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The 15 Books We’re Reading This Summer

The 15 Books We’re Reading This Summer

Is reading in the summer sun better? You tell us. We’ll be checking #goopbookclub to see what you think of the new novels, story collections, and memoirs on this season’s reading list.

Fiction

  • <em>The Ensemble</em> by Aja Gabel

    The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

    We fell hard for the four friends in Aja Gabel’s debut novel: It’s the story of a young, ambitious string quartet as they try to sort out their complicated relationships to music and one another. The Ensemble is about desire, disappointment and success, betrayal and loyalty, and the sometimes-invisible ways our friendships shape the people we become. Heads up: It hurts to leave these characters.

  • <em>That Kind of Mother</em> by Rumaan Alam

    That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam

    In his follow-up to 2016’s Rich and Pretty, Rumaan Alam questions the limitations of love and good intentions, telling the story of an unexpected transracial adoption. Rebecca meets Priscilla, a black breastfeeding coach, in the mid-1980s after giving birth to her first son. Dependent on Priscilla’s care, Rebecca lures her away to work as a nanny to her son. The pair build something that resembles a friendship—but one restricted by boundaries around race, privilege, and class. As the story unfolds, Rebecca learns how little she knew about the woman who lived in her home.

  •  <em>Florida</em> by Lauren Groff

    Florida by Lauren Groff

    We would probably give a five-star review to Lauren Groff’s grocery list. Her language is beautiful, surprising, and always unfolding. Florida is a visceral story collection about the state where she’s lived for over a dozen years and the conflicted feelings that come with our relationship to home. It’s told through a series of rich, layered characters. In the first story, she writes: “On my nighttime walks, the neighbors’ lives reveal themselves, the lit windows domestic aquariums. At times, I’m the silent witness to fights that look like slow-dancing without music. It is astonishing how people live, the messes they sustain, the delicious whiffs of cooking that carry to the street, the holiday decorations that slowly seep into daily decor.” And this is the intimate effect that Florida has on the reader: It’s as if you’re eavesdropping the whole time, peering in on lives vastly different from and yet so familiar to your own.

  • <em>An American Marriage</em> by Tayari Jones

    An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

    This book will gut you within fifty pages and make you wish you could forget it all and read it again for the first time. Celestial and Roy’s promising if imperfect young marriage is blown apart when Roy is convicted of a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. One of the most powerful sections is told through the letters Roy and Celestial exchange during his years in prison. That’s also when Celestial’s career as an artist takes off and she grows increasingly close with her childhood friend, who was the best man at their wedding. We’ll leave it at that. And tip our hat to Jones’s rare ability to make every character compelling, allowing the reader to see the world through multiple sets of eyes.

  • <em>The Female Persuasion</em> by Meg Wolitzer

    The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

    Meg Wolitzer has written over a dozen books, and The Female Persuasion, the latest #goopbookclub pick, follows her best-known novel, The Interestings. (But a lot of Wolitzer fans will tell you to begin with her 2003 novel, The Wife, which was recently made into a film by Swedish director Björn Runge, starring Glenn Close.) All of Wolitzer’s books explore big life questions. In The Female Persuasion, a college freshman named Greer Kadetsky is faced with a life-changing moment. After meeting a revered figure from the women’s movement of the past, Greer imagines the kind of woman she could become. Producer Lynda Obst and Nicole Kidman have already signed on for a film adaptation.

  • <em>Emergency Contact</em> by Mary H. K. Choi

    Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi

    The catalyst of Sam and Penny’s love story in Emergency Contact is a panic attack, which leads to an awkward exchange of phone numbers. From there, Sam and Penny build a relationship by the glow of their smartphones and the late-night trading of text messages. In her debut YA novel, Mary H. K. Choi brings to light the anxiety, loneliness, and longing that mark modern courtship—and, in so doing, proves herself a highly talented and skilled writer. Evoking a modern relationship in the digital sphere with any kind of gravitas is no easy feat and Choi does it with grace, wit, and beautiful prose. Anyone who was ever young and in love will recognize themselves on these pages.

  • <em>The Favorite Sister</em> by Jessica Knoll

    The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll

    If you watch The Real Housewives of New York City, you’ll recognize Knoll’s inspiration for The Favorite Sister, one of the most enjoyable books of the year. Two competitive sisters are cast as costars in Goal Diggers, a reality show focusing on the lives of a group of hypercompetitive New York City businesswomen. It’s a drama that turns to manipulation—and murder. And now you have a group of frenemies who have turned into suspects. It’s indulgent and salacious and a nail-biter.

  • <em>You Think It, I’ll Say It</em> by Curtis Sittenfeld

    You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld

    You Think It, I’ll Say It explores how we interact with people when we have only an imperfect, incomplete understanding of who they are. In ten stories, Curtis Sittenfeld gets the message across: Everyone we know is living a life as vivid and messy as our own. Her writing is sharp, and her characters, as petty and shortsighted as they may sometimes be, get stuck in your head. The stories average twenty pages or so each, so it’s an easy book to pick up and put down—but mainly pick up.

  • <em>The Great Alone</em> by Kristin Hannah

    The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

    Although the setting is different—1970s Alaska instead of World War II France—fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale will recognize a familiar feeling of diving into the world she creates. A coming-of-age story set in a remote stretch of Alaska, The Great Alone brings to life an environmentally and politically harsh climate in which a thirteen-year-old-girl named Leni is asked to grow up in a hurry.

  • <em>Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win</em> by Jo Piazza

    Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza

    Charming and fun, Jo Piazza’s latest book has a fast plot that we hope will become less novel in time: Charlotte Walsh leaves her Silicon Valley job and moves her family back to her small Pennsylvania hometown to run for Senate. It’s a pivotal midterm election in which nothing goes exactly according to plan.

Memoir

  • <em>I Am, I Am, I Am</em> by Maggie O’Farrell

    I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

    A nod to Sylvia Plath, Maggie O’Farrell’s I Am, I Am, I Am is a memoir told through seventeen moments that she maybe almost didn’t live past. Some are quiet—like when a car gets uncomfortably close to you on the road—and others more chilling. She explores the way surviving a childhood illness made her bold and how having children reshaped her sense of vulnerability. The book is clever and poignant and deeply affecting. (Same goes for this original essay that O’Farrell wrote for us on raising a daughter with a chronic illness.)

  • <em>No One Tells You This</em> by Glynnis MacNicol

    No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicol

    Journalist Glynnis MacNicol has written one of the most frank and refreshing stories about turning forty without a husband or a baby. She manages to both entertain and challenge the reader as she grapples with the best and worst parts of choosing not to build her life around a traditional family. It’s smart and hilarious and exactly as nuanced as you want it to be.

  • <em>I’ve Been Thinking</em> by Maria Shriver

    I’ve Been Thinking by Maria Shriver

    Maria Shriver’s I’ve Been Thinking is an uplifting collection of life meditations that brings the reader on a journey to deeper meaning. Each chapter begins with a quote that Shriver has found meaningful at one point in her life—from thinkers like Maya Angelou, Saint Ambrose, and Louisa May Alcott—and ends with a personal prayer. Drawing on Shriver’s own life experiences, the chapters are intimate and thought-provoking and make space for reflection, empowerment, or simply a moment to pause and come back to center.

  • <em>Jell-O Girls</em> by Allie Rowbottom

    Jell-O Girls by Allie Rowbottom

    Mysterious illnesses, great disappointments, haunting events—the story behind Jell-O (yes, that Jell-O) is crazy. The author picks up the narrative from her mother, who became obsessed with researching, documenting, and overturning what she believed was a family curse, before she passed away in 2015. Jell-O Girls is part family history, part American history, and part commentary on our patriarchal society. But unexpectedly and at its core, it’s a story of motherhood.

  • <em>Little Panic</em> by Amanda Stern

    Little Panic by Amanda Stern

    Amanda Stern’s can’t-look-away memoir of living with anxiety is annotated with doctors’ notes and the results of the many cognitive, behavioral, and other tests that she endured throughout her childhood as a team of experts tried to figure out what was different about her. Combined with Stern’s curious and self-critical eye, these illustrate a point that should be obvious but often isn’t. To borrow from one of Stern’s chapter titles: There’s no one right way to be a person. There’s something magnetic about Little Panic. And that’s the picture of 1970s and 1980s New York City that Stern re-creates from her childhood, split between Greenwich Village, where she walked barefoot with her mom, and uptown, where she visited her dad’s pristine home every weekend.

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