11 books to get excited about this summer

Illustration for Summer Preview 2023 books list
(Illustration by David Milan / For The Times; MCD; Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times; Catapult; Viking; Edward Berthelot / Getty Images)
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Summer Books Preview

11 books to keep you reading through August

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We are truly past the marketing heyday of the beach read, and thank the publishing gods for that. The book-release cycle isn’t as seasonal as it once was, nor as intensely obsessed with micro-labeling its subgenres. As a result, our 11 most anticipated reads of summer 2023 — selected below by regular Times critics among works of fiction out through August — cover a lot of ground. We’ve got a number of sun-drenched thrillers, to be sure, although their styles and milieus couldn’t be more different (a horse ranch, a plane crash, the corner of Olympic and Western). Yet there are also long-awaited novels from bestselling literary authors and keen stylists entering their prime. Something for most everyone, in other words — at least if you like good books and have a little extra time on your hands.

Edan Lepucki breaks down the influences on ‘Time’s Mouth,’ her forthcoming epic on motherhood, magic, California cults and L.A.’s complicated charms.

May 10, 2023

Sing Her Down
By Ivy Pochoda
MCD: 288 pages, $28
(May 23)

Everyone sees Hancock Park’s Florida Baum as an innocent rich girl caught up in a terrible crime — except her violent cellmate, Diosmary, who demands Florida embrace her inner fury. Upon their release from an Arizona prison, Florida bolts for pandemic-stricken L.A. and Diosmary follows. As their cat-and-mouse game heads for a bloody showdown, Pochoda’s masterpiece nods to narcorridos, Joan Didion, Cormac McCarthy and Lady Macbeth’s command for the spirits to “unsex me” so that she, like these flawed, combustible women, can be filled with the direst cruelty. — P.L.W.

'Drowning,' by T. J. Newman
(Avid Reader)

Drowning: The Rescue of Flight 1421
By T.J. Newman
Avid Reader Press: 304 pages, $28
(May 30)

Looking for a heart-stopping thriller for your tote bag? The former flight attendant follows her 2021 bestseller, “Falling,” with another airplane-disaster tale, this time focusing on how crew professionals work together in times of ultimate stress. Here, a crash into the Pacific Ocean leaves 12 people, including the jet’s engineer and his daughter, in the hands of a rescue crew battling time and tides to save them. It’s taut, pulse-pounding — and best read on dry land. — B.P.

T.J. Newman wrote “Falling,” a thriller set aboard a flight, during red-eyes while working as a flight attendant. Then came the book and movie deals.

July 1, 2021

Girls and Their Horses
By Eliza Jane Brazier
Berkley: 416 pages, $27
(June 6)

In her third thriller, the SoCal novelist weaves an enthralling web of secrets and lies at a Rancho Santa Fe equestrian school. The complex motives, class divisions and nice-nasty backbiting among the “horse girls” and “barn moms” brings to mind the competitive female environments in Megan Abbott’s novels, but Brazier’s experience as a horsewoman and deep knowledge of that world could make her the next Dick Francis. — P.L.W.

Watch Us Dance
By Leila Slimani, translated by Sam Taylor
Viking: 336 pages, $28
(June 20)

For the record:

12:51 p.m. May 10, 2023An earlier version of this article stated that Leila Slimani’s Prix Goncourt win was the first for an author of Moroccan origin. It was the first for a woman of Moroccan origin.

In a novel drawing on her family history, Slimani takes readers back to 1960s Morocco, not long after it achieved independence from France. As foreign tourists flock to places like Casablanca in search of drugs and free love, former revolutionaries get caught up in the pursuit of money and power. Slimani’s debut, “The Perfect Nanny,” was an American bestseller and earned France’s prestigious Prix Goncourt — the first for a woman of Moroccan origin. — L.B.

'I Am Homeless if This is Not My Home,' by Lorrie Moore

I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home
By Lorrie Moore
Knopf: 208 pages, $27
(June 20)

For her first novel since 2009’s “A Gate at the Stairs,” Moore intertwines the letters of a 19th century Southern woman with the story of a present-day New Yorker caring for his dying brother. The connection isn’t immediately clear, but Moore has long been an expert at mood-setting, and the plot lines develop an uncanny resonance, encompassing fear of death, ghost stories and our inability to save people while managing to be, in a very Moore-ian way, weirdly funny. — M.A.

Domestic life motivates many of the stories in ‘Bark,’ Lorrie Moore’s first fiction collection in 15 years.

Feb. 20, 2014

The Imposters
By Tom Rachman
Little, Brown: 352 pages, $29
(June 27)

Rachman’s “The Imperfectionists” (2010) was a stunning elegy for newspaper journalism. Now, he turns his prodigious gifts to a novelist writing her own elegy through the scrim of dementia. Dora Frenhofer, 73 and at the end of a modestly successful career, decides to write her final book in her own voice “for a change,” each chapter about a different person in her life, and proves to be a highly critical — and perhaps highly unreliable — narrator. — B.P.

All-Night Pharmacy
By Ruth Madievsky
Catapult: 304 pages, $27
(July 11)

In a debut novel, the poet illuminates the relationship between sisters as they hang out in the darkest corners of Los Angeles. Both struggle with the legacy of the old Soviet Union and the generational trauma that has felled their fragile mother. In neon-tinted prose, Madievsky takes readers on a mystical journey from overlighted late-night hospital emergency rooms to brutalist apartment blocks in Moldova. — L.B.

'Crook Manifesto,' by Colson Whitehead

Crook Manifesto
By Colson Whitehead
Doubleday: 336 pages, $29
(July 18)

Laureled with two Pulitzers and a National Humanities Medal, Whitehead returns with a follow-up to 2021’s “Harlem Shuffle.” Set a decade ahead in the ’70s, the soundtrack is more funk and R&B than soul and jazz. But the moral crises remain the same: Ray Carney keeps his straight gig running a furniture store while keeping a hand in the underworld as Black Power politics reshape the neighborhood. — M.A.

He wrote across many genres, then won two Pulitzers for historical fiction. In “Harlem Shuffle,” Colson Whitehead veers into thrilling crime fiction.

Sept. 14, 2021

By Naomi Hirahara
Soho Crime: 312 pages, $28
(Aug. 1)

In Hirahara’s sequel to the award-winning “Clark and Division,” the Ito family returns to L.A. after its Manzanar incarceration and eventful resettlement in Chicago. As newlywed daughter Aki delves into the slaying of an elder, Hirahara humanizes the struggles of Japanese Americans rebuilding their lives from scratch. Her evocation of Little Tokyo haunts will bring a flood of memories for some Angelenos while introducing a new generation of readers to a pivotal period in L.A. history. — P.L.W.

My Name Is Iris
By Brando Skyhorse
Avid Reader: 272 pages, $28
(Aug. 1)

Skyhorse made a big splash with his 2010 debut novel, “The Madonnas of Echo Park.” His follow-up maps out the technological and political fault lines in the U.S. When a Silicon Valley company launches a high-tech ID wristband, the surveillance state begins tracking those who don’t “belong” here. American-born Iris Prince, already reeling from a divorce, is forced to negotiate xenophobia and rising violence as she claims her new life. — L.B.

'Witness,' by Jamel Brinkley
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Witness: Stories
By Jamel Brinkley
Farrar, Straus & Giroux: 240 pages, $27
(Aug. 1)

In Brinkley’s second story collection, people are trouble practically from the moment the cord is cut. “Ugly as sin,” one character recalls about her daughter, “and the intoxicating new-baby smell [she] had been anticipating ended up being little more than the mellow funk of a cheese.” Throughout these stories, people are grating against others’ eccentricities while living in denial about their own, and Brinkley keenly explores their predicaments with grace and wit. — M.A.