6 Fresh Summer Reads

The can't-miss books on our radar this season

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The Madwoman in the Volvo

by Sandra Tsing Loh; Norton


That's right—blame the hormones. By the time the fits of weeping and "uncontrollable peevishness" set in, the endearingly flawed author of this bright, funny menopause memoir has more than enough to deal with. Her father's bizarre legal troubles. Her stepmother's Alzheimer's. Her daughter's preteen angst. Not to mention the chaos caused by her own madcap midlife affair (and subsequent nasty divorce). Also, she's gaining weight. What to do? Over the next year, Loh tries diet, exercise, a list of mood boosters that includes extreme couponing and buying "severely colorful plates to 'happy up' the chore-filled eyesore that has become my home" (and, yes, finally, a little HRT until she decides that, wait a minute, "a menopausal woman's hormone levels are the same as a preadolescent girl's." Maybe menopause simply brings us back to our real selves. Without "the hormonal cloud of our nurturing instincts," we're just "the same, selfish, non-nurturing, nonbonding type of person everyone else is." Relax, Loh advises. If you've tired, try bed rest. Stressed? Demand a back rub. And that layer of protective fat? Embrace it. -Amanda Lovell


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Bryan McCay


by Ruth Reichl; Random House


This savory feast of a first novel blends the rich gifts that readers of Reichl’s memoirs and food writing have come to expect. To a tantalizing coming-of-age story about a budding chef and journalist she adds a bittersweet tale of separated sisters, mixing in for extra piquancy a long-buried correspondence between the famous chef James Beard and an unknown little girl. As the novel begins, the heroine’s delectable homemade gingerbread and her knack for identifying subtle flavors—curry leaf, hyssop, cassia—win her a job at the revered Manhattan food magazine Delicious! Just as her rise seems assured, the magazine collapses. This detail will have pungency for readers who mourn the passing of Gourmet magazine, which Reichl edited in its final decade. But the fictional foodie doesn’t let this setback slow her; instead, she goes on a hunt for Beard’s mystery correspondent. Along the way, she not only stumbles across her future in food but also starts to decode the key to her own heart. -Liesl Schillinger


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Bryan McCay

"The Snow Queen"

by Michael Cunningham; Farrar, Straus and Giroux


In The Snow Queen (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Michael Cunningham’s aching, darkly funny novel, two devoted brothers struggle in a Brooklyn apartment—one to wring meaning from a mysterious celestial vision, the other to write a wedding song for his dying girlfriend, who lives with them. One brother is gay, yes, and the love triangle is as ardent as it is complicated. It’s a bittersweet beauty of a book, spanning the miraculous and the mundane, and kinship of all kinds: the family you get and the one you make for yourself. —Catherine Newman


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Listen to Claire Danes narrate an excerpt from the audiobook

The Cold Song

by Linn Ullmann; Other Press


A pretty, young nanny disappears during a rainy garden party, and her murder is at the heart of this disturbingly tangled and riveting Norwegian fiction. Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song(Other Press) reads like a cross between a psychological thriller and a grim fairy tale, the kind that takes place in a big house haunted by angry parents, lonely children and secrets ranging from the ordinary to the catastrophic. -Catherine Newman


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The Confabulist

by Steven Galloway; Riverhead


Memory is a cagey friend: What we see is subjective, colored by what we want to believe. Such tension between wish and reality is employed to stunning effect in Steven Galloway’s new novel,The Confabulist (Riverhead). Intertwining the lives of the famous Houdini and a misfit named Martin Strauss, Galloway’s story has a big trick up its sleeve, but his talent is no illusion. -Elaina Richardson


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Next: 5 Thrillers Not to Read After Dark


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Give It To Me

by Ana Castillo; The Feminist Press


Will she get the guy? Yes. Will she get the girl? Yes. Palma Piedras, 43 and divorced, tries on lovers of both sexes like a woman grabbing stilettos at a sample sale. She’s a Latina Moll Flanders, cheeky and passionate, clawing her way up from some very mean streets. Raw, funny and real. —Marcia Menter


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First published in the May 2014 issue

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