Summer Reading 2023
We’re always here when you need us for video and photo production, and we know you need a break now and again, so here are some summer vacation reading ideas for 2023. Based in San Diego, we think everything is a beach read, but we try and give you a variety of choices. As always, we have a link for you to click through to longer reviews if you need more information.
by Eleanor Catton
The new novel by the Man Booker Prize writer of The Luminaries, recently streaming via purchase on iTunes. Need more convincing? It’s slyly funny, skewering big chunks of society, from the easy targets of billionaire CEOs and young activists sneaking around to plan crops on unused land to the subtle laughs at long-married couples and New Zealand social mores. A fast-moving plot, willing to laugh at us all, while also seriously considering how hard it is to be a force for good in the world right now. RIYL Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, conspiracy theories, idealism vs corruption stories, or Demon Copperhead.
by Curtis Sittenfeld
I’ve been a fan of Sittenfeld’s since her first novel, Prep, and she doesn’t disappoint here. She does seem to alternate her novels between more serious literary fiction (e.g., American Wife) and rollicking fun romps (e.g., Eligible). This is in the romp category—a bright, ordinary looking woman writer for a long-running live comedy show in NYC is shocked to sense a mutual attraction with this week’s dual-purpose musical guest/host. You’ll think a lot about how guys like Colin Jost and Pete Davidson end up with movie and music stars, and why can’t that happen to anyone smart and interesting. Pure escapism, ideal for a vacation. RIYL Saturday Night Live biographies, romantic comedies, Lessons in Chemistry.
I Have Some Questions for You
by Rebecca Makkai
This one is the new novel by National Book and Pulitzer Prize finalist writer of The Great Believers, Rebecca Makkai. A successful podcaster comes back to the boarding school of her youth to teach a short class and starts digging into a 20-year-old murder of a classmate where the wrong man may have been convicted. But the book is so much more than the thrilling surface story—it digs into everything that’s changed in our discussions about justice and harassment in the last 30 years. The plot is a clear, straight line, but it will make you examine your own life as Bodie jumps from things in the past with an adult eye shaped by the last few years in America. There’s a kind of chorus of famous dead girl stories that she narrates every time she overhears a conversation or skims a website headline, and it will tear your heart out as you realize you know what she’s talking about every single time. RIYL Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, season one of Serial, murder podcasts, boarding school, super smart novels, or Alice Bolin’s Dead Girls or Alexis Schaitkin’s Saint X.
The Sun Walks Down
by Fiona McFarlane
Built around the search for a missing six-year-old boy in 1880s colonial Australia, we come to learn a lot about everyone in town, all the backstories and how they are entwined. It reminded me a lot of Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries (set in 1860s New Zealand). Not just the rural setting, but the concept of the central mystery plot being second to the cast of characters, their motivations, and their interactions. And, of course, the top-notch writing. I do have to confess that a blurb from writer and bookseller Ann Patchett is a sure-fire book purchase lure. RIYL Shute’s A Town Like Alice, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series.
An Honest Living
by Dwyer Murphy
A debut novel, set in 2005 NYC, written with tremendous style as a classic noir. Our hero tangles with the rich, the famous, the art scene, and a little bit of romance. After being hired by an unhappy wife to dig a bit deeper into some potentially fraudulent rare book dealing, our narrator finds out that the wife he met isn’t really the wife. So why hire him? Why worry about the fraud? Why spend the money? RIYL Jack Nicholson in Chinatown, Jeff Bridges in Against All Odds, Ross McDonald, John Dunning’s Cliff Janeaway series (or if you’re a corporate lawyer who thinks about the paths not taken).
Trustee from the Toolroom
by Nevil Shute
An oldie, from 1960, literally older than everyone at LYON, but a really great, old-fashioned novel. Shute was a prolific writer, more popular in his native England and Australia, but most people will have encountered his classics: A Town Like Alice and/or On the Beach. He’s an old-fashioned writer with a strong sense of honor and decency. Our hero, Keith Stewart, lives an ordinary life, writing on small-scale mechanics for a far-flung network of hobbyists. His young niece comes to stay while his sister and her wealthy husband are out sailing on a long vacation. When the sail turns to a shipwreck, he and his wife become her guardians. Keith knows his brother-in-law has converted a big chunk of his wealth into a small cache of diamonds (trying to avoid now obscure British rules on transferring assets in a planned move to Canada). He also realizes he’s got to get to the wreck halfway around the world to find the diamonds for his niece’s sake. So how does a guy with little money and no connections get halfway around the world as fast as possible? Well, it’s a lovely story, and in a pre-internet era (transatlantic phone calls are pretty exotic) it’s a joy to see how people help Keith. One of the best treasure hunts ever. RIYL It’s A Wonderful Life, Anne of Green Gables, or if you just need a detox from the internet and your faith in human nature restored.
by Amity Gaige
Where does a mistake begin? It’s a hell of an opening line, and you’ll find your self reading quickly. We know something bad happened, but we don’t know what. It all sounds like a familiar dream: Quit your job, sell the house, pull the kids out of school, buy a boat, and sail for a year or two. All the more so if you need to shake things up. The book goes back and forth between Juliet’s journal and her husband Michael’s ship’s log as the story unfolds. Marriage, family, life—this is a book that tackles it all—for better and worse. RIYL Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, All is Lost, The Golden Couple.
(Yeah, we don’t sail, no idea why two shipwrecks ended up on this list, maybe skip these if you’re on a boat for vacation.)
Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee
by Casey Cep
The Reverend Willie Maxwell was definitely a man with a murderous understanding of the life insurance industry. Then a law-abiding Vietnam veteran walked into a funeral and shot him in front of several hundred witnesses. Casey Cep’s book is full of deep historical research, from the origins of life insurance and voodoo, to the murders attributed to Maxwell. And if that’s not enough, this really is the last book Harper Lee tried to write (she helped Truman Capote quite a bit with the research for In Cold Blood, as you will learn), so there’s all that to talk about as well. A small, slim paperback, this is a wide-ranging book, full of many interesting stories. RIYL To Kill a Mockingbird, true crime, In Cold Blood, The New Yorker magazine.
The English Understand Wool
by Helen DeWitt
If you’re really book nerd, you may know Helen DeWitt as the writer of cult favorite The Last Samurai—no relation to the Tom Cruise movie— (currently part of Susan’s to-do stack). This little novella of hers, really a long short story, has some wild twists and turns and is a complete delight. We know: The title is nothing, you’ve never heard of this writer, the binding looks like a Little Golden Book for a child. Every reason to skip it, but we strongly recommend you seek it out instead. Told by delightfully sophisticated seventeen-year-old Maguerite,—who is a little bit of a snob, very sure of herself and her maman’s teachings,—it’s a joyfully amoral story with a twist. Not to be missed, it’s quite literally laugh-out-loud funny, and despite being quite short, worth the price of hardcover admission. RIYL: James Thurber’s The Catbird Seat, The Sting, Gone Girl, a very good laugh, stories you can re-read regularly.
Invitation to the Waltz
by Rosamond Lehmann
Just a lovely little book, all about the inner thoughts of a young woman getting ready to go to her first adult dance. For summer reads, we like a little escapism, and the mind of Olivia, age 17, still quite naive, is a delight from a bygone era. (Olivia is the exact opposite counterpart to Marguerite, the narrator in the recommendation just above.) RIYL Pride and Prejudice, BritBox, Nancy Mitford, Downton Abbey.
In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss
by Amy Bloom
If you don’t want to escape at all, the novelist Amy Bloom tells the story of her marriage and her husband’s Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosis—and his decision to end his life before the disease steals the rest of his mind. It’s about an amazing love, and a terrible letting go, as he asks his wife to help him organize it all. Beautifully written, the book is an amazing testament to love. RIYL big decisions, ethical quandaries, Still Alice, a good cry.
by Jinwoo Chong
There may be some time travel, but this book doesn’t fall into any one genre. A funny take on modern start-up culture with a dose of fraud, the death of publishing, it’s also a story about a man obsessed with an old TV show, and a boy dealing with big losses. RIYL Everything Everywhere All at Once, Several People are Typing, the Theranos scandal, the book The Time-Traveler’s Wife.