Those long summer days are here to stay and we have just the way to pass the time. Check out these eleven new-to-paperback must-reads this July. Transportive and transformative, these stories span across time and space, covering unconventional subject matter from fresh, clear-eyed perspectives. Whether tackling concerns over family obligation and betrayal or questioning the norms that have defined not only our lives but also the lives of those around us, these books aren’t just your average beach reads. Complex and surprising, all eleven of these titles have plenty for you to sink your teeth into during these endless summer days.
Before father Shahryar must leave the United States with an expired visa, he tells his nine-year-old daughter the story of his past on the Bay of Bengal. There, an unexpected collection of people will converge during a historic storm: a poor local fisherman and his wife, a Japanese pilot, a British doctor, and a privileged couple from Calcutta. Based on the 1970 Bhola cyclone, which killed half a million people in one night, THE STORM is an epic novel about family honor and sacrifice.
From an immensely talented new voice in international fiction, this “fascinating, ambitious” (The New York Times Book Review) and epic novel seamlessly interweaves five love stories that, together, chronicle sixty years of Bangladeshi history—for fans of Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance.
Shahryar, a recent PhD graduate and father of nine-year-old Anna, must leave the United States when his visa expires. In their last remaining weeks together, we learn Shahryar’s history, in a village on the Bay of Bengal, where a poor fisherman and his wife are preparing to face a storm of historic proportions. That story intersects with those of a Japanese pilot, a British doctor stationed in Burma during World War II, and a privileged couple in Calcutta who leaves everything behind to move to East Pakistan following the Partition of India. Inspired by the 1970 Bhola cyclone, in which half a million-people perished overnight, the structure of this riveting novel mimics the storm itself. Building to a series of revelatory and moving climaxes, it shows the many ways in which families love, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another.
At once grounded in history and fantastically imaginative, The Storm “moves us deftly through time and across borders, beautifully illustrating the strange intersections we call fate, and reminding us how the past shapes the present” (Rumaan Alam, author of Rich and Pretty). Exploring the humanity that connects us beyond the surface differences of race, religion, and nationality, “this powerful and important debut is a story for our time” (Library Journal, starred review).
By the acclaimed author of ORPHAN TRAIN, THE EXILES takes readers back to 1840s London, where Evangeline is stuck in Newgate Prison for a crime she didn’t commit. Soon, she finds herself on a prison ship to Australia, where she befriends Hazel, another prisoner accused of theft. In Tasmania, their paths cross with an orphaned indigenous girl, Mathinna, who has been adopted by the governor’s family, although her treatment is far from familial. Together, the women attempt to find home in new places and forge friendships they hope will help them survive the hardships.
Busy caring for his ailing grandmother and mourning the death of his ornithologist mother, a Syrian American trans boy has been avoiding his masjid, his sister, and his best friend. But one night, while painting a mural in his neighborhood of Little Syria in Manhattan, he finds the journal of a Syrian American artist, Laila Z, who famously disappeared decades ago. As he uncovers the connections between his mother’s death, Laila Z’s disappearance, his own trans identity, and a mysterious species of bird, he finally finds the strength to claim a new name: Nadir, Arabic for rare.
Winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Fiction
Winner of the ALA Stonewall Book Award—Barbara Gittings Literature Award
Named Best Book of the Year by Bustle
Named Most Anticipated Book of the Year by The Millions, Electric Literature, and HuffPost
From the award-winning author of The Map of Salt and Stars, a new novel about three generations of Syrian Americans haunted by a mysterious species of bird and the truths they carry close to their hearts—a “vivid exploration of loss, art, queer and trans communities, and the persistence of history. Often tender, always engrossing, The Thirty Names of Night is a feat” (R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries).
Five years after a suspicious fire killed his ornithologist mother, a closeted Syrian American trans boy sheds his birth name and searches for a new one. As his grandmother’s sole caretaker, he spends his days cooped up in their apartment, avoiding his neighborhood masjid, his estranged sister, and even his best friend (who also happens to be his longtime crush). The only time he feels truly free is when he slips out at night to paint murals on buildings in the once-thriving Manhattan neighborhood known as Little Syria, but he’s been struggling ever since his mother’s ghost began visiting him each evening.
One night, he enters the abandoned community house and finds the tattered journal of a Syrian American artist named Laila Z, who dedicated her career to painting birds. She mysteriously disappeared more than sixty years before, but her journal contains proof that both his mother and Laila Z encountered the same rare bird before their deaths. In fact, Laila Z’s past is intimately tied to his mother’s in ways he never could have expected. Even more surprising, Laila Z’s story reveals the histories of queer and transgender people within his own community that he never knew. Realizing that he isn’t and has never been alone, he has the courage to claim a new name: Nadir, an Arabic name meaning rare.
As unprecedented numbers of birds are mysteriously drawn to the New York City skies, Nadir enlists the help of his family and friends to unravel what happened to Laila Z and the rare bird his mother died trying to save. Following his mother’s ghost, he uncovers the silences kept in the name of survival by his own community, his own family, and within himself, and discovers the family that was there all along.
Featuring Zeyn Joukhadar’s signature “folkloric, lyrical, and emotionally intense...gorgeous and alive” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) storytelling, The Thirty Names of Night is a “stunning…vivid, visceral, and urgent” (Booklist, starred review) exploration of loss, memory, migration, and identity.
In this bighearted story of friendship and forgiveness, an unlikely collection of characters finds themselves hostages in the world’s worst stickup. A desperate man bursts into an apartment open house only to learn that those inside aren’t his ideal captives. There’s a retired couple whose marriage is on the fritz, a wealthy bank director estranged from all that truly matters, an expecting couple who can’t agree on anything, an old lady who won’t be intimidated (even by a gun), and a mystery man who won’t come out of the bathroom. Together, they may just discover peace through each other.
An instant #1 New York Times bestseller, the new novel from the author of A Man Called Ove is a “quirky, big-hearted novel….Wry, wise and often laugh-out-loud funny, it’s a wholly original story that delivers pure pleasure” (People).
Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix their own marriage. There’s a wealthy bank director who has been too busy to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.
Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises, these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.
Proving once again that Backman is “a master of writing delightful, insightful, soulful, character-driven narratives” (USA TODAY), Anxious People “captures the messy essence of being human….It’s clever and affecting, as likely to make you laugh out loud as it is to make you cry” (The Washington Post). This “endlessly entertaining mood-booster” (Real Simple) is proof that the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope can save us—even in the most anxious of times.
By the bestselling author of ROOM, THE PULL OF THE STARS follows three women fighting to be the caretakers the world needs in the midst of a pandemic. Nurse Julia Power has crafted a strict regime around her work at an understaffed hospital in Ireland, where expecting mothers are quarantined after contracting a mysterious strain of the flu. But her world is disrupted by two new arrivals: Kathleen Lynn, a doctor on the run from the police, and Bridie Sweeney, an overly eager young volunteer. Together, they bond with and lose patients, never ceasing to attempt the impossible.
In this hilarious and heartfelt book, the hosts of the beloved podcast Call Your Girlfriend come clean about the work it took to sustain their own life-altering friendship. Friendship isn’t easy, and Aminatou and Ann would know: from fallouts to reunions, broken dreams to new opportunities, health scares to botched Thanksgivings, they have seen each other through it all. Part personal exploration of one special friendship and part investigation of the patterns in friendships from experts, BIG FRIENDSHIP is a testament to what keeps two people together, even when the world tries to tear them apart.
A close friendship is one of the most influential and important relationships a human life can contain. Anyone will tell you that! But for all the rosy sentiments surrounding friendship, most people don’t talk much about what it really takes to stay close for the long haul.
Now two friends, Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, tell the story of their equally messy and life-affirming Big Friendship in this honest and hilarious book that chronicles their first decade in one another’s lives. As the hosts of the hit podcast Call Your Girlfriend, they’ve become known for frank and intimate conversations. In this book, they bring that energy to their own friendship—its joys and its pitfalls.
Aminatou and Ann define Big Friendship as a strong, significant bond that transcends life phases, geographical locations, and emotional shifts. And they should know: the two have had moments of charmed bliss and deep frustration, of profound connection and gut-wrenching alienation. They have weathered life-threatening health scares, getting fired from their dream jobs, and one unfortunate Thanksgiving dinner eaten in a car in a parking lot in Rancho Cucamonga. Through interviews with friends and experts, they have come to understand that their struggles are not unique. And that the most important part of a Big Friendship is making the decision to invest in one another again and again.
An inspiring and entertaining testament to the power of society’s most underappreciated relationship, Big Friendship will invite you to think about how your own bonds are formed, challenged, and preserved. It is a call to value your friendships in all of their complexity. Actively choose them. And, sometimes, fight for them.
An emotionally complex portrait of a family in the vein of Jonathan Franzen’s THE CORRECTIONS, LAKE LIFE explores the dark side of family dynamics during a family’s last summer at their vacation home. Richard and Lisa Starling, who work at Cornell University, have decided to sell their family’s lake house in North Carolina to retire in Florida. Everyone returns to the lake one more time, including their sons, salesman Michael from Dallas and Thad, an aspiring poet living in New York City. Together, the family witnesses a nightmarish tragedy that churns up all their own secrets.
From the award-winning author of the acclaimed story collection The Heaven of Animals, called “a wise debut…beautiful [stories] with a rogue touch” (The New York Times Book Review), comes a sweeping, domestic novel about a family that reunites at their North Carolina lake house for one last vacation before the home is sold—and the long-buried secrets that are finally revealed.
The Starling family is scattered across the country. Parents Richard and Lisa live in Ithaca, New York, and work at Cornell University. Their son Michael, a salesperson, lives in Dallas with his elementary school teacher wife, Diane. Michael’s brother, Thad, an aspiring poet, makes his home in New York City with his famous painter boyfriend, Jake. For years they’ve traveled to North Carolina to share a summer vacation at the family lake house.
That tradition is coming to an end, as Richard and Lisa have decided to sell the treasured summer home and retire to Florida. Before they do, the family will spend one last weekend at the lake. But what should to be a joyous farewell takes a nightmarish turn when the family witnesses a tragedy that triggers a series of dramatic revelations among the Starlings—alcoholism, infidelity, pregnancy, and a secret the parents have kept from their sons for over thirty years. As the weekend unfolds, relationships fray, bonds are tested, and the Starlings are forced to reckon with who they are and what they want from this life.
Set in today’s America, Lake Life is a beautifully rendered, emotionally compelling novel in the tradition of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, and Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth.
In bestselling author Yaa Gyasi’s follow-up to HOMEGOING, a sixth-year neuroscience PhD student is dedicated to discovering the science behind the suffering that has followed her all her life. Gifty’s brother was a high-achieving athlete who died of a heroin overdose, and her suicidal mother now won’t leave her bed. And while Gifty trusts science to solve these problems, she can’t help but turn toward the evangelical church of her childhood for the seemingly impossible promise of salvation. Emotionally blistering, TRANSCENDENT KINGDOM delves into the lengths we go to try to save ourselves and each other.
Ivy Lin wants to be like her American classmates. While her parents are disappointed in her mediocre grades, Chinese immigrant Ivy is more interested in fitting in with the popular kids’ blasé attitude. And when her grandmother teaches her to shoplift, Ivy learns how to get what she wants quick and becomes addicted to achieving the appearance of success. Years later, when she and a blonde-haired, blue-eyed son of a politician fall into a whirlwind romance, it looks like everything she’s ever wanted is around the corner, until the ghosts of her past begin to surface.
“A truly addictive read” (Glamour) about how a young woman’s crush on a privileged former classmate becomes a story of love, lies, and dark obsession, offering stark insights into the immigrant experience, as it hurtles to its electrifying ending in this “twisty, unputdownable, psychological thriller” (People).
Ivy Lin is a thief and a liar—but you’d never know it by looking at her.
Raised outside of Boston, Ivy’s immigrant grandmother relies on Ivy’s mild appearance for cover as she teaches her granddaughter how to pilfer items from yard sales and second-hand shops. Thieving allows Ivy to accumulate the trappings of a suburban teen—and, most importantly, to attract the attention of Gideon Speyer, the golden boy of a wealthy political family. But when Ivy’s mother discovers her trespasses, punishment is swift and Ivy is sent to China, and her dream instantly evaporates.
Years later, Ivy has grown into a poised yet restless young woman, haunted by her conflicting feelings about her upbringing and her family. Back in Boston, when Ivy bumps into Sylvia Speyer, Gideon’s sister, a reconnection with Gideon seems not only inevitable—it feels like fate.
Slowly, Ivy sinks her claws into Gideon and the entire Speyer clan by attending fancy dinners, and weekend getaways to the cape. But just as Ivy is about to have everything she’s ever wanted, a ghost from her past resurfaces, threatening the nearly perfect life she’s worked so hard to build.
Filled with surprising twists and a nuanced exploration of class and race, White Ivy is a “highly entertaining,” (The Washington Post) “propulsive debut” (San Francisco Chronicle) that offers a glimpse into the dark side of a woman who yearns for success at any cost.
William, Brian, and Luke are brothers born only a year apart. And as brothers do, they like to play games with and pranks on one another. But spurred on by their charming and toxic mother, the boys have been raised to compete with each other for her love. As they grow, the games and pranks grow more serious, and more deadly. In her traditionally Patricia Highsmith-ian prose, Liz Nugent crafts a slow-burn thriller about the darkness undergirding our most childish desires.
From the internationally bestselling author of Lying in Wait, a biting and masterful new “dark jewel of a novel” (A.J. Finn, #1New York Times bestselling author) that explores the many ways families can wreak emotional havoc across generations, appealing to fans of HBO’s acclaimed series Succession.
All three of the Drumm brothers were at the funeral.
But one of them was in the coffin.
William, Brian, and Luke: three boys, born a year apart, trained from birth by their wily mother to compete for her attention. They play games, as brothers do…yet even after the Drumms escape into the world beyond their windows, those games—those little cruelties—grow more sinister, more merciless, and more dangerous. And with their lives entwined like the strands of a noose, only two of the brothers will survive.
Hailed by New York Times bestselling author Shari Lapena as “brilliant, engrossing,” and perfect for fans of breathtaking suspense, Little Cruelties gazes unflinchingly into the darkness collecting in the corners of childhood homes, hiding beneath marriage beds, clasped in the palms of two brothers shaking hands. And it confirms that Liz Nugent is truly “a force to be reckoned with” (Lisa Jewell, New York Times bestselling author) in contemporary fiction.
Tsuneno was born the daughter of a Buddhist priest in rural nineteenth-century Japan. After three failed marriages, Tsuneno runs away from home to the cosmopolitan center of Edo, eager to put the strong-willed personality that condemned her at home to use in the real world. Using Tsuneno’s dramatic life as a lens through which to see the rest of an Edo and a Japan on the brink of monumental change, STRANGER IN THE SHOGUN CITY is a narrative biography that follows Tsuneno through a romance with a masterless samurai to serving a well-known city magistrate.
*Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Biography*
*Winner of the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Award*
*Winner of the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography*
A “captivating” (The Washington Post) work of history that explores the life of an unconventional woman during the first half of the 19th century in Edo—the city that would become Tokyo—and a portrait of a city on the brink of a momentous encounter with the West.
The daughter of a Buddhist priest, Tsuneno was born in a rural Japanese village and was expected to live a traditional life much like her mother’s. But after three divorces—and a temperament much too strong-willed for her family’s approval—she ran away to make a life for herself in one of the largest cities in the world: Edo, a bustling metropolis at its peak.
With Tsuneno as our guide, we experience the drama and excitement of Edo just prior to the arrival of American Commodore Perry’s fleet, which transformed Japan. During this pivotal moment in Japanese history, Tsuneno bounces from tenement to tenement, marries a masterless samurai, and eventually enters the service of a famous city magistrate. Tsuneno’s life provides a window into 19th-century Japanese culture—and a rare view of an extraordinary woman who sacrificed her family and her reputation to make a new life for herself, in defiance of social conventions.
“A compelling story, traced with meticulous detail and told with exquisite sympathy” (The Wall Street Journal), Stranger in the Shogun’s City is “a vivid, polyphonic portrait of life in 19th-century Japan [that] evokes the Shogun era with panache and insight” (National Review of Books).
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