Bestselling authors tell us what’s on their summer reading list

Posted Saturday, Jun. 21, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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Writers are insatiable readers, but they’re also tough critics.

This should come as no surprise. Bestselling authors routinely tell stories of how they fell in love with books when they were kids and dreamed that one day they might also be able to write for a living.

But now that they’ve achieved success and are at the top of their game, they can be a bit jaded as readers. They know all the tricks of the trade. It takes something remarkable to capture their imaginations.

That’s why we asked authors to recommend some of the books they’re reading this summer. We figure if they like it, it has to be good. Here are their summer reading picks, in their own words.

Taylor Stevens

The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore (William Morrow, $26.99) came out in April, but production deadlines forced me to save this read for summer. Moore is a constant on my must-read list for the guaranteed outrageousness and laughs — the exact opposite of the high-octane intensity and realism that I’m immersed in for hours every day — providing me a much-needed brain vacation.

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap by Matt Taibbi (Spiegel & Grau, $27), a hefty tome of nonfiction, has been on my list since it was published earlier this year. I am both dreading and looking forward to this read, as I expect it will leave me frustrated and angry. Yet with nearly 1 out of 30 U.S. adults in prison or jail, or on probation or parole, this is such a pertinent topic that I dare not turn away from simply because it hurts to look.

Herbie’s Game by Timothy Hallinan (Soho, $25, out July 15) is part of the Junior Bender series. It’s one I look forward to for being on the lighter side of the suspense genre. Hallinan writes very clean and strong — something that grew important to me after word crafting became my full-time job — and he’s been a favorite author ever since I accidentally discovered his Edgar-nominated (but dark) The Queen of Patpong several years back.

Tokyo Kill by Barry Lancet (Simon & Schuster, $25, out Sept. 9), the second book in the Jim Brodie series, should also be a lot of fun. I read the first book, Japantown, as an advance reader copy when it was sent to me by the publisher. Japantown was a great romp, and apparently a ton of readers agreed, as it is now up for a literary award.

About the author: Stevens’ new Vanessa Michael Munroe thriller, The Catch (Crown, $24), comes out July 15. She will sign copies at Barnes & Noble, 2601 Preston Road in Frisco, at 7 p.m. that day.

Douglas Preston

First on the list is Matt Richtel’s outstanding nonfiction book, which I read in manuscript, called A Deadly Wandering (William Morrow, $28.99, out Sept. 23). Richtel won a Pulitzer Prize for his series of articles in The New York Times about distracted driving. In this book, he tells a harrowing and ultimately moving and redemptive story about a young man who, while texting on the road, kills a brilliant scientist. I loved this book so much I arranged for my teenage kids to each get a copy.

Next on my list is Lock In by John Scalzi (Tor, $24.99, out Aug. 26). He is an outstanding science-fiction writer, winner of two Hugo Awards. Again, this is a novel I read in manuscript form and let me just say it is outstanding. He is truly the heir to Heinlein.

And finally, I am avidly looking forward to reading Tom Rob Smith’s new novel, The Farm (Grand Central Publishing, $26). After reading Child 44 and the other books in that amazing series, I will read anything this brilliant writer produces.

About the author: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s new Gideon Crew novel, The Lost Island (Grand Central Publishing, $27), comes out Aug. 5.

Jeff Abbott

My stack of to-read books is huge. So I have to prioritize and make some tough decisions. But it’s a good problem to have, that there are so many good books, especially this summer.

I’m really looking forward to reading Greg Iles’ Natchez Burning (William Morrow, $27.99) and I’m just about to start Megan Abbott’s The Fever (Little, Brown, $26), which is getting great advance reviews. I think she’s a terrific writer on the rise. I’m also really wanting to read Michael Koryta’s Those Who Wish Me Dead (Little, Brown, $26).

About the author: Abbott’s new Sam Capra thriller, Inside Man (Grand Central Publishing, $26), comes out July 1. He will sign copies at Barnes & Noble, 7700 W. Northwest Highway in Dallas, at 7 p.m. July 10.

Lisa Gardner

The summer season starts with one of my favorite thrillers of the year, Karin Slaughter’s Cop Town (Delacorte Press, $27, out Tuesday). Slaughter doesn’t just write suspense, she hammers it down. Cop Town showcases Atlanta, 1974.

The war is over, the first black mayor is shaking up the city, and women are joining the workforce — including the police department. When someone starts assassinating cops, rookies Maggie Lawson and Kate Murphy must join forces against the good guys and the bad if they’re ever going to catch the killer.

Definitely put on extra sunscreen before sitting on a beach with this novel, because you won’t be getting back up again! I’m always drawn to books with strong characters, which I think Slaughter does best. Her writing style is very gritty and her characters raw. Good people do bad things, bad people do good things, and it all makes perfect sense. All of us are a little bit of a hot mess.

About the author: Gardner’s latest D.D. Warren thriller, Fear Nothing (Dutton, $27.95), came out in January.

Karin Slaughter

Right at the top, and I’m so excited, because the galleys just came in, is Lee Child’s Personal (Delacorte, $28, out Sept. 2).

I just got Alafair Burke’s All Day and a Night (Harper, $26.99), which I can’t wait to read. I just finished reading Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore (Crown, $25). I really enjoyed it. Lisa Gardner’s Fear Nothing (Dutton, $27.95) is terrific. She’s another one of my favorites.

And I just pre-ordered Michael Connelly’s The Burning Room (Little, Brown, $28, out Nov. 3).

About the author: Slaughter will discuss Cop Town (Delacorte Press, $27) and sign copies at Highland Park United Methodist Church, 3300 Mockingbird Lane in Dallas, at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Chelsea Cain

The Fever by Megan Abbott (Little, Brown, $26). Teenage girls start having mysterious seizures, unleashing panic and dark secrets. Best cover. Best concept. Best title. And Abbott is one of my favorite writers. Period.

Carsick by John Waters (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26). I’ve been waiting for this one since I first heard that Waters was hitchhiking across America for a book. Alas, I never spotted him at the side of the highway.

Spent , an anthology edited by Kerry Cohen (Seal Press, $17, out Oct. 28). Female writers explore their complicated relationship with shopping. But they would all like you to buy this book.

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker (Penguin, $18). I reviewed this one for The New York Times Book Review and basically peed my pants over it. It’s going to be the book of the summer.

About the author: Cain’s thriller One Kick (Simon & Schuster, $25.99), the first in a series, comes out Aug. 19.

John Verdon

Right now I’m totally immersed in writing the fifth Dave Gurney mystery-thriller. But the moment I come up for air, the first book I reach for will probably be The Farm by Tom Rob Smith (Grand Central Publishing, $26).

Everything I’m hearing about it presses all the right buttons for me — not only the notion of a painful uncertainty regarding the truth, but the fact that this uncertainty arises from ultimate questions of trust in one’s parents. I also love the fact that this theme is developed in the form of a thriller.

Early reviews I’ve read mention the book’s genre-crossing power. For me, that’s the final icing on the cake.

About the author: Verdon’s latest Dave Gurney thriller, Peter Pan Must Die (Crown, $25), comes out July 1.

Catherine Coulter

You definitely want to read these two books while soaking up rays at the beach:

John Sandford’s Field of Prey (Putnam, $28.95) with Lucas Davenport and his minions. Exciting, moves right along. But I will give you one warning: Sandford’s going to dish up a really unpleasant gnarly section. I simply skipped it and moved smartly to the denouement.

Trust me, it didn’t make a bit of difference to the overall enjoyment of the book. Plus, I saved myself some unwelcome nighttime visuals.

Ever hear of The Martian by Andy Weir (Crown, $24)? If you start it before you apply your SPF, you’re going to get fried because you won’t want to put this unique gem down. Get ready for an ultimate intense page-turner. You won’t want to skip a single page.

Enjoy yourself, but don’t get so into these two books you get a bad burn.

About the author: Coulter’s new FBI thriller, Power Play (Putnam, $26.95), comes out July 8.

Jeff Guinn

Between research trips for my next book, I’m getting to a new book I’ve been anticipating ever since it was announced.

Philip Kerr may be the best atmospheric novelist currently at work. His most recent books have been noir thrillers set in World War II Germany. I’ve never read any mainstream fiction that captures a country and era quite as well. Every time I read a Kerr novel, I get both entertainment and a lesson in how to write well.

He has a new one out, Prayer (Putnam, $26.95), which, for a change, is contemporary and set in Texas. Because he’s one of those authors who always surprises, I’m not at all certain how Phil Kerr’s going to tell this story, but I can’t wait to find out.

Also, the amazing C.J. Box has a short-story collection in the offing, Shots Fired (Putnam, $26.95, out July 15), and I’m eager to get my hands on that one, too.

About the author: Guinn’s Western novel, Glorious (Putnam, $26.95), the first in a series, came out in May.

C.J. Box

I read more in the winter, not the summer. The summer for me is for fly-fishing, weddings and rodeos. But since the theme isn’t winter reading, here are the books on my to-be-read stack that will no doubt carry over when the snow flies in Wyoming. Which could, in fact, be later on this summer.

The Red Road by Denise Mina (Little, Brown, $26). Brilliant, evocative and dark, dark, dark. The latest Alex Morrow novel.

The Son by Philipp Meyer (Ecco, $27.99). I missed this epic, multigenerational Western the first time around.

Things That Matter by Charles Krauthammer (Crown Forum, $28). No one writes more clearly.

Everything That Rises Must Converge and Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). I’ve been working my way through her canon. Man, is she good.

About the author: Box’s short-story collection, Shots Fired (Putnam, $26.95), comes out July 15.

Linwood Barclay

I’m going to take two weeks and go to Cape Cod in the last half of September and I keep thinking, should I save this book until then or read it now? For example, Ace Atkins has taken over writing Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series. So I got his new one thinking I’ll save that till September. Then I just went ahead and read it. That was Cheap Shot (Putnam, $26.95), which I really liked.

The same goes for Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes (Scribner, $30). I picked that up and thought, can I wait until September? Well, I’m reading that now.

So here are the books that I will try to save for that holiday:

I want to read the new James Lee Burke novel, Wayfaring Stranger (Simon & Schuster, $27.99, out July 15). He amazes me, because he’s turning out astonishingly beautifully written novels every year. The kind of stuff he writes should take, like, five years. But he’s doing them every year.

Also a book called The Rise & Fall of Great Powers by a guy named Tom Rachman (The Dial Press, $27). He wrote a great book a few years ago called The Imperfectionists, which I thought was one of the best books I had read that year. So I’m eager to read this new one.

About the author: Barclay’s new thriller, No Safe House (New American Library, $25.95), comes out Aug. 5.

Ace Atkins

Summer is usually the best time to catch up reading, as I’m on the road for a book tour.

I just picked up Lawrence in Arabia by Scott Anderson (Doubleday, $28.95), a fascinating account of T.E. Lawrence’s exploits. I also just read a great new noir called Gravesend by William Boyle (Broken River, $13.95), John Brandon’s terrific short-story collection Further Joy (McSweeney’s, $24) and Andre Dubus III’s Dirty Love (Norton, $25.95), top-notch storytelling from Spenser’s Massachusetts.

I also am flying through the Parker novels by Richard Stark (Donald E. Westlake), who was an absolute master.

About the author: Atkins’ new Spenser mystery, Robert B. Parker’s Cheap Shot (Putnam, $26.95), came out in May. His next Quinn Colson thriller, The Forsaken (Putnam, $26.95), comes out July 24.

Steve Berry

I’m reading a fascinating book, published several years ago, about the KGB and its sordid history: The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin (Penguin Press). It’s about the largest cache of secret documents ever to be smuggled out of the old Soviet Union and tells all. Amazing stuff.

About the author: Berry’s latest Cotton Malone novel, The Lincoln Myth (Ballantine, $27), came out in May.

Susan Jane Gilman

There’s a book on my nightstand that’s the top summer read on my list. It’s called Home Leave, by a new writer named Brittani Sonnenberg (Grand Central Publishing, $25). It’s about a family that has lived all over Europe, they’re citizens of the world, but when they come back to the United States, they’re hit with some kind of tragedy that blows the family apart.

It’s gotten rave reviews. It’s family drama and armchair travel and colorful characters. That’s the top book on my nightstand. As soon as I finish my book tour, I’ll read about how somebody else travels.

About the author: Gilman’s The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street (Grand Central Publishing, $26) came out this month.

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