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Matthew Klam, assistant professor for creative writing at Johns Hopkins University, and recipient of the O Henry award and a Guggenheim fellowship, recommends three books for the summer holiday.
1. The Peripatetic Coffin, by Ethan Rutherford
This is a strong short story collection with a lot of variety and humane characters, says Klam. The collection, Rutherford's debut, has a dark, comic flair.
"I love the killer opening paragraphs, great last lines, wild settings," said Klam.
Several stories takes place on ships - one on a submarine during the Civil War, one on a futuristic whaling voyage, and one on a sailing ship trapped in the Arctic ice.
2. The Wonderbread Summer, by Jessica Anya Blau
Blau, a Southern Californian author, writes with a lot of sunshine in her voice, said Klam. The "highly comic" novel follows the story of 20-year-old college student Allison who – for very good reasons, said Klam – steals a Wonderbread bag full of cocaine.
The book nods to 'Alice in Wonderland,' and as in that story, characters in Blau's book ingest strange substances and change size and shape – though not literally.
3. You Are One of Them, by Elliott Holt
This book, set in the early 1980s, follows the story of Sarah Zuckerman, from a shattered family, and Jennifer Jones, who comes from what appears to be the perfect family. Together they write a letter to the Kremlin asking for peace.
The story is based on Samantha Smith, who as a 10-year-old wrote a letter to the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Yuri Andropov.
In the fictionalized version, only Jennifer's letter is chosen and she becomes an international sensation, and, like the real-life Smith, is killed in a plane crash.
The book picks up after Sarah graduates college and has traveled to Moscow as a journalist. She is searching for resolution to her friend's death, and receives good information that the plane crash was not an accident and Jennifer may still be alive.