How’s your summer reading coming along? Should you need something lightweight to haul to the beach, or the hammock, here are a half-dozen recommended paperbacks, ranging from expertly rendered crime fiction to academic satire to the conclusion of a sweeping four-novel series:
Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly (Grand Central Publishing, $16.99). If you enjoy taut police procedurals, you can’t do much better than Connelly. Two years ago, the prolific crime-fiction author celebrated his 30th novel by introducing a new character: Detective Renée Ballard, a loner who works the night shift at LAPD’s Hollywood Station. Now she’s back, teaming up with Connelly’s beloved detective Harry Bosch (it’s the 21st Connelly novel to feature him) to crack a cold case involving a murdered runaway.
The Witch Elm by Tana French (Penguin, $17). Speaking of police procedurals, that’s what Irish author French is known for, but here she takes a break from her terrific Dublin Murder Squad series for a stand-alone novel. It’s still crime fiction, but focused more on the victim — in this case, a cheerful Dublin PR bloke whose life is changed instantly after he’s savagely beaten by burglars — and on how memory forms a cracked mirror through which you can’t see the past clearly. A mesmerizing, masterful tale.
Room to Dream by David Lynch and Kristine McKenna (Random House, $22). “If you expected a David Lynch biography to be just like any other biography, you’ve never seen a David Lynch movie,” wrote a New York Times reviewer about this book, in which co-author McKenna crafts a fairly straightforward biographical narrative and Lynch reacts to it, in Lynchian ways.
All the Names They Used for God by Anjali Sachdeva (Spiegel & Grau, $17). “So rich they read like dreams — or, more often, nightmares,” wrote Kirkus Reviews, in a starred review, of Sachdeva’s Chautauqua Prize-winning debut volume of short stories. “The stories that follow span time, space, and logic: Nigeria and New Hampshire, the past and the future, realism and science fiction. And yet, for all its scope, it is a strikingly unified collection, with each story reading like a poem, or a fable, staring into the unknowable.”
The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher (Knopf, $15.99). I am always going on about how hard it is to find a good humorous novel (why does everything have to be so depressing?) — and last summer this one dropped in my lap. A sequel to the Thurber Prize-winning Dear Committee Members, this rollicking satire of academia unfolds in the English department at Payne University (banners for the upcoming centennial read “One Hundred Years of Payne”), and made this former English major laugh out loud.
The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (translated by Lucia Graves; HarperCollins, $18.99). Should you need an enormous reading project in which to wallow, here’s an intriguing one: This thick volume marks the conclusion of Spanish author Zafón’s acclaimed quartet of novels, known collectively as “The Cemetery of Forgotten Books,” which began with the 2004 international bestseller The Shadow of the Wind. Zafón’s trick, wrote The Guardian in a review, “is to have linked multiple genres — fantasy, historical, romance, meta-fictional, police-procedural and political — through prose of atmospheric specificity.”
This first appeared in the Seattle Times.