Early Summer Faves: 31 Bookseller-Picked Reads

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Our best-books-of-right-now list ranges from sweet odes upon fatherhood and warmly relatable stories about growing up to heart-stopping suspense and surreal sci-fi. Then there’s some humor and cooking, a little memoir . . . OK, we’re all over the place this month, but that’s the deal: booksellers pick their favorites, no rules. That’s what makes this list so good, right?

Here are the books our staffers are reading, loving, and recommending most:

ANN PATCHETT’S PICK

Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces Cover ImagePops: Fatherhood in Pieces 

It is a gift beyond measure when the guy who writes the best and biggest and most complicated novels of our age turns out a tiny book of nonfiction that can be read in a single sitting. Pops is a profound — and profoundly satisfying — examination of fatherhood. I loved it.

(Check out Ann’s blog for more of her latest favorites, including what she’s reading while writing her next novel!)

MORE FAVORITES: FICTION
Recommended by Karen

Warlight Cover ImageWarlight 

Warlight is a young boy’s coming of age story set in England after WWII. Sounds like an over-done premise, but in the hands of a master storyteller like Ondaatje, it’s a convincing case that there’s room for one more entry.

Recommended by Keltie

There There Cover ImageThere There 

A stunning debut novel by an original voice. Twelve characters of Native American descent, interrelated by birth or chance, struggle with the competing forces of cultural history and modern urban existence. Their stories build separately before colliding powerfully in the book’s final pages at The Big Oakland Powwow. I was riveted.

Recommended by Betsy

Florida Cover ImageFlorida 

Selected as our June pick for Parnassus First Editions Club! (See below.) I can’t decide if Lauren Groff transports us to a parallel universe in which a character’s physical landscape mirrors her internal landscape entirely or if she presses us into our own ordinary universe with a deeper look. The language is so gorgeous I found myself thinking after each story, “Boy, I’m grateful to be alive to read this.”

Recommended by Mary Laura

The Ensemble Cover ImageThe Ensemble 

Four friends’ lives become intertwined as they try to make it as a quartet in the competitive music world. The story gets really good when they reach their 30s and 40s and have to reckon with the choices they made when they were younger.

Recommended by Mary Laura

The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky Cover ImageThe Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky 

Spend some time inside the mind of a modern everywoman named Leda, who narrates her sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking journey through adult milestones: friendship, dating, sex, marriage, motherhood, creativity, work — and the insecurities and choices that come with all those things. I read the whole book on a plane, and I couldn’t adore it more.

Recommended by Halley

Still Lives Cover ImageStill Lives

A book for our times, Still Lives is both a propulsive mystery and a brilliant examination of art and representation.

Recommended by Halley

Our Kind of Cruelty Cover ImageOur Kind of Cruelty

This is a thriller so expertly crafted you stop trusting even yourself. Prepare to become obsessed with this book.

Recommended by River

Southernmost Cover ImageSouthernmost

“A spiritual journey, a love story, and a classic road novel. . .” These words from beloved author Lee Smith perfectly sum up House’s tender new novel of raging flood waters and passionate revelation.

Recommended by River

Fire Is Your Water Cover ImageFire Is Your Water 

Appalachian magic, a faith-healer, doubt and fire and a raven with an attitude. A surprising and lyrical debut from memorist Jim Minick.

Recommended by River

By Gaslight Cover ImageBy Gaslight 

The royal wedding last month put me in the mood for falling in love — and this book made me swoon page after page. Available in paperback for perfect summer reading, it was praised as a best book of 2016 by NPR for good and mighty reason.

Recommended by Steph 

Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 7.40.01 AMUncommon Type: Some Stories 

I used my monthly Libro.fm membership credit on the digital audio edition of this acclaimed short story collection, which is read by Tom Hanks himself. I’m a few stories in, and Hanks is such a fantastic performer of his work. This would be perfect for a long drive to the beach. (Or, if you’re like me, save it for the drive home so you won’t feel as sad about having to leave.)

Recommended by Sydney 

Plum Rains Cover ImagePlum Rains 

Set in near future Japan: A Filipina nurse learns that her job is in jeopardy when her 100-year-old patient, Sayoko, develops a strong relationship with a robotic companion. Romano-Lax creates a subgenre of science fiction concerning international labor relations and empathetic machines. This book is for those who enjoy science fiction, but would also like to explore the social consequences of present day policies and artificial intelligence.

Recommended by Kevin

Warlock (New York Review Books Classics) Cover ImageWarlock

In the mood for a timeless original? Warlock‘s beautiful language and classic characters go down so smooth, you won’t realize you’re being sucked into a chaotic stampede of Western ideals carried to their dusty ends. Get a saddle with a seatbelt for this one.

Recommended by Karen

The Plot Against America (Vintage International) Cover ImageThe Plot Against America

This alternate history masterpiece imagines what would have happened if Charles Lindbergh won the presidential election in 1940 instead of Roosevelt. After the passing of Philip Roth, pay homage to this great writer by reading his work.

MORE FAVORITES: NONFICTION
Recommended by Sissy

Calypso Cover ImageCalypso

This is my favorite Sedaris book. Still hilarious and not at all too sweet, it’s a love letter to his family.

Recommended by Mary Laura

There Are No Grown-Ups: A Midlife Coming-Of-Age Story Cover ImageThere Are No Grown-Ups: A Midlife Coming-Of-Age Story 

If you sent Druckerman’s recent New York Times piece, “How To Survive Your 40s,” to everyone you know, you’ll want to give this book to all your friends on their 40th birthdays.

Recommended by Keltie

The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century Cover ImageThe Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century 

The Feather Thief is true crime at its best — a tale starting with the Amazonian explorations of Darwin-era naturalists, rooted in the eccentric sensibilities of Victorian collectors, fueled by the obscure cult of fly-fishing tying, and culminating with a shocking 2009 British Museum heist by a shy American flautist. All of these elements are deftly brought together at a thriller’s pace by author Kirk Johnson, a veteran of the Iraqi reconstruction effort suffering from PTSD, who stumbles across the story while fly-fishing in New Mexico in 2011. I mean, you can’t make this stuff up.

Recommended by Keltie

Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon Cover ImageRocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon

Get this for the Dad who first took you to the Air and Space Museum, or to Star Wars, or just outside to look at the night sky! I was so inspired by Scott Kelly’s book, Endurance, about his year in space, that I’ve been on a bit of a NASA kick — and this book is a perfect intersection of history, politics, and destiny: a soaring tale of the fearless men who flew Apollo 8 and kept the promise of a manned flight to the moon “by decade’s end” that President Kennedy made to his country and the world in 1961.

Recommended by Cat

Barracoon: The Story of the Last Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” 

I’ve long been in love with Hurston’s writing and am so excited this previously unpublished work is finally going to get the audience it deserves. It is a shocking reminder of how not as much time as we think has passed since these atrocities.

Recommended by Steve

Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy Cover ImageMove Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy 

With the fallout from Cambridge Analytica still fresh in our minds, and the sense that our collective slide into tech dystopia is moving apace, Move Fast and Break Things — which is out now in paperback — provides an excellent primer on how we got to where we are, and why it didn’t have to be this way. Come for the power-hungry data collectors lobbying for lax regulation, stay for the Silicon Valley bigwigs saying things like, “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.” This book connects a lot of important dots, and despite the urgency of its subject matter is a surprisingly enjoyable read.

Recommended by River

The Order of Time Cover ImageThe Order of Time 

Physicist meets poet and the two are one. The mystery of time unveiled one literary layer at a time. A beautiful book.

Recommended by Kathy

God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State Cover ImageGod Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State 

An acclaimed journalist and longtime Texas resident examines the quirks, contradictions, and fascinating facts of his home state and shows how Texas continues to be a strong influence on the rest of the country. A really fun read!

Recommended by Kevin

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence Cover ImageHow to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence 

Pollan brings his humor, lyricism, and love for deep research to the admittedly taboo field of psychedelics. This book is an exhaustive exploration of these mysterious substances, in which he balances skepticism of the culture that surrounds them with optimism for their potential therapeutic use.

Recommended by Kathy

Tots!: 50 Tot-Ally Awesome Recipes from Totchos to Sweet Po-Tot-O Pie Cover ImageTots!: 50 Tot-Ally Awesome Recipes from Totchos to Sweet Po-Tot-O Pie 

Everything you ever wanted to know about these delicious potato morsels. Don’t say you don’t eat ’em!

Recommended by Cat

The Fearless Baker: Simple Secrets for Baking Like a Pro Cover ImageThe Fearless Baker: Simple Secrets for Baking Like a Pro 

I got married about a month ago and have been inspired to try out my fancy new kitchen appliances. I love the difficulty-ranking system in this book — perfect for determining how adventurous I’m feeling. And it doesn’t hurt that the recipes range from mastering chocolate chip cookies to whipping up some salted caramel meringues (which were delicious). Perfect for anyone who’s feeling daring after binging The Great British Baking Show.

ANDY’S FAVORITES FOR FATHER’S DAY

The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels Cover ImageThe Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels 

By Jon Meacham

Charlottesville and its aftermath sparked this new work by Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Meacham. The writing obviously comes from the author’s passion and optimism for our Republic. He beautifully illustrates that America has gone down many dark holes before but ultimately we do as Lincoln said and “battle for our better angels.”

The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World Cover ImageThe Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World 

Another beautifully crafted, well-researched work by Simon Winchester, whose writing seems to get better with age. His exploration of precision engineering leaves him wanting for a time when we were a little less precise.

Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story Cover ImageCaddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story 

The Harvard and National Lampoons, Second City, SNL, Animal House, and Caddyshack are chronicled in this thoroughly entertaining treatment of comedy history. Hollywood and comedy itself were forever changed by this bizarre array of brilliant, out-of-control talent.

The Range Bucket List: The Golf Adventure of a Lifetime Cover ImageThe Range Bucket List: The Golf Adventure of a Lifetime 

Veteran golf writer James Dobson reflects on his life in golf after finding a bucket-list he wrote as a 13-year-old.

How to Grill Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Flame-Cooked Food Cover ImageHow to Grill Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Flame-Cooked Food 

The man who knows how to cook everything takes us outside just in time for grilling season.

First Editions Club: June Selection

Florida Cover ImageFlorida 

By Lauren Groff

I’ve alway been enamored with (and, let’s be honest, a bit jealous of) authors who can distill an entire region into a book. As a current resident of Wyoming — a place where I’ve learned it’s perfectly normal to be afraid of wind — it’s hard for me not to think about landscape on a day-to-day basis. Since leaving Nashville (but staying part of the Parnassus family, they assure me) and moving here to get my MFA, my appreciation has only grown for books like Maile Meloy’s Montana-inspired Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, Claire Vaye Watkins’s unflinching examination of Nevada in Battleborn, or the amazing stories of Breece D’J Pancake in West Virginia.

I’m pleased to add Lauren Groff to that list for her stunning new collection, Florida. The physical elements of Florida — the terrain, the weather, the wildlife, the swamps — aren’t just background features of Groff’s writing, they’re the heart of it. In Groff’s capable hands, Florida becomes its own godlike character, creating unruly storms and power outages for a family on vacation, scalding sunshine for a newly-unemployed grad student, or even millions for one lucky land-owner. Simply put: Florida is a masterclass in sense of place.

I fell in love with Lauren Groff’s writing with Fates and Furies, and tore through her backlist quickly thereafter, hungry for more of Groff’s lyricism and deft storytelling. I am so happy to have more Groff to read and delighted to share Florida with you.

Yours in reading,
Lindsay Lynch
Parnassus Bookseller (forever)

More about our First Editions Club: Every member receives a first edition of the selected book of the month, signed by the author. Books are carefully chosen by our staff of readers, and our picks have gone on to earn major recognition including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Plus, there’s no membership fee or premium charge for these books. Build a treasured library of signed first editions and always have something great to read! Makes a FABULOUS gift, too. 

 Parnassus Book Club

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI Cover ImageJune – Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
Monday, June 18 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, June 20 at 6:30pm
Thursday, June 21 at 10am

July – Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Monday, July 16 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, July 18 at 6:30pm
Thursday, July 19 at 10am

Classics Club – Passing by Nella Larsen
Monday, July 30 at 10am and 6:30pm

Are you a member of our store book club? Would you like to be? Parnassus Book Club and Classics Club meetings are free and open to anyone. Buy the book, read along, and join the discussion!

“It’s all about the book.”More thoughts on reading from Kathy Schultenover, Parnassus Book Clubs Manager:

I always encourage book clubs to do at least one classic a year. It just seems to enrich the experience that’s usually filled with contemporary fiction and non-fiction. I was thinking of this last week when reading Jane Smiley’s new introduction to the 100th anniversary edition of Willa Cather’s My Antonia.

Smiley writes: “But finally, it all comes back to landscape, to humans changing and being changed by the difficulties and the beauties of the world they must contend with. It is also true though, that we read older novels differently from new ones — we read them to understand what we have lost and what we have gained, what the author knew and what she didn’t know that she knew, but that we now understand shaped the world we are living in.”

What a beautiful statement on why we read classic books! It could also be the springboard for a club’s discussion of an older literary work, discussing Smiley’s points as they relate to the book in question. Our picks for the Parnassus Classics Club this year are Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, Willa Cather’s A Lost Lady, Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts/The Day of the Locust, Nella Larsen’s Passing, and Naguib Mahfouz’s Palace Walk. What will be your club’s next classic?

MORE . . .

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Lit Hub’s Ultimate Summer Books Preview — A list of lists! Lit Hub calculated which current and upcoming summer releases have been mentioned the most in popular must-read lists. Which ones are on YOUR radar?

PBS: The Great American Read — Voting is underway to determine the American public’s favorite novel. You can place one vote for each book, each day, all summer long! Vote using the PBS app or by posting on Twitter or Facebook with the designated hashtag for your favorite book.

A Pulitzer at Parnassus! Fresh off his Pulitzer Prize win, author Andrew Sean Greer will be here on Saturday, June 9, at 2 p.m. Come celebrate the paperback launch of Less, the novel that captured everyone’s hearts. And check out our events calendar for more fantastic authors visiting Parnassus this summer.

And for those who have been waiting ever-so-patiently for an update on the film adaptation of Bel Canto, here it is.

What are YOU reading? Chime in on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and let us know!