If You Could Read Only One Book This Summer, What Would it Be?


which single book they would recommend this summer

By Ellen Gamerman
June 17, 2017 7:00 a.m. ET

One summer. One expert. One book.

The Wall Street Journal asked literary professionals to recommend a novel for the summer—a book that would be an ideal companion at the beach or a European café, in a shady hammock or aboard a sweaty subway. The experts were limited to just one work of fiction published this spring or due out this summer. Most of them stuck to the plan. A few bent the rules. Here, the voracious readers make their case:

by Robin Sloan (Sept. 5)

Sessalee Hensley, fiction buyer, Barnes & Noble

Lois is a lonely geek at a San Francisco robotics company whose contact with the rest of the world is mostly limited to ordering spicy soup and sourdough bread from a nearby restaurant. Her world is overturned when the place closes and its owners leave her with their sourdough starter. With her new bread-making skills, she enters a mysterious subculture where food and technology mix. Ms. Hensley got so into the novel—the second from Mr. Sloan after “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore”—that she made the spicy soup herself. She recalled a scene in the book where a kitchen robot struggles to crack eggs. Lois observes that they would solve everything else before they solved the eggs. “It’s a good metaphor for life,” said Ms. Hensley. “We will solve the big things before we solve the small things.”

by Camille Bordas (Aug. 15)
Stefanie Hargreaves, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers, an e-newsletter about books

When Ms. Hargreaves thinks summer books, she doesn’t always want light and breezy, and sometimes opts for more complex work. The French author’s tale—the first published in English—is set in southern France and told from the perspective of a preteen boy named Isidore. A tragedy brings his emotional intelligence to the fore and changes his role in a family once dominated by his five dazzling older siblings. He is approaching adulthood when the oldest person in the world tells Isidore her life would be worthwhile if someone would just remember her. She asks if he will. His younger self, full of innocence, would have sworn to do so. But the one who has come of age knows such promises are hard to keep.

by Stephanie Powell Watts (April 4)

Andrew Medlar, librarian and assistant chief of technology, content and innovation,
Chicago Public Library

“This one really sticks to my ribs,” said Mr. Medlar, describing a tale full of “snarky gossip, sultry weather and sweet tea.” Critics have called the book a reinvention of “The Great Gatsby” that explores the American Dream in the modern South with African- American characters. When JJ Ferguson returns home to Pinewood, N.C., he is no longer “the poor child who lived with his grandmother…the ordinary boy we all fed when he wouldn’t leave at dinnertime.” He is now a wealthy man building a mansion on swanky Brushy Mountain Road with plans to win back his high-school girlfriend, Ava. She is married to a furniture-factory worker with sawdust in his hair and a line of dirt under his fingernails “like the vein in shrimp.” Mr. Medlar called it “the kind of book where almost every page you want to stop and tweet a quote.”

by Gabriel Tallent (Aug. 29)
Cathy Langer, director of buying, Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver

A father lives with his daughter Turtle on the northern California coast, in a house overgrown with vines and overrun with animals. He is a survivalist, putting the pots out for the raccoons to lick clean so he can reuse them. Turtle, deeply in his thrall, is a remarkable and damaged 14-year-old who shoots targets with real bullets in the kitchen. When she develops a crush on a local boy, she learns the dangers of crossing her charismatic father. “There are some really horrifying scenes and you might wonder why you’re subjecting yourself to it, but if you keep going, you’ll understand,” said Ms.
Langer, calling Turtle a character unlike any she’d ever encountered. “Her vibrating energy, her skill with a gun, her understanding of nature and just her wildness—you’re rooting for her to find a way out.”

by Michael Connelly (July 18)
Chris Schluep, senior books editor, Amazon

When Detective Renée Ballard’s rising career is derailed, she gets stuck working the night shift, also known as “the late show.” She is used to giving up her cases by morning, but not when a prostitute is brutally beaten and a waitress is killed in a nightclub shooting. Mr. Schluep immediately took to the new series, with its engaging heroine and the author’s reliably authentic-sounding cop talk and crime-scene details. “It’s the relationships between the characters that I really appreciate—this is not paint-by- numbers detective writing,” said Mr. Schluep. While reading, he played music from the TV series “Bosch,” based on Mr. Connelly’s Los Angeles investigator Harry Bosch. A great summer read, Mr. Schluep said, has a plot he can still understand “when my skin temperature is 120 degrees.”