City of Girls
Elizabeth Gilbert is back with a bang in the world of fiction, and we couldn’t be more excited. In City of Girls, Vivian is narrating her life from the ripe, happy age of 89 and recalling how everything changed when she was kicked out of Vassar for paying too much attention to mirrors and too little to books. Moving in with Aunt Peg, who owns a variety theater that features a string of romantic and sexy revues, Vivian joins the bohemian world with gusto. Learning about life, love, sex, and more, she comes—deliciously—into her own.
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
Ocean Vuong’s debut novel is as full of poetic language and feeling as his poetry, and its premise is as tragic as it is brilliant. Written as a letter from a son, Little Dog, to his mother, who is illiterate, there’s something doomed about it, the chasm between son and mother clear in the disconnect between writing and reading. An intimate portrait of poverty, race, class, and queerness as lived through and understood in the eyes of a child and young man, the book also reaches back, as Little Dog aches to acknowledge and empathize with his mother’s past.
More Than Enough
In her new memoir/manifesto, Elaine Welteroth writes about growing up as a mixed-race child in majority-white suburbia and her development of identity, voice, career, and purpose. With a Black mother and white father, Welteroth wasn’t seen as either fully white or Black by her peers, but rather than letting others define her, she decided to do that for herself. After college, she learned the ropes of PR, advertising, and editorial work, and eventually became the Editor-in-Chief of Teen Vogue, turning it into what we recognize today. Having broken barriers and glass ceilings, Welteroth is an inspiration.
For the writing-world-obsessed and those who eschew it, Mona Awad’s second book is a wickedly funny takedown of MFA culture and the blurry lines between independence and cruelty, tinged with elements of Jordan Peele-like horror. Samantha is a creative writing graduate student at Warren University, where her cohort is mostly comprised of a group of insufferable women who call themselves Bunnies. (Warren. Bunnies. Get it?) But sometimes we’re drawn to that which we’re excluded from, and when Samantha is invited to a Bunny get-together, the rabbit hole she falls into—well, you’d better read to find out.
Notes to Self
In her first essay collection, Irish professor Emilie Pine faces—and breaks—the silences that have controlled her life as a woman in the world, from the silence of an often absent father to the ways in which she was taught to be ashamed of discussing taboo topics like menstruation. Speaking out and using her voice, Pine’s examination of how she personally—and how so many women more broadly—live in patriarchal institutions is timely, of course, but it’s also stirring, frank, and beautiful. A wonderful exploration of violence, pain, sexuality, and using one’s voice.
Many varied lives intersect in Regina Porter’s gorgeous debut. There’s Eddie, a Navy man who becomes obsessed with the Tom Stoppard play “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” and the woman he marries, Agnes, who hales from Buckner County, Georgia, which she’s only too happy to leave in favor of New York City. One of their children, Claudia, grows up to marry a white, high-powered lawyer whose past might be intricately intertwined with her mother’s. But these are just a few tidbits from a rich tapestry of plot, character, and interwoven lives. Get lost in this book—you won’t regret it.
The Body Lies
When a creative writing teacher begins seeing echoes of her own life woven into one of her student’s pieces, the space between reality and fiction begins to blur. The unnamed narrator of Jo Baker’s newest is a sexual assault survivor who’s trying to stay well, keep her marriage together, and take care of her 3-year-old son, all while starting a new job as a teacher. Overwhelmed by it all, she’s especially disturbed by the details of her assault popping into student Nicholas Palmer’s work. Without much support, this narrator faces scary odds. Will she get through whatever comes next?
Do you ever feel like the life you’re living and the one everyone sees you living are two different things? That’s what Tiffany Jenkins was experiencing before everyone found out she was going through forced opiate withdrawal on a jail-cell floor after being arrested—by her boyfriend’s buddies, because he was Deputy Sheriff of their small town. This intimate portrayal of her life relying on opiates—including the literal highs and the extreme lows—as well as her recovery is necessary for anyone trying to understand addiction.
We Have Always Been Here
Samra Habib is queer and Muslim, and lest you raise your eyebrows with wonder, remember queers have and always will be everywhere, even within structures (like most major religions) that seem to tell them they are impossible. Growing up learning to hide a childhood sexual assault as well as her religious sect, Habib learned even more about silencing when her family emigrated to Canada, where she endured racism, bullying, and a deeper entrenchment into patriarchy. After a suicide attempt, with hard work, she learned to celebrate her voice, her identity, her art, and her faith. This is a moving memoir of becoming.
The Most Fun We Ever Had
Claire Lombardo’s debut is a family story to sink your teeth into. Four sisters in Chicago—Wendy, Violet, Liza, and Grace—struggle through a difficult year alongside their parents, whose love for one another seems impossible to these modern women. But we learn about the parents’ difficult early years too, as well as the secrets of four sisters growing up in privilege. The present-day plot includes a surprise visitor from a past that seemed long buried, and some huge life events. You’ll be riveted by how real it all feels with these characters’ flaws, foibles, and humanity on display.
On Being Human
No one really sets out to be a motivational example, and Jen Pastiloff seems as surprised as anyone that her life now includes running healing yoga-and-writing retreats. But her memoir, which shares a title with one of her beloved workshops, shows us not only how she got to where she is now, but how she learned to hold those values in much less glamorous jobs, like waitressing in LA. Pastiloff is in earnest, her empathy for us readers jumping off the page, and her genuine facing off with obstacles through hard work and love are a true inspiration.
Ayesha At Last
Pride and Prejudice retellings really don’t get old, so feast your eyes on this newest, in which the opening line reminds us that while a single Muslim man might be in want of a wife, “his own inclinations are of secondary importance” as far as his mother is concerned. Uzma Jalaluddin’s version features teacher and poet Ayesha, who keeps bumping into her new and extremely stuffy neighbor, Khalid, with his old-fashioned ways and judgmental eyes. When Khalid is suddenly engaged to Ayesha’s younger cousin and rumors about his family begin to circle, Ayesha’s path is unclear. You’ll enjoy the journey, even knowing the end.
Fleishman Is in Trouble
Libby has known Toby Fleishman since their shared year abroad in college, and though they haven’t talked in years, she’s an astute narrator of Toby’s new life. Newly divorced, Toby’s ex unexpectedly drops the kids off at his place and leaves, upending his idea of how this whole divorce thing was supposed to work. With his children to care for, a demanding job, and a new lease on his sexual prowess—i.e. discovering Tinder—Toby is run ragged. He’s also trying to understand why his wife left him and what he’s been getting wrong all this time. A hilarious, heartfelt debut.
We’ve all heard of amnesia and Alzheimer’s, but what if your mind was invaded by memories—that weren’t even yours? In Blake Crouch’s newest, False Memory Syndrome is spreading, and the weight of memories of lives unlived but still remembered are driving people to the brink of their sanity. A cop, Barry Sutton, seeks out neuroscientist Helena Smith in order to gain some clarity on this new menace. Helena has been working for years on a machine meant to preserve our memories, but has it been tampered with? And how will Barry help her?
Evvie Drake Starts Over
Evvie and Dean have almost nothing in common. They do share a friend, Dean’s once-bestie and Evvie’s current-bestie, Andy. When Dean, a career baseballer, wants to get away—the media can’t get enough of his failed pitches—Andy invites him to Maine, where Dean stays in the apartment at the back of Evvie’s house. Evvie, whose husband just died, is not having a great time, partially because she doesn’t know how to mourn a man she was about to leave in a publicly acceptable way. As she and Dean get closer, they discover they share a lot more than just Andy.
Stories have long been told about fathers who make replacement lovers of their daughters when their mothers die. Mark Haddon, experimenting with form and narrative, takes this plotline and asks us to contemplate the nature of this kind of abusive dynamic of ownership and grooming. In modern times, a wealthy businessman, Philippe, learns of the death of his wife on a small plane that’s crashed, though she manages to birth their child, Angelica, before passing. In ancient times, a king and his daughter live secluded. And in Shakespeare’s play “Pericles,” another version plays out. A twisting, turning book that will keep you captivated.
Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory
Whether or not you’re already a fan of Raphael Bob-Waksburg’s Netflix original “BoJack Horseman,” his debut short story collection (and its excellent title) is worth a read. His ideas for stories run wild. From one about a scientific attempt to recreate ten former U.S. presidents in the body of one man (or beast, as it may be) to one narrated by a sweet and huggable dog to one written as a Craigslist Missed Connection ad, these tales are heartfelt and funny, a winning combo. Dazzled by the wit, you’ll be surprised when you start tearing up at the sincere turn.
The Spies of Shilling Lane
Mrs. Braithwaite isn’t used to being powerless, but when her husband divorces her, and the town where she used to be queen bee turns against her, she decides to go to London and gain some sympathy from her daughter Betty. Trouble is, Betty has been missing for days according to her landlord, and what with the Blitz, there’s no telling what’s become of her. Frantic but purposeful, Mrs. Braithwaite begins to investigate her daughter’s disappearance on her own, tracing Betty’s life and livelihood and taking the landlord along with her as an ally.
The Body in Question
In Florida, a murder trial is underway, the kind tabloids love: a dead toddler and a ditzy older sister who’s accused of murdering him (but she’s a twin—was it really her who did it?). But the real drama is behind the scenes, as two jurors, C-2 and F-17 as they’re known by the court, begin an affair in the dingy motel where the jury is being sequestered. As their personal lives and thoughts about the trial intertwine, questions of due process and justice arise—and just when the case seems put to rest, it explodes once again.
The Last Pirate of New York
Pirates are pretty well-known pop-culture caricatures, but if you’ve ever been curious about what an actual pirate’s life was like, this is the book for you. Albert Hicks, born around 1820, had a rough childhood and served his first prison sentence as a teenager. Later, working for his living on a ship, he discovered the value in rousing his fellows to mutiny—and from then on, he made his livelihood less by working than by revolting. A fascinating tale of another time and kind of crime.
Happy Pride Month to all LGBTQIA2S+ readers and allies! June is beautiful for many reasons, Pride only one among them. After all, it’s also one of the best months for lovely outdoor weather, at least on this hemisphere, and that means it’s also perfect for picnics, sunbathing, and outdoor reading. Looking for some good books to dig in to? We’ve rounded up our list of absolute favorite new book releases. Read on!