1. The Parking Lot Attendant, by Nafkote Tamirat. This is a ludicrously beautiful and witty novel, even if it fails to quite stick the landing. It's the story of the daughter of Ethiopian immigrants living in Boston, and the weird and titular not-quite-cult-leader she encounters in the local community who draws her into a conspiracy involving a potential utopia. It's hard to describe, but absolutely worth grabbing, and works on multiple levels if you're familiar with the "joys" of trying to get places around metro Boston using public transit.
2. (Unnamed novel reviewed for PW)
3. What is Real: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics, by Adam Becker. I mean, doesn't "particle physics" sound like a perfect topic for travel reading? Seriously, this is an excellent book, much more a science history book than a pure science one (I'm someone who hasn't taken a physics course since the seventh grade, so trust me when I say this is aimed at the general public). It's a great dive into the battle over quantum origins and the battle over the Copenhagen Interpretation, featuring all of the major players -- Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Pauli, Bell, Everett, Bohm, de Broglie, etc. -- with as much biography of them thrown in along with their conflicts and discussion of theory. Really recommended for anyone with an interest in science.
4. The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler-Olsen. I try to read a few mysteries-in-translation every year, and having spent the last few years on French and Japanese authors, am finally swinging back to Nordic crime authors (which may be redundant, as it seems like every author from the Nordic countries who gets translated today writes crime -- see also Alvtegen, Nesbo, Larsson, etc). This book is the first in the "Department Q" series, a story of a cold case unit started for political reasons. It's much wittier than a lot of the generally-grim Nordic Noir stuff, with a solid and flawed hero and some nice twists. I'll definitely be grabbing more books from the series.
5. The Ensemble, by Aja Gabel. This is kind of a perfect little summer beach read (although I read it on the plane ride back). It's the story of the members of a string quartet over the course of fifteen years, complete with their romantic entanglements, health issues, and professional crises. It's a fun and sweet novel about love (in many forms), and probably has extra appeal for musically-inclined folks.
ETA: 6. Florida, by Lauren Groff. A fascinating and melancholy collection of stories. There are themes and repeated symbols (storms, unnamed spouses and children, dogs) running throughout, and it's the sort of collection you want to sit and let marinate in your head for a bit. Also recommended, although maybe not as cruise reading.