My Big Summer Library Haul + Chatting Adult Summer Reading Challenges

If you missed it, I moved back to my hometown after going to college in LA for the last three years, and while I'm so excited to be home for so many reasons, being reunited with my library is one of the biggest exciting things about being home. I promise you there is no better library in the world. So when I got off work early a few weeks ago, I drove straight to the library to get a massive haul of books to hopefully get myself out of a reading slump. 
I've since been to the library again between getting this haul and actually finishing this blog post, so you'll see a new library haul on the blog pretty soon, but I wanted to show you my first mega haul that I was super excited about. Also, as of June 1, adult summer reading is starting, and I'm irrationally excited about it. I participated in summer reading most summers as a kid in school, and it's so cool that I can continue doing it now that I'm old (not really but older than a high schooler). At my library, you can log your reading minutes for raffle tickets to win gift cards to local businesses, so now summer reading can once again be my whole personality. 
So here's a look into my first library TBR.
Help Wanted
by Adelle Waldman
Goodreads Summary: 
At a big-box store in a small town in upstate New York, the members of Team Movement clock in every morning at 3:55. Under the eye of a self-absorbed and barely competent boss, they empty the day’s truck of merchandise, stock the shelves, and scatter before customers arrive. When a golden opportunity for a promotion presents itself, the diverse members of Movement―among them a comedy-obsessed oddball who acts half his age, a young woman clinging to her “cool kid” status from high school, a college football hopeful trying to find a new path―band together and set a just-so-crazy-it-might-work plot into motion. A darkly comic workplace caper that explores the aches and uses of solidarity, Help Wanted is a deeply human portrait of people trying, against increasingly long odds, to make a living.
Why I Picked It Up: I'd first heard about Help Wanted at the LA Times Festival of Books, and I was super intrigued to read about the world that exists inside an upstate New York big box store. This is the only one of these books I've finished so far, and I really enjoyed it.

The Extinction of Irena Rey
by Jennifer Croft
Goodreads Summary: 
Eight translators arrive at a house in a forest on the border of Belarus. It belongs to the world-renowned author Irena Rey, and they are there to translate her magnum opus, Gray Eminence. But within days of their arrival, Irena disappears without a trace.
The translators, who hail from eight different countries but share the same reverence for their beloved author, begin to investigate where she may have gone while proceeding with work on her masterpiece. They explore this ancient wooded refuge with its intoxicating slime molds and lichens, and study her exotic belongings and layered texts for clues. But doing so reveals secrets — and deceptions — of Irena Rey's that they are utterly unprepared for. Forced to face their differences as they grow increasingly paranoid in this fever dream of isolation and obsession, soon the translators are tangled up in a web of rivalries and desire, threatening not only their work but the fate of their beloved author herself.
Why I Picked It Up: This one wasn't on my radar at all, but the moody cover was intriguing. The book was on the new releases shelf and brand new, so I decided to give it a go.

Mother Doll
by Katya Apekina
Goodreads Summary: 
Zhenia is pregnant, her marriage is languishing, and Vera, her Russian grandmother and favorite person in the world, is dying. Enter Paul, a famous psychic medium who’s been approached by Irina, mother of Vera and great-grandmother of Zhenia. Irina is an interdimensional being who lives in a cloud of ancestral grief. She hopes Paul will be a willing conduit for her epic story of doomed revolt and nation-rending heartbreak, and that through him Zhenia will be her confessor and grant her absolution for her greatest shame: abandoning her daughter in a Soviet orphanage for children of spies.
But does either woman have what the other needs to understand the predicament they’re in? Or will the very legacy of trauma that they carry be what damns them both forever?
Accompanied by a chorus of fellow Russians also stuck in the cloud of grief, Irina decides to forge ahead. She speaks of the unspeakable, answers forbidden questions, and excavates repressed memories. And Zhenia decides to join her on the journey. Ferociously funny and deeply moving, Mother Doll is, ultimately, a bold and irrepressible depiction of generational trauma and the shifting expectations of womanhood and motherhood.
Why I Picked It Up: I've been seeing Mother Doll everywhere from indie bookstores to online book round ups, so I guess the hype got to me, and I decided I had to read it. I don't know a ton about this one, but I know it's set in LA, and after leaving the city, it's cool to revisit it through books. 

All Adults Here
by Emma Straub
Goodreads Summary: 
When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus accident in the center of town, it jostles loose a repressed memory from her young parenting days decades earlier. Suddenly, Astrid realizes she was not quite the parent she thought she’d been to her three, now-grown children. But to what consequence?
Astrid’s youngest son is drifting and unfocused, making parenting mistakes of his own. Her daughter is intentionally pregnant yet struggling to give up her own adolescence. And her eldest seems to measure his adult life according to standards no one else shares. But who gets to decide, so many years later, which long-ago lapses were the ones that mattered? Who decides which apologies really count? It might be that only Astrid’s thirteen-year-old granddaughter and her new friend really understand the courage it takes to tell the truth to the people you love the most.
Why I Picked It: You'll see that I just picked up a ton of Emma Straub here. I was reading Vacationers on my Kindle, so it had me thinking about her books and wanting to give her backlist a try.

Annie Bot
by Sierra Greer
Goodreads Summary: 
Annie Bot was created to be the perfect girlfriend for her human owner, Doug. Designed to satisfy his emotional and physical needs, she has dinner ready for him every night, wears the cute outfits he orders for her, and adjusts her libido to suit his moods. True, she’s not the greatest at keeping Doug’s place spotless, but she’s trying to please him. She’s trying hard.
She’s learning, too.
Doug says he loves that Annie’s artificial intelligence makes her seem more like a real woman, but the more human Annie becomes, the less perfectly she behaves. As Annie's relationship with Doug grows more intricate and difficult, she starts to wonder whether Doug truly desires what he says he does. In such an impossible paradox, what does Annie owe herself?
Why I Picked It: I have super mixed feeling about this book because even the word AI makes me want to run away screaming because its whole existence annoys me so deeply, but this book is also getting a real foothold so I figured I'd see what it was all about.

by Anthony Veasna So
Goodreads Summary: 
Seamlessly transitioning between the absurd and the tenderhearted, balancing acerbic humor with sharp emotional depth, Afterparties offers an expansive portrait of the lives of Cambodian-Americans. As the children of refugees carve out radical new paths for themselves in California, they shoulder the inherited weight of the Khmer Rouge genocide and grapple with the complexities of race, sexuality, friendship, and family.
A high school badminton coach and failing grocery store owner tries to relive his glory days by beating a rising star teenage player. Two drunken brothers attend a wedding afterparty and hatch a plan to expose their shady uncle’s snubbing of the bride and groom. A queer love affair sparks between an older tech entrepreneur trying to launch a “safe space” app and a disillusioned young teacher obsessed with Moby-Dick. And in the sweeping final story, a nine-year-old child learns that his mother survived a racist school shooter.
With nuanced emotional precision, gritty humor, and compassionate insight into the intimacy of queer and immigrant communities, the stories in Afterparties deliver an explosive introduction to the work of Anthony Veasna So.
Why I Picked It: I've been writing a ton of short stories and trying to send them out to lit mags this year. I was in a creative writing class where we were assigned 3-4 short stories a week to read, and I found that super helpful. So I decided I needed to pick up more short story collections on my own now that I'm out of school. This one was on the AAPI month display, and it reminded me that I'd been meaning to read it.

The Complicities
by Stacey D'Erasmo
Goodreads Summary: 
After her husband Alan’s decades of financial fraud are exposed, Suzanne’s wealthy, comfortable life shatters. Alan goes to prison. Suzanne files for divorce, decamps to a barely middle-class Massachusetts beach town, and begins to create a new life and identity. Ignoring a steady stream of calls from Norfolk State Prison, she tries to cleanse herself of all connections to her ex-husband. She tells herself that he, not she, committed the crimes.
Then Alan is released early, and the many people whose lives he ruined demand restitution. But when Suzanne finds herself awestruck at a major whale stranding, she makes an apparently high-minded decision that ripples with devastating effect not only through Alan’s life as he tries to rebuild but also through the lives of Suzanne and Alan’s son, Alan’s new wife, his estranged mother, and, ultimately, Suzanne herself.
When damage is done, who pays? Who loses? Who is responsible?
Why I Picked It: Coming up with this first big library book haul, I went past the new releases shelf that I often stopped at and went through the stacks to both find specific authors and browse around. This is a random one I grabbed because the cover caught my eye and then the summary was sufficiently intriguing.
Modern Lovers
by Emma Straub
Goodreads Summary: 
Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring.
Back in the band's heyday, Elizabeth put on a snarl over her Midwestern smile, Andrew let his unwashed hair grow past his chin, and Zoe was the lesbian all the straight women wanted to sleep with. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same neighborhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer that their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adults' lives suddenly begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose—about themselves, and about the famous fourth band member who soared and fell without them—can never be reclaimed.
Why I Picked It: Like I said before, I literally grabbed every Emma Straub book off the shelf that I they had.

The Vacationers 
Goodreads Summary: 
For the Posts, a two-week trip to the Balearic island of Mallorca with their extended family and friends is a celebration: Franny and Jim are observing their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and their daughter, Sylvia, has graduated from high school. The sunlit island, its mountains and beaches, its tapas and tennis courts, also promise an escape from the tensions simmering at home in Manhattan. 
But all does not go according to plan: over the course of the vacation, secrets come to light, old and new humiliations are experienced, childhood rivalries resurface, and ancient wounds are exacerbated.
Why I Picked It: After reading Funny Story, I wanted more light, fun summer books. Then I went back to my local bookstore and spotted this one on the shelf. It seemed like the perfect choice, but I ended up buying a different book at the shop, so I grabbed this at the library. I DNF'd this one after about 80 pages because I just couldn't get into the story.

Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club
by J. Ryan Stradal
Goodreads Summary: 
Mariel Prager needs a break. Her husband Ned is having an identity crisis, her spunky, beloved restaurant is bleeding money by the day, and her mother Florence is stubbornly refusing to leave the church where she’s been holed up for more than a week. The Lakeside Supper Club has been in her family for decades, and while Mariel’s grandmother embraced the business, seeing it as a saving grace, Florence never took to it. When Mariel inherited the restaurant, skipping Florence, it created a rift between mother and daughter that never quite healed.
Ned is also an heir—to a chain of home-style diners—and while he doesn't have a head for business, he knows his family's chain could provide a better future than his wife's fading restaurant. In the aftermath of a devastating tragedy, Ned and Mariel lose almost everything they hold dear, and the hard-won victories of each family hang in the balance. With their dreams dashed, can one fractured family find a way to rebuild despite their losses, and will the Lakeside Supper Club be their salvation?
Why I Picked It: This is another pick that's owing to the LA Times Festival of Books panels that I saw. I was super excited to learn more about the midwest and supper clubs and read a cozy summer book. Unfortunately, while I really enjoyed the first chapter, when it switched back in time and POV, I really disliked the next chapter. Sadly, I DNF'd this one. 

Early Sobrieties
by Michael Deagler
Goodreads Summary: 
Don’t worry about what Dennis Monk did when he was drinking. He’s sober now, ready to rejoin the world of leases and paychecks, reciprocal friendships and healthy romances—if only the world would agree to take him back. When his working-stiff parents kick him out of their suburban home, mere months into his frangible sobriety, the 26-year-old spends his first dry summer couch surfing through South Philadelphia, struggling to find a place for himself in the throng of adulthood.
Monk’s haphazard pilgrimage leads him through a city in flux: growing, gentrifying, haunted by its history and its unrealized potential. Everyone he knew from college seems to be doing better than him—and most of them aren’t even doing that well. His run-ins with former classmates, estranged drinking buddies, and prospective lovers challenge his version of events past and present, revealing that recovery is not the happy ending he’d expected, only a fraught next chapter.
Like a sober, millennial Jesus’ Son, Michael Deagler’s debut novel is the poignant confession of a recovering addict adrift in the fragmenting landscape of America’s middle class. Shot through with humor, hubris, and hard-earned insight, Early Sobrieties charts the limbos that exist between our better and worst selves, offering a portrait of a stifled generation collectively slouching towards grace.
Why I Picked It: This was another random find from the new releases shelf that I knew nothing about. The title and summary were intriguing, and I liked the first page that I skimmed while I was browsing.

The Secret History
by Donna Tartt
Goodreads Summary: 
Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last—inexorably—into evil.
Why I Picked It: This is obviously an iconic Bookstagram book that has so much hype around it, even though it's an older book. I tried to pick it up a few years ago when Conan Gray was always posting the book on his stories, but I was new to literary fiction and ended up DNFing it. I'm curious to revisit it to see if it might be a Sally Rooney situation where more time and distance makes me like the book much more.

by Dizz Tate
Goodreads Summary: 
In Falls Landing, Florida—a place built of theme parks, swampy lakes, and scorched bougainvillea flowers—something sinister lurks in the deep. A gang of thirteen-year-old girls obsessively orbit around the local preacher's daughter, Sammy. She is mesmerizing, older, and in love with Eddie. But suddenly, Sammy goes missing. Where is she? Watching from a distance, they edge ever closer to discovering a dark secret about their fame-hungry town and the cruel cost of a ticket out. What they see will continue to haunt them for the rest of their lives.
Through a darkly beautiful and brutally compelling lens, Dizz Tate captures the violence, horrors, and manic joys of girlhood. Brutes is a novel about the seemingly unbreakable bonds in the "we" of young friendship, and the moment it is broken forever.
Why I Picked It: This one was purely the hype and how popular it's been on my Instagram feed. I was influenced. 

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