Public Media Arts Hub

Our critics pick their favorite new books for your summer reading list


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Geoff Bennett: Whether you're on vacation at the beach or find yourself with a little more time for reading, summer is always a good time to pick up a new book.

Jeffrey Brown gets recommendations now from two "NewsHour" regulars for our arts and culture series, Canvas.

Jeffrey Brown: And to talk about summer books and reading, I'm joined by Ann Patchett, author and owner of Parnassus Bookstore in Nashville, Tennessee. And Gilbert Cruz, he's the editor of The New York Times Book Review.

Thanks, both, for joining us.

Ann, you want to start with fiction?

Ann Patchett, Owner, Parnassus Books: Sure thing.

I am very excited about "Sandwich" by Catherine Newman. If you want a book that has you from hello, this is the one. Family goes to the cape every summer for two weeks. They have kids in their 20s. They have elderly parents and they eat sandwiches. They are very near Sandwich, and they are the sandwich generation.

Jeffrey Brown: That's a real summer book, isn't it?

Ann Patchett: Ah, it is the ultimate summer book.

And, also, if you're feeling a little stressed, get a copy of "Sipsworth" by Simon Van Booy. This one has been flying off the shelf. This is an elderly woman who's very isolated. She meets a mouse, and the mouse brings all of these wonderful people into her life. It sounds hokey. It's not. It is a really terrific book.

And for something a little darker, "Bear" by Julia Phillips, which has the whole fairy tale vibe. Two young sisters working so hard in a very tough existence on an island off the coast of Washington,it all changes when a bear comes to their neighborhood, and it drives the sisters apart.

Also want to give a quick shout-out to something that just came out in paperback, "Crook Manifesto," Colson Whitehead. Love this book so much. If you want some mystery, some cops and robbers, some corruption, some great writing.

Jeffrey Brown: Gilbert Cruz, what do you have for us in fiction?

Gilbert Cruz, Books Editor, The New York Times: The first one is "Swan Song." Elin Hilderbrand, she is a writer who puts a book out every summer. They're all about Nantucket. They all have drama. They all have romance. And somehow I have found myself reading one book of hers a summer for the past decade.

I'm sort of -- I have only been to Nantucket for two hours on, like, the coldest day that I can recall. So I have no idea what it's like to be there in the summer, but I sort of do because I have read a dozen Elin Hilderbrand books.

So I'm a big horror person. There's a book called "Horror Movie" by Paul Tremblay. And there's some people who save their scary stuff until October, until the fall. I'm not that person. I like it all year round. And I think there are many people like me.

This is about essentially an independent horror movie that was made years and years ago. A bunch of tragedies happened. It's become a cult film. And the only person left from the production has started to encounter some weird things. So that's "Horror Movie" by Paul Tremblay.

And then, finally, another genre book, a fantasy, "The Bright Sword" by Lev Grossman. If you have heard of Lev Grossman, it's because of his "Magicians" trilogy, which were a set of books that essentially imagined, what if Harry Potter, but with older people and cursing and all the stuff that older teenagers get into.

This new book imagines the days and the months after the death of King Arthur. So there have been many retellings of the King Arthur legend, books, movies, musicals. This one is sort of a sequel.

Jeffrey Brown: You went with all genre books for the summer.

OK, Ann, how about nonfiction?

Ann Patchett: Hanif Abdurraqib, "There's Always This Year," which is -- "On Basketball and Ascension." This is a collection of essays about family and love and grief and fathers. But, most importantly, it's all woven together through the lens of basketball.

Hanif Abdurraqib is one of my favorite writers and just someone I learned from every time I read one of his books. Brilliant.

"My Black Country" by Alice Randall, which is a journey through country music's Black past, present, and future. Alice is a fiction writer and a scholar. This is the story of all the people who have been erased in country music's past, and she is restoring them into the landscape. It's a terrific book.

And "Consent" by Jill Ciment, a very slim little memoir. Jill Ciment was 16 years old when she first kissed her art teacher, who was 46. They got married and they stayed together until he died at 86. And it is her looking back on her life and thinking, it was a happy marriage, but, knowing what I know now, maybe there was something a little wrong about that.

And a great book that just came out in paperback that could be read as a companion piece, my favorite, "Monsters: A Fan's Dilemma" by Claire Dederer. You have got a book club, read these two together. Terrific.

Jeffrey Brown: Gilbert Cruz, what are your choices for nonfiction?

Gilbert Cruz: Well, if I sort of went genre with my fiction choices, I'm also going to go a little pop culture with my nonfiction choices.

So the first book I'm going to talk about is "The Future Was Now" by Chris Nashawaty. This is -- I love movies, and I think for a lot of people my age who love movies, the summer of 1982, if you care about science fiction and fantasy, stuff like that, was one of the biggest summers of all time. So it had "E.T.," "Poltergeist," "Blade Runner," "Tron," a "Mad Max" sequel, a "Star Trek" sequel.

And this is essentially a history of that summer, a history of those movies. So I'm looking forward to reading that one.

Another pop culture nonfiction book that's coming out later in June is called "Cue the Sun!" the invention of reality TV. This is by Emily Nussbaum. She's been a TV critic for many wonderful publications. And this is a history of modern reality TV. I don't watch reality TV. I never really have. And that means that I am out of the mainstream.

And so from "Cops," to "Survivor," to "The Bachelor," to "The Apprentice, to "Big Brother," to "Love Is Blind," these are some of the most popular shows of the past several decades. And Emily Nussbaum does an amazing job of sort of sketching that whole history in what they're billing as sort of the first comprehensive history of this very important genre.

Jeffrey Brown: Ann, have a bookstore. You have a lot of young readers and I know you wanted to give some choices for them.

Ann Patchett: Yes, I never want to miss a chance to plug some great kids books.

Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey, two of their classics have just come out in board books. So these are good for babies, for little kids. You can chew on them, "The Old Truck," "The Old Boat," beautiful, simple, terrific illustrations, great, clear story.

If you have a slightly older kid, absolutely, you want to buy a copy of "Ahoy!" by Sophie Blackall. This is a book about imaginative play and how you can have a summer adventure no matter where you are or what you have got to work with. I adore this book and everything Sophie does.

And America's favorite author for young people, Kate DiCamillo has a new novel out called "Ferris." It's about raccoons, chandeliers, S&H Green Stamps, grandmothers, love and happiness. It's a story about a happy family. Call me crazy, my favorite.

Jeffrey Brown: Ann Patchett and Gilbert Cruz, thanks very much.

Ann Patchett: Thank you.

Gilbert Cruz: Thanks.

Support Canvas

Sustain our coverage of culture, arts and literature.

Send Us Your Ideas
Let us know what you'd like to see on ArtsCanvas. Your thoughts and opinions matter.