A Hollywood true murder, meditations on being mixed-race in America, hot-button political essays, a haunted house ghost story. Whatever your reading mood, this selection of 10 new books to read in August is sure to get your brain waves firing through Labor Day.
Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang (August 1)
Zhang’s remarkable collection of short stories—the debut title from Lena Dunham’s book imprint, Lenny—is so brutally unfettered that it will make you gag in one paragraph, then make your heart break in the next. Every one of Zhang’s tales focuses on a different Chinese girl trying to navigate a life as the daughter of immigrant parents. A book like this proves that there are plenty of Asian-American stories to be told, and from the POVs of precocious children who are smarter and more observant than adults might think.
Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka (August 1)
No AC? No problem—this icy novel brings the chills. It begins with the mysterious death of teenage golden girl Lucinda Hayes, the object of both desire and hatred at Jefferson High School. Through the eyes of two of Lucinda’s fellow students and an investigator with his own past to reckon with, we see the repercussions of Lucinda’s death on her small Colorado town. Author Danya Kukafka, only 25 years old, began writing her thrilling debut while studying at NYU. With a knack for writing oh-so-real teenage characters and underline-worthy prose, she weaves a tale of voyeurism and obsession that’s impossible to put down.
The Hot One by Carolyn Murnick (August 1)
It had Hollywood scandal written all over it: In 2001, Ashley Ellerin, then-girlfriend of Ashton Kutcher, was found murdered in her L.A. home. But for Carolyn Murnick, an editor at New York magazine, Ashley was more than just a name in a headline—she was her childhood best friend, whom Murnick had slowly grown apart from in the years following high school. Determined to find out what happened, Murnick becomes an amateur crime reporter, taking us from courtrooms in L.A. to her hometown New Jersey, where she and Ellerin built their early friendship. Much more than just a true crime page-turner, with The Hot One Murnick attempts to answer how two best friends can start in the same place and end up in two very different ones.
New People by Danzy Senna (August 1)
Here’s a novel that presents a refreshingly modern take on identity, class, and race in America. At its core is Maria, a light-skinned, biracial black woman set to marry her college beau who is also biracial—together, they represent a class (and future) of “new people,” an ever-expanding melting pot of mixed cultures. But Maria has conflicting thoughts on her own identity, which happen to be spawned by an out-of-hand crush on a darker-skinned poet. New People is a thought-provoking read that packs a lot of ambition within its short chapters.
Bitch Doctrine: Essays for Dissenting Adults by Laurie Penny (August 1)
Prolific feminist writer Laurie Penny is mad as hell in her new collection, Bitch Doctrine. The topics covered are familiar territory by now; expect essays on how the Trump administration is f—ing with us, how marginalized people are in danger in our current political climate, or how the inequality of women is never-ending. But what’s to relish most is Penny’s distinct voice and snarky takes that have made her previous works—including six books and countless viral articles—so popular.
_See What I Have Done_ by Sarah Schmidt (August 1)
We can see the bloody title sequence now—Sarah Schmidt’s debut is a prestige TV drama waiting to happen. In a chilling work of historical fiction, she transports us back to the morning of August 4, 1892, when Lizzie Borden discovers her father and stepmother brutally murdered in their family home. Over time-shifting chapters told from alternating characters’ points of view, Schmidt invites us inside the Bordens’ turbulent family life, expertly crafting her own take on one of most talked-about crimes in history.
_The Grip of It_ by Jac Jemc (August 1)
This one’s for all you horror fans (and general masochists). A millennial-aged couple move from the city to a gorgeous Victorian house that they think is too good to be true. It is, of course. The house is haunted—and like all scary stories, it begins with probably-dead ghost children playing in the woods in their backyard. Not only do these woods seem to inch closer and closer to the house every day, but other bizarre things start happening to the couple—mysterious bruises appear on their bodies, a creepy old neighbor spies on them, eerie writings appear on the walls, and more. Cliches? Of course they are, but that doesn’t mean this novel still won’t scare the shit out of you.
_Stay with Me_ by Ayobami Adebayo (August 22)
This month’s most affecting family drama comes from rising author Ayobami Adebayo. Set in Nigeria over the course of three decades, Adebayo’s heartbreaking novel tells the story of Yejide and Akin, a couple trying to keep things afloat despite roadblocks like infertility, illness, and political unrest. In alternating chapters, the husband and wife reveal the deep, tragic secrets that have allowed their family to grow, and the pain they’ve caused along the way. A finalist for the 2017 Bailey’s Women Prize for Fiction—a prize previously held by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie—Adebayo’s debut is a story of complicated love teetering between tradition and modernity. We have a feeling she has many more to tell.
_The Burning Girl_ by Claire Messud (August 29)
In case you can’t get enough, there are plenty of female friendship novels to go around this summer. In Messud’s follow-up to her piercing The Woman Upstairs, two teenage best friends are on the cusp of diverging paths: Julia drips in privilege and comes from an idyllic family situation, whereas Cassie is raised by an unhinged single mother and has an unsure future. When Cassie’s mom’s new, untrustworthy boyfriend steps into the picture, he sets in motion a series of unfortunate events that threatens to separate the two girls forever.
_My Absolute Darling_ by Gabriel Tallent (August 30)
The first thing to know about this novel is that its protagonist’s name is Turtle. Turtle is 14 years old and mostly roams around in the woods of northern California, where she feels most true to herself. Her life as a middle schooler isn’t so great—she has no friends, no social skills, no direction in life. But when a cool, high-school boy enters Turtle’s life, he helps her realize for the first time that her upbringing by her single dad, who is still tortured by the death of his wife long ago, has never been a safe situation. Employing some Hunger Games-esque mentality, the intrepid young Turtle must figure out her next move in this gripping adventure.
Related: In Her Book , Jenny Zhang Arrives as a Chinese-American Voice We Haven’t Heard Yet, Jenny Zhang Arrives as a Chinese-American Voice We Haven’t Heard Yet
Jinnie Lee and Maura M. Lynch are founders of the literary site STET.
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