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Summer reading preview: New novels by Elizabeth Gilbert, Ocean Vuong, Colson Whitehead and more

Different readers want different things from their summer reads. These eight novels will make you laugh, cry, fall in love, mourn, think, escape and revel in the written word.
 

1. ‘Mostly Dead Things’

1. 'Mostly Dead Things' By: Kristen Arnett One-line
Photo Credit: Tin House Books

By: Kristen Arnett

One-line plot: Jessa learns taxidermy from her father and finds first love with her brother’s wife.

Why you should read it: Arnett’s wonderful debut is bizarrely beautiful, alternatingly humorous and absolutely heartbreaking, as Jessa yearns for life while surrounded by and consumed with death.

Out: June 4, Tin House Books

2. 'On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous'

2. 'On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous' By: Ocean
Photo Credit: Penguin Press

By: Ocean Vuong
One-line plot: Little Dog, born outside Saigon, comes to America in 1990 with his mother and grandma.

Why you should read it: Vuong's lyrical first novel highlights his skill as a poet, particularly the surpassingly tender passage about Little Dog's boyfriend, who is an addict.
Out: June 4, Penguin Press

3. City of Girls'

3. City of Girls' By: Elizabeth Gilbert One-line
Photo Credit: Riverhead Books

By: Elizabeth Gilbert
One-line plot: This sprawling tale set in the theater world of 1940s NYC follows the growing pains and ultimate growth of the spoiled -- and hilarious -- 19-year-old Vivian Morris.
Why you should read it: Halfway through this delightful read, a character writes, "in these dark times, we could all use some more flapdoodle." Amen.
Out: June 4, Riverhead Books

4. 'The Nickel Boys'

4. 'The Nickel Boys' By: Colson Whitehead One-line
Photo Credit: Doubleday

By: Colson Whitehead
One-line plot: Elwood, impassioned by civil rights icons, strives to rise above his Jim Crow-era neighborhood; caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, he is sent to the notorious Nickel Academy.
Why you should read it: A brutal and powerful story, with a concussive late twist.
Out: July 16, Doubleday

5. 'Costalegre'

5. 'Costalegre' By: Courtney Maum One-line plot: Written
Photo Credit: Tin House Books

By: Courtney Maum
One-line plot: Written as the diary entries of earnest and precocious teen Lara, whose art collector mother (based on Peggy Guggenheim) has dragged her and a group of artists to the Mexican jungle in 1937.
Why you should read it: Enthralling take on the hopes, thrills and despairs of youth.
Out: July 16, Tin House Books

6. 'Turbulence'

6. 'Turbulence' By: David Szalay One-line plot: Love
Photo Credit: Scribner

By: David Szalay
One-line plot: Love and death run through these interrelated chapters, where one character carries over from each previous vignette.
Why you should ready it: It sounds like exercise, but Szalay pulls it off with a magical assurance, realizing a satisfying, globetrotting narrative.
Out: July 16, Scribner

7. 'The Memory Police'

7. 'The Memory Police' By: Yoko Ogawa One-line
Photo Credit: Pantheon

By: Yoko Ogawa
One-line plot: A young writer builds a hidden room for her editor, one of the few residents immune to the titular police force's efforts to systematically "disappear" aspects of society.
Why you should read it: Thoughtful entry in the vein of Bohumil Hrabal's "Too Loud a Solitude," about writing, memory and control.
Out: Aug. 13, Pantheon

8. 'Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead'

8. 'Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of
Photo Credit: Riverhead Books

By: Olga Tokarczuk
One-line plot: A series of mysterious deaths plague a small Polish town.
Why you should read it: Tokarczuk never tells a simple story; she is also writing about animal rights, human rights, William Blake and much more in another genre-melding tour de force.
Out: Aug. 13, Riverhead Books

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