circling the sun

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

The Plane-Trip Pick

Modern air travel has its quirks and inconveniences (think 3-hour "mechanical" delays), but consider what Beryl Markham had to deal with as a bush pilot in 1930s Africa: navigating unmapped territory and trying to locate lions lurking in the grass beside the runways. As exciting as Markham's professional life was, it didn't hold a candle to her private affairs. McLain—author of The Paris Wife— mines this rich source material in her new biographical novel, delving into Markham's friendship with Hemingway, her entanglement in a love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Out of Africa author Karen Blixen, her three marriages and her rumored affairs with the Duke of Gloucester and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Actress Katharine McEwan's melodious, English voice is so spellbinding you may not realize that your plane has landed.
enchanted august

Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen

The Beach-Trip Pick

In Bowen's debut novel, fellow Brooklynites Lottie Wilkinson and Rose Arbuthnot spot an ad on their children's preschool bulletin board for an "old, pretty cottage" on Little Lost Island, Maine. It's available to rent for the month of August and, though neither of them can afford even half the rent, they're both captivated by the idea of time away from their families. They find two other women to split the costs: an indie movie star still smarting from a public humiliation and an elderly woman coping with heartbreaking loss. As the month goes on, the quartet are transformed by the salt air, lazy days and each other's company, as each woman begins to open up to the possibility that she could affect real change in her life. Listen to it by the ocean, discuss it over cocktails on the wraparound—and let it inspire you to make a few new choices back at home.
neil gaiman

The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy

The Car-Trip Pick

Road trips are a summer classic for a reason—they require little planning, you can change your route on a whim and they're an unforgettable way to see the country. But sometimes the open road can start to seem a little monotonous. Percy's post-apocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis and Clark saga will help keep those miles flying by. In the wreckage of St. Louis, a handful of humans have managed to survive relatively unharmed. One day, a stranger turns up and reports that to the west of the Cascade Mountains, civilization is thriving. Led by Lewis Meriwether and Mina Clark, a small group heads out to investigate, hoping to eventually reunite the States. A few egomaniacal leaders, however, are not willing to let them go. An excellent reminder during highway traffic that, sure, so you're only going 20 miles an hour, but least you're not trudging on foot across a wasteland decimated by a superflu and a nuclear fallout. Nice.
trigger warning

The Poolside Pick

Listening to an audiobook poolside is a dream. You never have to squint into the sun to turn a page or lift your head off the lounge. The story surrounds you via your headphones. This summer, Gaiman's latest collection of 24 short audio pieces is the spot-on choice. Why? You're taking frequent dips, reapplying sunscreen, moving a glass of iced tea from the table to your mouth. The variety means that you're never bored, and each piece is short enough to ensure you'll never have to hit pause halfway through. Our favorites: "The Case of Death and Honey"(Gaiman's take on Sherlock Holmes) and "The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains" (Based on a myth from the Isle of Skye.) As a bonus, the book is narrated by Gaiman himself, whose seemingly endless supply of different voices bewitches and bedazzles.
h is for hawk

H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

The Train-Ride Pick

This combination of nature writing and memoir is the perfect soundtrack for gazing contemplatively out the train window at the landscape rushing by—and the birds that circle the endless passing fields. After Macdonald's father suddenly dies, she sets herself this challenge as a means of working through her grief: training a vicious goshawk. Winning the wild creature's trust forces her not just to push herself in the skills of falconry, but also to explore the connection between herself and the greater natural world. You'll never look at birds—or yourself—the same way again.
saint mazie

Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg

The Rainy-Day Pick

No matter how carefully you checked the Farmer's Almanac (now available as an app, naturally) for the days of your planned your vacation, you might just find yourself waiting out a rainstorm. If so, you'll be a lot happier if you've brought along Jami Attenberg's latest charmer (our previous favorite: the hilarious, heartbreaking The Middlesteins) The novel's protagonist, Mazie Phillips, is a Jazz Age party girl who cares for homeless and needy New Yorkers during the Great Depression, recording her secrets, loves and longings in diary. Ninety years later, the diary is discovered by a documentarian on the hunt for a story to anchor her film. While your travel companions while away the afternoon putting together a jigsaw puzzle or playing endless rounds of Uno, you'll listen to the story of a fearless, brass woman ahead of her own time who believes, no matter what people tell her, "I'll be out in the world as I please."