From The Atlantic, The New York Times Book Review and NPR, several books that look like good summer reads (alphabetical by author):
The Pregnant Widow By Martin Amis - It was summer 1970—a long, hot summer. In a castle in Italy, half a dozen young lives are afloat on the sea of change, trapped inside the history of the sexual revolution. The girls are acting like boys, and the boys are going on acting like boys, and Keith Nearing - twenty years old, a literature student all clogged up with the English novel - is struggling to twist feminism and the rise of women towards his own ends. The sexual revolution may have been a velvet revolution (in at least two senses), but it wasn't bloodless - and now, in the twenty-first century, the year 1970 finally catches up with Keith Nearing. The Pregnant Widow is a comedy of manners and a nightmare, brilliant, haunting and gloriously risque.
Last Night In Twisted River by John Irving - In 1954, in the cookhouse of a logging and sawmill settlement in northern New Hampshire, a twelve-year-old boy mistakes the local constable’s girlfriend for a bear. Both the twelve-year-old and his father become fugitives, pursued by the constable. Their lone protector is a fiercely libertarian logger, once a river driver, who befriends them. In a story spanning five decades, Last Night in Twisted River—John Irving’s twelfth novel—depicts the recent half-century in the United States as a world “where lethal hatreds were generally permitted to run their course.” From the novel’s taut opening sentence—“The young Canadian, who could not have been more than fifteen, had hesitated too long.”—to its elegiac final chapter, what distinguishes Last Night in Twisted River is the author’s unmistakable voice, the inimitable voice of an accomplished storyteller.
Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay - Under Heaven takes place in a world inspired by the glory and power of Tang Dynasty China in the 8th century, a world in which history and the fantastic meld into something both memorable and emotionally compelling. In the novel, Shen Tai is the son of a general who led the forces of imperial Kitai in the empire's last great war against its western enemies, twenty years before. Forty thousand men, on both sides, were slain by a remote mountain lake. General Shen Gao himself has died recently, having spoken to his son in later years about his sadness in the matter of this terrible battle. To honour his father's memory, Tai spends two years in official mourning alone at the battle site by the blue waters of Kuala Nor. Each day he digs graves in hard ground to bury the bones of the dead. The dead by the lake are equally Kitan and their Taguran foes; there is no way to tell the bones apart, and he buries them all with honour. Many have taken note of his vigil. The White Jade Princess Cheng-wan, 17th daughter of the Emperor of Kitai, presents him with two hundred and fifty Sardian horses. They are being given in royal recognition of his courage and piety, and the honour he has done the dead. You gave a man one of the famed Sardian horses to reward him greatly. You gave him four or five to exalt him above his fellows, propel him towards rank, and earn him jealousy, possibly mortal jealousy. Two hundred and fifty is an unthinkable gift, a gift to overwhelm an emperor.