Photographs: Chanyut Sribua-Rawd/Getty Images (Crocodiles); Patrick McMullan (Rakoff, Danticat); AFP/Getty Images (Hirst Skull); Everett Collection (Eastwood); Mark Miller (Bender); Danny Kim/New York Magazine (Sandwich); Popperfoto/Getty Images (Gardner); News Ltd/Newspix/Rex USA (Jagger and Bowie)
Mountains or beach? Rooftop film or A/C-blasted Netflix marathon? Summer is about options, and, now that books have largely escaped a strictly seasonal cycle, there are as many fresh reads to choose among as there are vacation destinations. But when deciding on a trip or a book, two key questions always come up: How long will it take, and how much will it take out of you? Two axes, in other words—difficulty and length—best plotted, of course, on a summer matrix encompassing (nearly) all the July and August books that are fit to read. Find your coordinates and explore from there: Haiti, witches, sex, brownstones, wartime trauma, or tranquil seas? Take your pick.