16 Books to Watch For in July
16 Books to Watch For in July
‘Afterland,’ by Lauren Beukes (Mulholland, July 28)
After the “Manfall” pandemic wipes out most of the men on the planet, Cole disguises her son — one of the last males on Earth — as a girl and tries to get him to safety before the government can snatch him. Their cross-country journey is treacherous, as they evade not only the Department of Men but also Cole’s sister, Billie, who is determined to separate mother and son. Beukes’s imagined world — complete with bootleg sperm and faux baby bumps — is a thrilling setting for an examination of maternal love.
‘The Answer Is … : Reflections on My Life,’ by Alex Trebek (Simon & Schuster, July 21)
The longtime “Jeopardy!” host has enthralled viewers for more than 30 years. Now, he writes about family, success and philanthropy; talks about legendary contestants like Ken Jennings; and answers the questions he gets most often from fans (including why he shaved his mustache).
‘Becoming Duchess Goldblatt: A Memoir,’ by Anonymous (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, July 7)
Don’t let the title mislead you; this unusual book is less a memoir than the origin story of a popular Twitter persona, Duchess Goldblatt, a fictional 80-something with thousands of followers drawn to her brisk literary wit. (Her Twitter bio identifies her as the “beloved inspirational author of ‘Feasting on the Carcasses of My Enemies: A Love Story.’”) Here the duchess describes how she found solace in building a new identity online as her real life was coming undone.
‘Blacktop Wasteland,’ by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron, July 14)
Bug Montage, a mechanic, has built a good and honest life for his family. But when his life starts to go off the rails — his mother is facing eviction from her nursing home, his business is in the red — he agrees to do one last heist. This novel is a fast-paced, fresh take on noir that tears through the underbelly of Virginia.
‘Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party,’ by Julian Zelizer (Penguin Press, July 7)
Zelizer, a political historian at Princeton, makes the case that Gingrich’s pugnacity altered the character of the Republican Party, ushering in a new level of political vitriol. Gingrich’s actions helped legitimize political ruthlessness and cunning, Zelizer argues, and his influence can be seen leading to the election of President Trump.
‘Cool for America: Stories,’ by Andrew Martin (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, July 7)
Readers of Martin’s novel, “Early Work,” will recognize plenty in these pages. One of the novel’s central characters reappears, and Martin returns to familiar themes in this collection: substance abuse, professional ambivalence, low-grade existential dread. Cocaine lands two grown siblings in an emergency room on Christmas Eve; a marriage teeters on implosion during a vacation on the Jersey Shore.
‘Hamnet,’ by Maggie O’Farrell (Knopf, July 21)
Few (good) novelists have dared conjure Shakespeare, the English language’s unparalleled genius, as a character, much less pulled it off. O’Farrell’s own genius was to see a literary opportunity in the paucity of information about Shakespeare’s domestic life, and in the connection between his dead son and his great play.
‘I Hold a Wolf by the Ears: Stories,’ by Laura van den Berg (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, July 28)
Women find themselves in uncanny, unsettling situations throughout this collection, complete with drugged seltzer, family rivalries and the lingering specter of past traumas. The opening lines of the book set the tone: “I want to tell you about the night I got hit by a train and died.
“The thing is — it never happened.”
‘Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir,’ by Natasha Trethewey (Ecco, July 28)
The tragedy at the center of this book is profound: When Trethewey was 19, her former stepfather killed her mother. Over the course of the book, the author, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, examines the legacy of this murder on herself and her family; how her mother’s selflessness formed her as a writer; and how poetry was a necessary outlet for Trethewey as she began understand herself while growing up biracial in the South.
‘Pew,’ by Catherine Lacey (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, July 21)
The discovery of a mysterious outsider rattles an unnamed Southern town. Pew, as the person is called, resists easy categorization — their gender and sex are ambiguous, and they hardly speak. Some residents hail Pew as a divine being, while others remain skeptical and fearful; the tension builds over seven days as the town prepares for an annual festival haunted by sinister rumors.
‘Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,’ by Mary L. Trump (Simon & Schuster, July 28)
Details are scant about this book, but the author, President Trump’s niece and a psychologist, has promised damning stories about her uncle and the Trump family dynamics. She also reveals herself as a source for The Times’s coverage of Trump’s tax documents.
‘To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq,’ by Robert Draper (Penguin Press, July 28)
Draper offers a comprehensive account of the U.S. invasion, which is familiar territory for him: In an earlier book, “Dead Certain,” he focused on the Bush administration and the president’s stubborn faith in the war. This deeply reported account, which draws on interviews and declassified documents, suggests that the invasion and Saddam Hussein’s ouster were both inevitabilities in President Bush’s mind.
‘Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism,’ by Anne Appelbaum (Doubleday, July 21)
Why are so many countries teetering toward autocracy? Applebaum is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has lived in Poland off and on since the late 1980s and is well-positioned to investigate. As she writes: “Given the right conditions, any society can turn against democracy. Indeed, if history is anything to go by, all of our societies will.”
‘The Unidentified: Mythical Monsters, Alien Encounters, and Our Obsession With the Unexplained,’ by Colin Dickey (Viking, July 21)
Dickey, the cultural historian and author of “Ghostland,” here explores some of America’s most outlandish fringe beliefs and how they have taken hold, from the Jersey Devil — a legendary creature believed to lurk in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey — to the Lemurians, extraterrestrials said to live inside California’s Mount Shasta. There’s even a chapter devoted to the Kentucky Meat Shower of 1876, when chunks of flesh reportedly fell from a clear sky.
‘Waiting for an Echo: The Madness of American Incarceration,’ by Christine Montross (Penguin Press, July 21)
A psychiatrist offers a sobering look at the legal system’s relationship to people with mental illness, and how the American prison system exacerbates their suffering. An early decision by the police as to whether someone belongs in a hospital or jail has profound lifelong consequences. This book examines how such people end up incarcerated and the legacy of the harm they endure.
‘Want,’ by Lynn Steger Strong (Henry Holt, July 7)
Elizabeth, the central character in this novel, is struggling. She and her husband are both underemployed, careening toward bankruptcy and strained by the demands of parenthood. As she reckons with her failed dreams, she leans on an old but tempestuous friendship while navigating through economic and personal collapse.