Your Summer 2014 Reading Guide: 6 Great Novels

Your Summer 2014 Reading Guide: 6 Great Novels


The choices are almost overwhelming. Rumors of a crisis in publishing notwithstanding, the options for great summer reading are abundant. There are, of course, the obvious bestsellers, most of which will clamor for your attention with lavish displays at the front of the bookstore or the top of your online list. Herewith, however, we present the cream of the crop, some of which are slightly more obscure. Steer directly to one of the following novels, and it’s hard to imagine that you’ll have a bad day on your summer vacation. Even if it’s raining.

Related: 6 Great Novels Worth Reading in 2014

Midnight in Europe by Alan Furst
If you haven’t stumbled across Furst’s noir-ish novels, set in the smoke-filled rooms and foggy alleys of European capitals in the 1930s, well, you’re missing out. In which case, this is a good place to catch up. Cristian Ferrar lives in Paris, a Spanish lawyer with an American firm. He’s an unexpectedly privileged kind of guy in the late 1930s, in the midst of the Spanish Civil War, when most others with Republican sympathies are penniless refugees. Ferrar is lured into helping the Republicans make a last-ditch stand, by supplying them with weapons…. Furst’s fans worry that one day he’ll run out of ideas or settings in his favorite era, but so far, so good. If you like this, and want some entertaining video, look for the four-part series of his “Spies of Warsaw,” starring David Tennant. (Random House, $27.00)

Lost for Words by Edward St. Aubyn
With less than two months to go, the buzz is already building about which novels will end up on the first Man Booker Prize longlist to include works by American (indeed, non-Commonwealth) authors. Edward St. Aubyn made it all the way to the shortlist in 2006 with Mother’s Milk, part of his acclaimed Melrose cycle of novels, but don’t expect this latest novel to pop up among the 2014 nominees. That’s because it’s a hilarious, flat-out satirical send-up of the whole culture of literary prizes and literary celebrity. Sure, you may need to have followed some of the recent kerfuffle surrounding the Man Booker to “get” all the jokes, but you don’t need to read at that level to enjoy the skewering of literary pretentiousness. If you’ve ever thought that uber-literary novelists and their critics are really just jabbering away at each other in incomprehensible sentences, you owe it to yourself to read this. Witty and smart – and oh yes, well written. (Macmillan, $26.00)

Related: The 12 Movies You Should See This Summer

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden
If you haven’t yet discovered Joseph Boyden’s novels, you have something quite astonishing in store: He is simply one of the best storytellers that Canada has yet produced, and one of the best wordsmiths, to boot. This is only his third novel, and already he is into uncharted territory, embarking on a dark venture into 17th century Canadian history, and the first contacts between the French colonists, the Hurons, the Iroquois, and the conflicts between them. Quite simply, it’s dazzling. (Knopf, $26.95)

Euphoria by Lily King
Inspired by the anthropologist Margaret Mead, Lily King has penned a riveting and imaginative novel set in New Guinea. What kind of toll does isolation from all that is familiar take on a researcher already tormented by events in his past – and what happens when he encounters new colleagues hungry for intellectual adventure? The results, as imaged by King, are explosive, and she does them full justice in this slim but compulsively readable novel, which could be her breakthrough to bestseller lists, or so her fans can hope…. (Atlantic Monthly Press, $25.00) 

In the Morning I’ll Be Gone by Adrian McKinty
In McKinty’s “Troubles” Trilogy, of which this is the third (but intriguingly, we hear, not the last) book, Sean Duffy is a Catholic cop working for the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Belfast in the early 1980s, which is about as comfortable a position as being a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. By the time you reach this book (which can be read on its own, though why not read your way through all three?), he’s in trouble with the authorities and on his way out — unless he can entrap an old schoolfriend who has turned into a most-wanted man, a notorious IRA bomber and now a prison escapee, plotting to bomb Margaret Thatcher. Fast-paced and very evocative of an era that (thankfully) is beginning to recede into history. (Seventh Street Books, $15.95) 

Dispute Over a Very Italian Piglet by Amara Lakhous
Algerian-born author Amara Lakhous is, I hear, on the point of moving to the United States. I confess that my reaction is divided: On the one hand, there’s a chance we’ll no longer be treated to his wonderfully vivid portrayals of a reluctantly multicultural/multiethnic 21st century Italy. On the other hand, Lakhous could turn his talents toward analyzing us instead. In any event, a new Lakhous novel is a thing of joy — quite literally, as they are always replete with humor and a certain absurdity. Sheer delight. (Europa Editions, $15.00)

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