Independence Day is the launch of the heart of summer, and the summer reading season. Getting together with people at the beach, at barbecues, and at dinner parties alternates with free time spent winding down, reading, and reverie. We hope you find inspiration in the recommendations below. Some of our most memorable reading experiences happen in the expanded time frame of this season -- so here's to reading worth remembering!
John & all Dieselfolk
We all have a friend who reads at least one novel a week: you may want to buy them a book but you're pretty sure they've read everything. The Novel Cure is just the book for them. It contains an alphabetical list of ailments and suggests a novel that addresses that problem. From "Nose, Hating Your" to "Fatherhood, Avoiding," the ailments are often funny, and although the suggested books are some serious works of literature, the reviews are lighthearted and accessible. A particularly fun way to read this book is to follow through from one ailment to the next. For example, if you were to start at "common sense, lack of" (Cold Comfort Farm), this leads to "risks, taking too many" (Notes From the Underground), which in turn leads to "carelessness" (The Little Prince). It creates quite the reading list. The Novel Cure is a great gift for the well-read bibliophile in your life. I dare any reader to pick it up and not get drawn in. -- Clare Doornbos
The Ballad of a Small Player follows a desperate English gambler haunting the high-stakes Baccarat tables of Macau. "Lord Doyle" quickly gets out of his depth, however, as he takes on Chinese millionaires and too-good-to-be-true girlfriends. The endless consumption and expenditure of modern China takes its toll on the expat lawyer until his reality begins to merge with that of a monster from Chinese mythology. Osborne writes interesting fiction that combines the cultural convictions of a declining West with the rising -- and in some ways more seriously capitalist -- East. -- Cameron Carlson
This is a powerful fiction debut. Set in Las Vegas, it is the story of returned war veterans, of immigrants fleeing political persecution, of suburban families, and of the ways we break and the ways we heal. Though that sounds like a big sprawling novel, it is actually a very focused, refined, and intimate story of an 8-year-old boy and his family, along with the limited array of people an 8-year-old regularly interacts with.
It is a graceful, and gracefully written story. It is deeply touching, emotionally suspenseful, and curiously contemplative. The depth is stroked lightly. The surface is described exquisitely. It is as if it ends on a major chord with a minor note left hanging poignantly in the air. Real life is so carefully and compassionately rendered in a simple tale, in an exaggeratedly legendary town that proves itself as ordinary as the extraordinary quotidian is anywhere. -- John Evans
Described as Switzerland's answer to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, this compelling mystery is already an international best seller in 32 languages. Involving an ingenious book within a book, the central plot concerns a murder investigation reopened 33 years after the events in question when bodies are dug up in someone's backyard. That backyard happens to belong to Harry Quebert, a much-loved novelist in his 60s who is still famous for a single book. Inevitably, the locals in his small New Hampshire town turn against him, and he is arrested. The only person who retains faith in him is Quebert's former student, the starry-eyed young novelist Marcus Goldman, now crippled with writer's block. Goldman sets out to solve the mystery, and the result becomes his second book. It's like Twin Peaks meets Atonement meets In Cold Blood: a story about fame and infamy, writing and love, theft and imposture; about murder, madness, and religious zealotry. It's about guilt: not just in the criminal sense, but as an emotion that can dog you for life. Clever and creepy, you will never get through 640 pages so quickly. -- Riley
Let's save the planet! Let's save ourselves! In this book, Daron "Farmer D" Joffe focuses on the biodynamic approach to gardening, which means looking at all aspects, from the soil to the seeds to the sun and stars. There is a strong emphasis on gardening as a communal act and Joffe shows how plants nourish us, heal us, and give back to the earth. This book was the big hit at the 2014 San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. -- Alan Dishman
This mom and daughter team from Earthbound Farm (yes, that Earthbound, the one in the grocery aisle labeled "organic") offers a variety of fresh vegan plates. The recipe layouts are mostly one page with almost edible photographs. There are also helpful summary pages for beans, nuts, soy, and grains. The White Bean, Butternut Squash, and Barley Stew with Whole Wheat Biscuits is a delicious combination of nutritious barley, earthy parsnips, and the yummy, dark, leafy addition of Swiss chard, all accompanied with flaky biscuits. Not to be missed, though, is Camille and Marea's Favorite Popcorn. I don't want to spoil the surprise but here's a little hint: lime and spinach! -- Christine Longmuir
What does it mean to be connected all the time? What are the risks? What are we giving up? Feed takes place in a future where everyone is constantly connected, and does more to challenge and question contemporary culture than the entire current crop of dystopian series rolled into one. This book understands social media and internet privacy issues better than anything this side of Cory Doctorow. More than that, it understands teenagers and their emotional lives, and provides a deeply moving story. I'd recommend this book for science fiction fans both teen and adult, and for anyone who wonders about the ramifications of always-on social media. -- Will Kaufman