If you read our previous Indie Booksellers Recommended list of summer book releases with bookseller approval, then you’ve probably been waiting for this promised second set of recommendations. Filled with thoughtful reflections on themes and a deep affection for storytelling, these recommendations come from the heart and are so fulfilling and fun to read. We hope you find some books releasing in this second half of summer that help you wrap up your end-of-summer bookcation season with a bang.
“Hoffman is such a passionate storyteller. Her language sweeps you away and gets straight to the heart of things. This story is a beautiful blend of prominent contemporary issues (from body autonomy to book banning) while also finding magic in the world. This is a story of struggling to find power in your life, and of longing for the world to be different than it is so that people can find true freedom. It’s about the love of mothers and daughters, of books and literature, and love as a creative force. The balance of these elements is grounding as well as uplifting. This novel invites us to feel deeply, to empathize, and to look for the threads that bind us together. I also very much appreciate her depiction of Nathaniel Hawthorne as a man who was a genius, and also struggled. A man who suffered, loved, and felt deeply, all while keeping the narrative open enough that his character is not a fixed point but can hold multitudes. He’s such a beloved and fascinating historical figure, and her depiction of him is not about defining him, but holding space for him.” —Meghan Bousquet, Titcomb’s Bookshop
From the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage of Opposites and the Practical Magic series comes an enchanting novel about love, heartbreak, self-discovery, and the enduring magic of books.
One brilliant June day when Mia Jacob can no longer see a way to survive, the power of words saves her. The Scarlet Letter was written almost two hundred years earlier, but it seems to tell the story of Mia’s mother, Ivy, and their life inside the Community—an oppressive cult in western Massachusetts where contact with the outside world is forbidden, and books are considered evil. But how could this be? How could Nathaniel Hawthorne have so perfectly captured the pain and loss that Mia carries inside her?
Through a journey of heartbreak, love, and time, Mia must abandon the rules she was raised with at the Community. As she does, she realizes that reading can transport you to other worlds or bring them to you, and that readers and writers affect one another in mysterious ways. She learns that time is more fluid than she can imagine, and that love is stronger than any chains that bind you.
As a girl Mia fell in love with a book. Now as a young woman she falls in love with a brilliant writer as she makes her way back in time. But what if Nathaniel Hawthorne never wrote The Scarlet Letter? And what if Mia Jacob never found it on the day she planned to die?
Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote: “A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities.”
This is the story of one woman’s dream. For a little while it came true.
“A wonderfully written climate and speculative fiction debut, set in the near future when humanity has somehow managed to bring emissions down to zero. But what does that new world look like, and how did we manage to come together and solve the crisis? And could we forgive and forget and move on? For one family, who were heroes of THE GREAT TRANSITION, we see the struggle between moving forward and never giving up the fight. This is a propulsive thriller, but some of the best parts were the look at the New Deal actions we took to get down to zero emissions, and how we can come together as a nation rather than letting it tear us apart.” —Keith Vient, Politics & Prose
For fans of Station Eleven and The Ministry for the Future, this richly imaginative, immersive, and “profound” (Alice Elliott Dark, author of Fellowship Point) novel is the electrifying story of a family in crisis that unfolds against the backdrop of our near future.
Emi Vargas, whose parents helped save the world, is tired of being told how lucky she is to have been born after the climate crisis. But following the public assassination of a dozen climate criminals, Emi’s mother, Kristina, disappears as a possible suspect, and Emi’s illusions of utopia are shattered. A determined Emi and her father, Larch, journey from their home in Nuuk, Greenland to New York City, now a lightly populated storm-surge outpost built from the ruins of the former metropolis. But they aren’t the only ones looking for Kristina.
Thirty years earlier, Larch first came to New York with a team of volunteers to save the city from rising waters and torrential storms. Kristina was on the frontlines of a different battle, fighting massive wildfires that ravaged the western United States. They became part of a movement that changed the world—The Great Transition—forging a new society and finding each other in process.
Alternating between Emi’s desperate search for her mother and a meticulously rendered, heart-stopping account of her parents’ experiences during The Great Transition, this novel beautifully shows how our actions today determine our fate tomorrow. A triumphant debut, The Great Transition is a breathtaking rendering of our near future, told through the story of one family trying to protect each other and the place we all call home.
“This is a beautifully taut examination of the relationship between a father and son, and what it truly means to lose someone. Our journey with Jay in the belly of the whale is claustrophobic, tense, and seemingly hopeless as he examines his fate and the fates of those he loves. It’s as if Jay’s whale is a capsule sent to take him out of place and time, a godlike sensory deprivation chamber designed to bring him to a truth he would die for.” —Aimee Keeble, Main Street Books (NC)
The Martian meets 127 Hours in this “powerfully humane” (Owen King, New York Times bestselling author) and scientifically accurate thriller about a scuba diver who’s been swallowed by an eighty-foot, sixty-ton sperm whale and has only one hour to escape before his oxygen runs out.
Jay Gardiner has given himself a fool’s errand—to find the remains of his deceased father in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Monastery Beach. He knows it’s a long shot, but Jay feels it’s the only way for him to lift the weight of guilt he has carried since his dad’s death by suicide the previous year.
The dive begins well enough, but the sudden appearance of a giant squid puts Jay in very real jeopardy, made infinitely worse by the arrival of a sperm whale looking to feed. Suddenly, Jay is caught in the squid’s tentacles and drawn into the whale’s mouth where he is pulled into the first of its four stomachs. He quickly realizes he has only one hour before his oxygen tanks run out—one hour to defeat his demons and escape the belly of a whale.
Suspenseful and cinematic, Whalefall is an “astoundingly great” (Gillian Flynn, New York Times bestselling author) thriller about a young man who has given up on life…only to find a reason to live in the most dangerous and unlikely of places.
“A high-stakes fantasy inspired by Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra . . . but add Blade Runner’s rainy cyberpunk vibes and a dash of gender fluidity by way of spiritual transference. Calla and Anton’s literal knife-to-the-throat flirting had me up to the last bloody second of this citywide gladiatorial tournament. I just flew through and need the second book yesterday. While Gong is making a name for herself in YA, this adult debut shows her flourishing in the genre. I hope she continues to pivot this way, for the gritty and intense storytelling of which I now know she is capable.” —Leah Atlee, Bright Side Bookshop
#1 New York Times bestselling YA author Chloe Gong’s adult epic fantasy debut, inspired by Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, is a fiery collision of power plays, spilled blood, and romance amidst a set of deadly games.
Every year, thousands in the kingdom of Talin will flock to its capital twin cities, San-Er, where the palace hosts a set of games. For those confident enough in their ability to jump between bodies, competitors across San-Er fight to the death to win unimaginable riches.
Princess Calla Tuoleimi lurks in hiding. Five years ago, a massacre killed her parents and left the palace of Er empty…and she was the one who did it. Before King Kasa’s forces in San can catch her, she plans to finish the job and bring down the monarchy. Her reclusive uncle always greets the victor of the games, so if she wins, she gets her opportunity at last to kill him.
Enter Anton Makusa, an exiled aristocrat. His childhood love has lain in a coma since they were both ousted from the palace, and he’s deep in debt trying to keep her alive. Thankfully, he’s one of the best jumpers in the kingdom, flitting from body to body at will. His last chance at saving her is entering the games and winning.
Calla finds both an unexpected alliance with Anton and help from King Kasa’s adopted son, August, who wants to mend Talin’s ills. But the three of them have very different goals, even as Calla and Anton’s partnership spirals into something all-consuming. Before the games close, Calla must decide what she’s playing for—her lover or her kingdom.
“Iris Prince, a second-generation Mexican American, has spent her life being the model minority, but when a law is passed requiring everyone to wear ‘the Band’—a piece of wearable tech—she quickly becomes a second-class citizen: she can’t get one as her parents weren’t born in the US. MY NAME IS IRIS is a frighteningly real work of dystopian fiction that explores issues of identity, immigration, and belonging, as well as showing how quickly fear can escalate and life can unravel.” —Jude, Square Books
Brando Skyhorse, the PEN/Hemingway Award–winning author of The Madonnas of Echo Park, returns with a riveting literary dystopian novel set in a near-future America where mandatory identification wristbands make second-generation immigrants into second-class citizens—a powerful family saga for readers of Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West and Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind.
Iris Prince is starting over. After years of drifting apart, she and her husband are going through a surprisingly drama-free divorce. She's moved to a new house in a new neighborhood, and has plans for gardening, coffee clubs, and spending more time with her nine-year-old daughter Melanie. It feels like her life is finally exactly what she wants it to be.
Then, one beautiful morning, she looks outside her kitchen window—and sees that a wall has appeared in her front yard overnight. Where did it come from? What does it mean? And why does it seem to keep growing?
Meanwhile, a Silicon Valley startup has launched a high-tech wrist wearable called "the Band." Pitched as a convenient, eco-friendly tool to help track local utilities and replace driver's licenses and IDs, the Band is available only to those who can prove parental citizenship. Suddenly, Iris, a proud second-generation Mexican-American, is now of "unverifiable origin," unable to prove who she is, or where she, and her undocumented loved ones, belong. Amid a climate of fear and hate-fueled violence, Iris must confront how far she'll go to protect what matters to her most.
My Name Is Iris is an all-too-possible story about family, intolerance, and hope, offering a brilliant and timely look at one woman’s journey to discover who she can’t—and can—be.
“A page-turning masterpiece! Jewell’s suspense building is a work of art in this thriller told through multiple points of view, including the killer’s. As the novel begins, readers are introduced to a seemingly unassuming couple at a restaurant to celebrate her birthday, and we find out that there is another woman there who has the same birthday. Things begin to unravel as Josie befriends her birthday twin, Alix, a popular podcaster. As Josie’s harrowing story begins to unfold, Alix begins to feel bad for Josie, but as we all know, things aren’t always as they seem! A novel of twists and turns, family secrets, and a cold-blooded murderer!” —Sharon Davis, Book Bound Bookstore
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author known for her “superb pacing, twisted characters, and captivating prose” (BuzzFeed), Lisa Jewell returns with a scintillating new psychological thriller about a woman who finds herself the subject of her own popular true crime podcast.
Celebrating her forty-fifth birthday at her local pub, popular podcaster Alix Summer crosses paths with an unassuming woman called Josie Fair. Josie, it turns out, is also celebrating her forty-fifth birthday. They are, in fact, birthday twins.
A few days later, Alix and Josie bump into each other again, this time outside Alix’s children’s school. Josie has been listening to Alix’s podcasts and thinks she might be an interesting subject for her series. She is, she tells Alix, on the cusp of great changes in her life.
Josie’s life appears to be strange and complicated, and although Alix finds her unsettling, she can’t quite resist the temptation to keep making the podcast. Slowly she starts to realize that Josie has been hiding some very dark secrets, and before she knows it, Josie has inveigled her way into Alix’s life—and into her home.
But, as quickly as she arrived, Josie disappears. Only then does Alix discover that Josie has left a terrible and terrifying legacy in her wake, and that Alix has become the subject of her own true crime podcast, with her life and her family’s lives under mortal threat.
Who is Josie Fair? And what has she done?
“UNDER THE INFLUENCE is the perfect book to take along on that late-summer vacation. A young woman takes a job for an influencer, and quickly finds that this is more than a job—it’s a way of life. How much is she willing to give up to move forward? This novel is a reality show in book form!” —Mary OMalley, Skylark Bookshop
The Devil Wears Prada meets The Assistants in this compulsively readable debut following a young woman who takes a job working for an enigmatic influencer and quickly discovers there’s an ugly side to being a #GirlBoss.
After a series of go-nowhere jobs in the New York publishing world, Harper Cruz is broke, lonely, and desperate for a salary that won’t leave her scrambling to make rent each month. So when she stumbles across a job posting from an influencer offering triple her last paycheck, she automatically submits her résumé.
Harper may not be familiar with self-help guru Charlotte Green, but her relentless optimism and charismatic can-do spirit has created a cult-like following of women across the country. When she selects Harper among thousands of other applicants in less than twenty-four hours, it’s obvious she sees something she likes. Despite the pressure to accept the offer just as quickly as she’s been given it, Harper decides to take a leap of faith and become the newest member of The Greenhouse.
Accepting the job means a move to Nashville, and Harper is quickly dazzled by the glamourous world Charlotte has built in Music City. The Greenhouse is more than a workplace—it’s a family—and Harper soon finds herself swept into its inner circle. At first, she loves working in such an inspirational environment, where mandatory dance parties, daily intentions, and group bonding activities make up for long hours and Charlotte’s persistent demands for loyalty. But the deeper Harper is pulled into Charlotte’s world, the more she realizes that having it all and being it all comes with a price.
“SHARK HEART is a devastating exploration of change and freedom and womanhood, and it just absolutely gutted me. This book had me sobbing in broad daylight in the DMV parking lot when I was just trying to get a few pages read before my appointment. Habeck really captured the realism part of the magical realism. She had me contemplating very seriously if I could stay with my partner if he, too, turned into a great white shark. It’s hard to make your reader relate to such an absurd scenario, but at the end of the day pain is pain. And Wren’s pain is woven so deeply into every word. SHARK HEART is wonderful and weird and so, so heartbreaking, all at once.” —Emma Sidoli, Quail Ridge Books
A gorgeous debut novel of marriage, motherhood, metamorphosis, and letting go, this intergenerational love story begins with newlyweds Wren and her husband, Lewis—a man who, over the course of nine months, transforms into a great white shark.
For Lewis and Wren, their first year of marriage is also their last. A few weeks after their wedding, Lewis receives a rare diagnosis. He will retain most of his consciousness, memories, and intellect, but his physical body will gradually turn into a great white shark. As Lewis develops the features and impulses of one of the most predatory creatures in the ocean, his complicated artist’s heart struggles to make peace with his unfulfilled dreams.
At first, Wren internally resists her husband’s fate. Is there a way for them to be together after Lewis changes? Then, a glimpse of Lewis’s developing carnivorous nature activates long-repressed memories for Wren, whose story vacillates between her childhood living on a houseboat in Oklahoma, her time with a college ex-girlfriend, and her unusual friendship with a woman pregnant with twin birds. Woven throughout this bold novel is the story of Wren’s mother, Angela, who becomes pregnant with Wren at fifteen in an abusive relationship amidst her parents’ crumbling marriage. In the present, all of Wren’s grief eventually collides, and she is forced to make an impossible choice.
A sweeping love story that is at once lyrical and funny, airy and visceral, Shark Heart is an unforgettable, gorgeous novel about life’s perennial questions, the fragility of memories, finding joy amidst grief, and creating a meaningful life. This daring debut marks the arrival of a wildly talented new writer abounding with originality, humor, and heart.
“Each story in this collection does what I loved most about TENDER IS THE FLESH: it turns the most mundane things horrifying, and has the characters view the most horrifying things as completely mundane. Each story is a standout, luring you into a false sense of security before hitting you with a horrifying truth.” —Katherine Nazzaro, Porter Square Books
A collection of nineteen dark, wildly imaginative short stories from the author of the award-winning TikTok sensation Tender Is the Flesh.
From celebrated author Agustina Bazterrica, this collection of nineteen brutal, darkly funny short stories takes into our deepest fears and through our most disturbing fantasies. Through stories about violence, alienation, and dystopia, Bazterrica’s vision of the human experience emerges in complex, unexpected ways—often unsettling, sometimes thrilling, and always profound. In “Roberto,” a girl claims to have a rabbit between her legs. A woman’s neighbor jumps to his death in “A Light, Swift, and Monstrous Sound,” and in “Candy Pink,” a woman fails to contend with a difficult breakup in five easy steps.
Written in Bazterrica’s signature clever, vivid style, these stories question love, friendship, family relationships, and unspeakable desires.
“Even though this is a murder mystery, dark and gothic, set in an all-girls school, it is a powerful story about the pain, scariness, and burden of mental health disease. It is about a different kind of darkness. The main character, Sarah, is being sent to an all-girls, hyperexclusive school. The school hierarchy is no surprise, and Sarah’s ability to survive it is compromised from the get-go. When the murder finally occurs, the despair that goes with Sarah’s disease is on full display. Ward does a terrific job showing readers the uncertainty, fear, and misery that go with Sarah’s disease, especially in a toxic setting.” —Margaret Brennan Neville, The King’s English Bookshop
Heathers meets The Secret History in this thrilling coming-of-age novel set in a boarding school where the secrets are devastating—and deadly.
When Sarah Taylor arrives at the exclusive St. Ambrose School, she’s carrying more baggage than just what fits in her suitcase. She knows she’s not like the other girls—if the shabby, all-black, non-designer clothes don’t give that away, the bottle of lithium hidden in her desk drawer sure does.
St. Ambrose’s queen bee, Greta Stanhope, picks Sarah as a target from day one and the most popular, powerful, horrible girl at school is relentless in making sure Sarah knows what the pecking order is. Thankfully, Sarah makes an ally out of her roommate Ellen “Strots” Strotsberry, a cigarette-huffing, devil-may-care athlete who takes no bullshit. Also down the hall is Nick Hollis, the devastatingly handsome RA, and the object of more than one St. Ambrose student’s fantasies. Between Strots and Nick, Sarah hopes she can make it through the semester, dealing with not only her schoolwork and a recent bipolar diagnosis, but Greta’s increasingly malicious pranks.
Sarah is determined not to give Greta the satisfaction of breaking her. But when scandal unfolds, and someone ends up dead, her world threatens to unravel in ways she could never have imagined. The St. Ambrose School for Girls is a dangerous, delicious, twisty coming-of-age tale that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.
“Wow—Just Incredible! That being said, this is not a feel-good book. However, Etter has written, what I think, is one of the best fiction books about depression/anxiety that I have ever read. Unless you struggle with this disease, you have no idea what it’s like to live day-to-day in the darkness that threatens to swallow up those who suffer from it. With a unique style and acute description, Etter takes you there. Cassie’s life in Silicon Valley, working what should be her dream job, leaves her feeling alone and unsatisfied—moments of happiness are few and they don’t help destroy the “black hole” that has followed her throughout her life. Growing up with an abusive mother and a father who prefers not to recognize Cassie’s pain, she is left to navigate her path alone in a city that disappoints her at every turn. Without hesitation, I would highly recommend reading this book—it hooked me from the first page to the last!” —Kathy Mailloux, East City Bookshop
From an award-winning writer whose work Roxane Gay calls “utterly unique and remarkable” comes a surreal novel about a woman in Silicon Valley who must decide how much she’s willing to give up for success—for fans of My Year of Rest and Relaxation and Her Body and Other Parties.
A year into her dream job at a cutthroat Silicon Valley start-up, Cassie finds herself trapped in a corporate nightmare. Between the long hours, toxic bosses, and unethical projects, she also struggles to reconcile the glittering promise of a city where obscene wealth lives alongside abject poverty and suffering. Ivy League grads complain about the snack selection from a conference room with a view of houseless people bathing in the bay. Start-up burnouts leap into the paths of commuter trains, and men literally set themselves on fire in the streets.
Though isolated, Cassie is never alone. From her earliest memory, a miniature black hole has been her constant companion. It feeds on her depression and anxiety, growing or shrinking in relation to her distress. The black hole watches, but it also waits. Its relentless pull draws Cassie ever closer as the world around her unravels.
When her CEO’s demands cross an illegal threshold and she ends up unexpectedly pregnant, Cassie must decide whether the tempting fruits of Silicon Valley are really worth it. Sharp but vulnerable, funny yet unsettling, Ripe portrays one millennial woman’s journey through our late-capitalist hellscape and offers a brilliantly incisive look at the absurdities of modern life.
“Childhood friendships forged at summer camp play out in this wonderful story of growing up, staying friends, and being there for each other when life gets complicated! I loved the characters—especially Daphne, Lanier, Mary, and June. I loved that they kept trying to work through challenges, to figure out what they really wanted in their lives. A refreshing summer read!” —Cathy Graham, Copperfish Books
Four women come together to save the summer camp that changed their lives and rediscover themselves in the process in this moving new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Wedding Veil and the Peachtree Bluff series.
Nearly thirty years ago, in the wake of a personal tragedy, June Moore bought Camp Holly Springs and turned it into a thriving summer haven for girls. But now, June is in danger of losing the place she has sacrificed everything for, and begins to realize how much she has used the camp to avoid facing difficulties in her life.
June’s niece, Daphne, met her two best friends, Lanier and Mary Stuart, during a fateful summer at camp. They’ve all helped each other through hard things, from heartbreak and loss to substance abuse and unplanned pregnancy, and the three are inseparable even in their thirties. But when attorney Daphne is confronted with a relationship from her past—and a confidential issue at work becomes personal—she is faced with an impossible choice.
Lanier, meanwhile, is struggling with tough decisions of her own. After a run-in with an old flame, she is torn between the commitment she made to her fiancé and the one she made to her first love. And when a big secret comes to light, she finds herself at odds with her best friend…and risks losing the person she loves most.
But in spite of their personal problems, nothing is more important to these songbirds than Camp Holly Springs. When the women learn their childhood oasis is in danger of closing, they band together to save it, sending them on a journey that promises to open the next chapters in their lives.
From an author whose “writing coats your soul with heart” (E! Online), The Summer of Songbirds is a lyrical and unforgettable celebration of female friendship, summertime freedom, and enduring sisterhood—and a love letter to the places and people that make us who we are.
Photo credit: iStock / zozzzzo