Need a good summer read? Critics recommend these 6 new books

Written by Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Bennett Purser

From climate change nonfiction to short stories and a mystery novel, KCRW gets recommendations for summer reading. Photo by Shutterstock.

KCRW gets summer reading recommendations from Boris Kachka, books editor for the LA Times, and Joumana Khatib, editor at the New York Times Book review. 

The Bee Sting” by Paul Murray

Set around the financial crisis, this book follows an Irish family in crisis. 

Khatib: “This is a long book. This is something you're going to take to the beach with you every single day of your Cape Cod rental or you're going to read it in the car. It's 600 pages, but they fly, I promise. … This is still a very funny novel. Even though you watch all sorts of indignities and tribulations visited on this family, it's very funny. And if you like family stories, family sagas, you like a sense of humor, I can definitely recommend that one.” 

All-Night Pharmacy” by Ruth Madievsky

After two sisters go out to a shady bar one night, the eldest — Debbie — disappears. 

Kachka: “It becomes a little bit of a mystery of what happened to Debbie, but it does not pivot over into a classic murder mystery in any way. It actually veers into other genres. It becomes a queer love story. It becomes a story about dealing with your generational traumas as an immigrants. There are scenes set in Moldova with a lover. It’s a cornucopia, all-night pharmacy of genres. … What keeps it going is she just has this wonderful sharp language.”

Bridge” by Lauren Beukes

Grief is at the center of this novel, which follows a young woman who grew up in an eccentric home and whose mother has died. Upon cleaning out her home, she is transported into an alternate reality. 

Khatib: “She's dropped down into another version of her life, which can be a really moving thing because there is a central question when you start on this journey with her. Is she ever gonna find her mother again? Did her mother take a strand out of this talisman and put herself in another kind of lane of consciousness? And are they ever going to find each other?”

Crook Manifesto” by Colson Whitehead

This is a sequel to “Harlem Shuffle” and is set during the 1970s. It follows furniture salesman and fence Ray Carney as he navigates the world. 

Kachka: “We last left [Carney] promising that he'd go legit forever and ever, leading this very conventional family life — until the Jackson Five comes to town and can't score tickets. And he has to go back to his corrupt white cop to help them out. And so he says, ‘All right, I'm doing you a favor. You do me a favor.’ And he's fencing goods again. But it's not a repeat because everything is so different. The neighborhood has changed and Whitehead is so good about capturing history and making it feel immediate.” 

Witness” by Jamel Brinkley

This is a collection of 10 short stories, all set in New York and tackles grief, intimacy, family, and the meaning of home. 

Kachka: “The interesting thing is the contrast between the tone and the care that he's giving to the stories and the milieu that he's writing about, which is New York in the midst of gentrification. There's police shootings. There’s legacies of violence. There's people living desperate lives.” 

The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet” by Jeff Goodell

This nonfiction book dives into climate change.

Khatib: “It's urgent. … He wants to alert people to the utter lethality of rising temperatures. And I think that he tempers a lot of his feelings by just laying out the facts right. But his point is clear — we just cannot afford to be complacent anymore. I think he almost compares it to having the barrel of a gun pointed at the earth. … He does give us some solutions. And he outlines what are the structural changes that would need to be made. What are the expectations? What are the trade-offs?”