A lot of things might look a little different during the Summer of COVID, but one thing won’t change—our desire to escape for a few hours into the pages of a good book! Team BBF’s summer travel plans have been curtailed this year, but we’re still making time to head to the park, the backyard, or the sofa for some quality summer reading time. Here’s what you’ll find tucked in Team BBF’s tote bags this summer—along with a stylish mask or two, of course! You can find all our picks on our Bookshop.org page, where your purchases help support independent bookstores—and the BBF, too!
Norah Piehl, Executive Director
If you’re bemoaning the loss of your summer vacation, Yun Ko-Eun‘s new novel, The Disaster Tourist, out in August, might be just the thing to change your outlook. Yona works for Jungle, a Korean travel agency specializing in package tours to areas of the world ravaged by disasters, from hurricanes to nuclear meltdowns. She heads to a remote Vietnamese island to inspect one of Jungle’s vacation destinations—and what she discovers there is a mix of clever absurdity and mounting dread, as she uncovers cruel inequalities and environmental degradation.
This spring, we’ve been moved by reading true stories from hundreds of Bostonians, submitted as part of our At Home Boston project with the Boston Globe. It turns out that award-winning novelist Zadie Smith has spent her time in lockdown reflecting and writing as well—and the result is Intimations(out July 28), a collection of six brand-new short essays probing the meaning of this unprecedented time and our individual and collective responses to it.
If you need a break from introspection, there’s nothing better than a great romantic comedy; ever since I read Talia Hibbert‘s fantastic Get a Life, Chloe Brown last summer, I’ve been eagerly awaiting its companion novel. Take a Hint, Dani Brown is British novelist Hibbert’s second novel about the vibrant, funny Brown sisters, and this one features a decidedly anti-romantic protagonist who may find herself falling in love despite her best intentions.
Finally, I’ve always been fascinated by cities and their design. I’m eager to pick up Jason Diamond‘s The Sprawl: Reconsidering the Weird American Suburbs (out in late August), which offers a hot take on the American suburban milieu as a hotbed of artistic inspiration and cultural significance. As a reluctant suburbanite myself, I look forward to viewing my neighborhood with renewed appreciation—after all, where else am I going to go this summer?
Carlin Carr, Director of Operations and Outreach
As I write this, I’m hours away from starting a week’s vacation, so it’s exciting to think about some good books to read with the extra time. I usually like to take a big trip somewhere, often India, but since that’s not happening this year, I thought I’d readA Burning by Megha Majumdar. It’s a debut novel that I’ve heard great things about, and I especially like the idea of the main character being a young Muslim girl from the slums. I’m looking forward to traveling back to India this way.
I also got really excited about Roddy Doyle‘s new book, Love, after seeing that he’ll be speaking at Harvard Book Store. I haven’t read him for years, but I went through a phase where I read tons of Irish writers and his books were just so funny. I thought a few good laughs could be a good way to mix up summer of 2020.
I’ve also been making my way through a big book of MLK speeches. It’s something I’m doing slowly, week by week, because it takes some time to really absorb the power and beauty of his words. I’ll keep working my way through that.
Ellie Manning, BBF 2020 Intern
Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon
I fell in love with Ariel Lawhon’s writing in the first chapter, and I could scarcely put the book down. Heroism, femininity, relationships, and the courage to face war with little except stubbornness, brandy, and a tube of red lipstick, Code Name Hélène is a powerful, gripping story based on the true events and life of a woman, Nancy Wake, fighting with the resistance against Nazi-occupied France in WWII.
The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell
Michael Kingman, branded a traitor for the crimes of his father, has a family legacy to live up to and a past to confront to do it. In a world where the nobility can use magic at the price of their memories, Michael must face the political corruption of the High Nobility of the Hollows in order to find the truth about his family, and himself. But who’s memories can he trust, if not his own?
House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas
This is Maas’s debut adult fantasy novel. I’d never read anything by Maas, but I loved the novel’s strong heroine, murder and romance plots, and the clash of angels and demons in the fantasy elements.
Bree Reyes, BBF 2020 Intern
Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore is a fun coming-of-age story with a time travel twist. Oona Lockhart celebrates her birthday every year just like everyone else. But instead of turning one year older, she hops to a completely different age, forward or backward in time. Her character development as she grapples with her reality makes this book both profound and relatable in a magical way.
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley If you need an escape from the summer heat, Lucy Foley’s The Hunting Party has the perfect setting and plot. On an isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands, a group of friends are welcoming the New Year together. But then one of them is found dead. Fans of a good murder mystery with an engrossing cast of characters will find this one really enjoyable.
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri For those of you who might be stuck in a reading rut, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies is an amazing collection of stories that is best savored rather than rushed. Each story explores the complications and importance of relationships in the face of cultural connections and barriers. Her writing style has a lovely balance of dialogue and detail that makes even the simplest of interactions enchanting.