How's your summer reading coming along? Should you need something lightweight to haul to the beach, or the hammock, here are a half-dozen recommended paperbacks, ranging from expertly rendered crime fiction to academic satire to the conclusion of a sweeping four-novel series.
"Dark Sacred Night" by Michael Connelly (Grand Central Publishing, $16.99). If you enjoy taut police procedurals, you can't do much better than Connelly. Two years ago, the prolific crime-fiction author celebrated his 30th novel by introducing a new character: Detective Renee Ballard, a loner who works the night shift at LAPD's Hollywood Station. Now she's back, teaming up with Connelly's beloved detective Harry Bosch (it's the 21st Connelly novel to feature him) to crack a cold case involving a murdered runaway.
"The Witch Elm" by Tana French (Penguin, $17). Speaking of police procedurals, that's what Irish author French is known for, but here she takes a break from her terrific Dublin Murder Squad series for a stand-alone novel. It's still crime fiction, but focused more on the victim - in this case, a cheerful Dublin PR bloke whose life is changed instantly after he's savagely beaten by burglars - and on how memory forms a cracked mirror through which you can't see the past clearly. A mesmerizing, masterful tale.
"Room to Dream" by David Lynch and Kristine McKenna (Random House, $22). "If you expected a David Lynch biography to be just like any other biography, you've never seen a David Lynch movie," wrote a New York Times reviewer about this book, in which co-author McKenna crafts a fairly straightforward biographical narrative and Lynch reacts to it, in Lynchian ways. "While the writers assure that 'this book is a chronicle of things that happened, not an explanation of what those things mean' (an attitude familiar to anyone who's ever heard Mr. Lynch obfuscate about his work)," writes the NYT, "there are still fascinating insights into the director's process."
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"All the Names They Used for God" by Anjali Sachdeva (Spiegel & Grau, $17). "So rich they read like dreams - or, more often, nightmares," wrote Kirkus Reviews, in a starred review, of Sachdeva's Chautauqua Prize-winning debut volume of short stories. "The stories that follow span time, space, and logic: Nigeria and New Hampshire, the past and the future, realism and science fiction. And yet, for all its scope, it is a strikingly unified collection, with each story reading like a poem, or a fable, staring into the unknowable."
"The Shakespeare Requirement" by Julie Schumacher (Knopf, $15.99). I am always going on about how hard it is to find a good humorous novel (why does everything have to be so depressing? Why can't we have something fun to read, now and then?) - and last summer this one dropped in my lap, like a gift from the gods of comedy. A sequel to the Thurber Prize-winning "Dear Committee Members," this rollicking satire of academia unfolds at Payne University (banners for the upcoming centennial read "One Hundred Years of Payne") in the English department, and made this former English major laugh out loud.
"The Labyrinth of the Spirits" by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (translated by Lucia Graves; HarperCollins, $18.99). Should you need an enormous reading project in which to wallow this summer, here's an intriguing one: This thick volume marks the conclusion of Spanish author Zafon's acclaimed quartet of novels, known collectively as "The Cemetery of Forgotten Books" (now there's a title that grabs you), which began with the 2004 international bestseller "The Shadow of the Wind." "Publishers dream of novels that appeal to habitual readers and to those seeking one big book to last a holiday, and that is what Zafon's quartet has delivered," wrote The Guardian in a review. "His trick is to have linked multiple genres - fantasy, historical, romance, meta-fictional, police-procedural and political - through prose of atmospheric specificity."
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