Summer Books We Can’t Put Down
DollBaby by Laura Lane McNeal
BUY IT: $10 (paperback); amazon.com
One morning in the 1960s, soon after the death of her father, Ibby is unceremoniously dumped on the doorstep of a grandmother she's never met. It's the beginning of the end of an age—for Ibby, for her grandmother's New Orleans society that's about to fall away, and for a country where the Civil Rights revolution is just beginning. DollBaby is a period-accurate historical novel about race at an explosive time in one of the South's most celebrated cities; it's also a page-turner about a little girl lost, a beautiful house of mysteries, and the relationships that transcend race, age, and society's barriers.
American Housewife by Helen Ellis
BUY IT: $17 (hardcover); amazon.com
Worth picking up just for its hilarious "Southern Lady Code," American Housewife is a nearly-perfect book of short stories and mini-essays. Funny and biting without resorting to cynicism or tired old jokes, it manages to show a lot of respect to the roles of wife and mother while simultaneously poking fun at some of the banalities and inconsistencies of our home and social lives. Quirky and weird but also refreshingly honest and loveable, American Housewife is like the hilarious friend who makes sarcastic comments we'd never say out loud, but that keep us laughing for days.
Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
BUY IT: $13 (hardcover); amazon.com
It's easy to find books that capture the excitement and passion of being a teenager in love, but Julie Murphy goes a step further in Dumplin'. Sure, she nails the butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling, but she also captures the feelings of insecurity, the confusion and the extreme embarrassment that often steps in even after a crush develops into something real. Set in a world of Texas beauty pageants and Dolly Parton-fueled daydreams, Dumplin' tells a story of first love and evolving childhood friendship, making self-doubt about weight—and beauty—feel so universal that anyone can relate. Dumplin' is a sweet, quick read, perfect for a plane ride or a day at the beach.
Dispatches from Pluto by Richard Grant
BUY IT: $13 (paperback); amazon.com
If your vacation is more of a staycation this year, look at home differently with Richard Grant's tribute to the Mississippi Delta. When Grant and his girlfriend moved from New York City to a small town in Mississippi, the culture shock was extreme. In Dispatches from Pluto, he tells the story of an outsider living on the inside, and his reactions to chiggers, catfish farmers, and crazy characters are hilarious. But the book goes deep, too, exploring lingering racism and the scars of the South. It's a book about how weird this place can be, but it's also about our friendships, and love, and fierce loyalties—the things that can make the South a beautiful place to live.
The After Party by Anton DiSclafani
BUY IT: $18 (hardcover); amazon.com
It's Houston in the 1950s. The men are rich; the society women are young and beautiful; the parties glitter and last all night. Joan, a beautiful socialite, and Cece, her long-suffering best friend, are in the society pages constantly—until Joan mysteriously disappears, and Cece's left to piece together a life without the friend who always stuck closer than a sister. DiSclafani's descriptions of mid-century fashion and architecture are gorgeous, but her flawless explorations of friendship, loyalty, and betrayal make The After Party pitch-perfect.
First Comes Love by Emily Giffin
BUY IT: $13 (hardcover); amazon.com
Sisters Josie and Meredith couldn't be more different: Meredith is responsible, and Josie's a party girl. Josie is single and living with her (platonic) guy best friend, while Meredith works hard to create the perfect family with her husband and daughter. Josie's living her dream career, but Meredith left her dream in New York City to move back to Atlanta and start a family. Tensions reach boiling point when Josie announces her desire to have a baby—minus the husband. When a tragic family secret comes to light, the sisters must decide if their rivalry will break them apart or forge bonds that could make each sister stronger.