Summer books are usually the lighter stuff — potboilers, romances, mysteries, light-hearted and possibly light-brained books that can keep readers amused on a long flight or can be read in a desultory manner, interrupted by tennis matches and naps.
It’s the brisker months of September through April when the heavy-hitters typically publish the big, serious novels. This year, though, more than in recent years, significant books by notable authors continue unabated, straight through June, July and August.
One reason, publicists say, is simply that there are more big books than ever, and they need to be spaced out. Another reason is the influence of Internet buying and foreign rights: If a book is published early in Great Britain, perhaps in order to qualify for the Man Booker Prize, impatient Americans can snap it up on the U.K. Amazon site if it’s not yet available here.
Reviews of these books will show up in the Star Tribune books pages over the next few months. For now, here’s a sneak peek at a dozen significant books coming out between late May and the end of August.
“And the Mountains Echoed,” by Khaled Hosseini. The author of “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns” expands his territory in his new book, taking his characters out of Afghanistan and into the larger world.
“TransAtlantic,” by Colum McCann. This is McCann’s first novel since his 2009 National Book Award-winning “Let the Great World Spin,” and his first Irish-themed book in many years. It weaves the stories of four people who journeyed between Ireland and America over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries — writer Frederick Douglass, aviators Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown, and U.S. Sen. George Mitchell. McCann will be at Talk of the Stacks at 7 p.m. June 24 at Minneapolis Central Library, Nicollet Mall. Free.
“Big Brother,” by Lionel Shriver. Shriver shot to fame with the 2003 publication of her devastating (it gave me nightmares) novel, “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” the story of a boy who shoots up his school. But Shriver has been writing tough, devastatingly spot-on novels about families and relationships for many years. Her latest is the story of a rakish, handsome young man who grows into a morbidly obese adult, and what that means for himself and those around him. (June)
“The Silver Star,” by Jeannette Walls. “The Glass Castle,” Walls’ heartbreaking memoir, was on the New York Times bestseller list for five years. Her new novel plows similar ground, telling the story of two children raised haphazardly by absent and neglectful parents. Walls will be at Macalester College’s Weyerhaeuser Chapel at 7 p.m. June 21, sponsored by Common Good Books. Free.
“The Engagements,” by J. Courtney Sullivan. Perhaps the closest thing on this list to a beach read, Sullivan’s best-selling novels are smart and ambitious stories about relationships. “The Engagements” is a captivating novel that examines the many facets of marriage, focusing on four couples — and on Frances Gerety, the real-life 1940s ad writer who came up with the phrase “A diamond is forever.” (June)
“The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman’s first novel for adults in eight years (he’s been busy with YA books and movies and other stuff) is a haunting, mysterious story of love and loss. Gaiman will be at Jefferson High School Auditorium in Bloomington at 6 p.m. July 8, admittance free with purchase of book from Barnes & Noble Galleria store beginning June 18.
“Sisterland,” by Curtis Sittenfeld. Sittenfeld’s “American Wife” was a fascinating, provocative examination of the life of an American first lady — one who seemed an awful lot like Laura Bush, married to a guy who seemed an awful lot like George W. Bush. “Sisterland” is another glimpse into a mysterious world — this time, the lives of twin sisters, one of whom embraces her psychic powers and the other who pushes them away. (June)
“The Longest Road,” by Philip Caputo. Novelist and journalist Caputo, his wife, and their two dogs acquire an Airstream trailer and head out across America, talking to people, listening to stories, and trying to figure out what it is that keeps these United States united. (July)
“Fin and Lady,” by Cathleen Schine. A clever, lively story (does Schine write any other kind?) about an 11-year-old farm boy who goes to live with his counterculture half-sister in 1960s Greenwich Village. (July)
“The Telling Room,” by Michael Paterniti, has a captivating subtitle — “A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese.” Journalist Paterniti has a knack for finding fabulous and wacky stories; his last book, “Driving Mr. Albert,” was a compelling nonfiction account of driving across the country with the brain of Albert Einstein inside of a Tupperware bowl. His new book — also nonfiction — is about a rare Spanish cheese that supposedly has almost magical properties. (August)
“Snow Hunters,” by Paul Yoon. Yoon’s first book, “Once the Shore,” an astonishing collection of beautiful stories, was a highlight of 2009. “Snow Hunters,” his debut novel, traces the journey of a North Korean who defects to Brazil. Yoon was named one of the “five under 35” by the National Book Foundation. (August)
“Claire of the Sea Light,” by Edwidge Danticat. Set in Danticat’s home country of Haiti, this is the story of a young girl who goes missing on her seventh birthday. (August)
Danticat’s book publishes Aug. 27, which brings us to autumn, and you know what happens then: The fall books start rolling out. More good stuff!