Five books people are talking about this week -- or should be:
1. Modern Lovers by Emma Straub (Riverhead)
Following up on the success of her previous novel The Vacationers, about infidelity amid a family vacation to the island of Majorca, Straub brings the action closer to home. In this sharply observed novel — which is also a fun summer read — college friends, who have gravitated from Oberlin to Brooklyn, approach middle age with their own teenagers driving them crazy, and everyone in the process of resolutely becoming themselves.
2. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (Grand Central)
Hawley is executive producer, writer, and show-runner on the highly praised FX series “Fargo,” and with Before the Fall, he demonstrates that his talents emphatically extend to the book form. A private plane with an affluent set of passengers goes down right after departing foggy Martha’s Vineyard, leaving only two survivors – a young boy, and the group’s lone outsider. Hawley has written a suspenseful novel with a deep understanding of its characters — and of our cynical, media-saturated age.
3. Late to the Ball: Age. Learn. Fight. Love. Play Tennis. Win. by Gerald Marzorati (Simon and Schuster)
At a time of life when careers often wind down, parents and friends pass away, and many turn inward, Marzorati explains how he became determined – at age 60 – to become a nationally competitive tennis player. This engaging and heartening memoir is deeply rooted in the game of tennis – in such details as foot and stroke work, and strategy. But beyond that, as he recounts his own progress, Marzorati provides inspiration for those who want to work hard, learn something new, and push their boundaries.
4. Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend (Doubleday)
In this deftly plotted, double-helix of a novel, some of the action takes place in the Galapagos Islands on the eve of World War II, featuring an American woman and her husband, who are both government spies. Very loosely inspired by the life of a little-known woman who left an account of her adventures, Amend reimagines not only the couple’s life on the islands, but the wife’s previous life in Minnesota and Chicago. The novel’s power and velocity emerge from the complicated relationship between this woman and her childhood best friend — and the mystery of the secrets they keep from one another.
5. The Underdogs: Children, Dogs, and the Power of Unconditional Love by Melissa Fay Greene (Ecco)
The animal kingdom may seem an unlikely subject for acclaimed non-fiction writer Melissa Fay Greene, who distinguished herself with books about social justice, including the remarkable Praying for Sheetrock. But her latest subject is just another reflection of her empathy and imagination. The Underdogs is an expansion of Green’s widely shared New York Times Magazine story “Wonderdog” that focused on the extraordinary work done by 4 Paws for Ability, a Xenia, Ohio academy that trains and matches service dogs with those with very demanding special needs – like autistic children and adoptees with attachment disorders.