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The best book to read in the summer of 2021

Book lovers shaking sand from last year’s beach bags are eager to replenish the latest page turning. To help them, The Wall Street Journal asked 12 prominent readers, writers, and insiders in the world of books what fiction works excite them this season. Here are their suggestions, some announced in the spring, many coming this summer:

Zakiya Dalila Harris’s “The Other Black Girl” Released June 1st

Recommended by Brit Bennett, author of last year’s critical and commercial hit “The Vanishing Half”

“This is a book that everyone will talk about this summer,” says Bennett. Already a bestseller, the book darkens and suggests what Bennett calls “the oppressive whiteness of publishing.” The author, Zakiya Darilla Harris, 28, has worked in the New York publishing world for over two years. Her first novel sold for $ 1 million.

In this book, ambitious editorial assistant Nera wants to find a companion in her new colleague Hazel. This pair brings the total number of black women in the office to two. Hazel glides through a maze of privileged workplaces, saying what whites want to hear. Increasingly marginalized Nera receives an unsigned note telling her to quit her job soon. This book depicts a comparison with The Stepford Wives, The Devil Wears Prada, and the movie Get Out.

August 3rd because it’s an “after party” by Anthony Veasna

Recommended by Tom Perrotta, whose novels “Election” and “Little Children” were made into Oscar-nominated films

Perrotta realized that reading the collection was the cause of congratulations and mourning. Last year, Anthony Veasna Saw died suddenly at the age of 28 on the brink of literary stardom.

So’s debut is centered around the Cambodian-American community in Stockton, California, where he grew up. With their irreverent energy, the story reminded Perrotta of early Philip Roth novels like “Goodbye, Columbus.” Here, rebellious first-generation children want to treat their elders like any other annoying parent, but they want their adults to escape the genocide, except for the intolerable tragedy. I know I’ve witnessed everything, so I can’t do it completely, Perrotta says. He calls for a clash of their cultures, and identity jeopardizes the comedy and melancholy of immigrants. “Children are doing exactly what their parents want,” he says. “It’s about becoming an American.”

“Sweetness of Water” by Nathan Harris, Released on June 15th

Recommended by Jenna Bush Hager, founder of the “Today” showbook club #ReadWithJenna

Nathan Harris’s flashy debut, not chosen by Bush Hager’s reading club, is set in Georgia at the end of the Civil War. Brothers Prentice and Laundry are newly released men. They find a job on the farm of a sad couple who lost their son in the war. Meanwhile, a forbidden romance between two Confederate soldiers was discovered, leading to murder.

The book and its study of brotherhood made Bush Hager feel like an instant classic. She sent a copy of the galley she wore to her sister Barbara, “literally underlining all the beautiful words.” “She is my twin, she is my closest,” says Bush Hager. “This book is profound and I gave it to my sister and it made me feel very special when I heard she loved it like I did.”

Maggie Shipstead’s “Great Circle” to be released on May 4th

Recommended by Leigh Haber, editorial director of Oprah’s Book Club

Harbor settled down by the pool on his first vacation after the pandemic and wondered if this 608-page historic novel would last. Then she couldn’t stop reading.

It was in the early 1900s, when the new orphan Marian Graves and her brother were abandoned by Montana’s eccentric uncle. She grows up as a wild kid crazy about aviation. The epic chases her as she continues to learn to fly despite the sudden odds, and then tries to orbit the globe. Mr. Harbor was thrilled with the depiction of the flight, including the beautiful and terrifying passageway over Antarctica.

In a gender-fluid novel, Marian can pass as a man in Alaska and abroad. She has a romantic relationship with both men and women. The book is finally surprising and contains a contemporary plot of the tabloid scandal actress starring in the movie About Marian’s Life. “The great circle, it’s a lot of the notion that one person’s actions can reverberate for centuries,” says Harbor.

June 21st, Emma Brodie’s “Songs in Ursa Major”

Recommended by Kevin Kwan, the best-selling author of “Crazy Rich Asians”

“I had to preview the book and read it when things were still very uncertain, and it was such a sunshine, I can’t even tell you,” Kwan said. The book he called Escape in 1969 is on an island off the Massachusetts coast. Inspired by Joni Mitchell, young folk singer Jane Quinn falls in love with the folk legend at the A Star Is Born music festival. After that, she becomes herself as a writer.

“I was able to really get involved in her struggle as a songwriter and a singer who is taking it seriously,” says Kwan. He finds reading lyrics generally boring, but not here. Jane Quinn felt very real, Kwan says he realized he wanted to download her music on Spotify.

“Count the Ways” by Joyce Maynard, released on July 13th

Recommended by Sarah Gelman, editorial director of Amazon Books

While Eleanor takes care of her children and races to decorate Noel during the holiday season, her husband goes cross-country skiing, angering her and throwing the entire cake into the trash. The novel is full of moments like this where you can build and break relationships. “This has taken over my favorite book from 2021 so far,” said German, who timely summons a book given a family-life fishbowl during the blockade of Covid-19. I will.

Eleanor can’t stand being in a New Hampshire farm where her husband had a relationship with a babysitter. She leaves. Babysitters act like saviors. Eleanor protects her relationship with her children to save her magical childhood, but lies bother them.

“Objects of Desire” by Claire Sestanovic released on June 29th

Recommended by Kaia Gerber, a model whose book club is currently on Instagram

When Gerber was small, his mother’s supermodel Cindy Crawford read John Steinbeck at bedtime. “I was probably the only one writing a book report on the sophomore’Of Mice and Men’,” says Gerber. She recommends the debut collection of 11 stories about the intimate life of young women by New Yorker editor Claire Sestanovic. “This is a fun read, but it reminds us that we are all human and overcome the difficulties of everyday decision making,” she says.

In the title story, Leonora lives with a sad musician, working on work (her boss fires someone because she tweeted too much about the office patriarchy) and memories of a politician she thought she would marry. is. Leonora walks across the Brooklyn Bridge with a female friend who teaches literature. Friends say that students are most often lean, smart, nervous, and tired women. “Boys register every two semesters,” she says. “And scary, the truth is that they are in the best class. Suddenly everyone plays.”

“Fresh Water for Flowers” by Valérie Perrin, Paperback in May

Recommended by Sara Harden, CEO of Hello Sunshine, who oversees Reese Witherspoon’s reading club

An English translation of a French novel was published in hardcover last year, but despite its cult status as a popular blockade book in France and Italy, it gained little traction here. “This is the best book no one knows,” says Harden.

Violette Toussaint lives as a caretaker in a French cemetery. The two form a connection when the local police chief wants to disperse the ashes of his mother into the grave of a stranger. The story goes back in time and reveals the tragedy that has befallen Violet, an ordinary person who feels life is epic. “It’s very healing,” says Harden. “I haven’t read more beautifully written books for a long time.”

“Daughters of Sparta” by Claire Haywood, released on June 22

Recommended by Barnes & Noble book director Shannon David

This is a story

Troy Helen,

The face that launched a thousand ships and her sister Clytemnestra. The book falls into a successful genre led by novels such as the best-selling “Circe” and a contemporary view of Madeline Miller’s ancient myths. David states that the book removes classical literature from “very inaccessible-it’s no exaggeration to say that it’s marble-the pedestal.”

The princesses of Sparta, Helen and Clytemnestra, are depicted as real people from the first page. Clytemnestra hates her name. Helen is bored. They envy each other. This book follows them into adulthood and explores the siege of Troy and their rebellion against ancient Greek society.

“Those who don’t say they love you” by Maurice Carlos Raffin, August 17th

Recommended by Robert Jones Jr., author of the 2021 debut novel “The Prophets”

“Every sentence is something that makes you laugh in a bitter way and can break your heart in a way you didn’t expect,” Jones said of the character by the author of New Orleans. Maurice Carlos Raffin of the 2019 debut novel “We Casta Shadow” describes a short story led by Penn / Faulkner Award finalist.

The story revolves around a black character who lives on the edge of New Orleans. Women are associated with married politicians who make empty promises. A child working for a catering staff in Mardigra’s Gala has been mistakenly accused of snatching a woman’s wallet. Homeless teens find an ally with a one-armed military veteran. The son, who is secretly dressed, is pushed into his father’s pest control business before pursuing fashion design.

In just a few hundred words of short short “spinning,” his son is sad after his father died of cancer. Mr. Ruffin wrote: I am 4 years old Dad took the wheels of a pickup truck borrowed from work without permission, reached out to clip me to the passenger seat, threw the transmission into the drive, illuminated the ice-black rocky roads of the veterans’ highway, and the witch’s See my laugh at Cuckle Wind through the cabin, miss a turn at La Frenière Park, turn too fast, spin us at an intersection, two toddlers on the back of a mermaid, in a pond made of drizzle Blow the fishtail, he reaches out to pin me, this is always the case, so it’s in the right place. “

“Velvet was a night” by Silvia Moreno Garcia, released on August 17th

Recommended by Goodreads Editor-in-Chief Danny Feekes

The crime thriller Mexico City, set in the 1970s against student protests, is one of Goodreads’ most anticipated summers. Last year, Moreno Garcia’s breakout “Mexico Gothic” won the best horror novel on the book site, a category normally dominated by Stephen King.

“Velvet was a night” is not horror, but it is Noir’s storytelling. It features a quiet kreptomaniacal secretary whose life plunges into turmoil when her mysterious neighbor goes missing. Musical novels are useful for road trip vacations. Suggested playlist..

“Akutsu’s Thousand Crime” by Tom Lynn, June 1st

Recommended by Booker Prize-winning author and host of the literary podcast “Reading the Dead by Marlon and Jake” by Marlon James

The debut novel, a film adaptation of the Western drama, was told through the eyes of Akitsu, an orphan Chinese-American assassin who was rethought with magical realism. Set in the 1860s during the construction of the transcontinental railroad, the story follows Min, who is on a burning revenge mission across the west to find his kidnapped wife, Ada, the daughter of a railroad mogul. Twenty-five-year-old Lin compares to Cormac McCarthy and Ray Bradbury.

The novel presents a gunman across the panoramic desert in a new way. “A book out of range, it saves Westerners by blowing it a little,” says James. “Don’t wait for the movie.”

Share your thoughts

What of the recently published novels and non-fiction works are recommended for summer reading? Join the conversation below.

Write to Ellen Gamerman ellen.gamerman@wsj.com

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The best book to read in the summer of 2021

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