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Books We Love: NPR's summer 2022 picks


If you're looking for a summer read, NPR's Books We Love project has you covered. They've selected the best books of 2022 so far and have tagged the ones that are scary or funny, the ones that touch on identity or history or current events. Here to talk about the entries in the crucial Book Club Ideas category is Linda Holmes, one of the hosts of the NPR podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. Hey, Linda.

LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Hello. Thank you so much for having me.

PARKS: Thanks for being here. So let's just start with that. What do we mean when we talk about a book club idea? What makes a book fit that description?

HOLMES: Well, I think of a book club idea as a book that gives people something to talk about, something to chew on, a great story, but also a jumping-off point for more conversation, whether it's about current events or relationships or family or whatever.

PARKS: Right. The first book club idea you brought here is about mothers. Can you tell us about that one?

HOLMES: Yeah. So Jessamine Chan has a novel called "The School For Good Mothers," which is a kind of dark cautionary tale about a woman named Frida. She lives in a version of the United States where mothers are closely surveilled and harshly punished for any perceived mistakes. So when she makes a mistake out of exhaustion, taking care of her kid, she winds up in this very nightmarish situation where her little daughter is removed from her home. She's ultimately sentenced to confinement in a facility that's supposed to be educating her on parenting, but it's all very punitive and scary. There are elements in the book of suspense and kind of paranoid thriller, but it's also a really personal story about this woman trying to reclaim control of her own life. So that's Jessamine Chan's "The School For Good Mothers."

PARKS: Yeah, that sounds fascinating. So the next one on your list is also about a school, but a nontraditional one. Is that right?

HOLMES: Well, it's - this book is called "True Biz." It's by Sara Novic. And it's about a couple of students and the headmistress of a school for the deaf. And the students are teenagers trying to kind of do teenager things. And for them, that includes a lot of questions around hearing people and deaf people in families, about assistive technology, about accommodation and lack of accommodation. And they're sort of having this political awakening, I guess, about being deaf and figuring out how they're going to navigate often-hostile situations as adults. But it was also just a fascinating book to me because it's about language and medical interventions and bodily autonomy and things like that in ways that weren't part of my experience as a hearing person. It's a terrific read. So that's "True Biz" by Sara Novic. And I should mention, by the way, that "True Biz" is published by one of the many parts of Penguin Random House, which is also the parent company of my own publisher.

PARKS: Got it. And the third book you've brought is about friendship.

HOLMES: Yeah. Jean Chen Ho's "Fiona And Jane" is a collection of stories about two Taiwanese American women who are best friends. And the stories follow them from when they're quite young until well into adulthood. The thing I love most about this book is that it draws such a specific picture of this friendship and of these two women, the way they're joined at the hip when they're young and the way that their closeness survives into adulthood, even though it looks a little different. I love a good friendship story that really respects the primacy of close friendships in a lot of people's lives at different times. So that's "Fiona And Jane" by Jean Chen Ho, which is also a Penguin Random House book, by the way.

PARKS: Yeah, that sounds like a great summer read. And you can find more of these great reads for your book club or for yourself at Linda Holmes, thank you so much for sharing these with us.

HOLMES: Thank you for having me.