My Six Favorite Summer 2020 Reads
Updated: Aug 21, 2020
01 The Vanishing Half
In The Vanishing Half, Bennett follows the history of the fictional Vignes twins, Desiree and Stella, as they grow up in a town made up of those who identify as light-skinned black people. As teenagers they run from a prescribed future as maids in the small town, where tragedy in the form of evil white men took their father from them and left their mother scrambling to provide for them.
Upon reaching freedom, their paths diverge. One twin secretly passes at work for white, then vanishes into a life based upon this premise. The other twin marries a dark-skinned black man and lives as a black woman.
The book explores the complicated implications of perception as reality when it comes to race and its meaning; the subjectivity of and intense power within race labels; and the tension of living under false pretenses. For my full review, see The Vanishing Half.
02 Florence Adler Swims Forever
This lovely debut from Rachel Beanland takes place just before World War II in Atlantic City, and its giant hotels, piers, and general hubbub are the backdrop for this story of a few summer months in the life of an extended family.
I loved watching the book’s events unfold. Anything that was wrapped up a little too neatly didn’t bother me at all; I was all in and satisfied.
Beanland based some of the basic events of her debut novel on her ancestors’ experiences, which I thought was fascinating but didn't realize until the end.
I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley and Simon and Schuster in exchange for a review.
Click here for my full review of Florence Adler Swims Forever.
03 Blacktop Wasteland
Bug is a respectable business owner nowadays with a family. But some old acquaintances show up with an idea that might offer some financial breathing room--if the others on the job can keep their heads on straight, and that's looking like a big if.
Blacktop Wasteland is a fantastic blend of realistic complications, mistakes, adjustments, and spunk. It's action-packed but character driven. I'm not inherently interested in the preparation and modification of vehicles or in skillful evasive driving, but S.A. Cosby wrote it so that I was all in.
Bug is a wonderfully faulted character. The ending is a little abrupt and opaque, but not without hope.
I received an advance copy of this book from Flatiron Books and NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. See my full review of Blacktop Wasteland here.
04 Utopia Avenue
In Utopia Avenue, Mitchell takes us through the twists and turns of a fictional psychedelic British sixties band on its rocky rise to popularity, particularly through exploring its members' crises, joys, fears, and triumphs.
The book contains endless imagined cameos, fictional adventures, and gems of wisdom from real-life musicians like David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, Jerry Garcia, and members of the Rolling Stones--not to mention wild parties, betrayals, leaps of faith, breakups, and tragedy. But Mitchell expertly builds the band members into rich characters you're rooting for through their individual ups and downs as well as through the triumphs and setbacks of the band Utopia Avenue.
Mitchell doesn't provide too easy or neat of an ending to this weird and wonderful book, but it felt fitting and left me satisfied. This was a really captivating story that kept me intrigued throughout.
I received an advance copy of this book through NetGalley and Random House in exchange for an unbiased review. For my full review of Utopia Avenue, click here.
05 When These Mountains Burn
Ray has outlived his beloved wife in the mountains of North Carolina. He has a precious old girl of a dog, a fascination with (and healthy fear of) coyotes, a love of reading, and a no-nonsense manner that makes clear he doesn't brook fools. He has almost resigned himself to the heartbreaking idea that his addict son is too lost to be saved.
There's an undercover cop nearby who's trying to help take down a robust drug ring, and then there's Ray, who uses old-fashioned methods and his knowledge of mountain terrain to address injustices in a straightforward way. I read this in 24 hours while wishing I were making it last longer.
I received an advance reader's copy of this book from NetGalley and G.P. Putnam's Sons in exchange for an unbiased review.
For my full review of When These Mountains Burn, click here.
06 This Is All He Asks of You
I just loved this book. Luna stumbles into encounters that shape her life dramatically, in unorthodox and heartbreakingly meaningful ways.
I simultaneously wanted to scoop up Luna and take care of her and to follow the lead of this wise-beyond-her-years, intensely spiritual young person. She has a unique and lovely voice and is an irresistibly odd bird of a twelve-year-old girl.
I received a copy of this book through John Hunt Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
For my full review of This Is All He Asks of You, click here.
What have been your favorite books published this summer, or favorite books you've read this summer? What should I add to my completely unmanageable master Greedy Reading List of books to read?