Most Overlooked Books of The Summer, Part One
THE GARDEN PARTY
by Grace Dane Mazur
This enchanting novel takes place in Brookline, Massachusetts, where dinner in the garden is bringing together two families on the night before the wedding that should unite them. The families are not unfriendly but they are shy and leery of each other. The Barlows are a Wall Street Journal-reading family of lawyers steeped in trusts and copyrights, corporations and war crimes, golf and tennis. The Cohens are wildly impractical intellectuals, including a biologist who has studied why scorpions glow in the dark; a social activist who always needs rescuing; and a historian of the cooking of ancient Babylonian who is trying, while hosting the dinner party, to figure out whether Time is really shaped like baklava.
The novel begins with the Cohens brewing morning coffee and considering the work they will have to do to prepare their house and gardens for the dinner, and it ends, late that very night, after a complicated series of fiascoes and miracles. Over the course of the day, it becomes clear that neither family is more eccentric than the other.
Featuring an ensemble cast of exceptionally vivid characters ranging in age from three to the early nineties, Grace Dane Mazur's wonderfully lyrical novel is an irresistible portrayal of miscommunication, secrets, and the power of love.
THE MARGINALIZED MAJORITY: CLAIMING OUR POWER IN A POST-TRUTH AMERICA
by Onnesha Roychoudh
Ever since the 2016 election, pundits have been saying our country has never been more divided—that if progressives want to reclaim power, we need to be “pragmatic,” reach across the aisle, and look past identity politics.
But what if we’re getting the story all wrong?
In The Marginalized Majority, Onnesha Roychoudhuri makes the galvanizing case that our voices are already the majority—and that our plurality of identities is not only our greatest strength, but is also at the indisputable core of successful progressive change throughout history.
From the Civil Rights Movement to the Women’s March, Saturday Night Live to the mainstream media, Roychoudhuri holds the myths about our disenfranchisement up to the light, illuminating narratives from history that reveal we have far more power than we’re often led to believe. With both clear-eyed hope and electrifying power, she examines our ideas about what’s possible, and what’s necessary—opening up space for action, new realities, and, ultimately, survival.
Now, Roychoudhuri urges us, is the time to fight like the majority we already are.
WE BEGIN OUR ASCENT
by Joe Mungo Reed
Sol and Liz are a couple on the cusp. He’s a professional cyclist in the Tour de France, a workhorse but not yet a star. She’s a geneticist on the brink of a major discovery, either that or a loss of funding. They’ve just welcomed their first child into the world, and their bright future lies just before them—if only they can reach out and grab it.
But as Liz’s research slows, as Sol starts doping, their dreams grow murkier and the risks graver. Over the whirlwind course of the Tour, they enter the orbit of an extraordinary cast of conmen and aspirants, who draw the young family ineluctably into the depths of an illegal drug smuggling operation. As Liz and Sol flounder to discern right from wrong, up from down, they are forced to decide: What is it we’re striving for? And what is it worth?
We Begin Our Ascent dances nimbly between tragic and comic, exploring the cost of ambition and the question of what gives our lives meaning. Reed melds the powerful themes of great marital dramas like Revolutionary Road with the humor, character, and heart of a George Saunders collection. Throughout, we’re drawn inside the cycling world and treated to the brilliant literary sports-writing of modern classics like The Art of Fielding or End Zone.
ROUGH BEAUTY: FORTY SEASONS OF MOUNTAIN LIVING
by Karen Auvinen, illustrated by Greg Marquez
In the bestselling tradition of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and Helen MacDonald’s H Is for Hawk, a stunning, inspirational memoir from an award-winning poet who ventures into the wilderness to seek answers to life’s big questions and finds her way back after losing everything she thought she needed.
During a difficult time, Karen Auvinen flees to a primitive cabin in the Rockies to live in solitude as a writer and to embrace all the beauty and brutality nature has to offer. When a fire incinerates every word she has ever written and all of her possessions—except for her beloved dog Elvis, her truck, and a few singed artifacts—Karen embarks on a heroic journey to reconcile her desire to be alone with her need for community.
In the evocative spirit of works by Annie Dillard, Gretel Ehrlich, and Mary Oliver, Karen’s rich and compulsively readable memoir is as much an inward as it is an outward pilgrimage. Her pursuit of solace and salvation by shedding trivial ties and living in close harmony with nature, along with her account of finding community and love, is sure to resonate with all of us who long for meaning and deeper connection. Rough Beauty is a luminous, lyric exploration of and homage to her forty seasons in the mountains, embracing the unpredictability and grace of living intimately with the forces of nature while making peace with her own wildness.
IF YOU SEE ME, DON'T SAY HI
by Neel Patel
In eleven sharp, surprising stories, Neel Patel gives voice to our most deeply held stereotypes and then slowly undermines them. His characters, almost all of who are first-generation Indian Americans, subvert our expectations that they will sit quietly by. We meet two brothers caught in an elaborate web of envy and loathing; a young gay man who becomes involved with an older man whose secret he could never guess; three women who almost gleefully throw off the pleasant agreeability society asks of them; and, in the final pair of linked stories, a young couple struggling against the devastating force of community gossip.
If You See Me, Don't Say Hi examines the collisions of old world and new world, small town and big city, traditional beliefs (like arranged marriage) and modern rituals (like Facebook stalking). Ranging across the country, Patel’s stories -- empathetic, provocative, twisting, and wryly funny -- introduce a bold new literary voice, one that feels more timely than ever.
How haw your summer reading gone? Are you participating in any reading challenges? Tell me about them in the comments below. If you are interested in any of the books listed above, simply click on the link or the book cover graphic.