Past, present, and future: August’s best new books explore them all. Travel back in time to learn about historical icons who changed the world, including the woman who was the Navy’s first oceanographer and the man who inspired today’s Silicon Valley. Or, stay present with valuable advice on advancing your career, finding fulfillment, and embracing your true self. If you’re a forward-thinker, you’ll love fiction set in the future, including stories about the ancestors of the first Chinese woman to emigrate to the U.S. This month’s list is the perfect way to end a summer full of fantastic reads.
Dorothy Moy undergoes a futuristic medical treatment and begins to see visions of her ancestors’ lives. The premise sounds like speculative fiction, but Ford’s latest is more sweeping saga than sci-fi. Weaving between past, present, and future, readers catch glimpses of Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman to emigrate to the U.S., and the generations of women who came after. The result is an affecting exploration of inheritance, legacy, and how generational trauma influences our choices.
Rita Todacheene, a forensic photographer, can talk to the dead, but these abilities aren’t always a good thing. Ghosts plague every area of Rita’s life, leading to her ostracization from her Navajo community. When a particularly angry ghost forces Rita to investigate a suspicious suicide with Cartel ties, there’s more than just her reputation at stake. This thrilling supernatural crime novel keeps readers in suspense from start to finish. Diversifying the mystery genre with Indigenous representation is yet another reason to love Emerson’s debut.
Set during WWII and in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, this new novel from Wiggins (a Pulitzer finalist and author of Evidence of Things Unseen) follows the Rhodes family as they deal with multiple losses and government infringement on their Southern California ranch. This saga of love and grief, called a “languid, linguistically lush and lyrical novel” in a Kirkus starred review, brings the American West to life.
Morin is a French, Cree, Iroquois, and Canadian journalist who uses her platform to share Indigenous stories, particularly those of violence against native women. A survivor of violence herself, Morin shares her painful journey from a child in the foster system to becoming an award-winning storyteller. This powerhouse of a memoir, which is ultimately a call for recognition and justice, shines a light on the Indigenous experience.
Mika Suzuki’s life is falling to pieces, but when Penny, her birth daughter, reaches out after 16 years apart, Mika pretends to have it all together. The closer Mika and Penny become, the harder it is to maintain her imaginary life. Jean’s (Tokyo Ever After) novel is a wonderful blend of heart and humor while touching on heavier topics like interracial adoption and the weight of family expectations.
Dean's intricate fantasy world follows The Family, who eat books as food. Devon, a daughter of The Family, has a restricted diet of fairy tales, but when her son is born with an appetite for minds instead of books, she’s forced to break the “damsel in distress” mold and flee to save his life. A satisfying revolt against the patriarchy, The Book Eaters offers a fascinating premise with a plot that measures up.
Viruses like Covid-19 and HIV pose a much greater risk to minority populations (including the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities). This has nothing to do with biology or lifestyle choices, asserts Northwestern professor Thrasher, and everything to do with our dysfunctional social structures. The Viral Underclass takes a hard-hitting look at the failings of capitalism through the lens of public health and safety, and the book balances data with real-world stories of injustice.
Nevala-Lee (Astounding) offers a biography on Buckminster Fuller, a 20th-century inventor, futurist, and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient. Widely regarded as a genius, Fuller is renowned as much for his methodologies as his designs, and his ability to harness unconventional ideas and creative thinking paved the way for today’s Silicon Valley. Inventor of the Future is detailed and informative while also empowering readers to look beyond standard conclusions.
Stuck in a rut, stressed out, short on time — our reasons for settling are never-ending, but The 12-Hour Walk is a lifeline. A record-setting adventurer and athlete, O’Brady offers valuable lessons gleaned from decades of exploration and endurance. Learn how to change your mindset, ditch your hum-drum existence, and strive for a fuller, more invigorating life (climbing Everest not required).
A stickler for schedules and determined to crush her STEM degree, college student Astrid doesn’t have time to waste. But when she starts dating a superhero, her carefully laid plans go up in smoke. Fernandez’s debut is a sweet YA story of growing up, falling in love, and finding the balance between expectations and intentions.
Manzano, an award-winning author who played Maria on Sesame Street for over 40 years, brings the Cuban Revolution to life through the eyes of four young protagonists. Ana, Zulema, Miguel, and Juan are each affected by Fidel Castro’s revolt in different ways, and their unique stories offer moving glimpses of life in Cuba during a pivotal moment in the nation’s history. This middle grades novel is full of hope from beginning to end, even when the characters face authentic hardships.
Puerto Rican-American Elena Vega returns to the island after Hurricane Maria to search for her missing father. Part mystery, part family saga, After the Hurricane follows Elena’s attempts to not only find the troubled but brilliant Santiago Vega, but also to understand him and her dispersed heritage. Atmospheric and immersive, this novel explores generational trauma associated with alcoholism, abuse, and mental illness.
Culturally rich and beautifully nuanced, Garza’s debut centers on a small coastal town in Texas just before disaster strikes. Many people in the close-knit Mexican and Filipino American communities in Galveston face big choices in the face of Hurricane Ike, including Carly Castillo, who’s ready for a fresh start despite her ancestral ties to the area. Garza’s skill at bringing a full cast of characters to life shines in this novel.
Charlotte is hired to babysit six-year-old twins the night before Halloween (already a spooky start) when strange things begin to unfold. At first it seems the twins are tricksters, but something far more sinister lurks. Readers may start to feel the walls closing in throughout this thrilling novel from Jones’ (My Heart is a Chainsaw, The Only Good Indians), which packs terrifying revelations and all the classic elements of a satisfying horror story.
Growing up as a Black girl in Dallas, Texas with complex and often disappointing parents, Allen (The Collection Plate) spares no heartbreak when sharing her coming-of-age story. Family guilt is a major theme, along with sexual abuse and adultification bias. Sharp in wit as well as analysis, Fruit Punch is a memoir that reflects experiences too often overlooked in the mainstream millennial conversation.
Liu generously shares the lessons learned as a woman who rose through the ranks of the tech world. The CEO of Ancestry and former VP of Facebook is empowering without placating, and she gets real about the challenges women face in systems created for men. But women don’t have to settle, asserts Liu, whose 10 rules for thriving at the executive level and beyond can teach readers how to reclaim their power and succeed with dignity.
Pulitzer Prize-winning Maraniss (When Pride Still Mattered) once again displays his acumen for breathing the fullness of life into people and places of the past. Path Lit by Lightning is a rich biography of Jim Thorpe, one of history’s greatest athletes and the first Indigenous American to win an Olympic gold medal. But Thorpe’s talents didn’t erase his challenges, including substance abuse and being stripped of his accolades. Maraniss takes readers far below the surface, doing justice to a figure that received little in his lifetime.
Twitty, a James Beard winner and author of The Cooking Gene, explores the intersection of being Black, Jewish, and gay, and how his cultural background informs his passion as a chef. A memoir, history lesson, and cookbook in one, Koshersoul offers food for thought on identity and legacy — in the kitchen and beyond.
McCurdy is an actress best known for playing Sam on the Nickelodeon sitcom iCarly. Her writing debut is an honest memoir of child stardom under the control of an abusive mother, and how those experiences led to eating disorders and substance abuse before her eventual recovery. Honest and darkly funny, McCurdy’s coming-of-age story offers hope to those struggling to overcome trauma.
In an alternate past, a disease destroys human memory and people are forced to undergo recall treatments. Freya Izquierdo, a high school senior determined to learn the truth behind her father’s murder, agrees to test new memory-enhancing technology at Foxtail Academy. This speculative YA story is heavy on ‘80s nostalgia, making it an atmospheric read with elements of adventure and mystery.
Displaced by her mother’s hospitalization and desperate for a fresh start, 17-year-old Minerva Gutiérrez can’t afford to quit her job — even if her boss is a misogynistic creep. When Minerva hears rumors about a hidden fortune, she teams up with her neighbor CeCe to find her ticket out of town (and get revenge on her boss while she’s at it). Padilla’s highly anticipated YA heist story is full of righteous anger about life’s injustices, but it successfully keeps hope alive throughout the thrilling ride.
Worlds collide when Zoe, a journalist in Mexico City, and Feliciana, a curandera (traditional healer) in San Felipe, meet in the aftermath of a murder. Paloma was Feliciana’s cousin and mentor, a fellow curandera as well as nonbinary. Lozano moves steadily between prose and interview transcripts, slowly revealing the struggles they’ve faced as counterculture women in a patriarchal society. Witches covers complex ground without losing focus.
Eight stories, eight protagonists, and one shared experience: Welcome to Banneker Terrace in Harlem, where gentrification looms and tenants are crass, vulnerable, and wholly human. Meet a struggling young mother, a gay sex worker with big dreams, and a paraprofessional at odds with her privileged coworker — to name a few. Fofana’s honest story collection offers intimate and gritty glimpses of life in a marginalized but resilient neighborhood.
Historian Stark provides an insightful look at a little-known yet consequential defeat of U.S. forces by Indigenous tribes in 1791. The fallout from the battle raised questions about executive power that echo today in the Jan. 6 hearings.
Trey Singleton, a gay, Black teen from Indianapolis, flees his wealthy family for NYC in the 1980s. In the city, Trey struggles to adapt before becoming an AIDS activist and meeting a plethora of colorful characters who change his perspective on purpose and privilege. Newson, a TV writer and producer, offers a literary debut on the queer coming-of-age experience in the ‘80s, including the burden of family obligation and the pull to follow your heart.
Ideal for lovers of Hidden Figures and The Code Breaker, this microhistory reveals the little-known story of Mary Sears, a marine biologist who supported Navy efforts during WWII, eventually playing a significant role in the U.S.’s victory over Japan. Sears’ advancements for oceanography and women in STEM cannot be understated, and Musemeche’s skilled reporting brings this untold heroine into clear focus.
Quique, a bisexual high schooler in L.A., attempts to get over his long-term crush on a friend by pursuing other classmates, but his poor mental health complicates matters. This is a coming-of-age YA novel full of heart and heartbreak that authentically portrays queer people of color (Mexican, Afro-Latina, and Palestinian heritages are all represented). Aceves excels at making the complications and emotions of teenhood feel personal to readers.
Lewis’ (The Mother of Black Hollywood) title couldn’t be more apt, as this essay collection is brimming with laughs and inspiration. Follow along as the author, activist, and Blackish actress recounts experiences both mundane and extraordinary, including waiting out the pandemic and meeting the Obamas. Regardless of the circumstances, Lewis is continually hopeful, encouraging readers to find and walk in their own joy.
About the Author: Lanie Pemberton
Lanie is a San Diego-based freelance writer with many Scribd Snapshots and recommended reading lists under her belt. She loves reading about animals and the natural world, with plenty of murder mysteries peppered in. When she needs a break from writing and reading, Lanie can be found taking long walks under the SoCal sun, usually alongside her husband and pampered pittie, Peach.