Whether you’re spending your August lazing at the beach or, like the rest of us, trying to find the best space on the couch to fully enjoy the air conditioner, a book is the perfect accompaniment. We’ve taken the liberty of choosing a few books for the dog days of August – pick one of these to keep you company this month.
For a brisk, indulgent read:
The cover of “The Widow Waltz” by Sally Koslow screams beach read: a woman’s legs and a dog’s haunches on the sand, staring at the surf. But the book is a different twist on the typical female-takes-on-the-world-in-heels story. Georgia Waltz’s beloved husband, Ben, drops dead while jogging in Central Park, and their lavish life drips away as she discovers Ben mysteriously left them penniless. While she investigates where the money went, she also must support herself and their two daughters, finding newfound resilience away from the tony lifestyle they’ve always known.
“The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls,” a debut novel by Anton DiSclafani, takes place in 1930, on the cusp of the Great Depression. After a mysterious but disastrous family scandal, teenager Thea has been sent away to a North Carolina camp. The equestrienne boarding school is filled only with teen girls, some whose families' affluent fortunes are crumbling, some experiencing love and lust for the first time, some finding where they might fit in a changing society. Thea confronts all of these questions as the plot unravels to reveal why she was exiled.
Sometimes Brooklyn's "it" book of the summer means a dry, uninteresting tome that the literary astute slog through for the sole reason of being able to brag that they got through it. But "The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P." is a different kind of "it" book. Adelle Waldman's debut is a savvy, infinitely readable look into the inner workings of Nate P. — a 30-something overeducated, slightly narcissistic New Yorker who hops from one smart, savvy woman to the next while happily sitting on his first book advance. "Contrary to what these women seemed to think, he was not indifferent to their happiness. And yet he seemed, in spite of himself, to provoke it," writes Waldman of Nate. Even if dissecting the nuances of the Brooklyn literati scene might not be your thing, pick up "The Love Affairs" for Waldman's astute look at the inner workings of Nate's relationship to women. It is a thing of infuriating beauty. Dorothy Robinson
For an engaging, daring tale:
Colombian writer Juan Gabriel Vasquez delves into his home country’s history in "The Sound of Things Falling," looking at how the drug trade has affected Colombians. In Bogota, lawyer Antonio Yammara is reading about a hippo that escaped from drug kingpin Pablo Escobar's zoo. He’s transported back to the 1990s, when the Escobar cartel's violence spilled over into everyday lives throughout the country, including a friend’s assassination that Antonio witnessed. To discover the truth about what happened to his friend, he traces Colombia's history all the way back to the 1960s, before narco-trafficking gripped the country.
Reminiscent of the Edward Snowden case playing out through the media, “Weaponized” follows Kyle West, who is fleeing an investigation into a national surveillance program in which he was allegedly involved. He is hiding in Cambodia when he meets Julian Robinson, a businessman who offers to swap passports. After they trade identification, Kyle inevitably realizes he should have thought through the decision. The authors, Nicholas Mennuti, a Tisch School grad, and David Guggenheim, who wrote the screenplay for the film “Safe House," weave in characters from Russian oligarchs to CIA operatives.
"Submergence" begins by plunging readers into a hellish, terrifying darkness — Brit James More has been captured by Al Qa'eda in Somalia. The novel tells of his love story with Danielle Flinders, a biomathematician studying life in the far-flung corners of the world. Scottish writer J.M. Ledgard's part love story, part spy novel is underscored by his sharp skills as the East Africa correspondent for The Economist.
David Willington, of the “Monster Island” zombie novels, brings readers a scientific thriller in “Chimera.” Afghanistan veteran Jim Chapel is tasked with investigating a small band of fugitives who escaped from a top-secret military facility in upstate New York. He is assigned to track them and find out why they even exist, which opens the door to more mysteries.
"Fiend" has been described as "The Walking Dead" meets "Breaking Bad." Sure, author Peter Stenson's debut novel follows a group of tweakers during a zombie apocalypse, but "Fiend" is much more than just a hybrid of pop culture references. Stenson is a true writer and has a gift for capturing the drug-fueled anxiety that comes with meth abuse (he is a former user, now clean.) Couple that with fleeing from mobs of flesh-eating creatures — all while trying to track down their next fix — and you have one heck of a heart-pounding summer read. Dorothy Robinson
For a book to bring up at cocktail parties:
Receiving a lot of buzz this summer is David Gilbert’s “& Sons,” a tale of – you guessed it – a man and his sons. This family saga is set in the Upper East Side, where A.N. Dyer, eulogizing his best friend, becomes concerned with his own legacy. The book follows his three sons in New York, all confronting their own issues during a weeklong reunion. The book was inspired when Gilbert heard his father give a speech, and afterward an old friend told him his confident, reserved dad had been incredibly shy as a teenager.
If you’re feeling nostalgic for the 2012 presidential election, Dan Balz, who previously brought readers “The Battle for America 2008,” will fill that void. The Washington Post chief correspondent’s new book, “Collision 2012,” which is out Aug. 6, tracks Barack Obama’s presidency, including the 2010 midterm elections and his battle with challenger Mitt Romney. The book can also be a primer on what’s next for U.S. politics, judging by its lofty subtitle – “Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America” – including what changing factors like Twitter and Super PACs might mean.
Much-discussed author Tao Lin returns with “Taipei,” which opens with Paul, a Brooklyn writer navigating the city’s literary scenes and soon off on his own book tour, which leads him to the Taiwanese capital. Dipping into themes of purposeless adulthood, drug use and Internet-documented lives, the book is a slice of generational living. Lin called the book his “magnum opus,” and he has acknowledged much was sourced from his own life experiences.
Najla Said, the author of "Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family," may have the kind of name that college students will immediately recognize — her father, Edward Said, is a regular on syllabi across the country. Her memoir of growing up amid literary luminaries and cultural influences the world over is told in the voice of a self-confessed confused child looking for meaning. Said learns to accept her Arab heritage along with the whirlwind of cultures that passed through her life, but not without struggling, joking and indulging in the ultimate celebration of culture: storytelling. Julia Furlan
Still want more suggestions? Check out what celebrities told us they're reading this summer.
Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @reporteralison