Poolside page-turners

PQ readers (and writers) present five summer reads to get you through the dog days


“One of my favorite books, especially to read in the summer, is ‘Three Junes’ by Julia Glass. I read it twice — both times in the summer, a few years apart. I always like when writers break up a book into parts and use a shifting protagonist in each part.” — Daniel Peabody
The winner of the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction, Julia Glass’ debut novel tells the story of the family McLeod through flashbacks spanning over a decade, looking at the ways that family loyalties can lead to both joyous love and profound isolation. As Glass has said herself, the three sections of book should be viewed not as a trilogy but rather a triptych. Elements that may seem small in one section play a large role in another, seducing readers to look deeper into the McLeods’ lives and draw parallels to their own experience. (2003: Anchor Books)

“We can highly recommend ‘The Strain,’ a trilogy by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. It’s a great sci-fi read, very suspenseful and visual, with a very different take on vampires than you usually read.” — Judge Kemp and Eric Schnell
The trilogy consists of “The Strain,” “The Fall,” and “The Night Eternal” and looks at the effects of a viral outbreak in New York City that renders the infected as horrific vampires. Dr. Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather, a leading epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control, is joined by circumstance to a motley crew that includes a Holocaust survivor and a young Mexican gang member in a fight to save the city and the world from the virus. The trilogy has garnered high praise for its cinematic qualities — logically so, considering it was co-written by Del Toro, who is also rumored to be directing a film version of the trilogy. (2009-2011: William Morrow)

“I keep coming back to Twyla Tharp’s ‘The Creative Habit’ because I love the way she combines insights from her experiences as a professional choreographer with sage advice and practical exercises designed to encourage people from all backgrounds to develop creative habits. I’d recommend it to anyone who seeks to create, no matter their profession.” — Erin Rook
Dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp took the lessons and techniques that fueled her creativity during the four decades of her career and shaped them into this book as a gift for other creatives, empowering readers to cultivate the inspiration needed for creative endeavors. Presenting more than 30 practical exercises suitable for every step of the creative process, Tharp encourages readers of all persuasions to dive into the rituals, memories, and cadences of their lives in order to mine the raw materials of the creative spark and find optimism about their own identity as artists. (2003: Simon & Schuster)

“‘The ‘Gangster We Are All Looking For’ by lê thi diem thúy is a brilliant novel that perfectly captures the cadence and mood of being young in the heat of summer, trying to reconcile the adult problems that you are just starting to recognize on the horizon of your life with the magical thinking that you still have as a child.” — Nick Mattos
A fragmented sequence of events recollected by a young and nameless narrator, “The Gangster We Are All Looking For” explores the interconnected lives of a group of Vietnamese immigrants who settle in the United States after fleeing their home country. Concerned primarily with the themes of identity, family dynamics, war, and liberation, thúy’s debut novel was awarded a “special mention” by the Pushcart Prize and extensively praised upon its release for its spare narrative and nuanced, impressionistic take on the immigrant experience. (2004: Anchor Books)

“Salman Rushdie’s ‘The Moor’s Last Sigh.’ It’s basically a grown-up fairy tale. The writing is absolutely phenomenal — it’s like poetry mixed with prose. It caters to every part of me that wants to read a fantasy novel, but is fundamentally embarrassed by that instinct.” — Kerry Hoeschen
Set in the Indian cities of Mumbai and Cochin, Rushdie’s celebrated novel traces four generations of a Portuguese merchant family, examining the effects that history and lineage have upon the current generation. The narrator, Moraes Zogoiby or “Moor,” is one of Rushdie’s most extraordinary characters; his physical deformities and sense of isolation serve as a metaphor for the ways that being different make an individual both valued and reviled in an increasingly singular culture. (Vintage: 1997)