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This summer’s slate of new books offers something for every reader, whether you’re looking for a lighthearted escape, a poignant personal story, or a literary adventure. In Save What’s Left by Elizabeth Castellano, witty protagonist Kathleen Deane tries to fulfill her own beachy dreams by buying an oyster shack in Long Island, which turns out to be, well, less than idyllic. Actor Elliot Page’s memoir, Pageboy, details his path from Nova Scotia to an Oscar nomination to navigating the entertainment industry as a trans man. In Crook Manifesto, the sequel to 2021’s Harlem Shuffle, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead paints a masterful portrait of upheaval in 1970s New York City. And Silvia Moreno-Garcia melds historical fiction with the paranormal in Silver Nitrate, a fascinating tale about the film industry in 1990s Mexico City. Here, the 25 best books to read this summer.
Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea, Rita Chang-Eppig (May 30)
Rita Chang-Eppig’s gritty debut paints a captivating portrait of legendary 19th-century pirate queen Shek Yeung, the Scourge of the South China Sea. Told from Yeung’s point of view, this lyrically written high-seas adventure opens with the death of Yeung’s husband, commander of the feared Red Banner Fleet, during a botched raid on a Portuguese ship. From there, the novel traces Yeung’s struggles to secure control over the crew she believes she is destined to lead, navigate life as a new mother in a dangerous position, and defend her armies against the Chinese emperor’s push to eradicate piracy.
Good Night, Irene, Luis Alberto Urrea (May 30)
Mexican American author and Pulitzer Prize finalist Luis Alberto Urrea has done it all: poetry, short stories, novels, memoirs, and nonfiction. In Good Night, Irene, his fifth novel, Urrea draws inspiration from his mother’s service in the Clubmobile Corps, a Red Cross organization that delivered coffee, donuts, and company to soldiers on the front lines during World War II. In 1943, Irene Woodward trades in her abusive fiancé in New York for Clubmobile Corps work in England, France, and Germany. There, she meets Dorothy Dunford, a Midwesterner who also escaped her former life. Good Night, Irene paints a touching portrait of female friendship and valor in wartime.
The Whispers, Ashley Audrain (June 6)
The Whispers echoes Ashley Audrain’s 2021 debut novel, The Push: both tell stories about mothers and their children, each generation marked by troubles. In Audrain’s new novel, 10-year-old Xavier Loverly crashes to the ground from his bedroom window and ends up in critical condition. But was it a fall, or perhaps something more sinister? As Xavier’s mother, Whitney, keeps vigil near his bedside, four narrators from different families in the neighborhood unravel the threads: Whitney herself; Rebecca, the emergency room doctor handling Xavier’s case; Blair, Whitney’s best friend and a stay-at-home mom; and Mara, an elderly Portuguese immigrant who has lived in the neighborhood since before it gentrified. Each weighs in on motherhood, secrets, and difficult decisions.
All the Sinners Bleed, S.A. Cosby (June 6)
A shocking school shooting results in a teacher being killed by a former student and the student being fatally shot by the police officers who responded to the scene. In the aftermath of the violence, former FBI agent Titus Crown, the first Black sheriff in the history of Charon County, Va., discovers that both men were connected to the heinous murders of seven local Black children. What’s more, the ringleader behind these ritualistic killings is still at large—and quite possibly has ties to a local church. In this breakneck noir crime thriller, the award-winning author of Blacktop Wasteland and Razorblade Tears grapples with issues of race, class, and religion as his main character engages in a game of cat-and-mouse inflamed by the complex legacy of his rural Southern home town.
Pageboy, Elliot Page (June 6)
Elliot Page is one of the most famous trans people in the world. In 2021, he became the first openly trans man to appear on the cover of TIME. And now, he has written his first book. Pageboy is a memoir about navigating queer love, fame, and identity. Page digs into his past in candid terms, from his childhood in Halifax, Nova Scotia to his career-turning performance in Juno. In reflecting on his success, he also reveals the challenges he faced as a queer and trans person in an industry that creates strict boundaries around how actors can look, dress, and be—and how he forged a path to the life he’s living today.
Lady Tan’s Circle of Women, Lisa See (June 6)
From the best-selling author of beloved historical novels like Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love, set in 19th- and 17th-century China, respectively, comes a poignant new story exploring the life of a Chinese woman whose fate is bound by her country’s patriarchal power structures. This time around, Lisa See travels back to 15th-century China for a tale inspired by the real life of Tan Yunxian, a female physician who made lasting strides in women’s health care while practicing medicine during the Ming dynasty. The quietly affecting reimagining follows Yunxian from her youth learning about the traditional pillars of Chinese medicine to the beginning of her lifelong friendship with a young midwife-in-training to the years after she is sent into an arranged marriage. Throughout it all, she strives for the freedom necessary to become a doctor in her own right.
Be Mine, Richard Ford (June 13)
After four novels and almost four decades in the world of Frank Bascombe, Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Ford is set to publish the final installment in his celebrated series. At 74, Frank is getting up there, and he’s facing mortality all around him. His first ex-wife is gone, and the child they had together, Paul, is dying. Frank became Paul’s caregiver after he was diagnosed with ALS, and now the two of them are off on a road trip from the Mayo Clinic through South Dakota to Mount Rushmore. Frank, always an oddball and never the deepest thinker, reflects on happiness—especially at the end of life. “Not every story ends happy,” Frank says. “Out in the gloom you can find some lights on.”
Holding Pattern, Jenny Xie (June 20)
After getting dumped by her longtime boyfriend, dropping out of her graduate psychology program at Johns Hopkins, and moving back into her childhood home in Oakland, Calif., 28-year-old Kathleen Cheng discovers that the mother she thought she knew has become a new person in the wake of falling in love. Once plagued by depression and alcoholism brought on by her move from China to the U.S. and subsequent divorce from Kathleen’s father years ago, Marissa Cheng has discovered a new zest for life amid preparations for her wedding to a Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur. Feeling unmoored by the uncertainties of her own existence, Kathleen takes a position at a “cuddle clinic” startup founded on the health benefits of touch therapy. As Jenny Xie’s tender debut novel progresses, Kathleen comes to reexamine all her relationships through the lens of her new job, particularly the maddening and affectionate bond she has with her mother.
Save What’s Left, Elizabeth Castellano (June 27)
With its wisecracking protagonist—Kathleen Deane, still reeling from her husband Tom’s declaration that he was unhappy with their Kansas life and marriage—Save What’s Left brings a tongue-in-cheek tone to the beach read genre. “Never buy a beach house,” Kathleen advises. “Don’t even dream about one. Don’t save your money or call real estate agents or pick out a white couch. If you must do something, pray for the people who do own beach houses.” It’s a perspective Kathleen develops after she moves from Kansas to a “beach house” (read: oyster shack) in Long Island, where she joins forces with her new neighbor Rosemary against the Sugar Shack, a McMansion that’s looming next door.
Directions to Myself, Heidi Julavits (June 27)
Heidi Julavits—an author, Guggenheim Fellow, and founding editor of The Believer magazine—has written a second memoir, this one guided more by her son than herself. Directions to Myself unfolds over four years, beginning with the summer when Julavits’ then-6-year-old son approaches the “end times of childhood.” This sends Julavits spiraling as she reflects on memories ranging from her own upbringing in coastal Maine to a month in Florence with her two children to her teaching career at Columbia. In this self-aware book, issues of politics and gender thread together with the daily ins and outs of family life.
American Whitelash: A Changing Nation and the Cost of Progress, Wesley Lowery (June 27)
“Today’s white supremacist movement is revolutionary,” Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wesley Lowery writes in American Whitelash. “Its explicit aim being to overthrow our maturing multiracial democracy.” Lowery’s galvanizing new book charts the cycle of racial progress and white backlash that has repeatedly played out through U.S. history. Beginning with President Barack Obama’s 2008 election, Lowery investigates contemporary systems of white supremacy and how they helped bring about the unprecedented political rise of Donald Trump. Combining historical research with critical yet empathetic firsthand reporting, the best-selling author of They Can’t Kill Us All delivers a searing examination of the movement.
Money, Power, Respect: How Women in Sports Are Shaping the Future of Feminism, Macaela MacKenzie (June 27)
Money, Power, Respect may be Macaela MacKenzie’s debut book, but she’s no stranger to writing nonfiction. As a journalist covering women’s equality, her work has appeared in Glamour, Elle, Self, Forbes, Marie Claire, Allure, and Bustle. Her beat spans sports, the gender gap, and women’s health—all of which factor heavily into her book on the role that female athletes are playing in the fight for women’s rights. The book breaks down into its three titular sections, with chapters like “Equal Pay for Equal Play.” (For each dollar that the NBA’s highest-paid player brings home, MacKenzie points out, the WNBA’s highest-paid player earns just half a cent.) Interviews with prominent athletes like Allyson Felix, Megan Rapinoe, and Billie Jean King round out its narrative arc.
Ripe, Sarah Rose Etter (July 11)
Ripe, Sarah Rose Etter’s second novel, has a dark, delicious edge. Thirty-three-year-old Cassie toils away at a Silicon Valley tech startup, accompanied by her own personal black hole, which hovers above her head. Only she can see it, and it may be a metaphor, or the first sign of psychosis, but it grows and shrinks depending on her moods and anxieties. Cassie’s job demands a breakneck pace (which she fuels with cocaine), her so-called friends don’t seem to care, the man she’s seeing has a girlfriend, and she might be pregnant. Blatant economic inequality and a crushing culture of ambition weigh down the city in a tale about corporate greed in the modern world.
Silver Nitrate, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (July 18)
Despite her talents as a sound editor, lifelong movie buff Montserrat has found it difficult to make any real headway in the male-dominated film industry of 1990s Mexico City. But when her childhood best friend Tristán, a fading soap opera star for whom Montserrat has long harbored deeper feelings, befriends his new neighbor, disgraced horror director Abel Urueta, the pair is offered what seems like a chance to turn their lives around. According to Urueta, the silver nitrate stock used for the unfinished final film that tanked his career was imbued with a luck spell by the Nazi occultist who wrote the movie’s screenplay. Urueta claims that if they finish the film, the spell will bring them all exciting new opportunities. But their foray into dark magic has unexpected consequences. From the best-selling author of The Daughter of Doctor Moreau and Mexican Gothic, this heart-pounding paranormal thriller melds real history with things that go bump in the night.
Small Worlds, Caleb Azumah Nelson (July 18)
Set over the course of three summers, Small Worlds first introduces readers to its narrator Steven, a second-generation immigrant of Ghanaian parents, at his Southeast London church in summer 2010 when he’s 18 years old. For Steven, it’s dancing to the music he hears at church that fills him with gratitude more than prayer. Steven’s truest passions are music and dance, callings that he continues to explore as Caleb Azumah Nelson’s rhythmic narrative takes him to Ghana the following summer and then back to London in the book’s final section. Throughout, Steven must reckon with a variety of coming-of-age challenges, from growing feelings for his best friend Adeline and questions of faith to familial pressures and intergenerational trauma.
Crook Manifesto, Colson Whitehead (July 18)
In his highly anticipated 11th book, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead returns to uptown Manhattan for a sequel to his 2021 best seller Harlem Shuffle. Set in a masterfully recreated 1970s New York City, Crook Manifesto continues the saga of furniture store owner and now former hustler Ray Carney. The story opens in 1971, when crime in the city is at an all-time high and tensions between the New York Police Department and militant groups like the Black Liberation Army are exploding. Carney has bid goodbye to his criminal ways—but he needs Jackson 5 tickets for his daughter, so he decides to get in touch with his old contact Munson, a crooked cop who promises Carney first-rate seats in exchange for his help moving some stolen jewelry. With two subsequent sections set in 1973 and 1976, respectively, Whitehead’s darkly funny literary crime novel serves up scenes from Carney’s life that illustrate an era of upheaval in New York’s history.
Prom Mom, Laura Lippman (July 25)
With more than 20 novels under her belt, Laura Lippman is a seasoned pro at crafting mysteries and crime fiction. New to her list is Prom Mom, about cold commercial real estate developer Joe Simpson and the women in his life, including Amber Glass, the “prom mom” in question. More than two decades ago, the pair went to the big dance together. Amber had concealed her 28-week pregnancy until the night of the event, when, barely conscious, she delivered a preemie in a hotel bathroom (a story that’s reminiscent of a real case). The baby died, and Amber was accused of murder. Now, she is drawn back to her hometown of Baltimore, where she can’t seem to untangle her path from Joe’s—and soon she’s roped into his scheme to escape financial ruin.
Somebody’s Fool, Richard Russo (July 25)
First came Nobody’s Fool. Then came a Pulitzer Prize. Next came Everybody’s Fool. And now, to round out the trilogy, Richard Russo brings readers back to the fictional community of North Bath in upstate New York with Somebody’s Fool. Donald “Sully” Sullivan, the protagonist of the first two books, has been dead for a decade, and now his son, Peter—and later, Peter’s estranged son, Thomas—are taking on central roles. The novel picks up as an unidentified body appears on the outskirts of town. Everyone in the community, including former police chief Doug Raymer and new chief (Doug’s ex) Charice Bond, is rocked by the discovery and desperate to learn who died and how. With wry wit, Russo spins a tale of small town life and the many ways humans form connections with one another.
Family Lore, Elizabeth Acevedo (Aug. 1)
Elizabeth Acevedo—a National Book Award winner and the 2023 Young People’s Poet Laureate—has written her first novel for adults. In Family Lore, Flor Marte is able to predict when someone will die, down to the day. She’s about to throw a living wake, but she won’t tell anyone, even her sisters, who, exactly, the wake is for. Is someone actually about to die—or is this simply a ruse to get the whole big, beautiful family together? Family Lore paints a portrait of multiple generations of Marte women, many of whom have magical gifts of their own, as they navigate family history and Dominican identity.
Time’s Mouth, Edan Lepucki (Aug. 1)
Opening against the vibrant backdrop of 1950s California, best-selling author Edan Lepucki’s mystical new novel deals in time travel, pseudo-cults, and the weight of family secrets. The generation-spanning story begins with Ursa, whose ability to travel through memory to revisit her past cultivates a loyal following of women who come to live alongside her in a rundown mansion in the woods outside Santa Cruz. Eventually, Ursa’s influence on the group begins to sour, prompting her son Ray and his pregnant lover Cherry to decamp to Los Angeles, where Ray is ultimately left to raise their daughter Opal on his own. Years later, a teenage Opal, still hungry for the love of a mother she never knew, delves into her own wellspring of power to return to the past and uncover the truth at the heart of her family’s unraveling.
Tom Lake, Ann Patchett (Aug. 1)
Ann Patchett, whose book The Dutch House was a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, has written a new novel that braids together the past and the present, what could have been and what has become. In Tom Lake, Emily, Maisie, and Nell—the heir to the family farm, a veterinarian in training, and an aspiring actor, respectively—return to their family’s orchard in Northern Michigan to harvest cherries in the spring of 2020. As they work, their mother, Lara, passes the time by telling them the tale of Tom Lake, a theater company where she spent a summer in her youth. There, she met and dated the famous actor Peter Duke, had a big movie role of her own, and decided to leave the spotlight. Tom Lake is a compelling narrative about the secret lives of parents—and how to find happiness in the midst of a long life.
Wine People, Michelle Wildgen (Aug. 1)
This novel follows a complicated female friendship—between golden girl Thessaly and outsider Wren—alongside an illuminating peek into the world of wine: how it’s made and by whom, and who enjoys it. Wine People takes readers from Madison, Wis., and Sonoma, Calif., to Italy, France, and Germany as its story unfolds. Thessaly comes from a prestigious family of California grape growers but struggles with imposter syndrome. Wren comes from a working class background well outside the wine world and has a lot to prove. Both women land highly sought-after jobs at a boutique wine importer in New York City, vie to become heirs to the business, and gradually grow on each other in the process.
The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, James McBride (Aug. 8)
In National Book Award winner James McBride’s new novel, the discovery of a skeleton at the bottom of a well in the dilapidated Chicken Hill section of Pottstown, Pa., leads to the unearthing of decades-old secrets. The book opens in 1972, decades after the peaceful coexistence of Black and Jewish citizens in the neighborhood has been fractured by redevelopment. Zooming back 40 years, McBride tells the story of how those ties are tested when Chona Ludlow, the Jewish owner of the book’s titular grocery store, helps Nate Timblin, the Black janitor at Chona’s husband’s theater, conceal a young deaf boy from the white authorities trying to institutionalize him. McBride’s heartfelt and engrossing follow-up to his hit 2020 release Deacon King Kong is an ode to the power of community in the face of oppression.
Congratulations, the Best Is Over!, R. Eric Thomas (Aug. 8)
R. Eric Thomas’s self-deprecating and deeply personal memoir-in-essays chronicles the best-selling author’s return home to Baltimore after living in Philadelphia for more than 15 years. Brought back to the suburbs of the city where he grew up by his husband’s work as a Presbyterian minister, Thomas offers a hilarious and incisive collection that details experiences ranging from a bloody urgent care visit and discovering a white, blond man pictured on his name tag at his 20th high school reunion to the loss of his father-in-law—all in pursuit of making sense of the challenges of coming home as a middle-aged adult in a global pandemic.
Let’s Go Let’s Go Let’s Go, Cleo Qian (Aug. 15)
Cleo Qian’s debut short story collection centers on Asian and Asian American characters whose lives are upended by technology in ways that illustrate the peculiar horrors of modern life. In one piece, a woman living abroad immerses herself in virtual dating simulations to distract herself from feeling abandoned by her best friend. In another, a melancholy K-pop star discovers a magical karaoke machine that makes him reconsider his rise to fame. Throughout, these 11 speculative and hypnotic stories offer a sense of catharsis, with each protagonist experiencing a psychological reckoning that pushes them to embrace their true self.
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