Literary fiction to read this summer

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Some entrepreneurs I know stick to non-fiction, but the wiser ones, it seems to me, also delve into fiction and poetry. In recent years, some studies have shown that people who read literature have better theory of mind, which means they understand better what other people think and feel.

Novelists explore universal themes, often against pressing issues of today: race, climate change, immigration, and perhaps the nature of the antagonism itself. Chances are, these issues will impact your life and business, and reading the literature can help you see the issues you face in a new way. Steve Jobs told John Sculley, then Apple CEO, “First of all, we’ve changed. Then we changed the world.

But change is difficult and rare for most people. Long storytelling, the closest form of expression to our way of thinking, is a path to real change. With that in mind, here is a list of new literary fiction books that I have compiled with the help of three novelists who were in my Master of Fine Arts program at George Mason University: Priyanka A. Champaneri, Elizabeth Eshelman and Alyson Foster.

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

My daughter and I read books in part to situate ourselves in cultures different from ours. This one, which takes place in Malaysia under colonial rule, explores the lives of two characters, Ren and Ji Lin, whose name means intelligence. The main plot revolves around the two protagonists and their three other comrades (each named for one of the five Confucian virtues), facing a monster of the Malaysian tradition: a tiger who can put on human skin, which sneaks into villages and eat women.

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Nickel boys by Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2016 for his novel The Underground Railroad. Nickel boys takes place during the Jim Crow era, an era that I don’t know enough about. It’s about two boys in a reform school, and it’s based on a true story of a facility in Florida that “operated for 111 years and twisted the lives of thousands of children.”

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Stationery by Marjan Kamali

Set in Tehran, this novel is the one I will travel with or read alongside the Rumi poetry book I recently purchased. (The lovers at the heart of the novel apparently read Rumi together.) Separated in a coup, the two reunite more than 60 years later.

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More news tomorrow by Susan Richards Shreve

I have a weakness for family mystery stories. We have them all, and there is no better writer to explore these nuances than Susan Richards Shreve. The premise of the novel is that on her seventeenth birthday, Georgianna Grove receives a letter that brings her to the place where her mother was murdered decades earlier. After his father confesses to the murder, he is sent to a state penitentiary, but Georgie is determined to learn the truth about that night.

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On Earth, we are briefly beautiful by Ocean Vuong

Poet Ocean Vuong wrote his first novel and almost everyone I know is delighted with it. I am for the beauty of the language and because everyone has told me that it is wonderful. Here’s a line from the beginning, already showing how the whole novel merges poetry with the art of storytelling: They say every snowflake is different, but the blizzard is covering us all the same. A friend in Norway told me the story of a painter who went out during a storm, looking for the right shade of green, and never returned.

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The dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

How many times lately has it seemed like we were living in a surreal dream? Karen Thompson Walker caused a stir with her book Age of Miracles. In this one, her second novel, sleeping sickness infects a fictional small town in California. Given how threatening real life is right now, that premise seems pretty scary to me.

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