Nothing about 2017 looks familiar, not even its lineup of hot summer books. Who could have predicted that the season’s most gossipy read would be about a presidential candidate, not a movie star? That the standard ideas of espionage that fuel most spy thrillers suddenly seem out of date? That one of the most dependable hitmakers back this summer has been dead since 2008?
It’s a weird new world for readers. Here is a list of 16 books for navigating it:
“Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman, 327 pages, Pamela Dorman/Viking, $26: This quirky novel by a Scottish author follows the misadventures of its socially awkward title character. Eleanor is a loner for obvious reasons. “If I’m ever unsure as to the correct course of action, I’ll think, ‘What would a ferret do?’ or ‘How would a salamander respond to this situation?’” Eleanor explains to the reader. “Invariably, I find the right answer.”
“Dragon Teeth” by Michael Crichton, 295 pages, Harper/HarperCollins Publishers, $28.99: “Dragon Teeth” combines two Crichton ideas, dinosaurs (“Jurassic Park”) and the Wild West (“Westworld”), in a single book, discovered by his widow in his archives. When he died in 2008, he wasn’t ready to publish it, but he had been working on it for 15 years. If you like a good paleo-action story incorporating real historical figures, you’ll like this one.
“Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign” by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, 464 pages, Crown, $28: There’s something guilt-inducing about even wanting to know how the Clinton campaign imploded. Its readers are less likely to be vengeful Hillary-haters than baffled voters wondering how things could go so wrong. “Shattered” promises chapter and verse on that, and it ruefully delivers.
“Rich People Problems” by Kevin Kwan, 398 pages, Doubleday, $27.95: The Singapore-born Kwan was unknown when he came along four years ago with the uproarious satire “Crazy Rich Asians,” featuring characters who reeled off the brand names of everything they wore or owned, and constantly tried to one-up one another. Kwan followed it up with “China Rich Girlfriend” in 2015, and now “Rich People Problems” ends the trilogy.
“The Force” by Don Winslow, 482 pages, William Morrow/HarperCollins Publishers, $27.99 (June 20): Winslow, who writes so atmospherically and authoritatively about surfers, drug dealers and horrific drug-related crime, focuses on the South Bronx in his latest book. “The Force” is a stunner of a cop novel, with gritty dialogue and New York settings and moral pincers, all in the service of a devastating plot. Winslow weaves a complex story around a detective who wants to stay clean even though he’s already dirty.
“The Chickens--- Club: Why The Justice Department Fails To Prosecute Executives” by Jesse Eisinger, 400 pages, Simon & Schuster, $28 (July 11): The title of this nonfiction account of the government’s failure to prosecute white-collar criminals was inspired by former FBI director James Comey. He was a former federal prosecutor when he gave a speech to prosecutors working under him, asking how many had ever had an acquittal or a hung jury. If they hadn’t, Comey said, they were members of the above-mentioned club: too chicken-hearted to take on the tough stuff. This book provides a history of how, in the opinion of its Pulitzer Prize-winning author, the Justice Department has gotten soft.
“The Dinner Party: And Other Stories” by Joshua Ferris, 246 pages, Little, Brown, $26: Everything comes mordantly alive in the priceless imagination of Ferris, who can describe an onion being diced and think of the other vegetables near it as “bright and doomed.” Ferris’ view of the human condition falls somewhere between Woody Allen’s and Franz Kafka’s, and his perverse short narratives do not disappoint.
“We are Never Meeting in Real Life: Essays” by Samantha Irby, 275 pages, Vintage, $15.95: The second book of essays from this funny blogger includes pieces titled “You Don’t Have to Be Grateful for Sex,” “I’m in Love and It’s Boring” and “A Case for Remaining Indoors.” Her opening essay alone is enough to make this collection a winner. It starts with a fake application to become a “Bachelorette” contestant, and then details how the show would be different if she were on it, including the wardrobes. (“I don’t wear evening gowns and booty shorts every day. I wear daytime pajamas and orthopedic shoes, and lately I have become a big fan of the ‘grandpa cardigan.’”)
“Magpie Murders” by Anthony Horowitz, 496 pages, Harper/HarperCollins Publishers, $27.99 (Tuesday): Take a faux version of an Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot book. Call the detective in it Atticus Pund. Make Pund’s creator a writer named Alan Conway. Write a mid-20th-century book starring Pund called “Magpie Murders.” Then wrap this fake novel in a “real” present-day one in which Conway dies, and you have the mystery lovers’ buffet that is Horowitz’s latest novel.
“No One is Coming to Save Us” by Stephanie Powell Watts, 371 pages, Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers, $26.99: Set in North Carolina, Watts’ book envisions a backwoods black version of “The Great Gatsby.” The circumstances of her characters are unlike Fitzgerald’s, and those differences are what make this novel so moving. No frivolity or superficiality here. JJ Ferguson, the dreamer who returns home to woo his now-married sweetheart by building a big house, is positively pragmatic by Gatsby standards.
“Things That Happened Before the Earthquake” by Chiara Barzini, 320 pages, Doubleday, $26.95 (Aug. 15): An Italian teenage girl shows up in 1990s Southern California in this culturally astute, strong-voiced novel. Barzini, a writer to watch, positions herself astride both American and Sicilian cultures, and packs this visceral book with strong sensations from both. The novel and its heroine, Eugenia, are deeply seductive.
“Every Night I Dream of Hell” by Malcolm Mackay, 291 pages, Mulholland Books/Little, Brown, $26: Mackay’s Glasgow Trilogy is classic, and this new book brings forth Nate Colgan, an earlier Mackay character, to narrate. The subject is organized crime, but it’s the author’s blunt eloquence that matters.
“The Changeling” by Victor LaValle, 431 pages, Spiegel & Grau, $28 (June 13): This novel defies categorization. Written as a self-proclaimed “fairy tale” in a punchy, inviting style, LaValle’s haunting tale weaves a mesmerizing web around fatherhood, racism, horrific anxieties and even “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“The Jersey Brothers: A Missing Naval Officer in the Pacific and His Family’s Quest to Bring Him Home” by Sally Mott Freeman, 588 pages, Simon & Schuster, $28: The subtitle of Mott’s first foray into history says it all. Her book is liable to break the hearts of “Unbroken” fans, and it’s all true.
“The Destroyers” by Christopher Bollen, 480 pages, Harper/HarperCollins Publishers, $27.99 (June 27): It just isn’t summer without this kind of globe-trotting glamour and wickedness to read about, especially when most of it is set in the Aegean. Bollen is stylish enough to know what sells, and happily writes sentences like: “Marisela single-handedly rendered my cherished porn sites irrelevant.” Escapism, as calculating as it gets.
“The Leavers” by Lisa Ko, 338 pages, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $25.95: This wrenching debut novel picks up the life of an 11-year-old American-born boy on the day his mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, disappears. Ko uses the voices of both the boy and his mother to tell a story that unfolds in graceful, realistic fashion and defies expectations.