10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in June 2016

You'll want to make room on your hold list for these great summer reads.

by Yaa Gyasi
Effia and Esi are half-sisters raised in different villages in Africa’s Gold Coast in the 18th century. One sister is married off to an English colonizer; the other is sold into slavery. The beautiful and gut wrenching stories of their descendants illuminate three centuries of history on both sides of the Atlantic. “Gyasi writes each narrative with remarkable freshness and subtlety,” raves Publishers Weekly, calling it “a marvelous novel.” This debut is already getting a lot of hype, and it deserves every bit!

The Girls
by Emma Cline
The Girls is another debut getting tons of praise. During the summer of 1969 in Northern California, neglected and bored 14-year-old Evie Boyd longs for attention and acceptance, and becomes fascinated with a cult reminiscent of the Mansons. “Cline's impressive debut is more a harrowing coming-of-age exploration of how far a young girl will go (and how much she will give up of herself) in her desperate quest to belong. Beautifully written and unforgettable.” (Library Journal)

Modern Lovers
by Emma Straub
Elizabeth, Andrew, Zoe and Lydia were in a band together in college. Lydia made it big and died young, but the rest of the band are still close—Andrew and Elizabeth are married, and live just down the street from Zoe and her wife in Brooklyn. When a Hollywood filmmaker wants to make a biopic about Lydia, the news rattles the aging hipsters who are already grappling with mid-life crises and hormone-crazed teenagers. Publishers Weekly says “Readers will devour this witty and warmly satisfying novel.” Straub’s 2014 novel The Vacationers was a New York Times bestseller and a big hit with Oakland readers.

by Natashia Deón
In 1840’s Alabama, teenaged Naomi is shot and killed for a murder she didn’t commit, just moments after giving birth to her light-haired daughter Josie. Naomi’s ghost looks back on her tragic life under slavery as she tries to protect her daughter in the violent times before, during and after Emancipation. “Deón's vivid imagery, deft characterization, and spellbinding language carry the reader through this suspenseful tale. A haunting, visceral novel that heralds the birth of a powerful new voice in American fiction.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Grief Is the Thing With Feathers
by Max Porter
Porter’s protagonist is a man who must carry on in the face of the sudden death of his wife. He has two young sons to care for and a manuscript due on the poetry of Ted Hughes. Now a talking crow has come to live with him, a surreal and living embodiment of his grief. “As resonant, elliptical and distilled as a poem, Grief Is the Thing With Feathers is one of the most moving, wildly inventive first novels you're likely to encounter this year. It's funny — in a jet-black way — yet also fiercely emotional, capturing the painful sucker-punch of loss with a fresh immediacy that rivals Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking.” (NPR)

The Bones of Grace
by Tahmima Anam
Anam, a Granta Best Young British Novelist, completes her trilogy begun with A Golden Age (2007, winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book) and The Good Muslim (2011, a New Yorker Best Book of the Year). Zubaida (Zee) Haque is a Harvard-educated Bangladeshi-born paleontologist who is torn between tradition and her own desires, with an American lover, an arranged marriage to a childhood friend in Dhaka, and a longing to know more about her birth parents. “Anam captures two very different cultures in an introspective character study that will mesmerize readers from the very first page.” (Publishers Weekly)

by Gina Wohlsdorf
This blood-spattered nail-biter plays inventively with form. On the eve of the glitzy opening of the opulent Manderley Resort, hotel manager Tessa is trying to keep things running smoothly but a murderer is on the loose. Meanwhile, someone at a bank of security cameras is peering into every room, and on some pages the action is split into columns as the scenes in front of multiple lenses unfold simultaneously. Booklist calls it “scary, gory, kinky, and experimental enough to push readers' envelopes without going so far as to lose mainstream appeal.” “This horror story with a humorous edge casts video surveillance as both hero and villain and raises plentiful goose bumps as a result.” (Kirkus)

The Mexican Flyboy
by Alfredo Véa
Simon Vegas is an English professor and Vietnam Vet who managed to steal an ancient time machine from the U.S. Army. Calling himself the Mexican Flyboy, he travels through time to commit acts of social justice, spiriting historical figures such as Emmett Till and Joan of Arc away to safety in Boca Raton, Florida. Kirkus calls it a “hallucinatory fantasy that reads like a blend of John Steinbeck and Robert A. Heinlein” and “a dizzying novel that combines Véa's solid prose style with a vivid imagination and an authentic cultural brio.”

The Queue
by Basma Abdel Aziz
In an unnamed Middle Eastern city, a failed uprising has made way for a new authority called the Gate. Everyone now needs permission from the Gate to do just about anything, and the line for requesting permission is growing longer and longer. Among the people waiting is Yehya, who needs a permit allowing him to have surgery to remove the bullet that struck him in the belly during the failed uprising. The Queue “represents a new wave of dystopian and surrealist fiction from Middle Eastern writers who are grappling with the chaotic aftermath and stinging disappointments of the Arab Spring.” (New York Times)

A House for Happy Mothers
by Amulya Malladi
Priya has a satisfying life in Silicon Valley with a happy marriage and a great job, but she keeps having miscarriages. On the other side of the globe, Asha is her surrogate, reluctant but hopeful that she can help her family with the proceeds. These two women are brought together by their deepest longings. “Malladi (The Mango Season, 2003) examines India's surrogacy industry with honesty and grace” (Booklist). Also out this month is The House of Hidden Mothers by Meera Syal (Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee, 2000), about a 48-year-old British Indian divorcée struggling to have a second child with her younger boyfriend. They also turn to a surrogate in India. “The many themes of this novel, including generational conflicts, cultural myopia, economic privilege, and gender politics, give readers plenty to think about…  a well-paced, enjoyable read.” (Kirkus)

OK, so, technically that’s 11 reasons to read fiction in June. Happy reading!

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