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15 books you should read this summer

Here’s what five community bookstores in Brooklyn recommend adding to your summer reading list

By Dana Varinsky

Summer means sunbathing and reading on the beach—even the New York public library has an outdoor reading room. So to satisfy your literary cravings, we asked the independent bookstores involved in Brooklyn Bridge Park’s outdoor literary series, Books Beneath the Bridge, for their summer reading recommendations. Here are their 15 top picks.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to things to do in the summer in NYC

"A God in Ruins" by Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson’s companion novel to her bestselling Life After Life brings back familiar characters, but to very different ends. We love this book. It’s thrilling and moving and it’s just beautifully told.—Recommended by Park Slope Community Bookstore

"A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me" by David Gates

This is David Gates at his best. With settings straight out of Carver—hard-living, whiskey-drinking, bluegrass towns—his characters are never afraid to quote Dickens, T.S. Eliot, or Mississippi John Hurt. These stories bring to mind that part of all of us that's from someplace else: their plaid is unironic, as is their love of rock-n'-roll and their small but impressive collection of classics. It's a book of fiction about people you'll never believe aren't real.—Recommended by BookCourt


"A Window Opens" by Elisabeth Egan

Elisabeth Egan tells the story of a mother of three who attempts to lean in to a new career at a hip, young start-up, and find a balance between a happy personal life and intellectually satisfying job.—Recommended by Greenlight Books

"Counternarratives" by John Keene

This pairs well with The Meursault Investigation, also recommended, because both are rewritings of a classic. This is a collection of stories, and in one, Jim from Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn tells his version of the story.—Recommended by Park Slope Community Bookstore


"Everything I Never Told You" by Celeste Ng

Newly out in paperback, this is one of our favorite books from last year. On the first page, we learn that a teenage girl is missing, but in order to find her, we delve into the past—of her childhood, of her mother's unrealized dreams of achievement, and of her father's unrealized dreams of acceptance. Each character is shaped by other peoples' expectations of them, and Ng masterfully weaves together the narratives into a powerful novel.—Recommended by WORD

"My Feelings" by Nick Flynn

Nick Flynn's most recent collection is ambitious and raw. Personal and prescient, Flynn talks of Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the same breath as his young daughter. A collection of poetry that cements him as one of the great poets of our time.—Recommended by BookCourt


"Saint Mazie" by Jamie Attenberg

Looking for that perfect New York novel for this summer? This is it! Attenberg's new novel is based on the life of Mazie Phillips, a tough broad with a heart of gold who is navigating the world of the Bowery in early-1900s New York City. Attenberg has taken a unique approach to telling her story as most of the novel is made up of imagined diary entries by Mazie herself. But to help flush out Mazie's character, she has also included a faked autobiography and testimonies. I just loved getting to know Mazie, and, by extension, New York City.—Recommended by WORD

"Station Eleven" by Emily St. John Mandel

I know you think you don't need another apocalypse book, but trust me: you need this one. Mandel knocks this one out of the park with an eloquent voice, vivid characters, and a suspenseful plot timed out impeccably. I walked away from this with a new appreciation for the technology, infrastructure and civilization around us, and what losing it would mean on an individual level.—Recommended by BookCourt and WORD


"Summerlong" by Dean Bakopoulous

If you're craving a summer read with a slightly different energy, Bakopoulous's Summerlong introduces you to the petri dish that is summer in a small Midwestern college town. It swirls with a slow intensity, undercurrents brushing to the surface and then under again, lives overlapping in the past, diverging, and then converging again in Grinnell, Iowa, over the course of a summer. He captures both the lost-ness of your twenties and the listlessness of your forties.—Recommended by WORD

"The Blazing World" by Siri Hustvedt

Looking for something funny, smart, angry, sometimes wacky and a bit over the top all at the same time? This is your lucky day then, and The Blazing World is what you should be reading! Siri Hustvedt, whose husband is literary superstar Paul Auster, has lots to share about gender roles: how they evolve, how they influence our everyday interactions, as well as our life choices. She conquers the topic by wrapping it up in a thoroughly hilarious/heartbreaking story set in the art scene in New York City.—Recommended by powerHouse Arena


"The Children Act" by Ian McEwan

Part morality play, part marital drama, the latest from the Booker Prize-winning author couches ethical dilemmas in effortlessly compelling prose. It’s perfect for the beach but won’t be forgotten when you leave.—Recommended by powerHouse Arena

"The Mersault Investigation" by Kamel Daoud

In this highly anticipated novel, inspired by The Stranger, from Algerian writer Kamel Daoud, we finally come to know "the Arab" murdered on the beach in Camus’ seminal novel. Daoud has given him a name, a brother and a deeply complex and touching story.—Recommended by BookCourt and Park Slope Community Bookstore


"The Ocean at the End of the Lane" by Neil Gaiman

The footsteps that echo behind you in an empty street, the lumpy shape hiding beneath your sheets... Neil Gaiman has woven a story out of the things that lurk on the fuzzy edges of reality in his stunning new novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. When a young boy stumbles into a nightmarish fairytale, he accidentally brings back to his home a nameless, power-hungry monster disguised as the pretty new nanny. There's only one thing to really complain about this book—it is way too short.—Recommended by powerHouse Arena

"The Star Side of Bird Hill" by Naomi Jackson

Two sisters must leave Brooklyn and move to live with their grandmother in Barbados in Naomi Jackson’s story of community, betrayal and love.—Recommended by Greenlight Bookstore


"The Unfortunates" by Sophie McManus

A larger-than-life heiress to a robber baron’s fortune is thrust into opulent decline in Sophie McManus’s tragic yet humorous debut novel.—Recommended by Greenlight Bookstore


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