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The best way to savor the peak of summer is with a good read. This August, there are new books that offer every kind of reading experience, whether you're looking to delve into a tender romance, a razor-sharp collection of essays, or a thrilling mystery. From Ann Patchett's sparkling Tom Lake, a novel in which a mother reminisces about a long-lost summer love with her grown daughters, to Angie Kim's Happiness Falls, a mystery about a family who bands together to find their missing father, here are the best new books to read in August.
Mobility, Lydia Kiesling (Aug. 1)
Environmental anxiety is on full display in Lydia Kiesling's Mobility, which centers on the life of Elizabeth "Bunny" Glenn, whose cushioned existence from adolescence to middle age is made possible by fossil fuels. From her teenage years as the daughter of a U.S. foreign service officer stationed in Baku, Azerbaijan to her corporate ascent as a yuppie at an energy company in Texas, Bunny reckons with her reliance on resources that may cause irreparable damage to the planet.
My Name Is Iris, Brando Skyhorse (Aug. 1)
In My Name Is Iris, Brando Skyhorse tackles the surveillance state and xenophobia in an uncomfortably familiar dystopian vision of American. For Iris, a new divorcée, life is finally beginning to look like what she dreamed for herself and her 9-year-old daughter, Melanie—that is, until a wall suddenly appears in their front yard. Soon, other things begin to give her pause, including a new wearable tech band that's withheld from her because she's second-generation Mexican. As its use becomes more prevalent and her lack of access to the tech limits her ability to travel and work, Iris must decide what measures she'll take to protect herself and her daughter.
Tom Lake, Ann Patchett (Aug. 1)
With Tom Lake, Ann Patchett's latest family saga, a nostalgic story of summer love reveals volumes about the lives we choose. When the pandemic brings her three adult daughters home to Michigan, Lara Nelson agrees to sweeten the labor of harvesting the family farm's cherry crop by finally telling them the story of her youthful love affair with the renowned (and recently deceased) movie star Peter Duke, with whom she co-starred in a community play long before. Elaborating on a tale her daughters have only heard about in hearsay from their father, Lara's loving husband Joe, Lara revisits her past and, in doing so, affirms her present. Gorgeously rendered and gently affecting, Patchett's tale is a study in the thrills of young romance, the complex love of a marriage, and the stories we tell ourselves and others.
The Underworld: Journeys to the Depths of the Ocean, Susan Casey (Aug. 1)
Journalist Susan Casey makes a case for exploring the deep sea with The Underworld, a fascinating history of mankind's journeys to the depths of the ocean and the intrepid scientists and adventurers who have devoted their lives to the work. With fastidious research on underwater archaeology and the many life forms that inhabit the sea floor and thrilling accounts of her own descents to the deep, Casey's book satisfies our greatest curiosities about the mysteries of the ocean.
The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, James McBride (Aug. 8)
In National Book Award-winner James McBride's novel The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, the discovery of a human skeleton under the foundation of a new townhouse development reignites questions about a devastating tragedy that took place nearly five decades earlier. The year is 1972 and a dead body in Pottstown, a small, working-class town in Pennsylvania, has sent eerie reverberations through the community. The townspeople are moved to investigate a series of events that happened years earlier and involved Moshe and Chona, a Jewish couple who opened the town's first integrated dancehall and theater, and their friends and employees Nate and Addie, a Black couple who sought Moshe and Chona's help in keeping their nephew from becoming a ward of the state. A story of community, care, and the lengths to which we'll go for justice, McBride's tale is a wondrous ode to the strength of humanity in a small town.
Prophet, Helen Macdonald and Son Blaché (Aug. 8)
Memory is one hell of a drug in Prophet, the thrilling dystopian novel from Sin Blaché and Helen Macdonald. Sunil, an M16 agent, and Adam, an American intelligence officer, are forced to team up when a series of strange events occur, including an American diner mysteriously appearing in the British countryside. Sunil and Adam's research leads them to Aurora, Colo., where they discover a new drug called Prophet, which induces fond nostalgia, but with troubling side effects: psychotic breaks and in some cases, death. After they discover Adam is immune to the drug, the pair launches into an investigation that defies reality—and brings them closer to one another than they ever anticipated.
The Bee Sting, Paul Murray (Aug. 15)
The fascinatingly macabre details of an Irish nuclear family's turmoil after a stretch of bad luck provides ample material for Paul Murray's The Bee Sting. The drama centers on the family of Dickie Barnes, a once-prosperous cars salesman whose impending financial demise and general sense of dread lead him to build a doomsday day bunker in the woods. The rest of his family isn't faring much better—his wife, Imelda, has turned to hocking her jewelry and having illicit affairs to deal with her ennui, while his children, Cass and PJ, have turned to binge-drinking and running away from home as their solutions to their general misfortune. With dark humor and unflinching honesty, Murray paints an arresting portrait of a family that can't catch a break—but won't go down without putting up a fight.
Nervous: Essays on Heritage and Healing, Jen Soriano (Aug. 22)
Nervous, Jen Soriano's debut essay collection, is a searing book that doesn't shy away from exploring the most intimate of topics. Reflecting on her upbringing as the daughter of two hardworking Filipino parents, one of whom is a neurosurgeon, Soriano mines the personal to find answers to her battle with chronic pain, exploring her childhood, her mental health struggles, and her family's legacy of intergenerational trauma along the way. From examining the horrors her grandparents experienced in the Philippines during Japanese occupation in World War II to celebrating the healing she found by doing community organizing with fellow Filipinos in San Francisco as a young adult, Soriano powerfully meditates on both pain and healing.
The Deadline, Jill Lepore (Aug. 29)
WithThe Deadline, historian and New Yorker writer Jill Lepore focuses her cogent insight on the most pressing issues of the past decade in American society, seamlessly moving between the intensely personal (a friend's cancer diagnosis) to the fiercely political (the urgent gun-violence crisis and ongoing debate over gun control) with authority and acumen. From addressing the limitations of the #MeToo movement to probing the progress—and the dilemmas—brought about by the technology boom, Lepore brings wit, clarity, and necessary perspective to the biggest issues of today.
Happiness Falls, Angie Kim (Aug. 29)
When Mia Parkson's father mysteriously disappears, there's only one person who might know what happened to him: her brother Eugene, who was the last person seen with him, but who can't speak due to Angelman Syndrome, a rare genetic condition. When it becomes clear that their father isn't returning, the family launches an investigation, with Mia, her twin brother, and their mother taking matters into their own hands. But their desperate search for answers forces them all to reckon with how they communicate with Eugene—and flips any assumptions they've made about the boy and his role in their family.
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