For many, the upcoming summer will be quite different than the last. But whether you’re staying in or venturing out, a good book can always keep you grounded. The best new books arriving in June, July and August offer something for every reader, from piercing memoirs to powerful essay collections to gripping thrillers. The warmest months usher in the return of seasoned pros like Michael Pollan and Laura Lippman and welcomes debut authors like Ashley C. Ford and Anna Qu. Between the page-turners and rom-coms, family sagas and potent nonfiction, these are the books that will provide entertainment, distraction and comfort—and will likely teach you something new about the world. Here, the 36 books to read this summer.
With Teeth, Kristen Arnett (June 1)
Like her breakout debut, Mostly Dead Things, Kristen Arnett’s latest novel looks at a fractured family unit, this time focusing on two women as they struggle to raise their son. Samson has been difficult ever since he was a young child, but now his juvenile misbehavior gives way to a startling level of hostility in his teenage years. When that aggression hits a breaking point, his parents grapple with the challenges of queer motherhood and marriage as he tests the boundaries of their love.
Somebody’s Daughter, Ashley C. Ford (June 1)
Best known as a writer and podcast host with sharp pop-culture takes, Ashley C. Ford offers a debut memoir that pulls no punches. Tracking her impoverished youth and adolescence in Indiana, Ford shares her struggles growing up with a single mother as she grapples with her changing body, painful relationships and the truth of her identity, embarking on a poignant quest to find and understand her incarcerated father.
The Other Black Girl, Zakiya Dalila Harris (June 1)
Both a blistering satire and sharp social commentary, Zakiya Dalila Harris’ debut novel follows Nella Rogers, the only Black editorial assistant at the fictional Wagner Books. But that changes the day Hazel-May McCall is hired—setting in motion a strange series of events that leaves Harris’ protagonist unexpectedly isolated. Though the two women initially bond, Hazel begins to rise in the ranks as Nella is shut out, all while Nella receives anonymous hostile messages. As the mysteries mount, Harris, who worked as an assistant editor at Knopf before leaving to write this book, guides us through a thrilling narrative set against the backdrop of the starkly white publishing industry.
One Last Stop, Casey McQuiston (June 1)
Twenty-three year-old August has just arrived in New York City with a cynical attitude and barely any luggage—her whole life fit into five boxes. She’s a perpetual loner, until one fateful ride on the Q train changes everything. August meets a mysterious girl in a leather jacket named Jane, and is instantly smitten. But there’s a catch: Jane has been stuck on the subway since the 1970s. Like her debut novel, Red, White & Royal Blue, McQuiston’s latest rom-com bursts with charm, humor and this time a bit of magic.
How the Word Is Passed, Clint Smith (June 1)
Writer and poet Clint Smith thoroughly excavates the pervasive (yet not always visible) legacy of slavery in America in his nonfiction debut, How the Word Is Passed. To delve into this history, Smith uses his hometown of New Orleans as the launching point for an evocative and frank exploration of the American slave trade, mapping the wide-reaching effects of our nation’s greatest shame from Angola—a Louisiana plantation-turned-prison—to lower Manhattan’s dark past as a slave market hub. Through Smith’s clear-eyed storytelling, he illustrates just how deeply the consequences of this intergenerational history manifest in the present day, both politically and personally.
We Are What We Eat: A Slow Food Manifesto, Alice Waters (June 1)
Chef Alice Waters is often considered the mother of the farm-to-table food movement, thanks to her legendary Berkeley, Calif., restaurant, Chez Panisse, which she opened in 1971. Waters remains one of the loudest advocates for sustainability in the restaurant business, and has long championed conscientious consumption. Her new book, We Are What We Eat: A Slow Food Manifesto, is an explanation of that ethos, detailing the problems with fast food and how constant availability has negatively impacted our habits. Waters makes a convincing case that the act of eating is political, with powerful effects on the future of the planet.
The Chosen and the Beautiful, Nghi Vo (June 1)
The Great Gatsby’s recent copyright expiration means everyone can take their shot at reinventing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s legendary story of East Coast glitz and glamour. Nghi Vo’s debut novel does so with ample amounts of magic and mystery, and is centered on Jordan Baker, who in Vo’s telling is a queer Vietnamese woman navigating her way through the 1920s New York social scene. The Chosen and the Beautiful finds Jordan fighting for her place in this Gatsby-adjacent world as an outsider, a plight that Vo illuminates in heartbreaking specificity.
Read More: The Most Anticipated Movies of Summer 2021
The President’s Daughter, Bill Clinton and James Patterson (June 7)
Former President Bill Clinton teams up with best-selling author James Patterson once more for this summer’s standalone sequel to their 2018 thriller, The President Is Missing. This time, ex-president and one-time Navy SEAL Matthew Keating’s daughter has been kidnapped by a terrorist. Through its 500-plus pages, Clinton and Patterson’s novel puts their respective expertise to good use in a twisting plot.
Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir, Akwaeke Emezi (June 8)
Structured as a series of letters to friends, lovers and family, Akwaeke Emezi’s searing nonfiction debut is an intimate exploration of the novelist’s relationship to their gender, body, family and freedom. Raw and piercing, these short pieces trace Emezi’s rise as a literary powerhouse, and outline their intense work ethic amid difficult life events. Together, the letters serve as a self-portrait of a storyteller sharing their fight to survive.
Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch, Rivka Galchen (June 8)
Rivka Galchen’s smart, wry novel Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch is a thought-provoking take on the proverbial witch hunt. Drawing inspiration from real historical documents about Katharina Kepler, an illiterate German woman in the 1600s (and the mother of astronomer Johannes Kepler) who was accused of being a witch, Galchen spins a tale that blurs the line between truth and heresy. Punctuated with sparkling wit and irreverent humor, it taps into the depths of who we choose to fear and why.
The Ugly Cry: A Memoir, Danielle Henderson (June 8)
Television writer Danielle Henderson’s moving memoir reflects on growing up Black in a mostly white part of upstate New York, where she was raised by her grandparents after being abandoned by her mother as a child. Simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious, Henderson dissects her unusual upbringing and her special relationship with her grandmother, offering a powerful examination of the many intersections between family and identity.
The Maidens, Alex Michaelides (June 15)
When Alex Michaelides’ first psychological thriller, The Silent Patient, debuted in 2019, it skyrocketed to the top of bestseller lists. His follow-up is just as twisty—and involves another suspicious killing. This time, a London therapist learns of the murder of her niece’s friend. She thinks a Cambridge University Greek tragedy professor who is particularly popular with members of a female secret society (known as The Maidens) is to blame. She quickly becomes obsessed with proving his guilt—a fixation that threatens to upend her whole world and is captured in gripping scenes throughout Michaelides’ page-turner.
Blackout, Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk and Nicola Yoon (June 22)
Six acclaimed young-adult authors collaborate to present six stories of young Black love and heartbreak—that all happen as the power goes out one hot summer night in New York City. Blackout is both a short story collection and a novel of a moment in time, capturing the radiance, joy and possibility of teen romance.
Dream Girl, Laura Lippman (June 22)
Gerry Andersen is—or was—a best-selling novelist. But when he’s injured and confined to his home, the women of his past and present begin to haunt him in perplexing and increasingly terrifying ways. Lippman, author of the hit 2019 novel Lady in the Lake, reveals a new psychological thriller rooted in a world where changing agency, power and gender dynamics can throw a life off balance.
Who They Was, Gabriel Krauze (June 22)
Gabriel Krauze doesn’t shy away from the brutality of perpetual violence or the stark details of his youth in his autofiction debut, Who They Was, which was longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize after its initial release in the U.K. In this grim yet gripping coming-of-age tale, Krauze, the son of Polish immigrants, revisits his past in London’s street scene, where he was actively involved with gangs, robberies, drugs and shootings—all while completing an English degree at a local university. The shock value is high, but so is the level of pathos imbued in Krauze’s text.
Dear Miss Metropolitan, Carolyn Ferrell (July 6)
Fern, Gwin and Jesenia are just teens when they are abducted by the mysterious Boss Man and forced to live in a run-down house in Queens, N.Y. When two of them are discovered and released years later, their neighborhood reels from the shock. Carolyn Ferrell’s debut novel weaves present and past in a bold attempt to wring beauty from trauma, as the young women—and their community—try to piece themselves back together.
This Is Your Mind on Plants, Michael Pollan (July 6)
In his latest exploration of the enduring relationship between the human and natural worlds, Michael Pollan dives deep into how psychoactive plants—specifically opium, caffeine and mescaline—impact our brains and our cultures. Pollan is a master of breaking down complex science into an engaging story and challenging long-held societal beliefs. His newest offering, which follows his examination of the science of psychedelics in 2018’s How to Change Your Mind, aims to unpack our ideas about what constitutes a “drug” and, fundamentally, why we seek them.
Fox & I: An Uncommon Friendship, Catherine Raven (July 6)
It’s a familiar story arc: human becomes best friends with a wild animal and life lessons are learned. Yet in biologist and former Glacier National Park ranger Catherine Raven’s hands, the story—of isolation and tender friendship with a wild fox—feels new. Alone in rural Montana after completing her Ph.D., Raven’s daily fox visitor becomes an unexpected, and necessary, companion. Her memoir reminds us that connection to the natural world comes in many forms.
While We Were Dating, Jasmine Guillory (July 13)
Ben Stephens works in advertising and his new campaign stars Anna Gardiner, an ambitious actor who is eager to book her next movie. The two hit it off, and their flirtation gives way to a complicated opportunity for Ben: Anna wants to pretend to date to help her career, and hopes he’ll play the part. In detailing the pair’s journey—and their undeniable chemistry—romance author Jasmine Guillory spins another dazzling love story.
Magma, Thóra Hjörleifsdóttir (July 13)
It’s said that love and hate are separated by a kiss, and this tenuous dynamic is on full display in Thóra Hjörleifsdóttir’s arresting Magma—the provocative Icelandic poet’s debut novel that urgently explores the challenges and costs of a young woman’s passionate yet toxic relationship. Through Lilja’s heady and all-consuming love affair with a fellow student at her university, Hjörleifsdóttir explores the subtle, insidious ways in which desire and infatuation can blind one to manipulation, abuse and violence.
China Room, Sunjeev Sahota (July 13)
A family saga both sweeping and granular, Sunjeev Sahota’s latest novel—partly inspired by his own family history—follows a teenage bride in 1929 Punjab who is yearning to find out her new husband’s identity. But she, along with two other women who recently married three brothers, are separated from the men in the family’s “china room.” Set during the early years of the Indian independence movement, the young protagonist’s desire to know her husband ends up having irreparable consequences. And there’s more: Sahota flashes forward several decades, where his main character’s great-grandson is grappling with his own problems. In describing the two storylines, set lifetimes apart, the author examines agency, power and human connection.
The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann, and the Great Startup Delusion, Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell (July 20)
It was the darling of the startup world: A groundbreaking company worth billions on paper and headed by an outwardly charismatic, visionary leader—until it all crumbled in 2019. In The Cult of We, Wall Street Journal reporters Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell untangle the dramatic rollercoaster ride of WeWork, a business that set out to change the world one coworking space at a time. The book is both a cautionary tale and a juicy investigation into one of Silicon Valley’s most-hyped fallen unicorns.
The Flowering: The Autobiography of Judy Chicago, Judy Chicago (July 20)
Feminist art pioneer Judy Chicago reflects on her life and trailblazing career in her autobiography, The Flowering. The 81-year-old artist, whose powerful works include The Dinner Party and run the gamut from sculpture to performance, takes stock of a lifetime of now-historic experiences that effectively broke barriers in an industry built to favor white men. Combining engrossing, urgent storytelling with illustrations, personal images and a foreword by Gloria Steinem, Chicago relays the story of an artist determined to ensure that women’s cultural achievements are permanently valued.
Intimacies, Katie Kitamura (July 20)
Centering on an interpreter who recently relocated from New York City to the Hague, it’s clear there’s more than just language that’s being lost in translation in Katie Kitamura’s thriller of a novel. While she works on a controversial war crimes case at the International Court, the interpreter soon encounters interpersonal drama of her own after embarking on a passionate affair with a married man and becoming obsessed with the seemingly unrelated violent crime a friend has witnessed. In exploring how one’s proximity to power and violence can hold endless repercussions, Kitamura interrogates how our intimacies can change the course of our lives.
Goldenrod: Poems, Maggie Smith (July 27)
To read Maggie Smith is to embrace the achingly precious beauty of the present moment—a sentiment that is omnipresent in her latest collection of poems, Goldenrod. In this volume, the award-winning poet uses the seemingly familiar objects and happenings of everyday life—an autocorrect mistake, a rock from her young son’s pocket and a field of the titular goldenrods—as conduits for finding the extraordinary in the day-to-day motions of a routine. In doing so, Smith makes the case that nearly every element in our lives can be part of the divine, if we only take the time to look.
The Turnout, Megan Abbott (August 3)
In her latest novel of suspense and family strife, Megan Abbott follows a Nutcracker season gone wrong at a family-run ballet studio. Sisters Dara and Marie took over the Durant School of Dance several years ago after the tragic death of their parents. Now, they run the place with very different teaching styles. When a mysterious accident at the studio leads to the introduction of an unwelcome guest, the intruder’s presence has unforeseen repercussions that play out in Abbott’s sharp and unsettling prose.
Pilgrim Bell, Kaveh Akbar (August 3)
Kaveh Akbar’s second collection of poetry, Pilgrim Bell, is bracing in its honesty and noteworthy in its steadfast adherence to finding the spiritual in even the most mundane settings. Akbar’s mesmerizing dexterity with language is at its most compelling when he is relentlessly pursuing the truth—a hunt that’s present in every poem in this volume. Exploring the nuances and contradictions of living in a body and a country that’s often at odds with your soul, Akbar demands both veracity and grace in equal measure.
Playlist for the Apocalypse: Poems, Rita Dove (August 3)
Following a year of inconceivable uncertainty and pulsating change, the title of former U.S. poet laureate Rita Dove’s new volume of poetry, Playlist for the Apocalypse, feels more than apropos. The book, the Pulitzer Prize winner’s first collection of new poetry in 12 years, is as much a celebration as it is a study in the resilience of humanity. Musing on the triumphs and challenges of being mortal, Dove seamlessly travels from past to present, with everlasting hope for our future.
Run: Book One, John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by L. Fury and Nate Powell (August 3)
The legacy of civil rights icon John Lewis lives on in Run: Book One, the first installment of a new posthumous graphic novel series from the politician and agitator, coauthored by his longtime congressional staffer Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell and L. Fury. This new series continues where Lewis and Aydin left off with the graphic memoir trilogy The March, asserting that first you march, then you run. Here, we trace Lewis’ story after the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act as he begins to transition from an activist on the streets to a politician fighting for change.
Something New Under the Sun, Alexandra Kleeman (August 3)
In Alexandra Kleeman’s Something New Under the Sun, readers will find a darkly satirical reflection of ecological reality. Patrick Hamlin is a forlorn East Coast writer who heads west and is quickly disillusioned by the seedy underbelly of Hollywood. But the real tension emerges when Patrick discovers that his problems are much bigger than his personal life and career, after a turn of events highlights the imminent danger of global environmental collapse.
The Family Firm, Emily Oster (August 3)
If the term “data-driven parenting” intrigues you, then economist Emily Oster’s new guidebook to a child’s elementary school years may be just the fit for your family. Oster—a former business school professor and mother of two—takes an analytical approach to decisions related to common issues around school, extracurricular activities, independence and more. The result is a guide intended to chart a child’s path with less stress and more optimization for healthy habits and future success.
Made in China: A Memoir, Anna Qu (August 3)
What would you do if your family put you to work in a sweatshop as a teen? For Anna Qu, a young Chinese immigrant in Queens, the answer was to call child services on her own mother, setting off a series of events that would forever change her life. Qu’s debut memoir untangles the knots of her complicated, traumatic past as she learns the truth about her own history and reckons with the hopes and constraints of the immigrant experience.
Afterparties: Stories, Anthony Veasna So (August 3)
In his stirring debut short story collection, Anthony Veasna So crafts a thoughtful portrait of Cambodian-American life. The characters that populate Afterparties deal with a range of scenarios that force them to confront the intersections of race, sexuality and love. In one story, a child discovers that his mother survived a school shooting. In another, a queer romance with an age gap blossoms between an older tech entrepreneur and a younger teacher with a love for Moby Dick. So, who died unexpectedly last year at age 28, wrote these narratives with care and humor, ushering us into the intimacy of the communities at the book’s center.
The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You: Stories, Maurice Carlos Ruffin (August 17)
The author of We Cast a Shadow sets his new short story collection in his native New Orleans. Maurice Carlos Ruffin brings us narratives that deftly range in subject and scope, from a story exploring the unexpected kindness exchanged between an Army vet and a runaway teen to a flash fiction piece about a group of men attempting to access an elderly man’s home during Hurricane Katrina. Throughout these stories, Ruffin highlights experiences both specific and universal about people living on the margins while simultaneously capturing the culture and spirit of New Orleans.
Seeing Ghosts: A Memoir, Kat Chow (August 24)
Kat Chow dares to explore the lingering dynamics of her family’s shared grief in her breathtaking debut memoir, Seeing Ghosts. Born two years after her parents’ only son died shortly after his birth, Chow has always had a preternatural fixation on death—one that only intensifies when her mother unexpectedly dies of cancer during Chow’s adolescence. As she trudges through life in a haze of grief, Chow looks to the past to see how three generations of her family, spanning four countries, have coped with immeasurable loss. It’s a bittersweet meditation on how losing the ones we love indelibly shapes the futures of the living, and how we ultimately find healing in the strength of family.
My Heart Is a Chainsaw, Stephen Graham Jones (August 31)
At once an homage to the horror genre and a searing indictment of the brutal legacy of Indigenous genocide in America, Stephen Graham Jones’ My Heart Is a Chainsaw delivers both dazzling thrills and visceral commentary. Protagonist Jade Daniels, a Native American girl in Idaho, finds refuge from her turbulent home life and her outcast status among her peers in slasher films. Her love of the gloriously gory collides with reality when harrowing incidents begin happening in her small town. But physical carnage isn’t the only casualty in the novel—Jones takes grief, gentrification and abuse to task in a tale that will terrify you and break your heart all at the same time.
Correction, June 7
The original version of this story misstated Gerry Andersen’s last name. It is Andersen, not Anderson. The original version of this story also misstated the title of Laura Lippman’s 2019 novel. It is Lady in the Lake, not The Lady on the Lake.