Book lovers have so much to look forward to this season, with some fantastic new releases coming out from now through Memorial Day. Tired of winter and in the mood for sunnier fare, I’ve gravitated toward the first category on our list (fun fiction) as the early editions have landed on my desk. I loved Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld, the best-selling author of Rodham and American Wife, as well as Tom Hanks’ first novel, The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece — really!
But there are so many others you should add to your “to read” list.
As noted above, Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld (April 4) is a super-entertaining, yes, rom-com about a smart, wry and rather cynical writer for an SNL-style show who falls for a handsome pop-star guest host. Another favorite: Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club by J. Ryan Stradal (April 18), author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest and The Lager Queen of Minnesota, whose latest is a warmhearted multigenerational novel, focused on a young couple from two Minnesota restaurant families — one running an old-school supper club — who feel the weight of their legacies. Then a tragic accident leads them in new directions.
Late Bloomers by Deepa Varadarajan (May 2) is a charming debut about an Indian American family shaken up when the parents divorce 36 years into their arranged marriage and enter the wild world of dating — surprising their two adult children, who have their own share of problems in the love department.
Turns out Tom Hanks isn’t just a stellar actor. He’s also a darn-good writer. His first novel, The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece (May 9), is a wonderful, often humorous story that jumps from 1947 to 1970 and on to the present-day creation of a splashy superhero movie based on an old comic book. Witty and loaded with colorful characters, it’s a winner.
Also of note: This Bird Has Flown by Susanna Hoffs (April 4), the first novel by the ’80s musician (“Manic Monday”), billed as a “delicious, funny, very sexy debut”; and Swamp Story by Dave Barry (May 2), with a new comic tale about a Florida man.
So many of this spring’s big literary releases are historical, including Beyond That, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash (March 21). It’s a moving debut about a young English girl, Beatrix, who is sent by her working-class London parents across the Atlantic to live with the Gregorys, a wealthy family in New England to keep her safe during World War II. Beatrix grows up between these two worlds, her relationships — including with her surrogate brothers — and identity evolving through the years.
And The House Is on Fire by Rachel Beanland (April 4), begins with the 1911 burning of a Richmond, Virginia, theater (which actually occurred; 72 people died), and tracks the drama that follows different characters in attendance.
In Homecoming by Kate Morton (April 4), a reporter in Sydney explores a decades-old cold-case murder — based on a real-life 1959 killing of an Australian family, the Turners — and uncovers some shocking truths.
The Trackers by Charles Frazier (April 11), author of Cold Mountain, is about a New Deal-funded painter, Val Welch, hired to paint a mural in rural Wyoming, where he’s hosted by a wealthy couple, Eve and John Long. He ends up on a cross-country hunt for the enigmatic Eve, who’s stolen a Renoir painting and is on the run.
Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati has had a dramatic beginning: It was meant to be published in March, but its release was pushed to May 2 because the initial truckload of books was burned in a fire. The “blazing novel,” as the publisher had billed it, offers a feminist spin on the story of Ancient Greece’s legendary Queen of Sparta: the matriarch of an epically dysfunctional (and cursed) family who murdered her husband Agamemnon, and later was killed herself, by her children Electra and Orestes.
If you’ve got ample reading time, you won’t regret diving into the weighty The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese (May 2), known for his 2009 bestseller Cutting for Stone. I’m only halfway through its 715 pages after many, many hours of reading, but it’s absolutely absorbing, with multiple storylines woven throughout — including that of a family in Kerala, on South India’s Malabar Coast, with what appears to be a kind of curse: Someone from every generation dies by drowning.
And there’s lots of buzz for Yellowface by R.F. Kuang (May 16), a darkly comic tale about a young writer so desperate for attention she steals a manuscript written by a more successful literary darling, and Asian woman, and submits it as her own, using the ethnically ambiguous pseudonym Juniper Song.
Other notable novels: Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls (March 28), a Prohibition-era story by the author of the blockbuster memoir The Glass Castle; Loyalty by Lisa Scottoline (March 28), an epic set in Sicily in the 1800s, during the rise of the mafia; and Only the Beautiful by Susan Meissner (April 18), about two very different women during World War II.