O's Top 20 Books to Read This Summer
The must-reads that'll take you straight through to Labor Day.
17 of 20
Wang's wry, astute first novel charts the meltdown of a Chinese grad student adrift in the doldrums of her own research and unable to say "I do" to the man she clearly adores. On a comic and often precarious journey to a smidge of enlightenment, our unnamed protagonist evokes the bell-jar milieu of science, the condescending alphaness of her mostly male colleagues, and the soul-killing repetitiveness of life in the lab. Told in a hilarious deadpan that recalls Gish Jen and Nora Ephron, the novel fluctuates between humor and heartrending sincerity, as the narrator tortures herself with circuitous and mostly pointless internal arguments: "Popcorn, no popcorn, popcorn, no popcorn. Popcorn. I'm fine, you're sad, I'm fine...definitely not fine. I once thought I would have all the answers by now." While answers are elusive, it's fun watching her try to make sense of her life, "like a gas particle flying around in space."