Looking for a book to settle in with as you soak up the last of the summer sun? Each month, Amazon releases its list of the 10 books that its staff thinks are the best of the month. The August 2012 list includes everything from a nonfiction title about sleeping to a tale of poisonous cheerleaders.
“We get together about twice a month to ... yell at each other about what we liked and didn't like,” Sara Nelson, editorial director of books and Kindle for Amazon.com, said of the process of selecting the top 10. We talked with Nelson about the August list and what’s caught her eye this month.
The spotlight book for August is “The Light Between Oceans” by M.L. Stedman, the author’s debut novel, and Nelson said she thinks it’s one to watch for the upcoming month.
“We're really crazy about that book,” she said. “I expect that that's going to be a big player.”
“The Light Between Oceans” tells the story of a man who works as a lighthouse keeper on a remote island where he lives with his wife, Isabel. The two have tried to have a baby but have encountered only miscarriages. Then, one day a boat arrives on the island carrying a dead man – and a living baby. Isabel persuades her husband that they should keep the child and raise it as their own. That decision, however, proves to have consequences the couple could not possibly have foreseen.
“It's this very atmospheric book,” Nelson said of the novel.
Another standout in Nelson’s eyes is the novel “Dare Me” by Megan Abbott, who is the author of previous books “The End of Everything” and “Queenpin,” among other titles. “Dare” centers on cheerleaders in their senior year of high school who find their lives disrupted by a new coach.
“They make the 'Mean Girls' movies look like Disney,” Nelson said of “Dare.” “It's a dark book… I don't have a teenage daughter, but if I did, I'd lock her in the house.”
Nelson said the book “The Double Game,” a thriller by Dan Fesperman, also caught her eye in the fiction category. Fesperman is the author of such titles as “The Amateur Spy” and “The Warlord’s Son.” In “The Double Game,” an ex-journalist receives a mysterious note urging him to look into the life of a spy he once knew. The plot of “The Double Game” references many classics of the thriller genre, said Nelson.
“It's a book for people who love books like 'The Shadow of the Wind’ [by Carlos Ruiz Zafón],” she said.
In addition, Nelson said she was pleasantly surprised by the book “When It Happens to You,” a collection of connected stories by ‘80s star and Brat Pack member Molly Ringwald.
“This book is not a little ditty tossed off by a childhood actress,” Nelson said of the book.
For readers looking for a title more based in real life, Nelson recommends the memoir “Winter Journal” by writer Paul Auster, author of novels including “The Invention of Solitude" and "Sunset Park." In “Winter Journal,” Auster discusses his mother’s death and ruminates on what it's like to grow older.
“[It’s] intensely personal, very disturbingly personal in the sense that it's like he's talking to you,” Nelson said. “There's a kind of joyful acceptance of life and aging.”
(Check out a video of Auster recording the audio book below.)
She said the book “Double Cross,” by “Agent Zigzag” author Ben Macintyre, also appealed to her. “Double Cross" tells the story of the spies who made the D-Day invasion possible.
“It's one of those true life, war books that reads like a novel,” Nelson said.