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What to Read in June and Other Book News

Michael Crichton returns, Elin Hilderbrand’s last Nantucket novel, a look at why we dream and more

spinner image Another Word for Love, Eruption, Traveling, and Swan Song book covers
Photo Collage: AARP; (Source: MCD; Little, Brown and Company (2); Dey Street Books; Getty Images)

Book picks of the month

Eruption by Michael Crichton and James Patterson (June 3): How do you like that for two big-name bylines? Though the Jurassic Park author died in 2008 at 66, Crichton’s unfinished manuscript was revived by the also-massively best-selling James Patterson, 77. Crichton’s wife, Sherri, played a major role in getting the story to print: “She was pregnant at the time of Michael’s tragic and untimely death, and it took her over a decade to find a coauthor worthy of honoring her husband’s legacy and final passion project,” according to an email from the book’s publicist. There’s seismic buzz around the resulting thriller, the story of an imminent massive volcanic eruption on the Big Island of Hawai‘i that appears to have an unnatural cause.

Swan Song by Elin Hilderbrand (June 11): Elin Hilderbrand, 54, is known and beloved for her summery fiction set on the island of Nantucket, where she lives, but she said that this appropriately named novel will be her last of these beachy books (though she plans to write on other themes). “I’m at the top of my game right now, but my readers definitely want the same thing every year, and I am just flat-out running out of ideas,” she told us last year. “I don’t want the quality of the books to fail — so I’m doing everybody a favor.” She’s exiting on a high with this dramatic tale featuring a recently arrived, ostentatiously wealthy family whose presence sets off strange happenings, including a possible murder.

Traveling: On the Path of Joni Mitchell by Ann Powers (June 11): NPR music critic Powers, 60, takes a deep, ruminative dive from a fan’s (as opposed to a traditional biographer’s) perspective into Mitchell’s life and legacy, including the musician’s childhood polio, jazz influences, folk music fame and relationships with James Taylor, among others. In the author’s mind, Mitchell, 80, is an almost otherworldly cultural hero. “For many people,” Powers writes, “coming to love her is akin to achieving enlightenment: a shocking moment of insight that transforms the world.”

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Also: Another Word for Love by Carvell Wallace came out in May but is well worth noting. A writer and podcaster, Wallace offers a poignant, lyrical memoir about growing up Black, queer and impoverished, including surviving his unstable, occasionally abusive childhood with his single mom. His searing introspection, generosity and willingness to forgive make the book a standout.

spinner image This Is Why You Dream: What Your Sleeping Brain Reveals About Your Waking Life book cover
Photo Collage: AARP; (Source: Penguin Life/Bil Zelman; Sam Lim)

​The purpose of dreams

If you’ve ever marveled at the wild stuff that happens in your head during the night, check out the fascinating book This Is Why You Dream: What Your Sleeping Brain Reveals About Your Waking Life by Rahul Jandial (June 4). A neuroscientist and neurosurgeon, Jandial takes a scientific, philosophical and psychological look at dreaming, and what its purpose might be. ​

Dreams — the product of neurobiology — wouldn’t exist if they didn’t have some sort of evolutionary benefit, posits Jandial, who wonders if they might be like “imaginative thought experiments” through which we can “play out complex social scenarios … that can inform our waking lives.” ​

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Our dreams evolve as we age. Children experience more nightmares than older people, for instance. Frightening dreams may help us developmentally in our early years, Jandial suggests: “A nightmare is essentially a battle of self versus other,” and thus may serve “to instill the notion in a small child that they are separate beings.” ​The book also explores lucid dreams (and how to elicit them), erotic dreams and how dreams can be tapped to spark creativity. ​​​

spinner image Butt Seriously: The Definitive Guide to Anal Health, Pleasure, and Everything, Frostbite: How Refrigeration Changed Our Food, Our Planet, and Ourselves and Bite: An Incisive History of Teeth, From Hagfish to Humans book covers
Photo Collage: AARP; (Source: Balance; Penguin Press; Algonquin Books; Getty Images)

Weirdly specific … or fascinating deep dives?

​I always get a kick out of books that are focused on hyper-specific subjects. Last year, I pointed to authors writing about micro-topics such as explorations of eyeliner (Eyeliner: A Cultural History by Zahra Hankir) and eggs (Egg: A Dozen Ovatures by Lizzie Stark).​​

There were also 2022’s Butts: A Backstory by Heather Radke, about, yes, the butt — more specifically, the female butt — and last June’s Ice: From Mixed Drinks to Skating Rinks — a Cool History of a Hot Commodity by Amy Brady, which uses ice as a means to explore unique slices of history.​​

There’s apparently more to say on both topics. Butt Seriously: The Definitive Guide to Anal Health, Pleasure, and Everything by Evan Goldstein, M.D. (May 28) is a more health-focused look at this particular body part. And on June 25, just in time for summer, there’s a new look at keeping cool, in Frostbite: How Refrigeration Changed Our Food, Our Planet, and Ourselves by Nicola Twilley. Food journalist Twilley writes about the ever-expanding, “entirely artificial cryosphere” that keeps the world fed — a vast chilled universe that began fascinating her some 15 years ago, she writes, “when the farm-to-table movement was picking up steam in the media.” What she wanted to know is, “What happened between the farms and the tables?” (Spoiler alert: Lots of refrigeration, that’s what.)​​

Coming soon is another tightly focused book to chew on — Bite: An Incisive History of Teeth, From Hagfish to Humans by Bill Schutt (Aug. 13). ​​​​

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Netflix takes on Osman’s senior sleuths​ ​

The Thursday Murder Club (2020) and the three follow-up books in the hugely best-selling series by British comedian and quiz show host Richard Osman, 53, are coming to the small screen, with filming set to begin this month. The humor-filled mysteries feature a quartet of British retirees living in a posh retirement village in Kent who team up to solve crimes. (We’ve written about the appeal of mystery novels featuring older sleuths.) Steven Spielberg’s production house Amblin Entertainment is adapting his concept for Netflix, with Helen Mirren (78) signed on to play ex-spy Elizabeth, Pierce Brosnan (71) channeling former union activist Ron, and Ben Kingsley (80) as retired psychiatrist Ibrahim.

Deadline reported that the cast will film in Britain throughout the summer. ​​ ​​

spinner image The Connection Cure: The Prescriptive Power of Movement, Nature, Art, Service, and Belonging, The Art and Science of Connection: Why Social Health Is the Missing Key to Living Longer, Healthier, and Happier and The Laws of Connection: The Scientific Secrets of Building a Strong Social Network book covers
Photo Collage: AARP; (Source: Simon & Schuster; HarperOne; Pegasus Books; Getty Images)

Do we need to say it again? Social connections are important!​​

The evidence is firmly in, folks: Happiness comes not with fame or fortune but by forging and maintaining positive, meaningful social connections. Authors Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz used data from the famed Harvard Study of Adult Development to confirm the point in The Good Life: Lessons From the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness, one of my top books of 2023.​

Still, it probably can’t be said too many times and in too many different books (or can it...?). A few out this month:​

  • The Laws of Connection: The Scientific Secrets of Building a Strong Social Network by science writer David Robson (June 4) discusses, among other things, our psychological barriers to forging relationships and how to overcome those obstacles. ​
  • The Connection Cure: The Prescriptive Power of Movement, Nature, Art, Service, and Belonging by journalist Julia Hotz (June 11) explores how health care workers have begun to offer less traditional prescriptions for their patients, referring them to group activities such as art or yoga classes, or places to volunteer, as a way to alleviate symptoms of dementia, anxiety, depression and more. ​
  • The Art and Science of Connection: Why Social Health Is the Missing Key to Living Longer, Healthier, and Happier by social scientist and social health expert Kasley Killam (June 18) explains the reasons that social relationships are key to health, happiness and longevity. ​

AARP offers resources to help you tap into the power of social connection, plus ways to conquer loneliness.​​​​​​

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