Nearly every book on this list was released, or will be released, within the six months surrounding the summer of 2013. Obviously, special consideration was paid to the fact that this is summer, and no one really wants to be overtly challenged by reading material while staring out over a body of water. Nevertheless, there are a few tougher reads sprinkled in among the thrillers and comedies.
The Buy Side, Turney Duff
Turney Duff worked on Wall Street for The Galleon Group, a hedge fund led by convicted insider trader Raj Rajaratnam. His book promises to tell all—how Wall Street operated during its boom times, how crazy its spending, drug use, and competitive greed and gluttony was before it all came crashing down in '07. Despite early comparisons, it's too early to say whether The Buy Side amounts to the early-00s Liar's Poker. But, judging by the latest excerpts, it does look to be entertaining.
Someone Could Get Hurt, Drew Magary
Magary is a Deadspin columnist and GQ correspondent, and one of the most widely read voices online. His last book was about a post-apocalyptic future in which death and aging have been cured by science—this one is about raising three kids. Expect a brutally funny narrative that cuts through the “all children are perfect, all the time” hogwash.
Dad is Fat, Jim Gaffigan
Dad is Fat marks another book on fatherhood, which should either make you fear for your future in parenting (“There is no difference between a four year old eating a taco and throwing a taco on the floor.”) or high-five the nearest person because you're not quite there yet. Go for the high five.
Eleven Rings, Phil Jackson
Let's face it: Many books written by coaches are insanely boring. You want the dirt on how Kentucky reacted to Christian Laettner's shot—did Jamarl Mashburn throw a chair? did Rick Pitino order a hit on Laettner and Grant Hill?—but, instead, you get meaningless self-help drivel in a book called Success is a Choice. This is because coaches aren't satisfied with just being the guys who scream at the athletes. They try to frame themselves as Business Men with Important Life Lessons.
Jackson's book is a bit different. Yes, he doesn't want to get into the nitty-gritty details of various coaching strategies (unlike his Twitter feed, a must-follow during the playoffs), choosing instead to focus on his out-there Zen philosophies. But because he's such a unique guy, the non-basketball stuff is worth reading. And you're rewarded with some pretty amazing stories from coaching Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and, of course, Dennis Rodman.
Mickey and Willie: Mantle and Mays, Allen Barra
One of the country's most prolific sportswriters takes on the two legendary New York centerfielders. Fun fact: When a friend's dad was a kid, he once met Mantle at a restaurant and asked for an autograph. Mick was so hammered that he ran out of room signing on a MENU, and, today, if you compare the chicken-scratch signature to others out there, it looks completely different. He lived fast.
America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't, Stephen Colbert
Just don't accidentally pick up I Am a Pole (and So Can You).You'll read it in roughly two minutes.
Born to Run, Christopher McDougall
A couple of years old, but new to me: Born to Run tells the story of the Tarahumara Indians, who live stress-free lives and can run hundreds of miles at a time without rest or injury. As a guy who gets winded going up a flight of stairs, I would like to know their secrets.
Buried in the Sky, Peter Zuckerman
In August 2008, 11 climbers died on K2, Everest's more dangerous cousin. Two men survived—both sherpas, who rank among the most skilled mountaineers on Earth. They tell their unreal story in this terrific book.
To America with Love, A.A. Gill
A selected excerpt from a new A.A. Gill travel work: “America’s greatest single gift back to the Old World is the blow job.” Alright then!
Into the Abyss, Carol Shaben
A rookie pilot, a prominent politician, a cop, and a criminal he's shackled to all survive a plane crash that kills six. The cop is forced to remove the criminal's shackles. They're in the frozen wilderness of northern Canada. Hooked yet?
I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains, Chuck Klosterman
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs was something of the definitive book of my teenage years—Klosterman didn't invent the serious book on pop culture, but he certainly was the first to write about the “Tori Paradox” in Saved by the Bell, or the existential crises faced by your characters in The Sims. (That essay is still so brilliant. A video game about life's dullness was fertile ground for Klosterman, and it didn't hurt that it was funny as hell.) Klosterman gets a lot of shit for what is now a widely copied shtick, but it's important to remember how cool it was to read from a smart guy not afraid to say he watched each episode of the Real World more than once.
His newest book of essays takes on villains: Why we're attracted to them, why we'll always think they're cooler than the brown-nosing do-gooders, why the anti-hero is the only kind of hero America creates anymore. Plus, he finally answers the question of what O.J. Simpson's second-worst decision was. (Surely not the Naked Gun.)
This Is a Book, Demetri Martin
A Lance Pauker pick! Ringing endorsement: “I dunno if it came out this year, but I enjoyed it immensely,” he says.
(It did not come out this year. Finding 25 quality books that have already come out this year is very hard.)
And the Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseni
Hosseni wrote A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner, so, you know, he's held in high esteem. His newest also takes place in the Middle East, and will also be seen on every beach and best-sellers list this summer.
A Delicate Truth, John le Carre
With the exception of maybe James Bond scribe Ian Fleming, John le Carre is the greatest espionage writer ever. His first book, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, was a brilliant twist on the genre, a sad mystery of a burnt-out and morally corrupted protagonist who inhabited a completely different spy world than Bond's. And his latest—published at the sprightly age of 81—is another page-turning, yet thought-provoking, tale.
Inferno, Dan Brown
Sure, it's essentially the exact same book as The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, and The Lost Symbol. You'll still be entertained. Put Inferno—Dan Brown's return to Italy, symbols, and futuristic technology (you know the drill)—on your Kindle and kill it during a quiet day at the beach. And if you hate the thing, and hate Brown's still amazingly awful and repetitive writing style, this reviewer has written the mother of all takedowns for the Telegraph.
The Broken Places, Ace Atkins
Atkins is a seriously good crafter of thrillers. For this one, think Jack Reacher as a small-town sheriff.
Bad Monkey, Carl Hiaasen
The still-funny Carl Hiaasen's latest is another Floridian yarn that features shark attacks, way-too-optimistic real estate investors, and, yes, a bad monkey.
'90s Island, Marty Beckerman
Friend of the site Marty Beckerman is responsible for the utterly hilarious The Heming Way, a guide to living your life like the gun-toting, animal-slaughtering, booze-inhaling Papa. His new work, '90s Island, taps into our generation's favorite source of nostalgia to craft a novella about the digital pets, grunge, and inline skates of our childhoods. All that and a bag of chips.
Light of the World, James Lee Burke
Plot-twisting, violent detective novel that features a serial killer presumed dead = Perfect poolside reading.
The Kill Room, Jeffrey Deaver
Take what I wrote above, substitute “serial killer presumed dead” for “sniper trained by U.S. government.” Repeat.
Bleeding Edge, Thomas Pynchon
Fact: Finishing a novel by the brilliant and reclusive Thomas Pynchon makes you cool. Fact: His last, the Big Lebowski-esque stoner romp Inherent Vice, might have been the most fun thing he's ever written. And fact: Bleeding Edge, which looks to be more on the serious side, promises to be the most entertaining novel written about the late-90s dotcom bubble.
TransAtlantic, Colum McCann
Not, by any means, a stereotypically bro book, but if you're looking to get literary this summer, you can do worse than the latest from the author of the mind-blowingly good Let the Great World Spin.
A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin
The educated guess states that Game of Thrones will return around April of next year. Can you wait that long? And do you want the smug satisfaction that comes with already knowing about an event like the Red Wedding? Then you should read the books.
(If there is a downside it's that every character is, like, 12. The sex scenes don't translate well.)
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Ben Fountain
It's been called the Slaughterhouse Five and the Catch-22 of the Iraq War, and while it technically came out last summer, who cares. Billy Lynn is brilliant, a satiric tale of a Bravo Squad that returns from the televised battle of Al-Ansakar Canal to a grateful country ready to deem the men national heroes. Only thing is: The nation's way of expressing its thanks might strike you as absurd. And darkly funny.
The novel takes place over just a few hours, culminating in a Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game and a halftime show with Beyonce. You'll relate to everything, and every poor guy, involved in the plot.
Another relative oldie—but The Art of Fielding is my favorite book of the last five years. For baseball fans, college fans, fans of great writing.