The summer continues. Whether your preferred mode of summer reading involves being stretched out on a beach, huddled in front of an air conditioner, or resplendent on a park bench, August offers even more notable titles to add to your (literary) tote bag of choice. From smart writing on music to eagerly-anticipated debuts to fiction that offers a memorable perspective on pressing issues of the moment, there’s a lot of intriguing-looking books due out this month. Here’s a look at several that have our interest particularly piqued.
This Is: Essays on Jazz, Aaron Gilbreath
(August 1, Outpost 19)
For the last few years, Aaron Gilbreath has been writing insightful nonfiction on a variety of subjects; last year’s collection Everything We Don’t Know was a welcome addition to what’s been a remarkably strong decade for narrative nonfiction. With his new book, he turns his attention to jazz, which has sparked memorable writing from everyone from Ralph Ellison to Geoff Dyer.
The Grip of It, Jac Jemc
(August 1, FSG Originals)
We reviewed Jac Jemc’s latest novel last week: “She holds back enough to keep the reader engaged in the construction of their own fears, which is often much more effective than the fleshed out monster in the closet readers have come to expect in pulp paperbacks.” Alternately: do you like surreal tales of haunted spaces? Well then, this may be your new favorite book.
The Wrong Way to Save Your Life, Megan Stielstra
(August 1, Harper Perennial)
Megan Stielstra’s essays abound with humanity, candor, and an offbeat view of the world–it’s not for nothing that a recent piece on the book focused on Stielstra’s friends and family discussing her: these are essays that find the sweet spot between personal narratives and social histories. We loved her earlier book, Once I Was Cool, and have been excited about this new collection ever since it was first announced.
The Strange Bird, Jeff VanderMeer
(August 1, MCD)
In this new novella, Jeff VanderMeer returns to the world of his acclaimed novel Borne to tell the story of, well, a strange bird. Along the way, he asks questions about memory and identity, and sheds some light on a few of Borne‘s supporting characters, revealing additional dimensions to this fictional world.
Sour Heart, Jenny Zhang
(August 1, Lenny)
We’re frequently in awe of Jenny Zhang’s range as a writer. Sour Heart might be her debut short story collection, but she’s already released one acclaimed collection of poetry, along with a terrific nonfiction chapbook. (Those with a fondness for ebooks might be intrigued by this omnibus bringing much of that work together.) This collection has been getting a host of advance acclaim, and we’re eager to see Zhang’s aesthetic applied to fiction.
Eat Only When You’re Hungry, Lindsay Hunter
(August 8, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
There are several writers who have released bracing, impressive novels this year. Lindsay Hunter may well have an advantage over all of them, as she’s both done that and collaborated with the great Pennsylvanian punk band Pissed Jeans on a song. Hunter’s second novel features a middle-aged father searching for his lost son in a surreal Floridian landscape–like much of Hunter’s work, a setup both primal and strange.
Darkansas, Jarret Middleton
(August 8, Dzanc Books)
Finding the right phrase to describe Jarret Middleton’s new novel isn’t easy. It’s a tale of the tensions within a family; it’s the story of that family’s bloody history; and it’s an account of bizarre and uncanny forces heightening existing conflicts and transforming them into something horrific. Classifying this book isn’t easy, but the tense and gripping sensations that reading it sparks are undeniable.
The Gurugu Pledge, Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel; translated by Jethro Soutar
(August 15, And Other Stories)
Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel’s novel By Night the Mountain Burns was a hypnotic, compelling work of fiction, and it left us eager for more of his work to be translated into English. And now we’ve gotten exactly that: a work of fiction that examines the issue of immigration. The novel’s setting is one with plenty of real-world resonance, and this book promises to be both a gripping narrative and an instructive look at one of today’s most pressing issues.
PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2017, edited by Yuka Igarashi
(August 1, Catapult)
This collection, first in an annual series, offers a great overview of some of the year’s most interesting fiction. The works in here were selected by a trio of notable writers: Kelly Link, Marie-Helene Bertino, and Nina McConigley; the editors who first published the stories also contribute observations on the fiction in question.
Good Booty, Ann Powers
(August 15, Dey Street)
Ann Powers has been a vital voice in discussions of music and pop culture for many years, and her observations on a host of urgent subjects are frequently thought-provoking, revealing new dimensions to the familiar and the obscure alike. Her new book, Good Booty, takes on a host of big cultural topics, and offers plenty of food for thought for the reader.
Sip, Brian Allen Carr
(August 29, Soho Press)
We’re always up for a deep dive into the surreal, and Brian Allen Carr’s new novel Sip promises exactly that. It’s set in a strange future, where humans have discovered the ability to feast upon shadows, and society has radically altered itself as a result. It’s a bleak, bizarre, and compelling work, abounding with memorably weird imagery.