Summer reads | Picks for August
There are still plenty of great summer books to come out in August.
It’s a poorly kept secret that the publishing industry goes dormant in August. Offices shut down on Friday; all of the big “beach read” blockbusters were propped up in June for people to plan their summer reading. The fall lists start rolling out the big names in September, leaving August something of a publishing no-man’s-land.
But if you have August vacation plans, here are some books that should be on your end-of-summer reading list.
The big summer novel
Last year, Jonathan Evison broke through to the mainstream with the gigantic West of Here, an epic story set in a settlers’ village deep in the Washington woods. This year, he’s back with The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving (Algonquin, $23.95), a novel about a guy named Ben Benjamin, who’s trying to right his ship by enrolling in a night class that shares its name with the title of the book. When he’s assigned as the caregiver for a 19-year-old boy with severe muscular dystrophy, he faces the challenges of suddenly being responsible. Evison is a very humane, sharp writer, and if West of Here’s doorstop size scared you off, this would be a good entry.
One last airplane trip
It’s been a while since Nick Hornby has published a novel, but regular Believer readers know his monthly column is the first thing you should turn to when the new issue arrives. The format of the essays hasn’t changed: Hornby discusses what books he purchased and read over the course of a month, and uses them as off-ramps into his various other passions. No other writer makes reading and engaging with literature this much fun, and Hornby’s essay collection More Baths, Less Talking (McSweeney’s, $14) is the perfect book to keep you entertained and enlightened while waiting out another delay.
Walking Dead hasn’t been on for a few months
I’d thought that once Bush left office, novelists would stop writing so many end-of-the-world tales. Thanks to global warming for keeping this viral strain alive. In Outside magazine editor Peter Heller’s debut novel, The Dog Stars (Knopf, $24.95), a pilot named Hig has taken up residence in an abandoned private airport with his dog, Jasper. The population—including Hig’s family—has largely been wiped out by a flu epidemic. Hig forms a dysfunctional dynamic duo with his neighbor, Bangley, with Hig flying recon missions around the area, looking for potential poachers, and Bangley backing him up with an arsenal of weapons. Eventually, though, surviving just to survive loses its meaning, and the story takes an interesting twist on the road-trip novel, with Hig flying across post-apocalyptic America.
It’s not summer without a memoir
The hallmark of any good summer reading list is the personal story, whether it be a memoir, an autobiography or a big, juicy celebrity bio. This month, one of the great American novelists, Paul Auster, publishes a memoir, Winter Journal (Henry Hold, $26). Auster’s fiction has always been somewhat numinous and nebulous, and fans have often probed his novels for insight into his real life. In Winter Journal, Auster writes of his past relationships and the “scalding, epiphanic moment of clarity” that changed him as a writer in 1978. Is that enough of a cliffhanger for you?