Summer has finally found its way to Portland. The bright, blue days are perfect for grabbing a blanket, filling your picnic basket with goodies, and going to the park with a good book. Whether you prefer your summer reads juicy or puzzling or star-crossed or gory, we've got you covered. Below, you’ll find some of our booksellers’ favorite recommendations for the sunniest season.
Editor's note: After we published this list, we realized there were 15 titles included, not 12. But what can we say! We're book people, not math people. Let's call 15 the new bookseller's dozen.
I love a good time-loop novel. I love a good friendship novel. I love a good novel set in a museum. So this very good friendship-time-loop-museum novel was an absolute slam dunk for me. It’s so clear that Celt is having so much fun with this one, and I was so impressed with how deftly she handled the time loop, something that could have felt rote and “known” in a lesser writer’s hands. This one is as delicious as the candy-toned cover would have you believe. — Kelsey F.
Saul can’t stop messing up his life, but you can’t help but love him for being the sad, funny, awkward, self-deprecating mess he is. With endless wit and quirky charm, Yuvi Zalkow examines the myriad ways we lose touch with our lives and with each other, and the ways we fumblingly inch our way back. I Only Cry with Emoticons is the perfect fun read for all of us other awkward, anxiety-ridden, dis- and misconnected messes in this mess of a world. — Gigi L.
Katie Kitamura is one of my favorite writers working today. Her work is consistently beautiful, challenging, surreal, lyrical, heartbreaking — all of the adjectives, essentially. I found Intimacies, her newest novel about an interpreter working at the Hague and the love affair she falls into, intoxicating and frustrating in the way that life and love can so often be. If you love this one, check out her novel, A Separation, next. — Kelsey F.
Five years after surviving a car accident that took her husband's life, Feyi is navigating the path from grief back to love when it takes an unexpected turn. Fans of Emezi’s previous work might find this foray into romance to be an unexpected turn as well, but they’ll be delighted with the result, which is vibrant, tangled, immersive, and verrry sexy. — Tove H.
Honey & Spice has everything I'm looking for in a romance — with the twist that the slightly over-the-top motivations are actually very realistic to being a student at a university, one of humanity's best-designed gossip environments. Confident Kiki calls out Malakai on her student radio show for being a lothario, and then is caught kissing him — embarrassing! To save her reputation and rehabilitate his, they start fake dating, which means ample time for sparks to fly. Bolu Babalola (who also wrote the fantastic Love in Color) doesn't forget about the com in rom-com, so expect to swoon and laugh while reading this impeccable novel. — Michelle C.
What’s a good romance without a little sorrow? When a disillusioned ghostwriter encounters the annoyingly handsome ghost of her exacting editor, everything she thought she knew goes out the window. This book is charming and sweet. Let The Dead Romantics haunt you this summer. — Lucinda G.
I struggle to write anything about Portrait of a Thief that hasn't been said more eloquently* — or isn't just excitedly chanting "heist! heist! heist!" Packed with cinematic sweeps, and a deep thoughtfulness (how did Grace D. Li make everyone feel so grounded and realistic, while engaging in bombastic international art theft?), this is a page-turning thriller with real emotional and intellectual heft. — Michelle C.
*For example, Jesse Q. Sutanto: "This is the heist novel we deserve. Brilliantly twisty and yet so contemplative, with characters whose complicated backgrounds color their every move, this book will continue to haunt you long after you've reached the end."
I’ve recommended this book to a few friends so far, and have truly loved getting their text messages, guessing at the plot. This mystery is perfect for anyone who loves writing and reading, especially as it pertains to the murky edges of morals, what we owe each other, and where our ideas come from. After a writer “borrows” a student’s “ingenious plot” for his own book, which becomes a runaway success, he starts to receive messages from the former student, except that student was supposed to have died. This one is fun and funny — a perfect summer read. Have fun trying to guess the twist! — Moses M.
If you’re like me, you can’t get enough of these scam artist stories: Anna Delvey, the Fyre Festival, The Tinder Swindler, Catfish, Elizabeth Holmes. Truly: let me have all of it. This book absolutely hit that spot for me. Juicy and gossipy, riveting and propulsive, Cover Story takes you into the glamorous, precarious world of “Manhattan’s elite” (I’m stealing a line from Gossip Girl here, but it feels appropriate). Watching it all fall apart is only a small slice of this book’s fun. — Kelsey F.
This book’s title does a great job of selling itself all on its own. A royal coven founded by Queen Elizabeth I? I mean: yes please. Her Majesty’s Royal Coven is an incredibly fun fantasy, filled with fun twists, deep friendships, and deception. If you’re looking for a great fantasy that doesn’t turn a blind eye to the complicated issues of today — gender identity, feminism, and the patriarchy, just to name a few — this is the book for you. — Lucinda G.
Read as little about this one as possible before you go in, but be prepared for your brain to pretzel a few times over, and to truly feel for these characters who find themselves in unbelievable, undeniable circumstances. It’s the kind of speculative novel that asks all the important questions about life, while also leaving you grateful that you aren’t in these characters’ shoes. — Moses M.
I cannot get enough of Nghi Vo's mesmerizing world-building and characterization. Her very sentences dazzle. In Siren Queen, Vo steeps pre-Code Hollywood in dangerous and deadly magic while her protagonist strives, trades, and outsmarts her way along the perilous and unforgiving road to stardom. Chilling, seductive, and wonderful. — Sarah R.
I recommend this book every chance I get to readers looking for a fun, juicy horror to dig into. This book, a thrilling debut from Rachel Harrison, is the mix between Lovecraftian-horror and Instagram influencer aesthetics you didn’t know you needed. After one of their friends disappears for two years and then reappears without offering an explanation, four friends decide to try to reconnect during a weekend away at a luxurious resort. Not surprisingly — it doesn’t go well. And, truly, as a reader, I am so glad the trip is a disaster. — Kelsey F.
John Darnielle has created an intriguing, multilayered novel that interrogates the true crime genre’s highest aspirations and basest instincts. Devil House is a gripping read that raises important questions about what the true costs of salacious stories are, and who pays them. — Keith M.
Stephen Graham Jones is having a moment, and deservedly so. His previous novel, The Only Good Indians, kept me up at night for weeks after I finished it, it was just that good, so when this one came out, I sprinted to the store to buy it. And: wow. It blew me out of the water. A delightful and delightfully gory love letters to slashers, you won’t know where this one is going until it’s already too late. — Moses M.