20 books to read this summer

Illustration by Emma Roulette

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All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake

By Tiya Miles, Random House

NONFICTION | Knowing her daughter was about to be sold, Rose, enslaved in 1850s South Carolina, handed her 9-year-old a cotton bag of keepsakes. That heirloom, passed from one generation to the next, led Miles, a MacArthur fellow and historian, to re-create the trajectory of Rose’s descendants. Faced with inadequate records, the author uses the bag’s contents to conjure a mosaic of Black women’s lives during and after slavery. (Available June 8)

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Black Buck

By Mateo Askaripour, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

FICTION | Askaripour’s irresistible novel concerns Darren, a young Black man who trades a job at Starbucks for staggering success at an absurd tech start-up. This razor-sharp corporate satire also delves into the thorny issue of race in the modern workplace. As the only Black man in the office, Darren finds himself among colleagues determined to prove how post-racial they are. You can imagine how well that goes.

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Review: Mateo Askaripour’s ‘Black Buck’ is an irresistible comic novel about the tenacity of racism in corporate America
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Broken (in the Best Possible Way)

By Jenny Lawson, Henry Holt and Co.

NONFICTION | The fourth book — and fourth bestseller — by the author otherwise known as the Bloggess goes to some dark places, including her years-long battle with depression, anxiety disorder and autoimmune diseases. But her levity is her buoy and her brand. Life may be brutal, but Lawson proves that even a maddening battle with an insurance company can be fertile ground for comedy.

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Interview: For Jenny Lawson, life is brutal — and hilarious
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Chasing the Thrill: Obsession, Death, and Glory in America’s Most Extraordinary Treasure Hunt

By Daniel Barbarisi, Knopf

NONFICTION | File this one under stranger than fiction: In 2010, an art dealer, believing he’s on death’s door, hides a treasure chest full of gold and gemstones “in the mountains somewhere north of Santa Fe” and sets in motion a massive search with a cryptic, clue-laden poem. Barbarisi, a journalist, got pulled into the hunt by an obsessed friend and spent years documenting the deadly and controversial race for riches.

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Review: They all think they’re Indiana Jones in ‘Chasing the Thrill,’ a tale of a real-life treasure hunt
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Crying in H Mart

By Michelle Zauner, Knopf

NONFICTION | This moving memoir, by a writer who moonlights as the musical artist Japanese Breakfast, explores how H Mart, the supermarket chain specializing in Asian food, came to serve as a bridge to her Korean heritage after her mother’s death. As it turns out, making kimchi was a natural step toward healing.

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Profile: Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner is fighting for joy through grief
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Early Morning Riser

By Katherine Heiny, Knopf

FICTION | Heiny is a master at switching registers, delivering poignant heartbreak one moment and big laughs the next. Her novel teems with eccentric characters who swirl around 26-year-old Jane after she moves to Boyne City, Mich., for a job as a second-grade teacher. She immediately falls for Duncan, a woodworker so charming he’s bedded half the town. Is he marriage material? Maybe, maybe not. But the community’s a keeper.

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Review: Katherine Heiny’s ‘Early Morning Riser’ may be the funniest novel of the year
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Empire of Pain

By Patrick Radden Keefe, Doubleday

NONFICTION | The investigative journalist and author of “Say Nothing” excavates the history of the Sackler family, known mainly, until a few years ago, for their lavish donations to universities and museums. But the family’s fortune, made from pharmaceuticals such as OxyContin, has invited recent scrutiny, including that of the dogged Keefe, who tells the family’s story as the saga of a dynasty driven by arrogance, avarice and indifference to mass suffering.

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Review: For the Sackler family, a dynasty built on medicine, marketing and pain
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Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest

By Suzanne Simard, Knopf

NONFICTION | If there’s a celebrity in the world of forest ecology, it’s Simard, whose TED Talks about trees have been viewed by millions. Her first book blends memoir — the story of her upbringing in Canada as a descendant of loggers — with fascinating research about how forests are much like human communities, alive with messages, warnings and protective tips shared among neighbors.

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Review: A scientist’s career in communion with trees
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Gold Diggers

By Sanjena Sathian, Penguin Press

FICTION | This remarkable debut — already optioned by Mindy Kaling for a TV series — takes inspiration from striving immigrant tales, Old West mythology and even madcap thrillers. The story follows Neil, the son of Indian immigrants, who can’t quite live up to his parents’ towering expectations. A magical potion capable of boosting his potential seems like the perfect solution — until things go awry.

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Review: Sanjena Sathian’s ‘Gold Diggers’ is a witty social satire with a dash of magic
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Good Company

By Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, Ecco

FICTION | Following the success of her comic debut, 2016’s “The Nest,” Sweeney delivers a sweeter, gentler novel about the ways different people experience the same events, decisions and mistakes. Flora gave up her Broadway dreams to support her family, including her husband, the head of a high-quality, low-profit theater company. But when she discovers the wedding ring he claimed to have lost years earlier, Flora starts to question everything about her existence.

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Review: Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s follow-up to ‘The Nest’ is a sweeter novel with higher stakes
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Great Circle

By Maggie Shipstead, Knopf

FICTION | Shipstead combines a soaring work of historical fiction about a “lady pilot” in the mid-20th century with the tale of a famous modern-day actress trying to save her career after some highly publicized debauchery. This is a long one — about 600 pages — but the novel makes full use of its length to explore parallel stories about powerful women who rise from tragedies to forge their own way.

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Review: Maggie Shipstead’s ‘Great Circle’ is a perfect summer novel
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Hour of the Witch

By Chris Bohjalian, Doubleday

FICTION | The “Flight Attendant” author’s historical thriller is subtly packed with details about the realities of 1662 Boston, where Mary, a young Puritan woman, winds up marrying an abusive widower twice her age. When the violence escalates, she decides divorce is the only way to save her life. But in a society always alert to the work of the devil, she winds up as endangered as ever.

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Review: Chris Bohjalian’s thriller ‘Hour of the Witch’ is historical fiction at its best
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Infinite Country

By Patricia Engel, Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster

FICTION | When Elena and Mauro leave Colombia for Texas looking for financial security, they have no idea that the land of plenty they’re seeking is just as violent as the country they left — and that their future is just as precarious. Engel is a gifted storyteller whose writing shines even in the darkest corners, which in this case means exploring the pain of a family torn apart after a father’s deportation.

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Review: Patricia Engel’s ‘Infinite Country’ focuses on the psychological pain of a family split apart
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A Lonely Man

By Chris Power, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

FICTION | Power’s debut, like the best noir fiction, manages to be both suspenseful and cosmically destabilizing. Nothing and no one are what they first appear to be. The plot bears more than a passing resemblance to the classic film “The Third Man,” diving into the story of a struggling novelist who finds his way out of writer’s block by taking inspiration from a ghostwriter who’s convinced that Russian assassins are after him.

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Review: ‘A Lonely Man’ is an elegant suspense novel in the tradition of the ‘The Third Man’
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Malibu Rising

By Taylor Jenkins Reid, Ballantine

FICTION | To the world, Mick Riva is perfection — a handsome heartthrob with a voice like an angel. To his four children, he’s a deadbeat dad whose absence destroyed their mother. Years after their abandonment, the kids have traded poverty for wealth and are preparing for a massive party in a house on a cliff above the coastline. But riches and ocean views can’t quite mask the devastating effects of the past. (Available June 1)

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Mercury Rising: John Glenn, John Kennedy, and the New Battleground of the Cold War

By Jeff Shesol, W.W. Norton & Co.

NONFICTION | There was a lot riding on Glenn’s launch into space on Feb. 20, 1962, as part of the Friendship 7 mission. Making history was part of it, and he became the first American to orbit Earth. But Shesol’s account from interviews and archival material also explores the emotional importance of that flight, showing Americans that their country could take on the Soviets anywhere. (Available June 1)

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The Plot

By Jean Hanff Korelitz, Celadon

FICTION | The author of 2014’s “You Should Have Known,” which inspired HBO’s “The Undoing,” delivers a witty nightmare of a thriller about the dangerous consequences of sticky fingers in the literary world. When a once-celebrated author winds up teaching in a middling MFA program, he’s sure he’s squandered his chance at lasting success — until one of his promising pupils dies, inspiring the novelist to claim the student’s book idea as his own.

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Review: The plot of ‘The Plot’ — the best thriller of the year (so far) — is too good to give away
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The Secret to Superhuman Strength

By Alison Bechdel, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

NONFICTION | The MacArthur “Genius” cartoonist who burst on the scene with the 2006 graphic memoir “Fun Home” — inspiring a Tony-winning musical — set out to write a light book about her lifelong commitment to exercise, including stints as a cyclist, climber, skier and yogi. As usual, her story and art are about so much more — the realities of aging, the quest for transcendence and the drumbeat of mortality.

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Interview: Alison Bechdel thought she was writing a book about exercise. It became a metaphysical adventure.
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Somebody’s Daughter

By Ashley C. Ford, Flatiron

NONFICTION | Ford, a writer and podcaster, mines a painful past in this chronicle of a splintered family. As a child, growing up poor and Black in Fort Wayne, Ind., Ford knew that her father was in prison, but she didn’t know why. Her path to discovering the truth, intertwined with childhood misadventures and a harrowing account of her sexual assault at 13, makes for a riveting coming-of-age story. (Available June 1)

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Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR

By Lisa Napoli, Abrams Press

NONFICTION | Newsrooms of the late 1960s were not especially welcoming to women: “Great legs, face only fair,” read one note about a job candidate at the New York Times. But public radio’s shaky beginnings created openings for the likes of Susan Stamberg, Linda Wertheimer, Nina Totenberg and Cokie Roberts. Napoli chronicles not just the camaraderie among the “founding mothers” but also their commitment to help the younger women who aspired to follow them.

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Review: Four women who broke barriers to become the founding mothers of NPR
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