lf August represents the last delicious dregs of summer, the right books will help you enjoy it. Mika in real life contains more than enough laughable relativity and rousing romance to satisfy those looking for one last beach read. Hiking Gentry Home, A map for the missingand afterlife all ground readers in the specificity of history—a black matriarchal family tree, China during and after the Cultural Revolution, and East Africa amid German colonization—that puts us in time. And the folk magic of witches provides a mesmerizing distraction from the approaching end of the season.
Here, the best new books to read in August.
The last white manMohsin Hamid (Aug. 2)
Anders, a young white man, wakes up one morning to find that he has become “a deep and unmistakable tan.” At first, he only shares the discovery with Oona, his old friend who has become a new lover, but soon the whole town begins to change. Both Anders and Oona’s parents struggle with the seemingly inevitable change, but once the titular last white man – Anders’s father – dies, people begin to forget that whiteness ever existed. Author Mohsin Hamidi told Oprah Daily that all his characters experience the loss of whiteness in different ways, and a “deep destabilization” ensues. “There is a basic human desire to be led away from destabilization,” Hamid said. “But also a vital need to make an imaginary journey through it.”
Mika in real lifeEmiko Jean (2 Aug.)
Mika Suzuki doesn’t have her life in order. The 35-year-old just lost her last hopeless job, her last relationship went up in flames and she doesn’t get along with her parents. Enter: Penny Calvin, the daughter Mika gave up for adoption 16 years ago. When Penny contacts her out of the blue, Mika desperately wants to impress her, so she weaves a precarious web of lies with an art gallery and a handsome friend. Once that web unravels, Mika must figure out if she can reconnect with the curious, quirky Penny and find herself in the process.
Hiking Gentry HomeAlora Young (Aug. 2)
At age 19, Alora Young, a former youth poet laureate of the Southern United States, has written a lyrical debut book in verse that chronicles her matrilineal family history through time. She begins with Amy, the first of her ancestors to arrive in Tennessee; next is Gentry, Young’s great-grandmother who was married off at age 14; and finally, there’s Young’s own mother, a teenage beauty queen. “The only way to tell this story is through poetry,” Young writes“because black girls are forever laced with rhythm, from the Negro hymns Amy Coleman whispered as she gave birth to her slave child to the beat of the gospel my mother sang at fifteen when she was greeted as a child prodigy.”
A map for the missingBelinda Huijuan Tang (Aug 9)
In Belinda Huijuan Tang’s captivating debut novel, we meet Tang Yitian, who emigrated from China to the US two decades ago to continue his graduate research. But when Yitian receives a panicked phone call from his mother informing him that his estranged father is missing, he hurries back to his hometown in the countryside. There he reconnects with Tian Hanwen, a childhood friend and former lover who once shared his interest in learning. As the pair search for what happened to Yitian’s father, Yitian also faces family tension, his sense of identity and the meaning of home.
I’m glad my mom passed awayJennette McCurdy (Aug 9)
Jennette McCurdy had her first acting audition when she was 6 years old. For fifteen years, her mother restricted her calorie intake, criticized her appearance, and kept track of her diaries, email, income, and even her showers. Now the iCarly star has written a dark, funny memoir about the fraught relationship, reflecting on her late mother’s behavior with empathy and insight. After recovering from bulimia and alcohol abuse, retiring from acting and undergoing therapy, McCurdy tells a story of healing.
Elizabeth FinchJulian Barnes (Aug 16)
Neil is captivated by Professor Elizabeth Finch, the “Culture and Civilization” teacher, a class that is not for students, but for adults of all ages. It’s no ordinary course, and Finch is no ordinary professor either; author Julian Barnes writes her as special and lively, reserved yet impressive. The student and the professor form a kind of friendship, and after Finch dies, Neil takes it upon himself to become his history teacher’s historian.
Witches: a novelBrenda Lopez, translation by Heather Cleary (Aug 16)
Zoe, a journalist from Mexico City, is exhausted by endless assignments about rape and femicide. Still, she agrees to investigate Paloma, a murdered traditional healer, or curandera, from the mountain village of San Felipe. In San Felipe, Zoe meets Feliciana, another curandera, who is also Paloma’s cousin. Through Feliciana, Zoe begins to unravel the story of the cousins’ struggle to establish themselves as curanderas in a patriarchal family.
Raising Lazarus: Hope, Justice and the Future of America’s Overdose CrisisBeth Macy (Aug 16)
Beth Macy, the acclaimed author of Dopessick, continues her 2018 book with another comprehensive account of the dark forces behind America’s opioid crisis — this time targeting the ordinary people fighting them. While addiction rates have skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic, harm reductionists, activists and frontline workers have worked against stigma and for real and lasting change.
afterlife, Abdulrazak Gurnah (Aug 23)
Abdulrazak Gurnah, winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature, weaves the stories of three East Africans – Ilyas, Afiya and Hamza – into a rich, detailed tapestry. Ilyas was kidnapped as a boy by the German colonial army. After returning home to find his sister, Afiya, he leaves again to join the schutztruppe, a group of African mercenaries serving the German Empire. Hamza had also joined the Germans as a mercenary, but soon realizes his mistake and returns home from the war to meet Afiya and fall in love. These three separate storylines intertwine to explore the violence of European colonialism.
Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: A Mysterious History of the Oxford Translator’s Revolution, RF Kuang (Aug 23)
In The poppy war author RF Kuang’s latest, a work of dark academia, she chronicles the rise of a Chinese orphan studying at Babel, the prestigious (and fictional) Royal Institute of Translation at the University of Oxford. The main character has ditched his first name and called himself Robin Swift at the behest of Professor Richard Lovell, an Oxford sinologist. That is not the only strange occurrence at the institute. Against a backdrop of magic and lore, Robin slowly begins to realize that serving Babel could also mean leaving his homeland.
Doesn’t anybody care what happened to Carlotta?, James Hannaham (Aug. 30)
The Fourth of July looks very different for Carlotta this year – after two decades in prison, where she passed over and faced abuse from both fellow inmates and correctional officers, she is finally free and ready to go home. But home has changed in her absence, and the daring, brash, and bitingly hilarious protagonist tries to come to terms with the Fort Greene, Brooklyn she left behind. Hannaham’s novel has drawn equations until Ulysses with its style, specificity and snapshot.
Carrie Soto is back, Taylor Jenkins Reid (Aug. 30)
In Taylor Jenkins Reid’s latest novel, retired tennis legend Carrie Soto aims to make a triumphant return to the sport she once changed forever, winning 20 Grand Slam titles and earning the media nickname “the Battle Axe” for her brutal playing style and icy demeanor . A new contender has come along to threaten her record, so Carrie, now 37, returns to court — along with her father and lifelong coach, Javier — to defend her record and her legacy.
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