Democracy Dies in Darkness

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What your favorite writers are reading this summer

Picks by Ann Patchett, Colson Whitehead, Jodi Picoult, Chimamanda Adichie and more.

By Nora Krug

June 8, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Finally, a chance to stop checking Twitter and open a book — for pleasure. But what to read? For a little help, we asked some popular authors: What are you planning to read this summer and why?

Ann Patchett, author, most recently, of "Commonwealth"
I'll want a book that's thrilling and artful, a true page turner that will leave me feeling smart, so I'll read Maile Meloy's "Do Not Become Alarmed." Roxane Gay's "Hunger" will be at the top of the stack for life-changing memoirs (she is brilliant). And of course I'll be reading David Sedaris's "Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002" because a summer in which there is a new Sedaris book is the very definition of a good summer.

Colson Whitehead, author of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner "The Underground Railroad"
I'm a news junkie, so my attention span is shot in these days of constant D.C. horror show. Over the last few months I've discovered that I can only handle novellas and short novels — 200 pages, then it's back to cable news for the latest atrocity. Mohsin Hamid's "The Reluctant Fundamentalist," "Exit West" and "Ethan Frome" were good discoveries this spring. This summer, I have rereads for "Sula," "Things Fall Apart" and "Waiting for the Barbarians" lined up. Short and sweet! I'd like to get to the Ferrantes if possible, too.

Jodi Picoult, whose novels include "My Sister's Keeper" and "Small Great Things"
I have three books on my summer reading list! "The Stars Are Fire" looks like Anita Shreve at her best, exploring real-life New England history through the lens of complex  characters. I'm also looking forward to "Everyone Brave is Forgiven," by Chris Cleave, a love story cast against the backdrop of World War II. Finally, "The Hate U Give," by Angie Thomas, a YA novel that brings the Black Lives Matter movement to life through the eyes of a young black girl who witnesses the shooting of her friend at the hands of the police.

Tana French, author, most recently, of "The Trespasser"
I'm finally going to finish Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House." No one does eeriness like Shirley Jackson; no one breaks down the boundaries of your reality and draws you into hers with quite the same inexorable power. I started "Haunting" once before, and it spooked me so badly that I stopped, so I'm hoping that reading it on a sunny beach will defuse it a little. I'm also planning to read Marlon James's "A Brief History of Seven Killings," and I cannot wait to read Dennis Lehane's "Since We Fell," about a woman who finds both her marriage and her mind threatened after she spots her husband — or his doppelganger — somewhere he's not supposed to be. Lehane writes expert, compelling thrillers that dive into mysteries much more universal and more urgent than just whodunit; he's one of the game changers who smashed the imaginary boundary between genre and literature, proving that we can have the best of both at once.

Chimamanda Adichie, author of "Americanah" and, most recently, "Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions"
I'm planning to read Isabel Wilkerson's "The Warmth of Other Suns," which I have been saving to read for a while and am very much looking forward to.

Carl Hiaasen, whose most recent book is "Razor Girl"
I'm looking forward to "The Last Hack," a novel about cyber-stealth by Christopher Brookmyre, a sharp and funny Scottish writer. Another book high on my summer list is George Saunders's "Lincoln in the Bardo." Now if only Seth Meyers would write "Trump in the Lago."

Diane Rehm, radio personality and author, most recently, of "On My Own"
I'm totally hooked on Elizabeth Strout. First I reread "My Name is Lucy Barton." Now I'm reading "Amy and Isabelle," and finishing up her latest, "Anything Is Possible." Her characters, their stories, their interwoven lives have me mesmerized.

Philip Kerr, whose novels include "Prussian Blue"
I'm planning to read "The Essential Paradise Lost," by John Carey. "Paradise Lost" was once celebrated throughout Europe as one of the sublime achievements of mankind. Today this masterpiece is little read except by students. It's years since I was forced to read Milton's poem in school and, in an attempt to bring it to a wider audience, Carey has shortened the text and reveals new insights into the poet's sources of inspiration. Carey is one of the leading populists of our age, and I'm hoping his book will help me to become reacquainted with one of the most misunderstood characters in literature: Lucifer.

Imbolo Mbue, author of "Behold the Dreamers"
Recent or soon-to-be-released books I would love to read this summer include Naoki Higashida's memoir of living with severe autism, "Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8"; Jonathan Dee's "The Locals" (it sounds very ambitious and seemingly explores several social issues our country is currently dealing with); Stephanie Powell Watt's "No One is Coming to Save Us"; Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi's debut novel, "Kintu"; Jesmyn Ward's "Sing, Unburied, Sing"; and Jim St. Germain's "A Stone of Hope," a memoir which I've heard presents an exceptional argument for criminal justice reform.

Elinor Lipman, author, most recently, of "On Turpentine Lane"
My summer list:
"Shattered," by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes because I am a political junkie.
"My Darling Detective," by Howard Norman (I had to put it aside for some duty reading but can't wait to get back to it).
"Small Admissions," by Amy Poeppel because I met her recently and was so impressed.
"Dinner with Edward," by Isabel Vincent because I love memoirs and food.
"Anything Is Possible," by Elizabeth Strout because she wrote "Olive Kitteridge."
"My Life with Bob," by Pamela Paul because Maria Semple called it "the gateway book that will make you the fiendish reader you know you are!"

Nathan Hill, author of "The Nix"
I'm finishing a book tour this summer, and the novels I've packed to keep me company on airplanes are "Private Citizens," by Tony Tulathimutte, "The Muse," by Jessie Burton, and "Imagine Wanting Only This," by Kristen Radtke. I'm also looking forward to "Blind Spot," by Teju Cole, a book that combines two of my favorite hobbies: photography and reading Teju Cole.

Angie Thomas, author of "The Hate U Give"
Lately, I haven't been able to read for pleasure nearly as much as I would like to, so I hope to make it up this summer and catch up on my TBR list. At the top is "Ramona Blue" by the incredible Julie Murphy. I absolutely loved "Side Effects May Vary" and "Dumplin'," so I know I will love this one, too. (Plus, it's set in my home state, Mississippi — bonus points.) I also can't wait to finally read "When Dimple Met Rishi," by Sandhya Menon. Just from the excerpt I've read, I adore the voice already and know it will be a great read.

Ayelet Waldman, author, most recently, of "A Really Good Day"
This summer, providing I don't indulge my impulses toward procrastination, I'll be immersed in writing a new novel. I'll be spending the summer reading research materials, mostly nonfiction books on the topics of psychoanalysis, trauma, World War I and the war in Iraq. I'll also be reading fiction to inspire me. An old favorite is "Atonement," by Ian McEwan. I read it last week. I'll probably reread it at least once more. I'll keep my copies of the story collections of Lorrie Moore and Tobias Wolff close at hand. I often start the work day by reading a story by one or the other of them. I always find it curious when fiction writers insist they cannot possibly read fiction while writing their own for fear of being influenced by the style of another. I'm looking forward to having my style influenced by McEwan, Moore and Wolff.

Diana Gabaldon, author the Outlander series and most recently, "Seven Stories to Stand or Fall"
People plan their reading? Takes all kinds… Books just find me. They converge upon me like flocks of benevolent vultures. They follow me home, wagging their tails. I'm pretty sure they breed in the dark, too, like mushrooms. When I finish a book, I pick up whatever looks most appealing from the tottering piles at hand. What's on top now, though, is "The Last Hack," by Christopher Brookmyre, "Creatures of Will and Temper," by Molly Tanzer, and "The Murderer's Maid," by Erika Mailman — all batting their eyelashes at me. When the time comes, I guess I'll flip a coin…

David McCullough, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and author, most recently, of "The American Spirit"
When I'm working on a book, I can only devote my time to the reading necessary for the book. But thanks for asking!
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Nora Krug is an editor and writer in Book World.

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