Summer means travel, relaxation and the companionship of a can’t-put-it-down book or two, or more likely several. The landslide of summer titles will continue into September, when the multibillion-dollar publishing industry will begin releasing its marquee titles in time for the holiday gift-giving season.
To find the page-turners that fit your taste, first pick a genre; all of them out there this summer, from mystery and thriller to travel and biography. Don’t overlook word-of-mouth recommendations and those oh-so-sweet guilty pleasures.
Next, choose an author. Showing up with new fiction are A-list writers Stephen King, Dorothea Benton Frank, C.J. Box, Janet Evanovich, Mo Hayder, Jussi Adler-Olsen, John Lescroart and others. In nonfiction, Colson Whitehead, John Waters and Hilary Rodham Clinton join the literary stage.
Then choose a format – printed (hardback or paperback) or electronic books or both. Now you’re ready to read anywhere.
This list offers a sampling, arranged alphabetically by authors’ last names. Many are on sale now; for the others, publishing dates are noted. As summer rolls on, look for more reading suggestions in my Between the Lines column in Tuesday’s Living Here section.
Before you turn the first page, though, keep in mind these two quotes.
• Japanese novelist-essayist Haruki Murakami: “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
• Political satirist-journalist P.J. O’Rourke: “Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.”
“Shots Fired” by C.J. Box (Putnam, $27, 288 pages; on sale July 15): The author shows his versatility in 13 short stories, three of them new, four of them tied to his popular Joe Pickett series. Pickett is a Wyoming game warden-troubleshooter and star of 14 novels, with the 15th, “Endangered,” due in 2015.
“Top Secret Twenty-One” by Janet Evanovich (Bantam, $28, 352 pages): The best-selling author continues her Stephanie Plum series, and the plucky bounty hunter’s New Jersey world is as wacky as ever. The usual suspects are there: Joe Morelli, a cop and her on-again, off-again boyfriend; security specialist Ranger, her mysterious protector and mentor; and Grandma Mazur, an over-the-top senior who carries a Glock. The new adventure involves “death threats, highly trained assassins, highly untrained assassins, and Stark Street being overrun by a pack of feral Chihuahuas.” Oh, one more thing: Grandma Mazur has compiled a zany bucket list.
“The Hurricane Sisters” by Dorothea Benton Frank (William Morrow, $27, 336 pages): Frank has written 15 family-centric stories set in the Lowcountry, a unique area of South Carolina’s southern tip. Her new adventure stars two best friends, Ashley and Mary Beth, who live in Ashley’s parents’ beach house on Sullivan Island. One day they have a brainstorm: Let’s make some money by renting out the beach-level floor for parties! What could possibly go wrong?
“The Magician’s Land” by Lev Grossman (Viking, $28, 416 pages; Aug. 5): The conclusion of the very readable fantasy trilogy finds young sorcerer Quentin Coldwater cast out of Fillory, the magical kingdom he once ruled. Now he must get back in to save it, a task that’s complicated and dangerous. The first two entries were best-sellers: “The Magicians” and “The Magician King.”
“The Book of Life” by Deborah Harkness (Viking, $29, 576 pages; July 15): The final installment in history scholar Harkness’ “All Souls Trilogy” finds historian-witch Diana Bishop and scientist-vampire Matthew Clairmont reunited with the characters from the first book, the surprise 2011 best-selling “A Discovery of Witches.” Together, they continue their global search for the missing pages in “Ashmole 782,” a.k.a. “The Book of Life.” The second title in the series is “Shadow of Night.”
“Wolf” by Mo Hayder (Atlantic Monthly Press, $26, 362 pages): English author Hayder is one of mystery fiction’s most well-regarded writers, largely because her “Walking Man” series is saturated in tension and disturbing storylines. This time, a family is being held hostage in their home, and it’s up to Detective Inspector Jack Caffery to come to the rescue. But first, he must figure out where they are.
“Mr. Mercedes” by Stephen King (Scribner, $30, 448 pages): Retired police detective Bill Hodges enlists the help of two unlikely “heroes” to help track an insane killer before tragedy strikes again. A masterfully crafted thriller, much better than the tedious “Under the Dome” and as compelling as “11/22/63.” The audiobook is narrated by actor Will Patton, whose pitch-perfect delivery is what makes listening to it such a pleasure (S&S Audio, $30). King’s next novel, “Revival,” is due in November.
“The Keeper by John Lescroart (Atria, $27, 320 pages): The Davis-based author follows his tried-and-true characters Dismas Hardy and Abe Glitsky on their 17th investigation. This time, it’s a case complicated by many puzzling questions – such as, did their client murder his wife?
“Rogues,” edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (Bantan, $30, 832 pages): Author Martin and editor Dozois have compiled 21 stories by A-list authors including Patrick Rothfuss (“The Name of the Wind”), Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”) and Neil Gaiman (“The Ocean At the End of the Lane”). Martin contributed “The Rogue Prince,” a “consideration of the early life” of Prince Daemon Targaryen from his “A Song of Ice and Fire.” One novel in that epic series is familiar to HBO watchers: “A Game of Thrones.”
“The Lost Island” by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Grand Central, $27, 368 pages; Aug. 5): Another intelligent tale by the longtime writing partners, it continues the adventures of scientist-thief Gideon Crew. Inside an invaluable manuscript, he finds a map to an uncharted island in the Caribbean Sea and sets out in quest of a “treasure” that could benefit humankind.
“Field of Prey” by John Sandford (Putnam, $29, 400 pages): Former police detective Lucas Davenport may be a Porsche-driving millionaire, but he’s also one tough investigator for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. In the 24th entry in the “Prey” series, a serial killer is hiding in plain sight, and Lucas always gets the bad guy. Most of the time.
“The Heist” by Daniel Silva (Harper, $28, 496 pages; July 15): In book No. 14 of the Gabriel Allon series, the international art restorer-spy-assassin is tasked with recovering a stolen painting by Michelangelo da Caravaggio. To solve the case, the first thing for Allon to do is commit an art theft himself.
“Cop Town” by Karin Slaughter (Delacorte, $27, 416 pages): The New York Times best-selling author breaks from her Grant County and Will Trent series for this stand-alone, set in 1974 Atlanta. Kate Murphy is new on the job, and she’s not only fighting sexism on the police force, she becomes mired in the hunt for a serial killer who’s targeting cops. Slaughter has appeared for the Bee Book Club.
“The Farm” by Tom Rob Smith (Grand Central, $26, 368 pages): Daniel’s parents have retired to a remote farm, but pandemonium breaks out when he gets a call from his father, telling him his mother is imagining terrible things, including a massive conspiracy. Then his mother calls to tell Daniel that she’s not hallucinating, that it’s all true. So Daniel decides to find the truth for himself. Smith’s gripping “Child 44” trilogy, about a serial killer in the Soviet Union, put him on the map.
“Last Stories and Other Stories” by William T. Vollmann (Viking, $36, 704 pages; July 10): Vollman, who lives in Sacramento, has written millions of words in diverse novels, sprawling nonfiction, story collections and magazines. He is known for devoting years to wide-angle subjects such as life along the California-Mexico border and the history of violence, and holds many major literary honors, including the National Book Award. Here, in the first fiction he has published in nine years, he turns his considerable skills to one of the oldest forms of literature – the ghost story. Of course, as Vollmann writes on a unique plane, these 32 lyrical and provocative tales are so much more.
“Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight” by Jay Barbree, with an introduction by John Glenn (Thomas Dunne, $28, 384 pages; July 8): NBC News space correspondent Barbree got very up-close to the former Navy combat pilot and astronaut, who died in 2012. Notoriously private, Armstrong opened up to the author to reveal his innermost thoughts, telling “what he really felt when he took that first step on the moon, and what life in NASA was like.”
“Dangerous Rhythm: Why Movie Musicals Matter” by Richard Barrios (Oxford University Press, $35, 288 pages): Care to sing and dance? In historian Barrios’ paean to such greats as “Broadway Melody,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “The Sound of Music,” “Chicago,” “Les Misérables” and dozens of others, he explains their cultural impact and the psychological relationship between musicals and their audiences. If you need convincing, watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in “The Gay Divorcee.”
“Behind the Curtain: An Insider’s View of Jay Leno’s Tonight Show” by Dave Berg (Pelican, $25, 224 pages): After 22 years as its host, Jay Leno and the “Tonight Show” parted company in February. His longtime co-producer takes readers behind the scenes for some serious and not-so-serious vignettes involving many of Leno’s celebrity guests.
“Hard Choices” by Hillary Rodham Clinton (Simon & Schuster, $35, 656 pages): As the secretary of state for four years, Clinton logged nearly a million travel miles while visiting 112 countries. She came away with a vision for America’s future, but the more entertaining chapters recount her dealings with the world’s most powerful leaders – including our own.
“Good Hunting: An American Spymaster’s Story” by Jack Devine (Sarah Crichton Books, $27, 336 pages): Forget about James Bond, here’s a real spy with a memoir of the intrigue and danger he lived thorough during a 30-year career in the CIA.
“Within Arm’s Length” by Dan Emmett (St. Martin’s, $27, 320 pages): The author takes us on an insider’s tour of the Secret Service, where he was an agent for 21 years. As part of the Presidential Protective Division, he guarded George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and many other high-profile figures.
“Think Like a Freak” by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (William Morrow, $29, 288 pages): The authors of “Freakonomics” and “SuperFreakonomics” are back at it, showing us new ways to think about the ordinary in order to solve life’s problems. One piece of advice: “Learn to say ‘I don’t know,’ for until you can admit what you don’t yet know, it’s impossible to learn what you need to.” Good to know.
“A Chinaman’s Chance” by Eric Liu (Pubklic Affairs, $26, 240 pages; July 8): In these insightful essays, Liu considers the myriad roles and identities of Chinese Americans in a country that is increasingly at odds with China. Liu is a columnist for CNN.com, the CEO of Citizen University and a former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton.
“The Hotel On Place Vendome” by Tilar J. Mazzeo (Harper, $27, 320 pages): In German-occupied France in 1940, only one Paris luxury hotel was allowed to continue operation during the war – the Ritz. The legendary lodging served as a Nazi headquarters at the same time it was a retreat for a select private clientele. A fascinating slice of the Ritz’s long life, full of intrigue, celebrity, betrayal and bravery.
“How About Never? Is Never Good for You?” by Bob Mankoff (Henry Holt, $32.50, 304 pages): In his memoir, the cartoon editor of The New Yorker goes beyond showing his life in cartoons to tour us through the venerable magazine and demonstrate how cartoons are created. Along the way, he attempts to answer the psychological question of why some cartoons are funny and some not so much.
“Supreme City: How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern America” by Donald L. Miller (Simon & Schuster, $37.50, 784 pages): This cultural history of 1920s Manhattan shows how it got its nickname – “the capital of everything,” From engineering and architecture to mass communication and the arts, Manhattan was the touchstone for an entire nation, drawing the best and brightest into its creative, energetic embrace.
“Price of Fame” by Sylvia Jukes Morris (Random House, $35, 752 pages): Clare Boothe Luce (1903-87) was “liberated” decades before the term became a rallying cry for the women’s movement. This biography tracks her career as a two-term Republican congresswoman, ambassador to Italy, journalist, editor, public speaker, screenwriter and playwright (“The Women”). Ever daring, she mastered scuba diving and experimented with psychedelic drugs. Her turbulent marriage to Time Inc. publisher Henry Luce was a source of titillating media gossip, most of it true.
“The Second Amendment: A Biography” by Michael Waldman (Simon & Schuster, $25, 272 page): As the national debate over gun laws continues, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice walks us through what is generally agreed to be the most misinterpreted and contentious article in the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution. It states, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” It was written in 1791.
“Carsick” by John Waters (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26, 336 pages): Best known for his cult movies (“Serial Mom,” “Hairspray”), visual artist Waters took off on a hitchhiking adventure from his hometown of Baltimore to San Francisco. Standing at roadside, he held a sign reading “I’m No Psycho,” which is debatable. A weird ride and a fitting entry into his oeuvre.
“The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky and Death” by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday, $26, 256 pages): Can a mediocre poker player find the meaning of life in the World Series of Poker? The odds are good if the player is novelist-journalist Whitehead, recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship “genius grant.” Bankrolled by online magazine Granta, he traveled to Vegas and bet with the big boys, much to our entertainment.
“The Big Tiny” by Dee Williams (Blue Rider, $27, 304 pages): An unexpected trauma led the author to an epiphany: Time spent with family and friends is more important than time spent maintaining one’s worldly possessions. So she downsized, literally building herself an 84-square-foot house. Now it takes only 10 minutes to clean her home, leaving time for more important pursuits.
Call The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128. Follow him on Twitter @apierleonisacbe.