June’s Best New Books just in time for summer reading

June’s Best New Books just in time for summer reading

In Reading Lists, Reading Lists - Best New Books by Lanie Pemberton

June’s Best New Books just in time for summer reading

Kick off summer with June’s best new books and immerse yourself in long-awaited returns and powerful debuts. Love fantastical fiction? Get lost in stories of ancestors possessing their kin or mothers vanishing without a trace. If historical accounts are your thing, learn about the origins of plastic surgery during WWI and gain new insight into the Watergate scandal. Plus, peruse reflections from diverse perspectives, including a Latinx educator and an indigineous lawyer. Summer is definitely looking bright.

Miss Memory Lane by Colton Haynes

The star of “Teen Wolf” and “Arrow” bares all in his gripping memoir about addiction, body image, LGBTQ+ issues, and the dark side of Hollywood. Raw and hard to read at times, Hayne’s rocky road to health offers hope to anyone who’s dealt with mental illness or experienced childhood abuse. A moving portrait of confronting personal demons.

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Together We Burn by Isabel Ibañez

After her father is gravely injured during a suspicious accident in the dragon arena, flamenco dancer Zarela Zalvidar must take his place as Dragonador and head of their estate, La Giralda. Only the famed Arturo Díaz de Montserrat can properly train Zarela, and she won’t be deterred by his refusal. An enticing blend of romance, fantasy, and folklore, Together We Burn offers a beautiful story of determination and vulnerability with vivid world-building based on medieval Spain. 

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Love Radio by Ebony LaDelle

LaDelle’s high school romance is far from fluff; it’s unafraid to discuss tough issues like assault, debilitating illness, and the inner burdens we all bear. Prince, a 17-year-old radio DJ who offers love advice without the experience to back it up, is smitten with Dani, a fledgling writer with big dreams of college and career. He has three dates to make her fall in love with him — and change their lives forever.

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Cult Classic by Sloane Crosley

Lola bumps into two former lovers in a row before realizing that it’s no coincidence. Instead, her former boss, Clive Glenn, is running a “wellness” program that reunites exes to bring closure. Though Clive’s operation is cult-like, Lola is eager to participate and affirm her current relationship. Crosley (The Clasp) explores the loneliness of looking for love in a disconnected-yet-always-connected culture through brilliant metaphors and a believable protagonist. 

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Tracy Flick Can’t Win by Tom Perrotta

In a long-awaited sequel to his 1998 novel Election, Perrotta’s Tracy Flick (brought to life by Reese Witherspoon in the popular ‘90s film adaptation) returns, as complex as ever. Now, Vice Principal Flick has her ambitious sights set on a promotion to principal, but a problematic “Hall of Fame” project may ruin her chances. This novel more than lives up to its prequel, featuring Perrotta’s signature flawed but relatable characters and timeless themes of misogyny, harassment, revenge, and forgiveness.

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Brown Neon by Raquel Gutiérrez

Gutiérrez (a writer, poet, social critic, and university educator) offers an emotive collection of essays about issues at the heart of culture and identity. Brown Neon is divided in three sections that tackle distinct ideas — relationships, home, and art — all from the queer Latinx perspective. Melodic prose balances deep intellect in this powerful debut.

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Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen

Ava Wong reconnects with her college roommate, Winnie Fang, who’s now gorgeous and rich — all because of a counterfeit bag scheme. Ava soon teams up with Winnie, though the operation is risky. Chen (Soy Sauce for Beginners) pens a cunning con artist story with vastly different perspectives from Ava and Winnie. Come for the thrilling escapades, stay for the lush descriptions of designer accessories. There’s also a plot twist you’ll have to read to believe. 

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Gutierrez’s debut taps into society’s preoccupation with true crime. Fledgling journalist Cassie Bowman becomes intertwined in a 20-year-old case when she begins interviewing Dolores “Lore” Rivera, who lived a double life before one of her “husbands” murdered the other. The more details Lore reveals, the more hazy the truth becomes. More Than You’ll Ever Know is atmospheric and tantalizing, made even more impactful by rich character development. 

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Somewhere We are Human edited by Reyna Grande and Sonia Guiñansaca

Immigration is a hot-button issue in America, with xenophobia tainting many discussions and policies. This collection of art, poetry, and essays — all contributed by U.S. immigrants — reveals the underlying struggles and motivations of the people who get lost in the very debates that define their futures. Somewhere We Are Human gives voice to migrants, emigrants, Dreamers, and more, making it essential reading for anyone living in America and beyond.

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After the Lights Go Out by John Vercher

After a long suspension from the ring, MMA fighter Xavier Wallace’s comeback is finally in sight. He trains for the upcoming fight while balancing his ailing father’s care, newly uncovered family secrets, and his own trauma-induced health issues (including boxer’s dementia). Vercher (Three-Fifths) skillfully weaves a storyline about perseverance and competition with larger issues of race, identity, and existential dread. In the end, you’ll be rooting for Xavier inside the ring and out. 

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Vowel, a Métis (indigineous Canadian) writer and lawyer, challenges the idea that indigineous customs are a thing of the past and adaptation is necessary for survival. These deeply moving and imaginative short stories harness speculative fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy to bring Métis culture to life. Buffalo is the New Buffalo is a true work of art that celebrates indigineous past and present while addressing the future with optimism. Gorgeous, thought-provoking prose is the cherry on top.

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Greenland by David Santos Donaldson

Kip Starling battles writer’s block as he desperately tries to finish his book about Mohammed el Adl, author E.M. Forster’s lover. Donaldson’s debut deftly weaves Kip’s world in modern-day Brooklyn with Mohammed’s life in the early 20th century. Greenland covers artistry, race, and colonization through the eyes of two queer men of color who experience many of the same challenges, despite the century that divides them.

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Nuclear Family by Joseph Han

Nuclear Family follows the Chos, a Korean-American family in Hawaii. Their restaurant is on the brink of entrepreneurial success when son Jacob is caught trying to sneak into North Korea while teaching English abroad. The Cho parents balance shame and fear over their son’s actions, not realizing he’s been possessed by the spirit of his late grandfather. Han’s fantastical debut uses magical realism to address loneliness, immigrant struggles, and the weight of family obligations.

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Scorpions’ Dance by Jefferson Morley

Morley (The Ghost) returns with another fresh look at history and CIA activity in the U.S., this time offering new details and context surrounding the Watergate scandal. Scorpions’ Dance digs into the strained collaboration between President Nixon and Richard Helms, the CIA director at the time. Morley’s research and analysis reveals how deep the CIA’s involvement ran, painting this facet of American history in a new light. 

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The Facemaker by Lindsey Fitzharris

After witnessing the devastating disfigurements soldiers endured during WWI, surgeon Harold Gillies developed groundbreaking techniques for facial reconstruction. His instrumental work evolved into modern-day plastic surgery. Fitzharris’ biography of Gillies balances extensive research with engaging storytelling, offering accounts of Gillies’ surgical advancements along with humanizing stories of the soldiers he saved from a lifetime of pain and shame. 

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Just by Looking at Him by Ryan O’Connell

Elliott, a television writer with cerebral palsy, tackles internalized homophobia, ableism, and self-destruction — despite claiming to know better — in this scathingly funny novel. O’Connell’s fans will enjoy the memorable one-liners and raw vulnerability often seen in his popular Netflix series “Special.”

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Home Field Advantage by Dahlia Adler

Outrage abounds at a Florida high school when a girl joins the football team as the new quarterback. Cheerleader Amber is ready to root for Jaclyn — “Jack” — like any other player, but she risks social ostracization by doing so. Things get a lot more complicated when Amber and Jack start to fall for each other. Adler’s queer YA romance is tender and funny, remaining hopeful even as she addresses the misogyny and discrimination many teenagers face while finding their identities. 

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Tian’s moving YA debut explores the effects of racism and xenophobia through a coming-of-age lens. First-gen Chinese-American sisters Annalie and Margaret Flanagan have very different reactions to a hate crime, stirring up tensions in their home and predominantly white Illinois town. This Place is Still Beautiful reveals the complexities of navigating family expectations as well as the mixed-race immigrant experience.

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A Little Bit Country by Brian D. Kennedy

Emmett is openly gay and dreams of being a country star, while Luke hates country music and isn’t ready to come out. The only thing the two have in common is working at Wanda World, a country-themed amusement park, yet their attraction is instantaneous. Before long, they uncover a secret about Luke’s grandmother that puts their newly kindled romance to the test. Kennedy’s debut is a little bit mystery, a little bit romance, and a whole lot of heart. 

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Stimulus Wreck by Gaby Dunn

If stagnant wages and rising inflation have you worried about making ends meet, this sympathetic money advice will help get you on the right track. Bad with Money podcast host Dunn has invested years learning how to get their finances in order and sought all avenues on the path to financial stability; in Stimulus Wreck, they guide you through the myriad of resources they find helpful.

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Wolfe’s debut is a coming-of-age story that connects the gentrification of young FeFe’s neighborhood with the tumultuous changes unfolding among her friends and family. Trauma, race, and difficult choices all play a role in Last Summer on State Street, with the impending demolition of FeFe’s home in Chicago propelling the drama forward. 

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The Dawnhounds by Sascha Stronach

Stronach’s queer speculative fiction follows Yat Jyn-Hok, a bisexual policewoman living in the futuristic city of Hainak, which is ruled by heteronormative policies reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale. After being murdered by her colleagues, Yat is resurrected with newfound powers, which she must use to protect Hainak from dangerous forces. This is a wholly unique and endlessly fascinating read, uniting magical realism, futuristic biotech, and noir with very real issues of discrimination — all with an air of optimism. 

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On Rotation by Shirlene Obuobi

Angela “Angie” Appiah attempts to focus on her medical residency despite a disintegrating love life and her parent’s intense expectations, but things aren’t going so well. Enter Ricky Gutiérrez: A kind, handsome, and intriguing artist who’s nothing like Angie’s typical love interests. Obuobi’s book shines with authenticity and intelligence — unsurprising as she’s a Ghanaian-American doctor (just like her protagonist). The pressures of medical school and being a first-gen immigrant add even more depth to this remarkable debut that leaves us anticipating Obuobi’s next work.

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Do Hard Things by Steve Magness

The author of Peak Performance and The Passion Paradox returns with more valuable insight on achievement and confidence. Do Hard Things redefines resilience, offering strategies backed by neuroscience, psychology, and real-world experience. Learn how to harness vulnerability, mindfulness, and other tangible practices that are counterintuitive to the typical idea of toughness.

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Learning to Talk by Hilary Mantel

Two-time Booker Prize-winner Mantel (Wolf Hall, Bringing Up Bodies) writes a short story collection dissecting pivotal childhood experiences. Inspired by her own upbringing in England but ultimately fiction, these stories reflect on identity, loss, family, home, and more — topics that leave a huge impact on our formative years and inform the choices we make as adults.

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Speaking Bones by Ken Liu

Speaking Bones is Liu’s fourth and final Dandelion Dynasty novel, his self-dubbed “silkpunk” series that unites sci-fi and fantasy with ancient east Asian culture. The finale follows the continued warfare between the Dara and Lyucu peoples, with Princess Théra and Pékyu Takval attempting to secure the Dara dynasty. Liu’s talent for meticulous world-building has never been more evident, with plenty of adventure and rising tension to keep readers hooked.

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The Angel of Rome by Jess Walter

This collection of vignettes by award-winning and bestselling author Walter (The Cold Millions) offers moments of laughter, contemplation, sadness, and tenderness. Stories include a gay son grappling with his aging father’s memory loss, a meet-cute between a young student and his favorite actress, and a woman looking for support after a cancer diagnosis. Walter proves his prowess at bringing an array of voices to life, with each character boasting authenticity and depth.

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Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin

Elsewhere is an atmospheric novel centered on a small, isolated town where mothers tend to vanish without a trace. Protagonist Vera’s mother disappeared long ago, and Vera (now a mother herself) flees the village for fear of her own disappearance. Schaitkin (Saint X) uses speculative fiction to explore the many emotions, demands, burdens, and blessings of motherhood. 

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Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert

Beginning with a naked stranger in the middle of a dark road, 17-year-old Ivy experiences a string of odd and unsettling encounters. In alternating chapters, 16-year-old Dana (Ivy’s mother) becomes entangled with a mysterious girl that changes her life, and by extension Ivy’s, forever. Albert’s YA fantasy thriller explores mother-daughter relationships and the choices of our past. Called “riveting, creepy, and utterly bewitching” by Kirkus Reviews, Our Crooked Hearts is a mind-bending YA novel full of tantalizing darkness and intrigue. 

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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.

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