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10 Excellent Summer Reads

With rich people behaving scandalously on every page, this lemon is juicy and delicious.

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LULULEMONS

Weisberger (The Singles Game, 2016, etc.) gives rich-lit fans a second spinoff of her best-known novel, The Devil Wears Prada, shifting her lens from long-suffering Andrea Sachs to Emily Charlton, the snippy fashionista who worked as top assistant to Runway magazine’s hellish editor, Miranda Priestly.

A decade after leaving Runway, Emily has successfully reinvented herself as a celebrity stylist and image consultant specializing in crisis management. But it’s her own career that’s in jeopardy when a hotshot rival starts luring away Emily’s Hollywood clients with millennial social media superpowers. Emily needs a big win or she may as well pack it up and head back to Runway. Thankfully, her childhood friend Miriam Kagan has just the gig for her. Miriam recently moved to tony Greenwich, Connecticut, where former supermodel and current senator’s wife Karolina Hartwell is hiding out after a brush with the law. Something about Karolina’s DUI arrest just doesn’t add up, though. Miriam dusts off her Harvard law degree and Emily kicks into high gear, discovering their friend Karolina has been set up by her husband, an ambitious politician with his eye on the White House. Now the three friends must take him down. Having a kick-ass girl posse is not only great fun, but essential for survival in this town filled with moms obsessed with SoulCycle, trophy kids, and plastic surgery—including having their vaginas “custom fit” for their husbands. In one scene, a designer-clad mom hosts a sex-toy party where the constant drumbeat is fear that husbands will abandon wives who aren’t smokin’ hot and sexually available at all times. (Every sex toy is discussed in terms of how much pleasure it will bring the men.) Emily, Miriam, and Karolina pose a refreshing contrast to the Greenwich moms who all seem to be swimming in the extremely shallow end of the pool.

With rich people behaving scandalously on every page, this lemon is juicy and delicious.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-7844-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

WE BEGIN OUR ASCENT

Cycling, family life, illegal substances—Reed twines them all together in his exceptional debut.

Our narrator, Solomon, is a professional cyclist racing in the Tour de France. His wife, Liz, is a research biologist with an “interest in adaptive theory.” They are both ambitious, devotedly searching for “a right way to do things, a sense of control.” But Sol is not racing to win; his job is “to get our team leader, Fabrice, across the twenty-one stages of this tour in as little time as possible.” To properly perform this job, and to remain competitive against their likewise unscrupulous rivals, Sol and his teammates dope—a practice Sol uneasily supports: “I am no fan of the danger of the process, but when I consider the way the team has got into me—altered my chemistry to my own advantage—I am grateful.” The novel unfolds over several days midtour. Sol’s team has a bit of good luck, and a lot of bad, and eventually Liz, who’s driving in from England to watch the race’s later stages, is drawn into the doping scheme…then further into it, then further. “Just one little thing more,” she says. Reed’s first novel lives squarely within Don DeLillo’s sphere of influence. In addition to their mutual preoccupation with systems—the systems we live beneath, the systems we design for ourselves—Reed shares with DeLillo certain aspects of pacing, voice, and character: Sol’s wryly thoughtful narration is reminiscent of Jack Gladney’s in White Noise; Rafael, the team’s coercive and brilliantly rendered directeur sportif, could be a relative of Gladney's friend Murray Jay Siskind. But Reed relies more heavily on plot than DeLillo, and the effect is remarkably successful: Alongside the ideas and the jokes, there is real suspense and human drama. Reed shows us the allure of conducting our “days...not for their own sake but for the light that will be cast back upon them by success”—and then he shows us how awful this method of living can be when things go wrong. “We are doing all this for a bicycle race?” Fast and smart, funny and sad, this is an outstanding sports novel, and Reed is an author to watch. 

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6920-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

With just the right touch of bitters, Williams (Cocoa Beach, 2017, etc.) mixes a satisfyingly tempestuous—and eminently...

THE SUMMER WIVES

Twenty years after a murder at her family’s tony Long Island Sound summer enclave, an expatriate actress returns to right a terrible injustice and heal her broken heart.

From June to August, generations of fishermen from Winthrop Island’s year-round Portuguese community have supplied the lobsters and occasional bootleg for bridge parties, weddings, golf tournaments, and other social occasions organized by the island’s patrician cottagers. Just as the locals steer carefully around summer people, the “purebloods” are ever mindful of subtle social gradations within their own set. As one of them, Isobel Fisher, remarks to her divorced father, Hugh, on the day of his wedding, “Thank God you’ve found a dear, lovely woman to marry…and not some gimlet goddess from the Club.” It’s 1951, and the Fishers are still regarded as new money (derived from an ancestor’s investment in toilets), their summer redoubt, Greyfriars, built on the less fashionable end of the island, next door to the lighthouse. If the summer crowd and locals are in perfect accord over one thing, it’s Isobel’s wild streak and too-close friendship with the lighthouse keeper’s handsome son, Joseph Vargas, while engaged to a scion of the old guard. As she tells her soon-to-be stepsister, Miranda Schuyler (who has her own thoughts about Joseph), “I haven’t got your brains, I’m afraid. I need a little action to keep me happy.” As in many Williams novels, there’s quite a bit of zigzagging though the 1930s, '50s, and '60s to fill in the characters’ backstories and milk the main plot intrigue: the murder of Hugh Fisher and a homicide verdict that’s fishier than a Fourth of July clambake. Eyebrows lift when the victim’s stepdaughter, Miranda, steps onto the island for the first time in decades. Since moving to Europe she’s become a successful actress, never mind the enormous shiner her movie-star sunglasses can’t quite conceal. To outward appearances, the salacious curiosity about her stepfather’s murder which drove her from the island has greatly faded. Even her dear, lovely mother and Isobel, still single (and sullen), appear to have moved on, converting Greyfriars into a glorified boardinghouse and calling it an artists’ colony. Meanwhile, the family of Joseph Vargas—the admitted killer sent to Sing Sing—is stone-faced about his recent prison escape and rumored sightings near the island. Helping Miranda in her effort to clear Joseph—whom she believes innocent, though she keeps her reasons close to the vest—are her rambunctious half brother, Hugh Jr., (born after their father's murder), the ladies boarding at Greyfriars, and old-shoe banker Clayton Monk, Isobel’s square, endearingly steady ex-flame. As Miranda’s Shakespearean namesake would say: "How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, That has such people in't."

With just the right touch of bitters, Williams (Cocoa Beach, 2017, etc.) mixes a satisfyingly tempestuous—and eminently beachworthy—follow-up to her beloved Schuyler Sisters series.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266034-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

Already slated for feature film treatment, Carreyrou’s exposé is a vivid, cinematic portrayal of serpentine Silicon Valley...

BAD BLOOD

SECRETS AND LIES IN A SILICON VALLEY STARTUP

A deep investigative report on the sensationalistic downfall of multibillion-dollar Silicon Valley biotech startup Theranos.

Basing his findings on hundreds of interviews with people inside and outside the company, two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning Wall Street Journal reporter Carreyrou rigorously examines the seamy details behind the demise of Theranos and its creator, Elizabeth Holmes. Founded in 2003, when Holmes was just 19, the company’s claim to “fame” was its revolutionary blood-testing system, which touted the detection of everything from high cholesterol to hepatitis C to cancer using only one drop of blood. While raising $9 billion through a series of aggressive (and falsified) claims and dozens of private investors, the company’s spiking net worth caught Carreyrou’s attention a few years ago. His eye-opening reporting on the company’s inaccurate, voided, or corrected test results, as well as the loss of major retail partnerships with Walgreens and Safeway, knocked Theranos off the tech radar and left it irreversibly devastated. The author glosses over Holmes’ history as an unpopular high schooler and, later, Stanford dropout, focusing on her early vision of the specialized blood-reading equipment, the rapid evolution of Theranos, and the early skepticism about the device’s efficacy and reliability. The well-integrated employee profiles and testimonies effectively support Carreyrou’s damning narrative and discredit Holmes as a power-hungry, avaricious young leader who courted venture capitalists with specious claims. Former Theranos employees paint Holmes as an increasingly tyrannical leader who demanded allegiance and who swiftly terminated those who she felt fell short of ultimate loyalty. The author brilliantly captures the interpersonal melodrama, hidden agendas, gross misrepresentations, nepotism, and a host of delusions and lies that further fractured the company’s reputation and halted its rise. More recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission slapped Theranos and Holmes with fraud charges, though she still touts her device as having improved accuracy and importance.

Already slated for feature film treatment, Carreyrou’s exposé is a vivid, cinematic portrayal of serpentine Silicon Valley corruption.

Pub Date: May 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3165-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

In this solidly reported and much-anticipated book, Itzkoff delivers a revealing portrait of the motivations of a quiet...

ROBIN

A New York Times culture reporter uses both straight reporting and insightful analysis in the first major biography of Robin Williams (1951-2014).

After discovering his talents as a comedian and actor in his late teens, Williams was clearly going places—but where? As Billy Crystal described one of Williams’ early performances in the book, “it was like trying to catch a comet with a baseball glove.” With his madcap stage antics, trademark rainbow suspenders, and rapid-fire shifting from character to character, he mesmerized audiences everywhere, first in the small comedy clubs of New York, then on TV, and eventually in Hollywood films. “But who was he?” So asks Itzkoff (Mad as Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies, 2014, etc.) in the prologue of this comprehensive examination of Williams’ long career as an actor, family man, and friend. The author portrays an artist who, though not necessarily tormented, was driven by his insecurities and addictive personality to seek constant and immediate validation through his performances. From a stint at Juilliard, through his early success with Mork & Mindy, and finally his big breaks with Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, and Aladdin, Itzkoff chronicles his career arc and friendships with the likes of Christopher Reeve, Billy Crystal, and Richard Pryor, among countless others. Through their perspectives, along with those of his parents, children, and wives, the author draws out the many different Robins the world has come to know—but as the Itzkoff shows, there was so much more. His suicide came as a major blow to nearly everyone around him, and many are still puzzled by this final act from an artist who seemed to have it all. Itzkoff explores all the theories, including the surprising and probable one involving Lewy body disease, which caused crippling dementia and robbed Williams of his ability to perform.

In this solidly reported and much-anticipated book, Itzkoff delivers a revealing portrait of the motivations of a quiet comic genius whose explosive persona moved millions.

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62779-424-4

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

The perfect feminist blockbuster for our times.

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THE FEMALE PERSUASION

A decade in the life of a smart, earnest young woman trying to make her way in the world.

On Greer Kadetsky’s first weekend at Ryland College—a mediocre school she’s attending because her parents were too feckless to fill out Yale’s financial aid form—she gets groped at a frat party. This isn’t the life she was meant to lead: “You [need] to find a way to make your world dynamic,” she thinks. Then Greer meets Faith Frank, a second-wave feminist icon who’s come to speak at Ryland. During the question-and-answer period, Greer stands up to recount her assault and the college’s lackluster response, and, later, Faith gives her a business card. Like a magical amulet in a fairy tale, that card leads Greer to a whole new life: After graduation, she gets a job working for Faith’s foundation, Loci, which sponsors conferences about women’s issues. That might not be the most cutting-edge approach to feminism, Greer knows, but it will help her enter the conversation. Wolitzer (Belzhar, 2014, etc.) likes to entice readers with strings of appealing adjectives and juicy details: Faith is both “rich, sophisticated, knowledgeable” and “intense and serious and witty,” and she always wears a pair of sexy suede boots. It’s easy to fall in love with her, and with Greer, and with Greer’s boyfriend, Cory, and her best friend, Zee: They’re all deep, interesting characters who want to find ways to support themselves while doing good in the world and having meaningful, pleasurable lives. They have conversations about issues like “abortion rights, and the composition of the Senate, and about human trafficking”; they wrestle with the future of feminism, with racism and classism. None of them is perfect. “Likability has become an issue for women lately,” Greer tells an English professor while she’s still at Ryland, and Wolitzer has taken up the challenge. Her characters don’t always do the right thing, and though she has compassion for all of them, she’s ruthless about revealing their compromises and treacheries. This symphonic book feels both completely up-to-the-minute and also like a nod to 1970s feminist classics such as The Women’s Room, with a can't-put-it-down plot that illuminates both its characters and larger social issues.

The perfect feminist blockbuster for our times.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59448-840-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

Singularly enjoyable.

PRETEND I'M DEAD

A young woman’s offbeat adventures among misfits, weirdos, and other human beings.

Mona cleans houses for a living. This surprises people, as Mona is white, and English is her first language. The world seems to expect more from her than she expects from herself, which might be why Mona falls for a junkie. The man she thinks of as “Mr. Disgusting” is, at first, nothing more than fodder for fantasy—her profession affords a lot of time for elaborate daydreaming—but, eventually, the two start a real relationship. Just as there is more to Mona than her clients expect from a cleaning woman, Mr. Disgusting is not solely defined by his addiction. Both Mona and her author are sharp—but empathetic—observers, and this story is filled with characters who are seriously damaged and wholly human. The novel is shaped by the people Mona meets. There’s Mr. Disgusting, who cannot escape himself but gives Mona the push she needs to grow into herself. Nigel and Shiori are a weirdly serene couple whose offers of help Mona ignores, but they help her anyway. Henry is a client with a secret. And Betty is a psychic who may not be a total fake. And then there’s Mona herself, plagued by ailments emotional and physical and trying to finally understand the truth of her chaotic childhood. Mona is cleareyed and funny, not a reliable person exactly but a trustworthy observer. What gives this novel its heart is Beagin’s capacity for seeing: As Mona cleans peoples’ homes, we learn that the wealthy, well-dressed, superior individuals who pay her to scrub their toilets are just as messed up as the addicts and prostitutes and gamblers she encounters outside of work. This is not a new theme, of course, but Beagin makes it fresh with her sly, funny, compassionate voice. This is a terrific debut.

Singularly enjoyable.

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-8393-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

A singular, daring, and thrilling novel: political, sexy, and cunning as a fox.

CONFESSIONS OF THE FOX

In this inventive debut, Rosenberg transforms the legend of Jack Sheppard, infamous 18th-century London thief, into an epic queer love story.

When Dr. R. Voth, “a guy by design, not birth,” discovers a “mashed and mildewed pile of papers” at a university library book sale, he becomes obsessed with transcribing and documenting its contents. The manuscript appears to be a retelling of the Jack Sheppard legend, but it contains a marked difference: Jack was not born Jack, but P—, a young girl with a knack for making and fixing things. P— escapes indentured servitude and falls into the arms of Bess Khan, a prostitute of South Asian descent, who sees Jack as he longs to be seen. Together, the two lovers hatch schemes that take them across plague-ridden London, dodging the police state and the sinister grasp of Jonathan Wild, “Thief-Catcher General,” who has it out for Jack. Meanwhile, in the manuscript’s margins, Voth suffers at the hands of the crumbling state university and its exploitative administration. As punishment for frittering away his office hours, Voth must share the discovery of the manuscript with the “Dean of Surveillance” and a dubious corporate sponsor who leers at Jack’s story and, by extension, Voth’s humanity. “But you yourself are a—,” the sponsor ventures to Voth in an explanation he doesn’t have the guts to complete. Through a series of revealing footnotes, Voth traces queer theories of the archive as well as histories of incarceration, colonialism, and quack medicine practiced on the subjugated body. As the stories in the footnotes and the manuscript intertwine, the dual narrative shifts and snakes between voices and registers, from an 18th-century picaresque romp to an academic satire. Even when Rosenberg, a scholar of 18th-century literature and queer/trans theory at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, allows Voth to become pedantic, it’s in the service of this novel’s marvelous ambition: To show how easily marginalized voices are erased from our histories—and that restoring those voices is a disruptive project of devotion.

A singular, daring, and thrilling novel: political, sexy, and cunning as a fox.

Pub Date: June 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-59227-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

As compulsively readable as it is thoughtful and moving: an unbeatable fictional combination.

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  • Stonewall Book Awards Winner

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  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

THE GREAT BELIEVERS

Another ambitious change of pace for the versatile and accomplished Makkai (The Hundred-Year House, 2014, etc.), whose characters wrangle with the devastating impact of the AIDS epidemic at its height and in its aftermath.

In the first of two intertwined storylines, Yale and his live-in lover, Charlie, attend an unofficial wake for a dead friend, Nico, held simultaneously with his funeral service because his Cuban-American family has made it clear they don’t want any gay people there. It’s 1985, and Makkai stingingly re-creates the atmosphere of fear, prejudice, and sanctimonious finger-pointing surrounding the mortally afflicted gay community, even in a big city like Chicago. Nico’s younger sister, Fiona, has rejected their family and attached herself to his friends, with emotional consequences that become apparent in the second storyline, set 30 years later in Paris. As is often the case with paired stories, one of them initially seems more compelling, in this case Makkai’s vivid chronicle of Yale’s close-knit circle, of his fraught relationship with the obsessively jealous Charlie, and his pursuit of a potentially career-making donation for the university art gallery where he works in development. Fiona’s opaque feelings of guilt and regret as she searches for her estranged daughter, Claire, aren’t as engaging at first, but the 2015 narrative slowly unfolds to connect with the ordeals of Yale and his friends until we see that Fiona too is a traumatized survivor of the epidemic, bereft of her brother and so many other people she loved, to her lasting damage. As Makkai acknowledges in an author’s note, when a heterosexual woman writes a novel about AIDS, some may feel she has crossed “the line between allyship and appropriation.” On the contrary, her rich portraits of an array of big personalities and her affecting depiction of random, horrific death faced with varying degrees of gallantry make this tender, keening novel an impressive act of imaginative empathy.

As compulsively readable as it is thoughtful and moving: an unbeatable fictional combination.

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2352-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

Sink into this book like a hot, scented bath...a delicious, relaxing pleasure. And a clever whodunit at the same time.

THE PERFECT COUPLE

A wedding on Nantucket is canceled when the bride finds her maid of honor floating facedown in the Atlantic on the morning of the big day.

One of the supporting characters in Hilderbrand's (Winter Solstice, 2017, etc.) 21st Nantucket novel is Greer Garrison, the mother of the groom and a well-known novelist. Unfortunately, in addition to all the other hell about to break loose in Greer's life, she's gone off her game. Early in the book, a disappointed reader wonders if "the esteemed mystery writer, who is always named in the same breath as Sue Grafton and Louise Penny, is coasting now, in her middle age." In fact, Greer's latest manuscript is about to be rejected and sent back for a complete rewrite, with a deadline of two weeks. But wanna know who's most definitely not coasting? Elin Hilderbrand. Readers can open her latest with complete confidence that it will deliver everything we expect: terrific clothes and food, smart humor, fun plot, Nantucket atmosphere, connections to the characters of preceding novels, and warmth in relationships evoked so beautifully it gets you right there. Example: a tiny moment between the chief of police and his wife. It's very late in the book, and he still hasn't figured out what the hell happened to poor Merritt Monaco, the Instagram influencer and publicist for the Wildlife Conservation Society. Even though it's dinner time, he has to leave the "cold blue cans of Cisco beer in his fridge” and get back to work. " ‘I hate murder investigations,’ [his wife] says, lifting her face for a kiss. ‘But I love you.’ " You will feel that just as powerfully as you believe that Celeste Otis, the bride-to-be, would rather be anywhere on Earth than on the beautiful isle of Nantucket, marrying the handsome, kind, and utterly smitten Benji Winbury. In fact, she had a fully packed bag with her at the crack of dawn when she found her best friend's body.

Sink into this book like a hot, scented bath...a delicious, relaxing pleasure. And a clever whodunit at the same time.

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-37526-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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