Summer is, of course, a time for boredom—it's the time for boredom. That's why it's peak Lana Del Rey season! But also, it's time for books. Because what's a better cure for, or at least temporary distraction from, boredom than reading? Here are 46 of our favorites that are coming out this summer, all bound to be the perfect antidote for your summertime blues.
Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt (available June 5)On a sentence-by-sentence level, Adrienne Celt's seductive, searing novel, about a love triangle of sorts in a New Jersey boarding school in the 1920s, is one of the most brilliant books I've read in some time. This is as it should be; Invitation to a Bonfire is, in part, inspired by supreme stylist Vladimir Nabokov and his tempestuous relationship with his wife Véra. Celt, too, has a firm grip on style, and her words have a rhythm and cadence ("Cindy Pink was a peripheral friend...") which further draws the reader in close, all the better to totally lose yourself in this compelling story that makes you question familiar power dynamics, the complicated ethics of fidelity, and what horrible and beautiful things we give ourselves permission to do, all for the sake of the sublime.
Rough Animals: An American Western Thriller by Rae DelBianco (available June 5)Not that you should judge a book by its author's bio, but I must say, I appreciated the fact that Rae DelBianco's ends with: "She now lives outside New York City." It's not that there's anything wrong with being a writer living in New York, but rather that it's important to get the perspectives of those who don't. And when the author in question is someone who has, like DelBianco, spent a lot of time working with livestock and doing the very things written about so provocatively and viscerally in Rough Animals, it feels all the more important. This novel, DelBianco's debut, centers around a brother and sister, Wyatt and Lucy Smith, who are all alone in the world, trying to make a living on the desolate cattle ranch which was once run by their late father. When a young girl with a gun comes and threatens their existence, Wyatt must strike out on his own and figure out a way to survive in a world that's hostile, but that is also the only one they know.
Small Country by Gaël Faye (available June 5)Told from the perspective of a young boy, Gabriel, who is living with his family in the African nation of Burundi in 1992, experiencing the carefree, joy-filled life that all children should have, Small Country reveals the intimate devastation visited upon individuals when they experience the callous cruelty of war. Faye, like Gabriel, was 10 years old and living in Burundi when civil war broke out in his home country and that of neighboring Rwanda. He tells with great clarity the horrors of that time, one marked by near-incomprehensible violence, made all the more terrifying because of the bright days that had preceded it. This book is a powerful testament to the rapidity with which life as you know it can change forever.
Florida by Lauren Groff (available June 5)I once thought that Florida was a fever, and while that's not exactly untrue, it might be more true to say Florida is a virus, in that there's no real cure for it once it gets inside you, once it's in your blood. But who wants to be cured? Why not let the wild weirdness of Florida live inside you for awhile, and why not get an injection of it by reading Lauren Groff's latest, a collection of wild, weird stories about our wildest, weirdest state. You'll find yourself swept up in tales in which the landscape is an ever-shifting threat, and people find themselves lost and searching, lonely and surrounded. Each page is infused with Groff's singular writing, and reading these stories left me feeling feverish in the best possible way: extra-sensitive to the air around me and in desperate need of a gin and tonic.
In the Distance with You by Carla Guelfenbein (available June 5)This novel spans several tumultuous decades in the life of an enigmatic Chilean author, Vera Sigall (who is based on enigmatic Brazilian author, Clarice Lispector), only it's told not sequentially, but in reveal after reveal, as several of Sigall's young admirers try to better understand the mysterious past of their idol. There's no better season than summer for a mystery, and this one will leave you puzzling over questions, both specific to the book and more relevant to life in general, as you try and figure out not just who Sigall is, but who you are, who anyone is.
Tonight I'm Someone Else by Chelsea Hodson (available June 5)The experience of reading these essays is akin to careening down a desert road on a bike with no brakes while a perfectly full moon hangs plump, as if it's about to start dripping its white drops on you from its perch, in the sky up above; cars do or don't crash around you; you feel the eyes of others on your skin; you know that up there, in outer space, where that moon hangs low, there are people and there are machines, and you feel a small amount of, if not ownership, at least connection to them all, to it all. I guess what I'm trying to say is: Reading Hodson's work feels risky; it's breathtaking, both in its inherent exhilaration and also, often, because it's funny and you inhale sharply because you're laughing (about fixed-gear bikes and the men who ride them: "I didn't understand how a bike without brakes could be an identity.") But it also makes you feel connected to things, as if you are forging new relationships to the things and people in the world around you, uncovering new understandings about permanence, about intuition, about love and sex and lies and secrets and truth, about life.
Days of Awe by A.M. Homes (available June 5)This latest story collection from an author responsible for some of the darkest, funniest takes on the human condition which we've ever read is full of reliably, well, dark and funny takes on the human condition, perhaps most notably seen in the book's titular story, which takes place at a genocide convention (just think of the sponsorship opportunities!) and revolves around a quick love affair between long-lost friends.
Sick: A Memoir by Porochista Khakpour (available June 5)This memoir of chronic illness, addiction, pain, and hope is an absolutely essential look into our flawed health care system and the devastating effects that a sustained uncertainty about what, exactly, might be wrong with you can have on your psyche. Porochista Khakpour's unsparing account of the impossibly difficult journey she endured while searching for the root cause of her longtime illness is beautifully written, thought-provoking, and an illuminating look at the myriad impacts chronic illness can have. And in a time when so many people's ability to access health care (affordable or not) is tenuous at best, Sick feels like something we should all be reading to better understand the devastating effects un- or inadequately treated illness can have on an individual and a population at large.
Tiny Crimes: Very Short Tales of Mystery and Murder by Lincoln Michel and Nadxieli Nieto (available June 5)For fans of short stories and mystery, these bite-sized tales of murder and mayhem are absolutely perfect. And even if you don't necessarily gravitate toward these genres, considering that this smartly edited collection contains work from some of the greatest writers working today, you're bound to love this book, full as it is of depravity, double crosses, and intrigue—perfect for giving you chills on the hottest of days.
Wait, Blink: A Perfect Picture of an Inner Life by Gunnhild Øyehaug (available June 5)This is the Norwegian author's first book translated into English, and it heralds the arrival of a thrilling talent who has centered her novel around the stunning strangeness of being a person in the world. Both expansive and intimate, Wait, Blink offers a glimpse into the chaos of a life being lived, and all the beautiful, weird, and happy accidents that accompany being engaged with life, both externally and internally.
Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl (available June 5)Who wants to read a book that feels like a living nightmare? Everyone, right! Right. But not just any living nightmare. No, you want one that is so creepy and finely wrought that you don't even notice at first the ways in which it's shredding through your psyche, disturbing your mental well-being, permanently affecting the way you think about life and death. Well, Marisha Pessl's new young adult novel is that one. It centers around five friends who return to their boarding school a year after graduation (they have very boarding school-ish names, like "Kipling" and "Whitley"), where they meet a mysterious man who guides them through a purgatorial place that must have something to do with their now-dead sixth friend. Pessl uses this premise to explore philosophical issues surrounding existence, making this more than just your average supernatural thriller. It's a truly eerie reading experience, no matter your age.
Never Anyone But You by Rupert Thomson (available June 5)For anyone who likes their escapist novels to usher them into the glamour-filled, politically fraught days of Europe in the '20s and '30s, Thomson's latest should be your pick for this summer. Never Anyone But You tells the fictionalized account of the real-life love story of artists Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, two young women who have reinvented themselves in the bohemian paradise that was entre-deux-guerres Paris, a place where they can mingle with Breton and Dali, even as the specter of fascism looms in the not-so-distant future. Cahun and Moore fled Paris for the island of Jersey, but couldn't escape the Nazis, and lived—and actively resisted—throughout the war. Though knowing that Cahun and Moore were real people adds a keen edge to the novel's power, it is Thomson's brilliant writing and ability to evoke the love and commitment these two women had toward each other and toward their principles that will stay with you, so that you carry it around with you, as if slipped in your pocket, this extraordinary, inspiring, heart-breaking tale.
The Terrible: A Storyteller's Memoir by Yrsa Daley-Ward (available June 5)The risk of a memoir, both as the writer and then as the reader, is how staunchly it can rely on litany: This happened, and then this happened, and then this happened. There is a formula, a framework, and most memoirs usually exist within it. Such is not the case with poet Yrsa Daley-Ward's profoundly beautiful, lyrical memoir, The Terrible, which interweaves verse and prose to great effect, offering less a simple retelling of her life, and more of an impression of it, a sense of how it must feel to live it. Much of what Daley-Ward recounts of her childhood is devastating—severe depression, poverty, addiction—and she has a unique ability to tell these parts of her life with an unflinching intensity, the kind that sears itself onto your skin; and yet this is not a story without hope or love. It is essentially a tale of self-discovery, of learning the value in how you process the world around you, in the colors you see, in the things you feel, in the person you are.
Who Is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht (available June 12)Why, yes, I do want to read a woman-led spy thriller that takes me from the underground gay scene of '60s New York City and straight to a covert CIA operation to infiltrate student activists in Buenos Aires. Don't you want to read that? Of course, you do, and thanks to Rosalie Knecht's clever, hilarious writing, you'll find yourself wanting everyone you know to read it so that you can discuss together the wholly original, brilliantly subversive character that is Vera Kelly.
Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin (available June 12)Let this thriller take you on a journey into the wilds of Appalachia, where Rice Moore has come to escape some trouble he found himself in back at home (it involved a drug cartel, so you know it was real trouble). Moore's wooded peace is soon interrupted when dead bears begin turning up on the nature preserve he's tending. His willingness to expose the poachers and bring them to justice is impacted by his desire to remain anonymous and unidentifiable from his past enemies. Tightly plotted and beautifully written, Bearskin marks an auspicious debut for McLaughlin and has us thinking quite a bit about what lurks in the darks of deepest Appalachia.
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (available June 12)So many great novels have centered around the American family, and this book—a brilliant debut from Fatima Farheen Mirza—is the latest to enter that grand tradition. The story centers around a Muslim Indian-American family, who have gathered together to celebrate the wedding of the eldest daughter. There are, of course, struggles amongst generations over issues like tradition, loyalty, adaptation, and faith, and, as the narrative jumps from one character's perspective to another's, we see ever more clearly the ways in which a lack of empathy and an inability to trust our loved ones can lead to ruin. But ultimately, this is a story about hope, and about the ways in which, if we open ourselves up to forgive the flaws in those we love, we can better move forward toward a brighter future.
Something Bright, Then Holes by Maggie Nelson (available June 12)First published in 2007, the reissue of Maggie Nelson's gorgeous, expansive book of poetry feels like a necessary summer read, not least because of Nelson's ability to so palpably, grotesquely, beautifully make clear the urgency of love and fucking, as she does in the book's titular poem, with the lines: "I reread your/ letters, and remember/ correctly: You wanted to eat/ through me. Then fall asleep/ with your tongue against/ an organ, quiet enough/ to hear it kick." See? Necessary.
When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri (available June 19)This smart, funny novel, Perri's second, fills a space in the romantic comedy genre by giving readers something missing in the genre: a celebration of queerness, in all its dynamic glory. The setup is a familiar one: Katie is dumped by her fiancé and doesn't know quite what to do. Luckily, she finds herself meeting an attractive stranger in a well-tailored suit: Cassidy. The two fall for each other, and it leads to both of them figuring out what love, intimacy, and identity mean to them.
Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolin (available June 26)From the blue-lipped face of Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks to the blood-covered face of Lilly Kane in Veronica Mars, the "dead girl" has served as an obsession in pop culture for decades. But, of course, it's not only the fictional dead girl with whom we're fascinated; as a culture, we've long been intrigued by abuse and trauma visited upon the female body, fetishizing the destruction of something that clearly is not seen as being quite human. In this collection of lucid, provocative essays, Bolin examines the ways in which the "dead girl" has been used to diminish and disenfranchise living women. Bolin's writing is diamond sharp, and the way in which she conceives a dialogue between the fiction and fact of the "dead girl," in a stunning analysis and indictment of our patriarchal, white supremacist culture, feels nothing short of revelatory.
Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't Afford America by Alissa Quart (available June 26)Not every book can be about futuristic ant farms, and so if you want to do a little serious reading in 2018, you should definitely check out Alissa Quart's look at why it's becoming unsustainable to raise a family in America. (Made even more unsustainable by the recently passed tax bill, which only benefits billionaires and Paul Ryan's ability to sustain an erection!) Anyway: Quart details the many ways in which our country has failed its middle-class families, and it's a necessary, if not at all feel-good, read. It's okay to feel angry after reading this. In fact, you should. Let this inspire you to protest the rampant inequality in this country, which is dooming millions of people to lives of desperation and destitution and despair.
Idiophone by Amy Fusselman (available July 3)Perhaps all you need to know about this book (really one long, brilliant essay) is that it covers everything from ballet to quilt-making, with kind of everything else you can imagine thrown in between. Amy Fusselman is a genius with language, every sentence manages to surprise; they wend themselves into your brain—your everything, really. Fusselman's prose has the delicate, tensile musculature of a ballet dancer, and the best thing you can do for yourself is surrender to it, let Fusselman take you where she wants you to go, and then allow yourself to spring off the platform she has provided.
Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls: Stories by Alissa Nutting (available July 3)Alissa Nutting is one of the most wildly funny and provocative authors working today. Never afraid of the grotesque (rather, she likes to examine it at length), Nutting is comfortable exploring all aspects of the human condition, and this is all put to good use in her new collection of stories, which, yes, involves plenty of cybersex and even a "futuristic ant farm." (But is there dolphin sex???)
Can You Tolerate This? by Ashleigh Young (available July 3)A question I ask myself often is, Can poets just do everything well? I mean, I suppose I can't comment on their personal lives, but when it comes to writing, I'd say the answer is a resounding yes. Their ability to switch genre is worth marveling over, and the latest example of this is New Zealand poet Ashleigh Young's compelling, exhilarating book of essays Can You Tolerate This? The essays center around the body, our first, last, and always home in the world, and the ways in which its limitations force us to find accommodations, force us to come to terms with our own strengths and frailties, as well as those of the people—all those other frail, strong bodies—around us.
A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen (available July 10)Is there anyone you know who isn't struggling, in ways both big and small, with the concept of place? With answering the questions not only of the importance of home and origin and family and what we owe to them, but also the questions of our importance to them, and what they owe to us? Though it's easy enough to ascribe those feelings to being an American at this point in time, that would be missing the degree to which struggles with identity and with belonging are, of course, ever relevant, ever necessary, and never exclusive to the modern American experience. And yet, Keith Gessen's dark, brilliant, drily hilarious new novel A Terrible Country, is about the experience of a modern American—an expat, to be sure, but is there anything more modern and American than that? Andrei Kaplan has left America—New York, to be precise, where life wasn't exactly living up to his expectations—to go to Moscow and take care of his elderly, ailing grandmother. Once there, Andrei finds himself taking stock of the society around him, filled with political injustices, expensive coffee, an anachronistic health care system, passionate young dissidents, and a vibrant hockey scene. It is up to Andrei to navigate this country's specific terribleness; or, rather, it is up to Gessen to guide Andrei through the mundane tumult of his life—and Gessen does so with a clarity and grace (and no small amount of humor) that makes for the kind of book that lodges inside your consciousness long after you've finished it, so compelling and provocative are its ideas, so unforgettable its characters.
Suicide Club: A Novel About Living by Rachel Heng (available July 10)We now live in an era when tech bros unironically subsist on a product called Soylent and talk about how they're going to try to live forever, so there's probably no time for a book to come out which centers around a vision of society only slightly removed from our own reality, a place where, thanks to "HealthTech™" and juicing, people might get to live forever. This is the world that Heng creates, and in which her protagonist Lea tries to determine if life without death has any meaning, or if she should pursue an association with the mysterious Suicide Club, whose members are determined to live—and die—without the intervention of the state.
The Seas by Samantha Hunt (available July 10)It has been a big year for mermaids and mermen, and should you want to read more on this theme, let me point you in the direction of Samantha Hunt's spare, elegant, affecting novel, The Seas. Centering around a young woman who is mourning the loss of her father, clinging to the fact that he once told her she was a mermaid, The Seas is a testament to doomed romanticism, to the ways in which we hang our hopes on impossible things becoming possible.
Eden by Andrea Kleine (available July 10)Eden tells the story of two sisters—Hope and Eden—who were kidnapped as children, and have grown up to live two very different—and separate—lives. Twenty years after their abduction, when the man responsible is up for parole, Hope starts to search for her sister, who has lost touch with her family; what follows is a devastating, revelatory examination of trauma, memory, creation, and the ways in which we define ourselves according to our experiences.
No One Tells You This: A Memoir by Glynnis MacNicol (available July 10)It can be easy to forget how fully we rely on commonly shared life narratives when planning out our own futures; how many of us spent our childhoods assuming our lives would follow the framework of college, job, marriage, kids, retirement, grandkids. Of course, once you become an adult, once you start to fill in the outline of that life, you start to understand that not only is there no promise from the universe that you're going to get what you thought was coming to you, but that you don't necessarily want to live according to rules that seem less and less applicable to your individual experience. Still, though, what do you do when you realize that you're now at an age—40—when there are no societal guideposts from what you're supposed to be doing with your life? This is the question which serves as the inspiration for Glynnis MacNicol's sharp, hilarious, enthralling memoir, as she sets about having adventures, enduring hardships, and figuring out what she wants her life to look like, in the face of society's expectations and her own. This book is an essential read for women who both are and aren't checking off all the boxes we're told we're supposed to as we grow up, because it reminds us that there is no perfect way to plan a life, there is only your way of planning your life, and finding the beauty and thrill inherent within that is all that matters.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (available July 10)I must admit, I'm particularly predisposed to novels about young women that have as their central premise: What could possibly go wrong? Only to answer that question with a thoroughness that could fairly be called head-spinning. And with My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Ottessa Moshfegh does not disappoint, with a story set in the retroactively ominous time and place of New York City in the year 2000. What could possibly go wrong? It seems, at first, like nothing will go wrong for the narrator, who is young, successful, and attractive in a city which prizes those things above all else in its women, but quickly it becomes clear that things are wrong, if not externally, then internally, as she suffers through the kind of severe alienation which tends to follow those who know, deep down, that their dark insides don't match their glittery outsides. Moshfegh excels at writing this kind of paradoxical character, and her latest novel is a triumph of the kind of dark humor and probing insight for which she has become renowned.
I Can't Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I've Put My Faith in Beyoncé by Michael Arceneaux (available July 24)This brilliant collection of essays explores Michael Arceneaux's life as a gay black man from Texas (why, yes, he does share a hometown with Beyoncé), who was raised within a religion and society that never fully recognized his humanity. Arceneaux is fearless in exploring things like intimacy and identity issues and never flinches from exploring the darkest aspects of his life, from growing up with a rage-fueled father to constantly having to prove that he was worthy of consideration, that he would not be marginalized. And thank Bey he wasn't, because this is one of the most compelling, provocative, poignant essay collections of the year.
Inappropriation by Lexi Freiman (available July 24)Have you ever read a book and felt it crackle? Like, you start to worry that it's going to start emitting smoke and then flames because so much is going on and there's a visceral charge to each word you're reading? Same! But if you haven't experienced that, you should probably make it a point to read Lexi Freiman's Inappropriation, which skewers just about every societal and literary convention you can think of, making it one of the most subversive coming-of-age stories out there. The novel centers around 15-year-old Ziggy Klein, whose struggle with identity issues leads her to embrace her school's radical feminist contingent, as well as the seminal book The Cyborg Manifesto. Ziggy uses these things as the jumping-off point to explore issues of gender, sexuality, and identity, and, yes, this does involve coming up with an elaborate revenge plot, but... you know what? Just go along for the ride with Ziggy, it'll be worth the fiery journey.
Now My Heart Is Full by Laura June (available July 24)This beautiful, heart-rending and -restoring memoir explores what it means to be a mother and a daughter, and coming to terms with the imperfections within these most foundational of familial bonds. Laura June writes with grace, wit, and honesty about the ways in which her fraught relationship with her late mother, who suffered from alcoholism, led to her later ambivalence about having a child of her own in fear of continuing a complicated legacy. And yet, this is not a story about regret or recrimination, it is instead propelled by the joy that June takes in her daughter Zelda. This is no small thing, this joy; it isn't that June shies away from the difficult aspects of parenting or veers into overly sentimental gushing, but rather it is that she makes achingly clear how much she values and adores Zelda for being her own person, and how this respect and love for her daughter affords her the ability to revisit her relationship with her mother. Here, too, June avoids anything mawkish. She instead does what is so hard for children to do: She looks at her mother as a whole person, puts together the fragments of her mother's life, and finds it within herself to forgive her mother, forgive herself, and move forward with love, with a heart now full.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras (available July 31)This novel is loosely based on Rojas Contreras' own experience growing up in Bogota, Colombia, under the threat of drug war-fueled kidnappings, bombings, and assassinations. It is appropriate, then, that one of the book's narrators is a young girl, seven-year-old Chula, who lives behind gated walls with her wealthy family, and who is only starting to grow aware of the complicated world beyond those walls. One way in which Chula becomes introduced to it is through her family's young maid, Petrona, who comes from an impoverished family, and who is working to support them while also navigating a passionate love affair. A true coming-of-age story, Fruit of the Drunken Tree offers a portrait at the ways in which political horrors can infiltrate the most intimate corners of our lives, but how it's still possible to find beauty and grace amidst all the pain.
The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon (available July 31)This lyrical, haunting novel is a remarkable debut from Kwon, in which she shows with real lucidity the tangled ways in which passion slips into fanaticism, love into desperation, and faith into folly. At the center of this novel are three people: Will, a former evangelical Christian; Phoebe, whose implacable exterior hides the grief and responsibility she feels over her mother's death; and John, a charismatic cult leader, who seduces Phoebe away from Will and into a complex, violent world of political actions. Though this is, in many ways, a classic page-turner, as we go along with Will on his journey to find out how culpable Phoebe is in John's extremist acts, what truly stands out is Kwon's ability to portray the intimate ways in which we deal with issues of fractured identity and feelings of displacement, and how quickly the personal becomes political, and then personal all over again.
The Shortest Way Home by Miriam Parker (available July 31)And now for something that is just purely delightful and as smooth to knock back as a glass of rosé on a sticky summer day. Miriam Parker's debut tells the story of Hannah, who leaves her finance career behind in New York City to work in a Sonoma vineyard. There are unexpected challenges and a star-crossed romance and all of the things which you want in a summer book about leaving your life and starting over somewhere new (especially when it's somewhere straight out of a Nancy Meyers movie!). But simply because this fare is on the lighter side, that doesn't mean that it isn't fully satisfying: It is—and it is also, to borrow some wine tasting terminology, refreshing and bright, with a clean, crisp aftertaste.
Perennial by Kelly Forsythe (available August 7)This incredible, lyrical, profoundly moving book of poems revolves around the Columbine High School massacre, and delineates the experience of living before and after such extreme tragedy. Forsythe brings a sensitivity to this topic, but that doesn't prevent her from addressing its most brutal elements; she pays attention to the smallest things, like the flowers that die in the days that follow, and those horrifying things so large as to be inescapable, like the permeability of the human body. Perennial feels like a reckoning with our collective grief that Columbine ever happened, and that it has happened again and again, so that we are now, all of us, the youngest of us, far too acquainted with what Forsythe calls "the underside of infinity."
If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim (available August 7)This compelling, gorgeous debut novel takes place in wartime Korea, and does something that far too few war stories do: It shares the perspective of a young woman, precisely the kind of person whose experience is too often silenced, whose story is never told. Haemi is but 16-year-old when she must flee her home with her widowed mother and younger brother to a refugee camp. In an effort to secure a brighter future for herself and her family, Haemi marries the wealthy cousin of her childhood love. This epic story offers a clear look at the ways in which women's autonomy is so often compromised, as they struggle to survive in a world that finds them disposable. Crystal Hana Kim's novel, with its striking portrayal of the complexities of being a woman and of being marginalized, is one of the most beautiful and moving love stories you'll read this year, set as it is against the backdrop of finding a way through a callous world, of finding a way to preserve love in a time of war.
Certain American States by Catherine Lacey (available August 7)This is Catherine Lacey's first collection of short stories, and fans of her beautiful, disarming novels—Nobody Is Ever Missing and The Answers—will be excited to know that Lacey brings a similar style—complex, enigmatic, endlessly compelling—to this shorter form. The stories within Certain American States operate on a similar frequency to one another; the characters are often searching for a sense of place, both externally and internally; their loneliness is often palpable. And yet, within these stories of loneliness and despair, grief, and searching, are threads of something more hopeful, an idea that as lost as we might feel, there is the possibility of finding ourselves, we just need to learn how to let go. So let's go.
The Third Hotel by Laura van den Berg (available August 7)As she showed in both her short story collection, The Isle of Youth, and her first novel, Find Me, Laura van den Berg is an expert at creating surreal worlds that are just one slight twist away from our own, but are all the more infused with mystery because of their relative closeness. In The Third Hotel, the mystery involves the fact that after Clare, a widow, arrives for a book festival in Cuba, she spots her husband, Richard, who is, of course, supposed to be dead. From there, Clare follows Richard throughout the streets of Havana, reliving her childhood, marriage, and her role in Richard's death, all building up to an unsettling peak, in which all notions of reality and fantasy become fully blurred.
Baby, You're Gonna Be Mine by Kevin Wilson (available August 7)This marks the first short story collection by Wilson in a decade, and it's a welcome event, seeing as how Wilson is a master of the form. The stories within are reliably strange, filled with things like magic, time-traveling razors, a rock star who has to move back in with his mom, and a couple analyzing whether or not it's in their best interests to care for their uncared-for, basically feral nieces and nephews. Within each story, Wilson shows his sharp wit and expansive empathy for the weirdest corners of the human condition.
Pretty Things by Virginie Despentes (available August 14)The value placed on women's beauty is incalculable, and its effects can often be devastating. This is the weighty topic with which Despentes grapples in her latest book, as she dissects the ways in which conforming to society's ideas of femininity and beauty are ultimately corrosive, dissolving everything and everyone in their path.
A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua (available August 14)Vanessa Hua's debut is a vibrant, fascinating look into womanhood and how so many women's lives are shaped by their relationship to the powerful men within them. Scarlett Chen is living in a makeshift birthing center in Los Angeles, a place she has been sent to from her native China, where she became pregnant by a wealthy married man, who wants Scarlett to keep the baby and give birth in America because it is a boy. Scarlett struggles during her pregnancy, eventually escaping the confines of the maternity home with another young pregnant woman, and tries to find her way to San Francisco, where she hopes to carve out a life for herself. Hua infuses this story with spirit and humor, exploring the ways in which pregnancy and motherhood can be both liberating and entrapping for the women who endure them. It's a remarkable novel, one which makes clear the many ways in which women must struggle to make their lives their own.
Severance by Ling Ma (available August 14)Just because it's the end of the world, doesn't mean you don't have a job to do. Such is the fate of Candace Chen, who lives in Brooklyn, works a boring job at a big company, and doesn't much seem to notice when most of New York City succumbs to a horrific plague, Shen Fever. So what's a millennial to do? Blog, of course, and also try and escape, not just the devastation around her, but also the devastation that comes with being a pawn of the system. Ma's writing is compelling and cogent, perfectly satirizing a world that often feels beyond parody.
Eleanor, or, The Rejection of the Progress of Love by Anna Moschovakis (available August 14)I once wrote about Anna Moschovakis' poetry book They and We Will Get into Trouble for This: "Moschovakis’ latest work deals with questions about who we are and what is the nature of love and promises and the existence of soulmates in a manner which makes me—to put it bluntly but also, I hope, softly—want to bathe in the text," and what's funny is that I still feel like I'm swimming in her words from so many months ago. So, of course, I'm incredibly excited about the release of her first novel, which is a brilliant, visceral, sensual examination of the condition of being a woman, and the inherent struggles related to identity and authority that exist for all of us. You should get excited, too. Moschovakis has outdone herself with Eleanor; it reveals all the emptiness behind our collective aspirations and makes me want to slow down and speed up all at once, empty and fill myself, perform and be true. It exists in a place of contradictions, just like we all do, and it feels like there's no better literary mirror into which we should all gaze right now.
Other People's Love Affairs by D. Wystan Owen (available August 21)This beautiful collection of interconnected stories explores the lives of residents of the town of Glass and offers insightful glimpses into the ways in which we all live so close together, while not often knowing one another at all. Owen's ability to convey the beauty and grace in small moments of loss and connection, heartbreak and triumph, signals a rare new literary voice, whose words will echo in your head long after you've first read them.
French Exit by Patrick deWitt (available August 28)At last! A darkly comic, perfectly brilliant book about a mother and her large adult son! I've been waiting for this, and I'm glad it comes from the mind of Patrick deWitt, who ably skewers the absurdities of upper-class life and the romanticization of high society (and, also, Paris), while simultaneously giving the world one of the most curious characters ever created: an old cat, named Small Frank, who makes up the unlikely third in the bizarre, compelling trio of cat, mother, and large adult son. Let deWitt take you along on this dizzying, wild ride, you'll love every second of it, and then hop back to the beginning for another go.