Every month, the Writer’s Bone crew reviews or previews books we've read or want to read. This series may or may not also serve as a confessional for guilty pleasures and hipster novels only the brave would attempt. Feel free to share your own suggestions in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.
The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess
Daniel Ford: Karen Dukess’ charming and page-turning debut splendidly keeps our spring/summer reading and drinking binge going! The Last Book Party is set in the late 1980s and features a 25-year-old heroine whose ambitions drastically outrun her reality. She takes a chance and attends a ritzy party on Cape Cod and lands a job with Henry Gray, an influential and well-known New Yorker writer. All manner of coming-of-age foibles follow. Much like Chip Cheek’s Cape May, The Last Book Party is best enjoyed with your preferred summer cocktail and a comfortable beach chair.
Black Coffee by Daniel Ford
Dave Pezza: In Black Coffee, Ford shows growth not just as a writer, but also as a crafter of multi-faceted beings whose psyches and motives wrestle away from his grasp. Ford definitively establishes himself as a writer capable of not only conjuring the darkest parts of the human experience, but also piercing that void like a solitary flame in the night, lighting the path just far enough to keep hope alive. Excerpted from Dave's intro for Black Coffee.
Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman
Daniel: In no world should I precede Laura Lippman on any list, but we started listing books in alphabetical order by authors’ last names to avoid the perception of bias, so here we are. There will be some kind of restitution paid toward the writing gods so that my future work is not punished accordingly.
Lippman is one of those authors we drop everything to read when she has a new book out. Her literary sensibilities match our own, and while she always serves up an intriguing plot, it’s her character work that keeps us yearning for more. Lady in the Lake (out July 23 from William Morrow) is set in the 1960s and features “a middle-aged housewife turned aspiring reporter who pursues the murder of a forgotten young woman.” Why, yes, please, take all our money and inject that directly into our ink-filled veins. Lippman jumps perspectives throughout the novel, giving the reader a 360-degree view of Madeline “Maddie” Schwartz’s world. Lippman proves once again she’s one of the masters of the craft, injecting beauty and empathy at both the character and sentence level.
If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais
Daniel: Bianca Marais expertly mines both heartache and humor in her splendid sophomore novel If You Want to Make God Laugh. Her themes are universal—as well as timely—and she grounds them into the bedrock of humanity through three incredibly drawn female protagonists. This is storytelling of the highest order, and fiction we should all aspire to read and write.
Correspondents by Tim Murphy
Daniel: Tim Murphy’s new novel Correspondents has all the hallmarks of his sensational 2017 book Christodora: beautifully structured, characters you fall in love with (even when they make your heart ache), and displaying a deep empathy and understanding for family and relationship drama. Despite my baseball loyalties, he also perfectly captures New Englanders with these lines: “Their life is work, family, the beach, and the Red Sox. And not even necessarily in that order.” From a middle-to-upper class town in Massachusetts to the war-torn Middle East, Murphy’s Correspondents is one of the best novels you’ll read all year.
The Marriage Clock by Zara Raheem
Stephanie Ford: Zara Raheem’s debut novel, The Marriage Clock, is equal parts entertaining and inspiring. The plot follows Leila, a strong-willed Muslim-American who is torn between her own ideals of romance and her allegiance to her cultural upbringing. Leila’s parents give her three months (yes, only three) to find a husband, but along the way she ends up finding something even more important: herself.
Nikki on the Line by Barbara Carroll Roberts
Rebecca Weston: In Nikki on the Line by Barbara Carroll Roberts, basketball is all Nikki has ever cared about. But when she makes the elite-level eighth grade basketball team, Nikki is no longer the best—she isn’t even point guard, the position she has always played. Now, what with worrying about how her mom is going to pay for the club sport, keeping up her grades, misunderstandings with her best friend, and wondering if she’s even good enough to play, the sport that’s always brought Nikki joy is making her doubt herself. Instead of giving up, Nikki realizes something—the team may not need another point guard, but it does need someone who can shoot from the outside. And so, she sets out to learn how to do just that. Nikki tackles everything that’s stacked against her, methodically, one day at a time. It is a testament to Nikki and her creator, Barbara Carrol Roberts, given how little I knew about basketball going into this story, how much I cheered for Nikki to the very end.
This Side of Night by J. Todd Scott
Daniel: We’ve been big fans of author J. Todd Scott’s work since his debut, The Far Empty, was published three years ago. He’s got great instincts as a storyteller and he perfectly melds his expertise in the narcotics trade with a thrilling plot and believable characters. He fits right in with the likes of Ace Atkins and David Joy over at Putnam Books. He says in his acknowledgements that he’s likely taking a break from this cast of characters (likely employing something similar to Eric Rickstad’s “character holding shed”), so we can’t wait to see what he has in store for us next. We’ll just have to restart this series over in the meantime!
Hot Pants in Hollywood by Susan Silver
Daniel: Only Susan Silver would have the chutzpah to begin a memoir with her in the back of an ambulance because of a vibrator-related medical issue. The woman who peeled away from Elvis’ driveway when she saw she was going to the only guest at his party has come a long way (okay, some pun intended). Silver recounts her pioneering television writing days and her work with Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, however, it’s her musings and insights into the personal relationships throughout her life that make you really think “love is all around.” Whether Silver is talking about her complicated relationship with her mother and first husband or with her search for “Mr. Adequate,” her comedic and empathetic nature shine through and makes you chuckle and tear up in equal measure. It’s as if she’s sitting across from you at a local coffee shop, telling you all these stories in the span of an afternoon. And thanks to the audiobook (which she narrates), you can actually have that very experience!
Stay Up with Hugo Best by Erin Somers
Daniel: I was totally enraptured by Erin Somers’ Stay Up with Hugo Best. I would like to drink with the two main characters, but I’m afraid I’d wet myself from laughing so hard. Our literary friend Annie Hartnett called this debut sharp, funny, moving, relatable, and I couldn’t agree with her more. Judy Bloom, the main character and narrator, is endlessly fascinating. I could get lost in her head for days. And what I like about Hugo is that despite the fact he is in many ways a despicable man, you can’t help but root for him. I’m also a complete sucker for novels that take place over a holiday weekend or any other finite stretch of time. For me, it distorts the tension a bit when you know there’s a concrete finish line. Stay tuned for my podcast interview with the author!
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Rebecca: Wild by Cheryl Strayed is the account of a woman who decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail with no training but a lot of determination—the kind of determination that comes only from the fierce need to make a significant change in one’s life. As I read Strayed’s memoir, I was struck by the importance of other people in a nearly solitary journey of self-discovery. Strayed herself recognizes this toward the end of her memoir, recalling the classic line about relying on “the kindness of strangers.” It made me think that perhaps we can never really separate ourselves from those around us, and that what makes us who we are is an unknowable combination of those people and something deep inside us. It was inspiring following Strayed on her journey up mountains, through blistering heat and snow, as she slowly made her way closer to the person she would become.
Growing Things and Other Stories by Paul Tremblay
Daniel: This is not the tweet you want to see before settling down with a Paul Tremblay book:
I mean, even Stephen King was unnerved.
That aside, Tremblay brings all of his talents as a novelist to the short story form, and, no surprise, he’s brilliant.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Daniel: I was going to wait to include Colson Whitehead’s new novel The Nickel Boys on this list until next month after I had a chance to read it completely. However, when it landed at Writer’s Bone HQ, I couldn’t help cracking the spine and reading the opening line:
Even in death the boys were trouble.
Sorry, book stack, I know you’ve grown so tall, but you’re going to have to wait.
NovelClass is off until September, but catch up on all of the show’s past episodes in the meantime!
Author James Charlesworth stopped by the podcast recently and gave us several good recommendations, so you should add them all to your reading list and pick them up at your local bookstore.