Here’s a supersized, super late Month in Books to catch up on August and September.
1. The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware: Travel writer Lo Blacklock is thrilled when she’s finally given a real assignment—joining the maiden voyage of luxury cruise ship the Aurora Borealis. But her first night on board, she sees something she shouldn’t. The deeper Lo delves into what happened, the more seems off—little things, that could be figments of her imagination. Maybe she left the curtains open. Maybe she broke the glass. Or maybe someone is warning her to stop digging.
2. The Time of My Life, by Patrick Swayze and Lisa: I came for the behind-the-scenes information on Dirty Dancing and Ghost; I stayed for the extended look at this dancer, skater, gymnast, actor, football player and singer from Texas. I love that he learned to dance in his mother’s studio and married a dancer he met there when he was sixteen. I love that for his whole life his family and wife called him Buddy. It’s bittersweet, of course, knowing how this story ended, but he lived a very full life in the time he had.
3. Carrie, by Stephan King: I almost couldn’t stand this, and I should have known better going in. I’m not claiming to be the nicest person out there and certainly have had my moments of being a jerk, but there’s nothing I hate more than seeing someone isolated and mocked. So, Carrie. Maybe not my smartest reading decision, but worthwhile to read what started it all for one of our most celebrated authors.
4. The Assistants, by Camille Perri*: Tina Fontana has spent the past six years as a low paid assistant to an extremely high-powered man. When an expenses fluke offers her the opportunity to pay off her crippling student loans and no longer choose between a metro card and groceries, she takes it. But then a similarly debt-laden assistant wants in on the scheme, and another, and another, until Fontana is deep in a major embezzlement ring.
5. You Will Know Me, by Meagan Abbott: You try watching the Olympics and then passing up this novel set in the world of competitive gymnastics. Devon’s family has given everything to her ambitions. The entire lives revolve around practices, meets and fundraising. When an unexpected death rocks the gym two months before qualifiers, their sadness must be measured against the need to keep training and not let the moment slip. But the death may be less accidental than it initially seemed.
6. Straight Man, by Richard Russo: I loved Empire Falls, the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by the same author, and so I wanted to give this earlier book a try. Prepare to delve deep into the internal politics of the English department at a small Pennsylvanian college, where rumors of staff cuts abound, a department chair threatens to kill a duck a day until he receives his budget and loyalties shift like sand in the breeze.
7. The Underground Railroad, by Colston Whitehead: Look, when Oprah tells you to do something, you do it, okay? The affect of Oprah naming a title to her Book Club is so strong that this was released a month ahead of schedule to capitalize on the publicity wave. So—was it good? Well, yes. It was good in the way an incredibly brutal, graphic depiction of the Antebellum South can be, which is to say I found this really disturbing and difficult to read, but I’m not sure that there’s much point in covering the material any other way.
8. Wilde Lake, by Laura Lippman: I always pre-order Laura Lippman novels and this one, which essentially works as a To Kill a Mockingbird treasure hunt, was so much fun. It has a bit of everything—flashbacks, nostalgia, family secrets, political ambitions and the sense that time warps our memories in sometimes impermissible ways.
9. Good as Gone, by Amy Gentry*: When they were children, Jane watched from her closet as a man led her sister Julie from the house at knifepoint. Now, eight years later, Julie is back in their lives, bringing with her the chance to heal the gaping wounds that have almost destroyed their family. But parts of Julie’s story don’t make sense—like why she has a cell phone she hasn’t told them about, where her tattoo came from and the reason her rescue story doesn’t quite mesh.
10. Euphoria, by Lily King: This was my Book Club book for September, and when I read its description as a steamy anthropological love triangle based on the life of Margaret Mead, my eyebrows were more than a little raised. Chalk this up as one more time I ended up liking something I never would have picked up without my Book Club. The story is short and fairly predictable (not unusual for something based on real events) but the setting will leave you drenched with sweat and looking for your pith helmet.
11. Burn, Baby, Burn, by Meg Madina*: In the summer of 1977, Nora is just about to graduate high school and turn 18. She’s longed for the freedom those changes will bring—including the freedom to finally move out of the oppressively small Queens apartment she shares with her mother and abusive little brother. But with a killer on the loose targeting young brunettes, her much-coveted freedom dwindles to nothing. And then a blackout hits the city and the lights go out.
12. The Smell of Other People’s Houses, by Bonnie Sue Hitchcock*: There’s nothing better than a story in an unusual setting, and this portrait of Alaska as a newly minted state certainly qualifies. The narrative is shared between four teenagers—some native, some transplants, some fishermen, some just trying to get through the days.
And the best things I read in August and September…
13. Whiplash River, by Lou Berney: Lou Berney accomplishes perhaps the rarest and most delightful of literary feats: a comedic crime novel. With fast-paced plots and characters as ridiculous and they are lovable, Berney’s novels are fun, which just doesn’t happen enough, as far as I’m concerned.
14. The Cleanskin, by Laura Bloom**: Halley has changed so much about herself—her name, her background and certainly any trace of The Thing She Did—that it’s hard to tell who she really is anymore. She lives an idealized life running a small café in the paradise of Byron Bay but floats past her husband and son without ever really connecting. Then someone from her past shows up—someone with plenty of knowledge about The Thing She Did and who may be taking orders from the one person who can bring Halley’s world crashing down.
*Debut author—please support!
**My friend—please support!!