“Everything I Need I Get From You: How Fangirls Created the Internet As We Know It” (MCD, $18) is partly about One Direction, and “This Is Not a Book About Benedict Cumberbatch” (Putnam, $17) is, yes, mostly about Benedict Cumberbatch. But the real subject of both these wonderfully fresh takes on fandom is the unabashed, self-aware embrace of joy. Kaitlyn Tiffany, a writer at The Atlantic, uses her love of One Direction ingeniously to trace how online culture came to feel. And Tabitha Carvan, now long out of adolescence, wrestles bravely with an embarrassing addiction to the former Sherlock but also considers the way we treat women who feel deeply: “When a lot of women love anything, that’s all we need to know about it.” Subversively important stuff.
Here are more than 30 titles (new or coming soon), ideal for the warmest months of the year, with an eye on the many moods and scenarios of summer.
Do you spend summers pining to return to class? (Regardless of your age?) Try Jhumpa Lahiri, Pulitzer fiction winner in 2000, who spent part of the decades since then in Rome, translating and learning to write in Italian. “Translating Myself and Others” (Princeton, $22) is about how translation changed how she related to fiction, teachers and her mom.
“How to Read Now” (Viking, $26) by Elaine Castillo aims to remind us how provocative great writing can be. As in, she questions rigorously the familiar ideas that fiction installs empathy and reading needs to be a safe space.
Jody Rosen’s “Two Wheels Good: The History and Mystery of the Bicycle” (Crown, $29) is a fascinating, sweeping everyday explainer, moving from the bike’s 19th-century origins to its importance globally, allowing room for side trips into health, class and death.
“This America of Ours: Bernard and Avis DeVoto and the Forgotten Fight to Save the Wild” (Mariner, $28) by Nate Schweber recounts another underreported history. Here, the midcentury struggle to push back attempts by industry and politicians to reclaim and strip the national parks.
Adam Levin drops “Mount Chicago” (Doubleday, $30), a vast new Chicago novel with the satire and raunchy pulse reminiscent of old-school Roth or Bellow. The premise: A sinkhole eats the Loop, which draws together a comedian, his fan and the mayor of Chicago. For a more common New York epic, “Trust” (Riverhead, $28) by Pulitzer finalist Hernan Diaz is about money, rooted partly in Henry James, partly in “Succession.”
I leave room each summer for one good horror. “Other Terrors: An Inclusive Anthology” (William Morrow, $17) by Vince Liaguno and Rena Mason is an ingenious collection of frights by marginalized identities. Vampires aid the trans community. Latinx heroes see “something in the woods.” It’s a lot of fun.
As are Modern Library’s welcome, ongoing new reissues of British science fiction writer John Wyndham, the inspiration of drive-in classics like “Village of the Damned.”
The funny novel that doesn’t evaporate as you turn the page is hard to pull off. So much so that I read “Invisible Things” (One World, $27) waiting for a crash that never came. Mat Johnson tells the story of astronauts who discover a city of Americans somehow living in a bubble on a moon orbiting Jupiter — a city just as ideologically polarized as the Earth kind.
Sloane Crosley’s “Cult Classic” (MCD, $27) adopts a similar soft sci-fi vibe and slaps it against a rom-com: A young New Yorker runs into an old boyfriend, then another. Then another. That plot (she’s the unwitting focus of an experiment) is less interesting than Crosley’s spot-on understanding of dating and the roads not traveled.
“Crying in the Bathroom” (Viking, $27), by Erika L. Sanchez, is an account of childhood depression and falling in love with comedy. It’s also a lesson in nurturing a clear voice.
Jesse Ball’s “Autoportrait” (Catapult, $20), you might say, is all voice. His 118-page memoir is evocative and bright, less a narrative than a set of memories that add up to a person.
My favorite biography is always about an influential outsider I assumed I knew. Alec Nevala-Lee’s deeply researched “Inventor of the Future: The Visionary Life of Buckminster Fuller” (Dey, $35) scratches that itch, offering a history of revelatory design so transformative that much of it remains unrealized.
Alexandra Lange’s “Meet Me By the Fountain: An Inside History of the Mall” (Bloomsbury, $28) works similar magic, reacquainting us with the roots of half-accomplished dreams, tracing the influence of department stores on now-struggling suburban sprawls saddled with acres of parking.
David Sedaris’ “Happy-Go-Lucky” ($29, Little Brown) is like a reminder of an old friend who can still make you laugh out loud, but with a poignance now. Subjects include the ugliness of his father, art school in Chicago (“if you could draw Snoopy on a napkin, you were in”) and entitled fans.
Isaac Fitzgerald wrote a rowdy, more traditional memoir, “Dirtbag, Massachusetts” ($27, Bloomsbury), about a childhood of homelessness. It’s told without piety or violin strains of uplift but rather an embrace of the chaos of just getting by.
No one is better at explaining, with clarity and humor, how the world works than science writer Ed Yong, whose latest, “An Immense World” (Random House, $30), describes the sensory worlds animals inhabit.
This is also true of “Serious Face” (Random House, $28), by Jon Mooallem, whose sweet spot, journalistically, occupies the space between the natural world and our confusion toward it. His new collection spends time with cloud fandoms, Neanderthals and loose monkeys in Florida.
Both books bring you closer to nature, but leave room for Barry Lopez’s goodbye, “Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World” (Random House, $28). The outdoors writer, who died of prostate cancer in 2020, looks back on life and considers his impending death and what we owe the land. Never afraid to get lyrical, his climate-change writing alone is for the ages: “We are searching for the boats we forgot to build.”
David Ellis, a justice in the Illinois 1st District Appellate Court, has built an impressive side gig as a master of the classic airport thriller — meaning the sort you absorb during a plane ride someplace warmer. “Look Closer” (Putnam, $27), his latest, is a tale of Chicago murder and misdirection; it’s a solid two days of beach escape.
Conversely, “Remarkably Bright Creatures,” the debut of Shelby Van Pelt, is sweet and warm: A kindhearted elderly widowed janitor strikes up a friendship with an aquarium octopus (who also narrates).
Diana Goetsch’s “This Body I Wore” (FSG, $28) is not a memoir of a New York City schoolteacher who transitions but rather a straightforward, well-remembered, hilarious personal history of the full life as a trans woman. It’s never pedantic or even inspirational, which is exactly why it is.
Getting a new reissue this summer is the influential 2013 novel “Nevada” (MCD, $17), by Imogen Binnie. Like Goetsch, her tale of a trans woman doesn’t serve lessons so much as a portrait of awkwardness, acceptance and kindness in unexpected places.
Toya Wolfe reaches into her debut novel, “Last Summer on State Street” (William Morrow, $28), and pulls out a thoughtful snapshot of the end of public-housing high-rises in Chicago. Wolfe maps the geography of a childhood with the kind of vividness that brushes aside nostalgia.
We find ’80s theater students in Adam Langer’s “Cyclorama” (Bloomsbury, $27). When the plot skips ahead 40 years, and accusations fly among the former students, Langer arranges the present beside a harsh reassessment of the past.
Nothing about the new Penguin Classics Marvel Collection ($50 each) says “beach read.” Weighty and elegant, they’re stuffed with dozens of vintage issues of Captain America, Black Panther and Spider-Man; archival letters; and appreciations. Ideal for a rainy day.
“His Name Is George Floyd” (Viking, $30), by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa, considers the world of Floyd, his country, his history, and the politics and policies that shaped his family — and the family of his murderer, Derek Chauvin. It’s a feat of fresh reporting and vivid, contextual contemporary history.
As is “Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks” (Doubleday, $30) by Patrick Radden Keefe, a standard for contemporary true crime, who intricately builds portraits of willful neglect, madness and hubris.
In Ottessa Moshfegh’s “Lapvona” (Penguin, $27), a shepherd’s son comes fatally close to the rulers of a medieval fiefdom. Moshfegh plumbs entitlement, class, magic and revenge.
Dan Chaon’s “Sleepwalk” (Holt, $28) offers a world of similar cruelties, set in a near future. A Big Lebowski-esque drifter navigates a crumbling country, with a strange, unsettling legacy. To say more would spoil it.