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The Summer Reading Guide: New Arrivals, Plus the Classics that Will Never Do You Wrong

Every summer shepherds in a wealth of can’t-put-it-down reads, some inarguably lighter than others. Below, you’ll find some of our favorites from the bunch, which all hold their own (and then some) as great books. We also compiled a list of titles that we can consider “Classics,” curated in part with your help via Instagram. Some of these require a serious time commitment, though all justify the investment, and are more pleasure than “work.” It was really hard to cull this list down, particularly when it came to writers who issued masterpiece after masterpiece. We would love to continue the conversation via #weekendreading and hear what you think should be on this list.

New Arrivals

  • Rich & Pretty

    Rich & Pretty

    by Rumaan Alam

    As a longtime magazine writer and editor, Alam adroitly observes what happens to childhood friendships with the inevitable drift into adulthood, and the incipient struggle to reconcile feelings of enduring sisterhood and shared history with the reality of who we might be today. In Rich & Pretty, the two protagonists navigate this dichotomy, though it’s also an unabashedly fun read about what it’s like to live and strive in NYC in your 20s and 30s.

  • Magic & Loss: The Internet as Art

    Magic & Loss: The Internet as Art

    by Virginia Heffernan

    So immersed are we in a wired and connected life, it’s easy to forget that this is a new reality, that we are still in the midst of one of the most groundbreaking cultural shifts…perhaps ever. Virginia Heffernan brilliantly explores what this means to us all, and why the internet might be the greatest (certainly the largest) piece of art ever created.

  • Under the Harrow

    Under the Harrow

    by Flynn Berry

    This is the sort of book you will likely plow through during a single session at the beach: It’s the story of two sisters—one found murdered, the other on a relentless search to find her killer, but it’s deftly told, quirky, and full of small surprises.

  • Homegoing

    Homegoing

    by Yaa Gyasi

    This incredible book follows the descendants of two half-sisters, separated in 18th-century Ghana. One thread follows Effia, married to a wealthy Englishman, who lives through Fante and Asante dissent. The other thread follows Esi, who is sold into slavery and shipped off to America.

  • Imagine Me Gone

    Imagine Me Gone

    By Adam Haslett

    As one of the country’s most compelling writers, it’s no surprise that Haslett’s latest novel is gripping and gorgeous. The story of a family both destroyed and united by depression, it is deeply human and wrenching, with pockets of humor and hope.

  • Everybody's Fool

    Everybody's Fool

    by Richard Russo

    Russo easily deserves a place on the list of “Classics” below, which makes this new arrival so easy to both celebrate and love: The characters are familiar and wonderfully told (whacky, memorable, inexorably human), making this the sort of book you’ll be loathe to actually finish and put down.

Classics

  • Angle of Repose

    Angle of Repose

    by Wallace Stegner

    There might be no finer American writer than Stegner, whose starkly elegant prose tells the story of settling the West, in so many of his various masterpieces.

  • Brideshead Revisited

    Brideshead Revisited

    by Evelyn Waugh

    This is Evelyn Waugh’s most beloved work, in part because it has some incredibly lovable characters (Lord Sebastian Flyte and his teddy bear, Aloysius, for one). It’s one of the most vividly drawn tales of the English aristocracy.

  • Pride & Prejudice

    Pride & Prejudice

    by Jane Austen

    It’s hard not to be won over by Austen’s quick-witted protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet, though you can find strong and smart heroines in pretty much all of Austen’s classics.

  • The Year of Magical Thinking

    The Year of Magical Thinking

    by Joan Didion

    Joan Didion’s memoir of the year after her husband passed away is a poignant tale of grief, as well as an honest, intimate tribute to marriage.

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

    by Rebecca Skloot

    Skloot’s true account of the first human cells to be cloned, and the African-American woman from whom they were unknowingly taken in 1951, is a provoking investigation of science, ethics, and race—and a story as engrossing as any novel.

  • Freedom

    Freedom

    by Jonathan Franzen

    Franzen is brilliant at capturing American family life on the page—a skill best-represented by the incredible scope and storytelling in Freedom.

  • Jane Eyre

    Jane Eyre

    Charlotte Bronte

    This is the Bronte book we can happily read every summer—and still never want it to be done.

  • In Cold Blood

    In Cold Blood

    by Truman Capote

    Capote’s defining true crime narrative is chilling and sad and gripping, while also being an unexpected lesson in love and empathy.

  • A Little Life

    A Little Life

    by Hanya Yanigahara

    We read A Little Life when it came out in January and haven’t been able to shake it off: It is a stunningly beautiful story that will grip your heart and refuse to let go.

  • Revolutionary Road

    Revolutionary Road

    by Richard Yates

    Yates’s portrait of a 1950’s suburban couple, and their subtle, complex flaws, is both beautiful and sad.

  • All the Light We Cannot See

    All the Light We Cannot See

    by Anthony Doerr

    A Pulitzer Prize winner, Doerr’s 2014 novel about the colliding paths of a blind, French girl and a German boy-turned-soldier takes its place among the best WWII fiction of our time.

  • Unbroken

    Unbroken

    by Laura Hillenbrand

    In Hillenbrand’s genius hands, the life of Olympic track star and POW, Louis Zamperini, is so much more than a classic war story—it’s not surprising that this incredibly inspirational story spent three years on the New York Times bestseller list.

  • Tender is the Night

    Tender is the Night

    by F. Scott Fitzgerald

    Overshadowed in popular culture by The Great Gatsby, this equally affecting novel is the last completed one that Fitzgerald wrote. Its French Riviera setting makes it a strangely good beach read.

  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers

    Behind the Beautiful Forevers

    by Katherine Boo

    Every page of Boo’s intricate account of a Mumbai slum and the very real people who inhabit it is an astonishment. This is the kind of book that can change the way you look at the world.

  • Lolita

    Lolita

    by Vladimir Nabakov

    Decades later, Nabakov’s love story still shocks—while there are many incredible books to his name, this will always be his most memorable.

  • The Age of Innocence

    The Age of Innocence

    by Edith Wharton

    While it’s a toss up between this and The House of Mirth, this classic tale of New York society during the gilded age justifies the investment of time (plus, Wharton won a Pulitzer for it in 1921, becoming the first woman to score the prize).

  • American Pastoral

    American Pastoral

    by Philip Roth

    Nobody can lay claim to the Jewish American story like Roth: In American Pastoral, Roth’s alter ego and narrator, Nathan Zuckerman, who details the life of Seymour “Swede” Levov, whose daughter is on the run after setting off a bomb in protest of the Vietnam war and killing an innocent bystander.

  • Beloved

    Beloved

    by Toni Morrison

    Beloved is possibly Morrison’s most deeply felt novel, an epic examination of the aftermath of slavery. Incredibly prolific, it’s easy to justify reading all of her novels in succession.

  • Housekeeping

    Housekeeping

    by Marilynne Robinson

    A story of two orphan sisters, Housekeeping is a masterpiece that speaks to the human sense of longing, by one of America’s most formidable writers. After Housekeeping, Robinson took a 20-plus-year break from writing fiction, before returning with the equally wonderful, Gilead.

  • The Stories of John Cheever

    The Stories of John Cheever

    by John Cheever

    Short story collections have unfortunately grown increasingly rare. This volume from literary great John Cheever reminds us how profound the art of the short story can be—plus, each snippet can be dispensed during a single session before bed.

  • White Noise

    White Noise

    by Don DeLillo

    The ordinary meets the extraordinary in DeLillo’s famed book about a dysfunctional family. While published in the ’80s, it still feels relevant as commentary on American culture.

  • All the Pretty Horses

    All the Pretty Horses

    by Cormac McCarthy

    This is the first book in McCarthy’s Border Trilogy—as a Texas-based coming of age tale, it sticks with you in a way that most of McCarthy’s books manage to do.

  • Absalom, Absalom!

    Absalom, Absalom!

    by William Faulkner

    It’s nearly impossible to say which Faulkner novel is the most classic of them all, but if you haven’t visited his work in a while, this is a compelling place to start.

  • Middlemarch

    Middlemarch

    by George Eliot

    There are seemingly endless conversations to be had about Eliot’s deeply layered novel set in the 19th century Midlands, making it a great classic pick for book club. It’s also a great introduction to the work of the humanist Eliot, otherwise known as Mary Ann Evans.

  • Spartina

    Spartina

    by John Casey

    The most celebrated work by John Casey, Spartina is the absorbing, archetypal story of a New England fisherman’s desperate quest at sea.

  • The Bascombe Novels

    The Bascombe Novels

    by Richard Ford

    Composed of The Sportswriter, Independence Day, and The Lay of Land, Ford’s modern trilogy chronicles the life of Frank Bascombe, an everyman who has lost his family and his career, yet soldiers on, quietly looking for meaning.

  • Moby Dick

    Moby Dick

    by Herman Melville

    The relentless pursuit of Moby Dick by Captain Ahab is, simply, required reading. While it may seem like a daunting invitation to re-create a high school English class, it is actually a riveting read.

  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

    by Michael Chabon

    A must-read for anyone who grew up a fan of comic books, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is an inventive novel that spans the eras leading up to and beyond WWII, centered on two cousins who fall into the comic business in New York City.

  • War and Peace

    War and Peace

    by Leo Tolstoy

    Admittedly a beast of a classic, but so, so good—particularly if you find yourself with a good solid uninterrupted week at the beach. If you’ve read it before, consider a revisit, as it tends to look differently at different ages.

  • A Room of One's Own

    A Room of One's Own

    by Virginia Woolf

    While in her feminist manifesto, Woolf wrote: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” the statement extended well beyond writers, becoming a battle cry for women everywhere. Meanwhile, her novels are all incredible, too.

  • The Naked and the Dead

    The Naked and the Dead

    by Norman Mailer

    What’s crazy about The Naked and the Dead is that Mailer wrote it when he was only 23—it is loosely based on his own experiences in World War II, which is inarguably why it’s so powerful.

  • I, Claudius

    I, Claudius

    by Robert Graves

    I, Claudius is a masterfully written novel in the form of a faux autobiography by Roman Emperor Claudius: Historical yes, but a total page turner.

  • Swann's Way

    Swann's Way

    by Marcel Proust

    Lydia Davis’s translation of Proust’s literary treasure is expertly done, which makes the first installment of In Search of Lost Time even more pleasurable. Have August off? Consider tackling all seven.

  • A Thousand Acres

    A Thousand Acres

    by Jane Smiley

    Jane Smiley reimagines Shakespeare’s King Lear in this classic of her own, set in the plains of Iowa.

  • Olive Kitteridge

    Olive Kitteridge

    by Elizabeth Strout

    Set in Maine, this is 13 stories that revolve around a beloved, occasionally crotchety retired school teacher.

  • Geek Love

    Geek Love

    by Katherine Dunn

    Katherine Dunn passed away last month, re-fanning the flames for this classic, which resonates with everyone who has ever felt like a bit of a misfit: It’s the story of a circus family, full of children bred to be different, and it’s wonderful.

  • The Neopolitan Novels

    The Neopolitan Novels

    by Elana Ferrante

    We fell hard for every word and every moment in this four-part series from Italian writer, Elana Ferrante. If you have yet to devour it, you’re lucky.

  • The Patrick Melrose Novels

    The Patrick Melrose Novels

    by Edward St. Aubyn

    This heartbreaking series follows the life of British-born Patrick Melrose, born to an incredibly wealthy mother and an abusive father. While it’s tough going at times, you won’t want it all to end.

  • Howard's End

    Howard's End

    by E. M. Forster

    Published in 1910, Forster’s Howard’s End explores class and romance—set against a classic English estate. A Room with a View, and A Passage to India are also great.

  • The Sea

    The Sea

    by John Banville

    John Banville is one of the more quietly compelling (and prolific) writers working today: Everything he turns out is a total gift. in The Sea, his 18th novel, the protagonist Max Morden revisits his childhood and early life after the death of his wife.

  • The USA Trilogy

    The USA Trilogy

    by John Dos Passos

    Following 12 characters as they navigate what it means to be American, John Dos Passos’ epic trilogy is probably the most compelling survey of early 20th-century life around.

  • The Remains of the Day

    The Remains of the Day

    by Kazuo Ishiguro

    Stunningly beautiful, The Remains of the Day is told from the perspective of Stevens, a butler at an English estate, and his love for a co-worker, Miss Kenton, who worked alongside him in the lead-up to World War II.

  • The English Patient

    The English Patient

    by Michael Ondaatje

    Set in an abandoned villa in Italy at the end of World War II, this is the story of a nurse, a thief, a horribly-burned patient, and a man who clears mines. It is gorgeously told, memorable, and haunting.

  • All the King's Men

    All the King's Men

    by Robert Penn Warren

    This Pulitzer Prize winning book is based on Huey Long, the onetime governor of Louisiana who was assassinated in 1935: It’s the story of Willie Stark who adeptly maneuvers his way, however dirtily, through Southern politics in the ‘40s, and it is riveting, whether you like politics or not.

  • Wuthering Heights

    Wuthering Heights

    by Emily Bronte

    One of the most iconic tales of class-based romantic rejection—and a spurned and angry lover—Wuthering Heights is the sort of book you can return to year after year.

  • Native Son

    Native Son

    by Richard Wright

    Published in 1940, this is the story of Bigger Thomas, a 20-something kid in Chicago who accidentally kills a white woman and finds himself inextricably caught in a downward spiral. Nearly 80 years later, it still resonates.

  • 100 Years of Solitude

    100 Years of Solitude

    by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Magical realism at its best, 100 Years of Solitude tells the multi-generational story of the Buendía family, which is really a metaphor for Colombian history as a whole.

  • Midnight's Children

    Midnight's Children

    by Salman Rushdie

    Saleem Sinai, born at the stroke of midnight on the moment India gains its independence from Britain, has magical powers—and is switched at birth, meaning he is raised as the son of a wealthy Muslim family rather than in the Bombay slums.

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