From savvy social commentary to futuristic fantasy, July’s best new books check all the summertime boxes. The month’s fiction releases include tales of a missing magician, a robot-and-monk duo on a mission, and a modern retelling of an Edgar Allan Poe short story. For those looking for a light beach read, several Latinx romances spice up the list. If nonfiction peaks your interest, look no further than two new memoirs with eye-opening perspectives, including an author born into poverty in New England and another raised on a Penobscot reservation. This best new books list also includes enlightening reads about the future of technology, impending ecological disaster, and feminist political history that will prep you to go beyond small-talk at any summer barbecue.
Called a “smart and gritty debut” in a starred review by Publishers Weekly, Night of the Living Rez offers a dozen interconnected stories that explore the life of narrator David and his childhood and early-adulthood on a Penobscot reservation. Themes of addiction and poverty play a strong role in David's stories, all of which give readers a glimpse of the Native American coming-of-age experience in modern America.
Violet Volk, a talented but volatile magician, vanishes without a trace during a performance. As the 10th anniversary of the incident approaches, her sister Sasha continues to be villainized by Violet’s fans, who believe she should have tried harder to find her sister. Supposed sightings of Violet complicate matters, as does Sasha’s daughter, Quinn, who has rose-colored memories of her enigmatic aunt Violet. Montimore (Oona Out of Order) blends prose with articles, emails, and true crime podcast transcripts to make the mystery feel authentically lurid and murky.
The author of Convenience Store Woman returns with a short story collection that questions human nature. From birth to death, eating to intimacy, Life Ceremony takes cultural norms to the extreme, using elements of dark comedy that border on freakish to dissect the practices that we often take for granted. Murata’s wholly original ideas are engrossing and thought-provoking, though some require a strong stomach.
Babalola’s (Love in Color) romance debut is full of wit and vulnerability. Kiki Banjo, a British-Nigerian student at Whitewell College, is more interested in doling out love advice on her radio show “Brown Sugar” than experiencing love herself. She’s quick to disparage Malakai Korede, a smug recent transfer, to her listeners. But when the two form a fake relationship that’s mutually beneficial, the resulting attention (and Malakai’s charm) force Kiki to reevaluate her guarded heart.
Agnes and Polly are two octogenarians who own shares of Fellowship Point, a well-preserved coastal property in Maine. The lifelong best friends — who are as different as oil and water — grapple over who to leave the property to after they pass, fearing that their families will sell to a developer. Dark’s steady novel immerses readers in themes of morality, legacy, and our connection to land and home. The protagonists’ complicated friendship adds affecting depth.
A grieving father tries to honor his late daughter’s memory by producing a play she wrote with her high school girlfriend. Deb’s fiction debut (following his memoir, Missed Translations) is a story of family, regret, and atonement. Its central characters are Bengali-American emigrants, and themes of sexual identity and homophobia play a significant role. Despite the tragedy that sparks the plot, Keya Das’s Second Act is hopeful and heartfelt.
Lovers of Riley’s Island Queen will fall head over heels for Sister Mother Warrior, an epic historical fiction based on two real women. Gran Toya, a warrior-turned-slave and mentor to Jean-Jacques Dessalines (the first leader of independent Haiti), and Marie-Claire Bonheur, a free woman of color and eventual wife to Dessalines, both played significant roles in the Haitian Revolution. Riley’s sweeping novel is a celebration of Black women and Black empowerment with rich descriptions of the Caribbean at the turn of the 19th century.
Alex Easton visits old friends Madeline and Roderick Usher after receiving word that Madeline is dying. But something is very wrong at the Usher house, which pulses with fungal life, and the Usher siblings are behaving erratically. Multi award-winning author Kingfisher (The Twisted Ones) pens an eerie re-telling of Poe’s classic short story “The Fall of the House of Usher.” It’s an atmospheric horror novella about people and place gone awry — and one friend trying desperately to uncover the truth. Kingfisher wins bonus points for having a nonbinary protagonist.
Okparanta (Under the Udala Trees) uses satire to examine deeply ingrained racism and the pervasive nature of whiteness. Eager to escape his racist, xenophobic family, the titular protagonist moves to New York City for college and falls in love with a Nigerian classmate named Maryam. That may sound all well and good, but Harry (who’s white) is also convinced he’s Black, and he joins a “transracial” support group that only strengthens his blind spots.
Khalid’s genre-bending debut follows three adoptive brothers being raised above a mosque on Staten Island by an imam named Salim. The boys bond over their curiosity about Salim’s reticence, but one brother, Youssef, has secrets of his own — namely, an imaginary companion called Brother that only Youssef can see. Called a tour de force by Publishers Weekly, Brother Alive flows from 1990s New York to present-day Saudi Arabia and explores themes of identity, found family, and religious fanaticism.
Collins and Pulitzer Prize winner Frantz (the pair who previously co-wrote Fallout) take readers below the surface of the salmon farming industry to examine its devastating toll on the environment, consumers, and the salmon themselves. From excess chemicals to filthy, feces-laden conditions, salmon farms are far from healthy and sustainable. Salmon Wars is an eye-opening exposé on what “big fish” doesn’t want you to know, offering first person accounts from activists and ecologists, scientific studies, and financial insight.
A Prayer for the Crown-Shy is the second installment in the Monk and Robot series after A Psalm for the Wild-Built. Sibling Dex, a monk, and Splendid Speckled Mosscap, a robot, continue to explore their moon of residence, Panga. In particular, they’re interested in Panga’s citizens and what fulfills them, seeking to answer the question, “What do people need?” Chambers, a Hugo Award-winning author, breaks the mold of classic sci-fi with a meditative tone mixed with hope and plenty of heart.
Fitzgerald’s hopeful memoir traverses the globe as well as the emotional spectrum. From his childhood marred by poverty in New England to quests for enlightenment in Asia and Africa, each essay is an exercise in vulnerability. He explores topics like toxic masculinity and racism, ultimately proving that our pasts don’t define us and knowing oneself is an ongoing pursuit. Dirtbag, Massachusetts tops nearly every “must read” list of the summer and comes highly recommended by literary notables like Roxane Gay, Min Jin Lee, and Saeed Jones.
Sweet, a historian and professor, offers a historical account of the rape trial of Harry Bedlow in 1793 New York City. Lanah Sawyer was a young seamstress at the time of her assault, and her working-class status made the trial unprecedented and contentious. The Sewing Girl’s Tale is an essential history lesson in politics and feminism, making clear that the U.S. judicial system is built on a foundation of marginalizing women’s voices in favor of white men.
You’ve probably heard the buzzword “metaverse” in conversations about technology, so you might have a sense that it’s poised to define our future. Ball, a Metaverse expert and venture capitalist, explains the concept in a way that’s accessible and engaging, covering the past, present, and future as it relates to the metaverse. The transition from staring and swiping at a screen to interacting with a comprehensive 3D internet is fast approaching. Read The Metaverse to be prepared.
Nova City is full of Extraordinaries, including Seth Gray (AKA Pyro Storm), the boyfriend of our fan fiction aficionado protagonist, Nick Bell. A new Extraordinary arrives in Nova City, so Nick, Seth, and their Extraordinary friends must find out whether the newcomer is friend or foe. The finale of Klune’s queer YA trilogy The Extraordinaries packs the action and adventure we all love in superhero stories while also incorporating real-world issues of race, injustice, consent, and coming of age. Heat Wave is a fantastic, funny end to an excellent series we can all relate to.
Sparks fly between rivals in the first novel of Lopez’s Filthy Rich series. In smalltown Kansas, Alex Torres and Jeremiah Post have very different opinions on what to do with a failing bar, but the at-odds pair finds common ground when a greedy developer wants the property. Lopez’s romance novel shines for its strong female protagonist (no damsel in distress here) as well as explorations of immigration and Mexican-American culture. The balance between sweet and steamy is top-notch.
Nadia Palacio, an Argentinian-American lawyer, dumps her unfaithful fiancé a month before the wedding, then plans a treintañera in celebration of her 30th birthday. To her surprise, the venue manager is an old college fling — and he’s looking better than ever. This second-chance romance (Méndez’s adult debut) is more a celebration of self than a stereotypical steam-fest, inspiring readers to take pride in their own accomplishments. Of course, there’s still plenty of sweet flirtation to satisfy the romance genre.
This YA reimagining of the Greek myths surrounding Orpheus and Eurydice follows young Anora Silby, who can see the dead. Anora desperately wants to keep her powers a secret from her new classmates, but then she’s implicated in a murder. Anora must find the truth while avoiding the attention of a dangerous organization called The Order, not to mention a gossip app wreaking havoc at her school. When the Stars Come Out is a darkly mysterious tale of destiny and bravery.
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.