8 New Reads for Labor Day Weekend
Long weekends are obvious opportunities for quality binge-reading. In advance of Labor Day, we’ve put together a list of new-ish books we’ve just finished in a few sittings. There’s something for most moods—from a fluffy beach read, to poignant memoirs and unputdownable mysteries. (For more book recommendations, see our sixteen Summer 2017 picks here.)
A breezy read that you can easily (and happily) finish in a weekend, Abby Stern’s debut story revolves around Ella, a young undercover celebrity news reporter striving to get the next best scoop at a cutthroat magazine. Stern, a veteran entertainment reporter herself, peppers the pages with exactly what you expect from a read about Hollywood: shock, humor, glamour, intrigue, a bit of grittiness. But what is unexpected are the larger themes raised here—the lessons we learn about career, finding our voice, and loyalty to what’s truly real. Such a fast, witty book with a dose of gravitas.
Five years after Alex Gilvarry’s critically acclaimed debut (From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant), he returns with a dark comedy, part (broken) love story, part satire, set in the 1970’s. It stars a bumbling, (maddeningly) hypermasculine, has-been war journalist and intellectual named Alex Eastman. In an attempt to save his second marriage, and his career, Eastman decides to accept a reporting assignment in Vietnam, where he’s convinced he’ll write the account of the end of the war. It’s clear, perhaps to everyone except Eastman (including the young, more talented American journalist Anne Channing who he meets in Saigon) that things will not go exactly as expected.
One of the more interesting thrillers to come out this summer, Danya Kukafka’s debut is set in a Colorado suburb in 2005 and revolves around the murder of a fifteen-year-old girl named Lucinda Hayes, discovered one winter night at the elementary school playground. Told through the perspective of three alternating narrators with varied connections to Lucinda, it is more of a subtle, well-developed character study than murder mystery, though there are some good twists when it comes to that, too. In short, it’s a great beach read.
The latest from Roxane Gay, Hunger is a memoir that’s notably both acutely individual and deeply relatable. It’s amazing, as you read, to realize that no one seems to speak or write publicly about their own body in this way—unapologetically messy, often contradictory, and fully honest. In this sense, it’s a genre-defying page turner.
Out in paperback this summer, Losing It is a charming coming-of-age novel starring Julia Greenfield, a twenty-six-year-old virgin who finds herself adrift in life, and who decides to spend the summer with her Aunt Vivienne, who she knows little about. Enigmatic Aunt Viv, it turns out, is a virgin, too, at fifty-eight years old; but of course, this isn’t the only thing Julia discovers as she attempts to answer the bigger question we can all identify with: What are the decisions that make a life?
Destined for Hollywood, the action here spills off the page with Tallent’s visceral descriptions of violence and the desperation to survive even the most unspeakable misfortune. It’s possible that we’ve never rooted harder for anyone than we did for the heroic protagonist, Turtle Alveston; nor loathed a book’s antagonist quite like her abusive father Martin. The cinematic pace of My Absolute Darling will have you physically reacting—clenching, sighing, relaxing, tensing up—as you barrel to the end of this incredibly redemptive, satisfying book.
Anxiety, guilt, and a debilitating fear of going to hell don’t feel like they’d make for a great vacation read, but Sin Bravely, Maggie Rowe’s hilarious—and ultimately heartwarming—story of her time spent in an Evangelical Christian rehab, is. The former Arrested Development writer entered said rehab to try and work through her unrelenting fear of the fiery pits of Hades. Rowe’s anxiety is mostly stoked (ha!) by her intelligence, and the existential questions are relatable to anyone whose logic has thrown a wrench into blind faith. The scene where Rowe enters an amateur stripping contest in order to sin bravely (a particularly funny version of exposure therapy) is laugh-out-loud funny.
The Bright Hour opens with a Ralph Waldo Emerson passage that reads: “That is morning; to cease for a bright hour to be a prisoner of this sickly body and to become as large as the World.” This is fitting: Nina Riggs, a descendant of Emerson, was a poet, wife, and mother of two young boys, who was diagnosed with terminal, metastatic breast cancer at the age of thirty-seven. She passed away earlier this year, just shy of her fortieth birthday. Her memoir is heartbreaking, and heartwarming, and brilliantly funny—a series of poem-like chapters and short essays that are the perfect reminder that every day here is a gift, and that every day is an opportunity to leave an indelible mark on those who you must leave behind. For obvious reasons, it’s a book that you won’t want to end.