The term “beach read” doesn’t exactly convey smart, substantive narratives. Rather, the term suggests fluffier fare: mass-market mysteries, flimsy celebrity memoirs, “chick lit” novels with beach scenes or city skylines on their covers, and anything by Danielle Steele. Fortunately for those hoping to add some heft to their summer reading list, plenty of quality new books by Chicago-based or Chicago-adjacent authors are hitting shelves this season (beachy cover art not included). Take a chance on these page-turners that probe everything from familial drama to body image.
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby (5/30, Vintage)
Life’s a beach . . . or is it a bitch? In a new essay collection, writer and former Evanstonian Samantha Irby (whose previous collection, Meaty, is currently in development for a TV series on FX) explores personal topics that are both heartbreaking and hilarious: explosive diarrhea, the Bachelor franchise, her parents’ debilitating health issues, and more. It’s all done in the signature style of raw, self-deprecating, rapidly unspooling sentences that Irby employs on her blog, Bitches Gotta Eat.
The Answers by Catherine Lacey (6/6, FSG)
Lacey’s second novel follows a pain-racked woman named Mary who finds relief in an expensive New Agey treatment known as Pneuma Adaptive Kinesthesia. In order to fund “PAK,” she subjects herself to the “girlfriend experiment,” in which various women fulfill different aspects of a relationship for an egocentric actor named Kurt Sky. Turns out, Mary’s role of “emotional girlfriend” is its own kind of painful.
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay (6/13, Harper)
For all the writing she’s done as a cultural critic, essayist, novelist, and prolific tweeter, Indiana-based author Roxane Gay has never released a memoir—until now. Exploring food, bodies, and “our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health,” Hunger promises more of Gay’s arresting honesty and razor-sharp insight.
Turf by Elizabeth Crane (6/13, Soft Skull)
Author Elizabeth Crane (The History of Great Things, We Only Know So Much) crafts narratives that are both sweet and sad, quirky and funny, unexpected and relatable. The former Chicagoan’s latest story collection uses offbeat events—a group of geniuses struggling to unlock life’s greatest secret, a young Brooklyn couple discovering a baby in a bucket—to poignantly explore human connection.
The Grip of It by Jac Jemc (8/1, FSG Originals)
James and Julie, the married millennials at the center of Jac Jemc’s much-anticipated new novel, have big plans for their new home—but, they soon discover, not as big as the house has for them. Bruises show up on Julie’s body, mirroring stains on the walls, and mold spores appear in the water Jack draws from the sink. Forget HGTV’s House Hunters—the young couple in this Shirley Jackson-esque contemporary horror story are house hunted.
Eat Only When You’re Hungry by Lindsay Hunter (8/8, FSG)
Local author Lindsay Hunter specializes in visceral, wryly funny narratives that never shy away from uncomfortable situations, observations, or emotions. Such is the case in her second novel, starring a 58-year-old man named Greg, who’s struggling with weight issues, on a search for his missing son, GJ (Greg Junior), a longtime drug addict. Eventually the search—in an RV from West Virginia to the weird outskirts of Orlando—turns inward. v