We made it! The sun is out. School is out. And so are our pale, untoned limbs. Knees and shoulders float uncovered through the city, starved of warmth and begging for the first sunburn of the season. All hail the month of June. A month of no complaining—until the heat kicks in.
Soon we’ll be downing ice cream by the bucket and dreaming of swimming pools filled with ice-cold beer. Ignoring the trash on the beaches to dip our toes in the ocean’s soothing spray and seeking out “cute” country hamlets with rumors of swimming holes.
But June! Hooray! A month for celebration, before we return to the comforting routine of complaining about everything, but especially the weather. Pack a blanket in your summer tote, and do your best to find yourself in a park with a good book and good company as often as possible this month. Write a poem about it. Or a book. Or settle into the sunset with a glass of rose and one of these perfect new reads that grapple with the questions of identity we face every day, like “Who am I?” and “What am I doing with my life?” At least we can help you answer one of those: I’m reading a great book.
Girl at War: A Novel (Random House)
by Sara Nović
If we looked for and celebrated a “book of the summer” as we do that one song every year (what will it be this year?!), this novel would surely be this summer’s star. This debut work from a rising author examines in painful, tender detail the cost of war on a young woman, many years after her simple life with her family in Croatia was interrupted by war. Ana, the main character, is haunted by the memories of what she thought her country once was, and how to deal with the secrets of what really happened to her and her family.
For more, read an interview with Nović about the highly personal research that went into her debut novel.
The Festival of Insignificance: A Novel (Harper; June 23)
by Milan Kundera
Yes, Milan Kundera. That Milan Kundera. The Unbearable Lightness of Being one. This novel is being billed as an epilogue or culmination to the author’s work. A playful take on the meaning of art and life and memory. What else would we expect? Maybe an imagined conversation between Goethe and Hemingway.
Saint Mazie: A Novel (Grand Central Publishing; June 2)
by Jami Attenberg
Mazie Phillips lives in the Bowery in the 1920s. She runs The Venice, a famous movie theater in New York, taking the tickets of patrons every evening. Everyone in the Lower East Side knows her. Largely because of her loud mouth and big heart. Sound familiar yet? The acclaimed early-New Yorkerwriter Joseph Mitchell’s most famous profile, which appears in the classic collection Up in the Old Hotel, was of Mazie Philips. Jami Attenberg, the author of The Middlesteins, has written a funny, touching novel imaging the life of the woman Mitchell began to capture.
Patience and Fortitude: Power, Real Estate, and the Fight to Save a Public Library (Melville House; June 23)
by Scott Sherman
Scott Sherman, an acclaimed journalist and contributing writer for The Nation, reported a shocking plan to dismantle one of New York’s most historic, beloved institutions. Leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, branches of the New York Public Library were set to be sold off to real-estate developers, their books and resources sent to warehouses in New Jersey. A major feat of reporting and a must-read for New Yorkers, Sherman tells the story of how citizens of the city fought back to keep their libraries.