrossing, intricate tale of half-sisters Lark and Robin: creative Robin is an excellent pianist, while Lark is a quiet scholar. In New York, Lark hones her documentary filmmaking prowess and worries about Robin, who, despite going to Juilliard to study piano, continues to wander aimlessly, eventually leading their connection to sever. Ohlin expertly weaves Lark and Robin’s disparate lives into a singular thread, making for an exceptional depiction of the bond between sisters.
Jean-Philippe Blondel, trans. from the French by Alison Anderson (New Vessel)
Louis Claret is approaching 60, living alone in a small apartment in his provincial French city, when Alexandre, his former student and now a famous painter, reenters his life and makes him an unusual offer: he’d like Claret to pose. Each time Claret is painted, Blondel reveals more of his past. This irresistible novel flies by with gentle humor, but also poses complex questions about the meaning of art and sexuality.
A Girl Returned
Donatella Di Pietrantonio, trans. from the Italian by Ann Goldstein (Europa)
Di Pietrantonio’s exquisite novel (translated by Elena Ferrante translator Ann Goldstein) begins with an unnamed 13-year-old girl suddenly sent away from the family she thought was hers, to her birth family in Abruzzo, Italy, who seem anything but welcoming. Once there, she forms a life-changing bond with two of her new siblings.
In West Mills
De’Shawn Charles Winslow (Bloomsbury)
Winslow’s stellar debut follows the residents of a black neighborhood in a tiny North Carolina town over the course of several decades, beginning in 1941. At the center of the novel is stubborn schoolteacher Azalea, nicknamed Knot, a woman who loves moonshine and male companionship but whose life changes when she discovers she’s pregnant.
The Laws of the Skies
Grégoire Courtois, trans. from the French by Rhonda Mullins (Coach House)
Courtois’s haunting novel begins like a fairy tale but winds up more like a Friday the 13th movie. Twelve six-year-old schoolchildren leave their parents for a weekend at camp with their teacher Frederic and two chaperones; readers know from the first page that none of them will return. This wicked novel plumbs the darkest reaches of childhood fears and finds plenty to be afraid of.
The Nickel Boys
Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)
In the 1960s, Elwood Curtis, a deeply principled, straight-A high school student from Tallahassee, Fla., who partakes in civil rights demonstrations against Jim Crow laws, is erroneously detained by police and ends up at the Nickel Academy, a juvenile reform school. Elwood finds that the staff is callous and corrupt, and the boys—especially the black boys—suffer from near-constant physical, verbal, and sexual abuse. This is a stunning novel of impeccable language and startling insight.
The Organs of Sense
Adam Ehrlich Sachs (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
In 1666, the young Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz—the philosopher who helped invent calculus—treks to the Bohemian mountains to “rigorously but surreptitiously assess” the sanity of an eyeless, unnamed astronomer who is predicting an impending eclipse. Sachs’s sublime novel recalls the nested monologues of Thomas Bernhard and the cerebral farces of Donald Antrim, and the way it all comes together gives it the feel of an intellectual thriller.
The Tenth Muse
Catherine Chung (Ecco)
Katherine, a noted mathematician who grew up believing herself the daughter of a white father and a Chinese mother, is stunned to learn the truth of her family history. Chung persuasively blends myths and legends with the real-world stories of lesser-known woman mathematicians and of WWII on both the European and Asian fronts, making for a bold, poignant novel that illustrates how truth and beauty can reside even amid the messiest solutions.
Philippa Gregory (Atria)
Gregory, a master of English historical fiction, moves from her typical milieu of royal courts to a portrait of a normal woman in the marshy landscape of the South of England. In 1648, Alinor, suspected of harboring dark secrets in a time of panic about witches, catches the attention of people in her village, leading her down a dangerous path.
Julia Phillips (Knopf)
Three decades ago, I traveled to Siberia. I was hoping to sneak into the remote peninsula of Kamchatka but only made it as far as Irkutsk—but Phillips, in this beautifully written novel, takes me right there. It’s the story of two sisters who disappear somewhere within the 180,000 square miles of remote wilderness and mountains. Phillips tells a powerful story of Kamchatka’s residents in the wake of the girls’ disappearance and gracefully explores the tension between Russians and Kamchatka’s indigenous inhabitants. —Mark Rotella, senior editor
The Burning Chambers
Kate Mosse (Minotaur)
Set in 1592, bestseller Mosse’s series launch focuses on a bitter feud between two prominent families during the French religious wars, as seen through the eyes of 19-year-old Minou, the heroine of this Romeo and Juliet tale.
Denise Mina (Mulholland)
Anna McDonald, a well-to-do Glasgow housewife, is obsessed with true crime podcasts. When one such podcast turns out to have a connection to her dark past, she and a former rock star wind up fleeing for their lives pursued by deadly enemies in this thriller from Edgar finalist Mina.
Fake like Me
Barbara Bourland (Grand Central)
A no-name artist from the Florida backwater, just as she’s finally achieving fame and fortune, suffers a serious setback when a fire in her New York City studio destroys her masterpiece, a series of seven large oil paintings. Her efforts to recreate them in time for a Paris show lead to trouble.
Into the Jungle
Erica Ferencik (Scout)
When the teaching job that lures 19-year-old Lily Bushwold from Boston to Bolivia falls through, she decides to venture into the Amazon jungle, where she finds dangerous animals, unfriendly natives, and worse. Armchair travelers seeking vicarious thrills will find lots to like.
James Ellroy (Knopf)
Set in Los Angeles in early 1942, this ambitious novel from MWA Grand Master Ellroy opens with the unearthing of a body in Griffith Park. What appears to be a routine homicide turns out to have a link to a huge criminal enterprise related to America’s war effort.
Steve Cavanagh (Flatiron)
In the fourth novel featuring defense lawyer Eddie Flynn, Eddie is sure his movie star client, on trial for murdering the star’s wife, is innocent. What Eddie doesn’t know is that there’s a serial killer on the jury with his own ideas of justice.
Rob Hart (Crown)
Big Brother meets Big Business in this near-future thriller. Paxton works for the Cloud, a giant tech company that has taken over much of the U.S. economy. Meanwhile, Zinnia goes undercover as an ordinary worker in the Cloud to learn its deepest secrets—and Paxton may just wind up an unwitting pawn in her game.
The Whisper Man
Alex North (Celadon)
A widower and his young son move to a small town where, 20 years earlier, a serial killer murdered five residents before he was caught. Now the killer’s apprentice may be targeting the son in British author North’s first novel.
Gods of Jade and Shadow
Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey)
Moreno-Garcia crafts a magical novel of duality, tradition, and change, set in the late 1920s as Mexico transitions from its post-Revolution period to the Jazz Age. When Casiopea Tun releases the injured and imprisoned Mayan death god, Hun-Kamé, she’s bound to his quest to regain his underworld throne. A seamless blend of mythology and history provides a ripe setting for Casiopea’s stellar journey of self-discovery in this rich and complex tale of desperate hopes and complicated relationships.
Seanan McGuire (Tor.com)
McGuire puts a genuinely innovative spin on the magical child horror novel in this mesmerizing story. James Reed is devoted to creating human incarnations of pure language and pure math, which will give him power over reality and time. Roger and Dodger, one of his pairs of avatars, begin exploring their telepathic connection and other powers— with terrifying results. Shifts and alterations in timelines demand close attention from readers, but McGuire’s rigorous plotting pulls it all together.
The Dry Heart
Natalia Ginzburg, trans. from the Italian by Frances Frenaye (New Directions)
I’m always drawn to short novels that pack a punch—Fleur Jaeggy’s Sweet Days of Discipline (101 pages), Willem Frederick Hermans’s An Untouched House (88 pages), and José Revueltas’s The Hole (79 pages) are all the more powerful for how brief they are. It’s less about finding the time to read Natalia Ginzburg’s The Dry Heart, an 83-page novel about an Italian woman who shoots and kills her husband on page one, than it is preparing yourself for it. —Gabe Habash, deputy reviews editor
The Record Keeper
Agnes Gomillion (Titan)
Gomillion debuts with a gut-punch Afrofuturist novel that examines the incalculable damage systemic racism wreaks on individuals and societies, and the many forms liberation can take. Arika Cobane lives in the remnants of near-future America, where she’s trained by her white teachers to write false histories that oppress her fellow dark-skinned laborers. After a newcomer raises Arika’s consciousness, she turns to leading a rebellion. This is an intellectually rich, emotional, and ruthlessly honest confrontation of racism.
This Is How You Lose the Time War
Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (Saga)
In this exquisitely crafted tale (already being developed for television), two special agents from competing factions forge an unexpected relationship through messages left behind as they wage a secret war across space and time. As taunts and challenges gradually give way to endearments and secrets, the two women must determine their true roles in the unending time war. This tapestry stretching across millennia is anchored with raw emotion and a genuine sense of wonder.
Chuck Wendig (Del Rey)
This blockbuster apocalyptic novel confronts some of the darkest and most divisive aspects of present-day America with urgency, humanity, and hope. Sleepwalkers wander through a crumbling American society that’s ravaged by fear, dogma, disease, and the effects of climate change. Meanwhile, a supercomputer with an unclear agenda assigns a disgraced epidemiologist to treat a pandemic. Wendig’s opus tackles many moral questions while eschewing easy answers, thoroughly earning comparisons to Stephen King’s The Stand.
Ayesha at Last
Uzma Jalaluddin (Berkley)
In this excellent modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, aspiring poet Ayesha Shamsi juggles her dreams and the stifling expectations of Toronto’s Indian-Muslim community. Family loyalty is a recurring theme as Ayesha overcomes her prejudice against conservative Khalid and he learns to accommodate different viewpoints. With humor and abundant cultural references—both manifest in the all-seeing, all-criticizing aunty brigade—Jalaluddin cleverly illustrates the social pressures facing young Indian-Muslim adults.
The Doctor’s Date
Heidi Cullinan (Dreamspinner)
Cullinan’s heart-wrenching contemporary adeptly mixes heavy themes with lighthearted banter and tender romantic gestures. Hospital HR director Erin Andreas has harbored a crush on anesthesiologist Owen Gagnon since they were teenagers. A comedy of errors leads to Owen rescuing Erin from his controlling father’s house, and the two men teach each other what safety feels like. This is a beautiful story of two nervous but determined white knights saving each other from their dragons.
Kingdom of Exiles
Maxym M. Martineau (Sourcebooks Casablanca)
Martineau’s impressive debut novel, the first of a romantic fantasy trilogy, marries grand-scale wonder with the intimacy of relationships among traveling companions and a layered plot. An assassin hired to kill a renegade psychic finds himself falling for her instead, while a quest beckons and danger threatens. Intricate worldbuilding melds traditional high fantasy with a hint of Victorian sensibility for a deliciously complex story.
A Prince on Paper
Alyssa Cole (Avon)
Sexual and gender identities, grief, self-respect, acceptance, and love are explored in the faultless third and final Reluctant Royals romance, in which a fake engagement between a European prince and an African finance minister’s daughter quickly becomes real. Cole weaves family drama and emotional growth into a passion-filled story worthy of its irresistibly complicated and diverse characters. This affair of the heart is deeply satisfying.
Christina Lauren (Gallery)
This dazzling standalone contemporary is a hilarious comedy of coincidences. Olive Torres hates Ethan Thomas, but the two of them are stuck taking the Maui honeymoon intended for their unwell siblings. To Olive’s surprise, Ethan slowly reveals himself to be a genuinely decent guy, and soon they’re sharing that big honeymoon suite bed. Lauren brilliantly wields familiar rom-com tropes to craft a delightful enemies-to-lovers romance that will have readers hanging on every word.
Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick (First Second)
While a retelling of modern history’s debates over theoretical physics may sound more like a summer school assignment than a beach read, this convivial biography of Stephen Hawking makes the calculations come alive as they did in Hawking’s own brilliant, buzzing brain, even as motor-neuron disease slowed his body. Drawn in neat line work with rich coloring, this well-researched tribute to a magnificent mind is well worth packing for the plane trip.
King of King Court
Travis Dandro (Drawn & Quarterly)
Dandro’s debut memoir of growing up in dysfunction clocks in at more than 400 pages, but they fly by like a childhood summer in gloriously scribbled and often wordless sequences. The detail of a small boy’s observations and dreams are punctuated by visits with his drug-addicted, charming, and monstrous biological father. Dandro acutely captures both his own innocence lost and a stunning sense of empathy for everyone in his ruptured family.
Xuan Juliana Wang (Hogarth)
Endearing characters with bizarre fixations fill Wang’s superb debut collection, a perfect book to dip into this summer. Two synchronized divers grow up with lives and bodies completely entwined. A 10-year-old works for her parents’ travel agency and suddenly falls under the spell of a qi master. A massive Chinese carp bloom clogs American rivers. Largely caught up within the U.S.-China “import-export boom of the early nineties,” Wang’s striking characters are fresh, clever, and shouldn’t be missed. —Seth Satterlee, reviews editor
MK Reed, Greg Means, and Matt Wiegle (Top Shelf)
Wicked wit Penny, a perpetually single and cheerily disgruntled temp worker, meets an amateur slasher film director who convinces her to jump in with his oddball crew. This hilarious tale of quitting the daily grind for grindhouse is full of visual gags and quirky characters straight out of an updated Clerks. PW’s review calls this indie movie–making misadventure “a smart, snarky ode to the joy of creation.”
This Land Is My Land: A Graphic History of Big Dreams, Micronations, and Other Self-Made States
Andy Warner and Sofie Louise Dam (Chronicle)
Armchair travelers can gain inspiration from this collection of brief profiles of the exploits of idealists who set out to establish purposeful communities. Populated by free thinkers and devotees, the work visits, among other locales, religious communes, the queer Kingdom of the Coral Sea, and the sovereign North Dumpling Island established by the eccentric inventor of the Segway scooter, all rendered in whimsical pastels.
The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America
Margaret O’Mara (Penguin)
Readers anticipating some long, leisurely reading at the beach or the cabin might curl up with O’Mara’s epic “only-in-America story,” which tracks the history of computing in the U.S. via the transformation of once-sleepy Palo Alto and the surrounding Bay Area into a center of unmatched wealth and power.
Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl’s Love Letter to the Power of Fashion
Tanisha C. Ford (St. Martin’s)
Ford—a professor of Africana studies, whose previous book, Liberated Threads, looked at the role of personal style in black women’s civil rights activism—dishes up a combination of history, memoir, and cultural analysis in this tour through 10 clothing items and hairstyles such as the dashiki, the Jheri curl, the door-knocker earrings popular in ’90s music videos, and the hooded sweatshirts that became a symbol in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking It All with the Greatest Chef in the World
Jeff Gordinier (Crown/Duggan)
In what is certainly a foodie’s dream trek, Esquire food editor Gordinier sets off to Australia, Denmark, and Mexico with Noma chef and culinary genius René Redzepi in search of amazing flavors.
It’s Great to Suck at Something: The Exceptional Benefits of Being Unexceptional
Karen Rinaldi (Atria)
Rinaldi, publisher of Harper Wave, asks readers to try new things (and fail), rails against humblebrag culture, and suggests strategies for exploring uncomfortable personal and professional terrain in this work that originated in a popular New York Times article.
Mr. Know-It-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder
John Waters (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Filmmaker and self-described “garbage guru” Waters delights with this hybrid memoir/advice book, which shares memorable moments from his directing career—such as casting Patty Hearst in Cry-Baby—and entertaining riffs on topics including 1960s “car-accident teen novelty records,” Andy Warhol’s contribution to the cinema, and the best vacation spots.
Nuking the Moon: And Other Intelligence Schemes and Military Plots Left on the Drawing Board
Vince Houghton (Penguin)
The curator and historian at the International Spy Museum serves up funny, snack-size chapters on 21 outlandish plans pursued, then abandoned, by the U.S. military and intelligence departments. Among them are attempts to use cats as listening devices, make aircraft carriers out of icebergs, psych out Japanese soldiers by parachute-dropping painted foxes onto beaches, and use nuclear explosions to shift hurricanes’ trajectories.
Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide
Tony Horwitz (Penguin Press)
Following in the footsteps of Frederick Law Olmsted, a journalist (and the landscape architect of New York’s Central Park) assigned to explore the South shortly before the Civil War, Horwitz makes his way through six Southern states by train, car, steamboat, and even mule, talking to locals, partaking in Southern culture, and contemplating American history.
They Bled Blue: Fernandomania, Strike-Season Mayhem, and the Weirdest Championship Baseball Had Ever Seen: The 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers
Jason Turbow (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Sportswriter Turbow captures the Los Angeles Dodgers’ thrilling, improbable 1981 championship season, highlighting the behind-the-scenes antics of the edgy and eclectic cast of characters that defeated the New York Yankees. Like peanuts and Cracker Jack, this is a summer treat for baseball fans.
Ebony Flowers (Drawn & Quarterly)
“I liked getting my hair braided by my mother,” Flowers says, simply but with poignant resonance, in the story that opens her collection of comic narratives woven around the lives of black women, girls, and their hair care rites of passage. Strand by strand, she binds together tales about family, race (and pointedly, racism), and culture with a sharp intellectual intimacy reminiscent of Zora Neale Hurston spun with cartooning exuberance influenced by Lynda Barry, in wry, curlicue drawings. —Meg Lemke, reviews editor
The Vinyl Frontier: The Story of the Voyager Golden Record
Jonathan Scott (Bloomsbury)
This is a high-energy pop song of a book about one of NASA’s most unlikely endeavors—the 1977 project to create a playlist for the Voyager probe. Scott will enchant astronomy and music buffs equally as he recounts the six-week process of choosing the right music and sounds to represent humanity to anyone else who might be out there.
Whole Hog BBQ: The Gospel of Carolina Barbecue with Recipes from Skylight Inn and Sam Jones BBQ
Sam Jones and Daniel Vaughn (Ten Speed)
Pitmaster Jones and Texas Monthly editor Vaughn give an expert course in North Carolina barbecue in this comprehensive guide to choosing a hog, selecting wood, building the burn barrel, and throwing a pig roast. This reference will be a boon for weekend barbecue masters looking to take their game to the next level.
Daniel’s Good Day
Micha Archer (Penguin/Paulsen)
Archer’s inquisitive protagonist walks through his friendly neighborhood polling his neighbors: “What makes a good day for you?” The many responses he receives represent a diverse community in the midst of a lush, blooming spring.
Hum and Swish
Matt Myers (Holiday House/Porter)
Airy portrayals of the seashore—its bright light, creamy waves, and golden sands—evoke the smell of sea salt mingled with sunscreen in this quiet picture book about the pleasures of solo creation.
The Last Peach
Gus Gordon (Roaring Brook)
In this existential meditation about desires and illusions, two wide-eyed insects contemplate a red-orange globe that hangs suspended amid green leaves—a peach.
Llama Destroys the World
Jonathan Stutzman, illus. by Heather Fox (Holt)
Cocreators Stutzman and Fox open this outrageous story of cake and planetary annihilation with a prediction: “On Friday, Llama will destroy the world.” Dessert has never seemed so epic.
My Papi Has a Motorcycle
Isabel Quintero, illus. by Zeke Peña (Kokila)
When Papi gets home from work, his daughter is ready for their ritual, a nightly motorcycle ride through their beloved California city. Quintero and Peña bring sensory immediacy to their story, which features a fresh graphic novel style and a mix of Spanish and English text.
Barbara McClintock (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
One evening, Annie fits her helmet over her curls, gets into her race car—a sleek, torpedo-shaped unit—and rockets out of her open bedroom window. McClintock’s economically told story offers the greatest charms of adventure: being on one’s own, seeing new places, and going really, really fast.
You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks
Evan Turk (Atheneum)
Splendid landscapes celebrate America’s national parks, from Yosemite to Biscayne Bay. In free verse and consistently powerful spreads that enumerate the parks’ natural riches, Turk offers a fitting testament to their grandeur.
All the Greys on Greene Street
Laura Tucker, illus. by Kelly Murphy (Viking)
In a beautifully narrated, Konigsburg-tinged art mystery set in early-1980s New York City, newcomer Tucker skillfully balances themes of mental illness, friendship, and creativity in tough circumstances.
Freedom Fire (Dactyl Hill Squad #2)
Daniel José Older (Scholastic/Levine)
The Dactyl Hill Squad series continues with Magdalys and company heading south to find her Union soldier brother in the midst of Civil War–era Louisiana. Older again creates a winning blend of history, fantasy, and characters battling oppression—all while on pteroback.
Knights vs. Monsters
Matt Phelan (Greenwillow)
Phelan follows his Knights vs. Dinosaurs with a second illustrated adventure. A crew of knights and an archer battle a menagerie of monstrous creatures, rendered in epic graphic novel style spreads that are infused with plenty of humor.
Téa Obreht (Random House)
Remember when status galleys were a thing? Were they? If they were, and still are, then this is that, Obreht’s highly anticipated follow-up to 2011 phenomenon The Tiger’s Wife. It’s kind of a western. It’s kind of a ghost story. And part of it is narrated by a reformed outlaw to a camel named Burke. It’s definitely its own thing, and it’s something you want to get lost in. —Jonathan Segura, executive editor
Me and Sam-Sam Handle the Apocalypse
Susan Vaught (S&S/Wiseman)
An autistic girl becomes an amateur detective after her father is blamed for a theft. With the aid of her friend, new kid Springer Regal, and her faithful Pomeranian, Sam-Sam, Jesse Broadview sets out to find the true culprit.
My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich
Ibi Zoboi (Dutton)
National Book Award finalist Zoboi sets her middle grade debut in 1984 Harlem, where 12-year-old Ebony-Grace Norfleet, who lives in Alabama and likes to escape into the world of science fiction, is visiting her father.
Shouting at the Rain
Lynda Mullaly Hunt (Penguin/Paulsen)
Delsie, who is fascinated by weather patterns, lives with her grandmother in Cape Cod. As she grapples with feelings of self-doubt and abandonment as well as a wish for a more conventional family structure, Delsie strikes up a surprising friendship.
Up for Air
Laurie Morrison (Amulet)
Debut author Morrison realistically captures the challenges and uncertainties of middle school in this sensitive novel about a girl struggling to form an identity while navigating a learning disability and finding success on her swim team.
Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Knopf)
In Kaufman and Kristoff’s space opera set in 2380, Aurora Academy’s decorated cadet Tyler Jones inadvertently trades his carefully planned future for a squad of misfits when he rescues a human girl from a ship that has been missing for 200 years.
Brave Face: A Memoir
Shaun David Hutchinson (Simon Pulse)
YA author Hutchinson explores with raw honesty the travails of coming into his sexuality as a gay person in the early 1990s, sharing passages from his diaries to present the truth as he saw it and the turmoil he experienced.
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me
Mariko Tamaki, illus. by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (First Second)
This graphic novel set in Berkeley, Calif., introduces Laura Dean and her on-again, off-again girlfriend Frederica in an exploration of toxic relationships and social dynamics that is—like its largely queer and physically and ethnically diverse cast—sharp and dazzling.
Let Me Hear a Rhyme
Tiffany D. Jackson, with Malik “Malik- 16” Sharif (HarperCollins/Tegen)
After an aspiring teen rap artist becomes the victim of an apparent street shooting, his sister and best friends hatch a plan: they will pretend that he is still alive in order to turn him into a rap superstar. Jackson scores a bull’s-eye with her passionate homage to black city life in the late ’90s.
The Rest of the Story
Sarah Dessen (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)
Emma Saylor remembers the stories her late mother told her about growing up on the shores of a lake. When she is sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family, Emma discovers two communities (one working class, one wealthy), a boy named Roo, and pieces of herself and her past.
Jennifer Donnelly (Scholastic Press)
"Cinderella" has seen many variations, but few detail what happens beyond the royal marriage, and even fewer cast a light on Cinderella's family. In this feminist retelling that follows "ugly" stepsister Isabelle, Printz-winning author Donnelly does both, adding in plenty of fateful adventures and advocating autonomy and empowerment.
With the Fire on High
Elizabeth Acevedo (HarperTeen)
In this stunning sophomore novel from National Book Award– and Printz– winner Acevedo, high school senior Emoni Santiago lives in Philadelphia with her grandmother and two-year-old daughter, balancing school, work, and motherhood and developing her cooking abilities.
The Mad Hatter Mystery
John Dickson Carr (Penzler)
Carr first became known to me through the most purely enjoyable book I read last year, The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries. In it, editor Otto Penzler included two stories by Carr and declared him the genre’s grand master. This sterling introduction, and a plot description—London terrorized by a top hat stealing spree—suggestive of P.G. Wodehouse gone bloodily awry, has sent this newly reissued 1933 whodunit right to the top of my summer reading list. —Everett Jones, reviews editor
Message from the Shadows
Antonio Tabucchi, trans. from the Italian by Anne Milano Appel et al. (Archipelago)
The latest story collection from late Italian fiction writer Antonio Tabucchi is a career-spanning selection of 24 greatest hits translated by six translators. Tabucchi’s work is mesmerizing, with the gentle rhythms of his lush, languid prose always carrying a light melancholy, walking the fine line between our world and what he called his shadow world. Some might call it magic realism, but the experience is more akin to lucid dreaming—something of which his hero, Fernando Pessoa, would be proud. —John Maher, digital and news editor