Lit Hub’s Most Anticipated Books of 2021, Part Two

222 Books We Want to Read Before 2022

AUGUST

Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, Indentured Students: How Government-Guaranteed Loans Left Generations Drowning in College Debt

Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, Indentured Students: How Government-Guaranteed Loans Left Generations Drowning in College Debt
Belknap Press, August 3

To be debt free in America in the 21st century is to have a very particular kind of privilege: as of today, 45 million Americans owe approximately 1.5 trillion dollars in college tuition debt (that’s T as in “there’s no way most millennials can afford a home”). Indentured Students traces the very particular policies of the last 60 years that led to this situation, discovering an unsurprising reluctance by those in power to open up college education to a wider group Americans (guess who, and guess why). from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Alexandra Kleeman, Something New Under the Sun

Alexandra Kleeman, Something New Under The Sun
Hogarth, August 3

When Something New Under the Sun begins, Patrick is a writer who has naively accepted a role as a PA on the set of a film adaptation of his novel in lieu of payment. He doesn’t, it is soon clear, have any idea what a PA is. We meet his philosophizing comrades (Horseshoe and the Arm), the problematic starlet (Cassidy) and slowly discover that the California in which they are filming is not quite our own—water has run out and been replaced by WAT-R, a man-made, supposedly chemically identical substance. Because this is an Alexandra Kleeman novel, none of it goes where you think it’s going to, but it’s all so wildly entertaining and beautifully written that it really doesn’t matter where you end up. –ET (in Lit Hub’s Summer Fiction Preview)

 

Rachel Greenwald Smith, On Compromise: Art, Politics, and the Fate of an American Ideal

Rachel Greenwald Smith, On Compromise: Art, Politics, and the Fate of an American Ideal
Graywolf Press, August 3

What’s the point of compromise? Rachel Greenwald Smith interrogates what has often been an ideal of liberal politics, looking at the role it played in various cultural controversies and in her own personal experiences. In the process, she argues that compromise is a strategy, not a goal unto itself, and to think of it as such is counterproductive to cultural growth. from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

mona awad all's well

Mona Awad, All’s Well
Simon & Schuster, August 3

On a sentence level, I find Awad’s writing deeply satisfying: readable and tricky and pleasurable—which may have to do with us speaking a similar literary patois infused with Shakespeare and fairy tale logic. So be it. In this novel, a woman wracked with pain that no one can remedy or even really recognize is trying to get her students to put on an unpopular play: All’s Well That Ends Well. But when even walking is a trial, enforcing your will is nearly impossible—until something happens, in fact three somethings, that change the rules of the world. As in Awad’s last novel Bunny, things start off weird and institutional and then spiral into madness, and as in Bunny, the experience is a fiendish delight: funny, thrilling, and creepily recognizable. –ET (in Lit Hub’s Summer Fiction Preview)

 

Courtney E. Martin, Learning in Public: Lessons for a Racially Divided America from My Daughter's School

Courtney E. Martin, Learning in Public: Lessons for a Racially Divided America from My Daughter’s School
Little, Brown and Company, August 3

When Courtney Martin enrolled her daughter at a public school in Oakland, California, that other local white families tended to avoid—often in favor of expensive private schools—she soon began to observe the effects of multicultural learning and the complicated dynamics that govern education and race in the area. This is the story of what school segregation, a nationally important issue, looks like through the lens of one family’s experience. from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Claire Luchette, Agatha of Little Neon

Claire Luchette, Agatha of Little Neon
FSG, August 3

I never knew I needed a book about four Catholic sisters reassigned to a neon-painted halfway house in a former mill town, but reader, I did. Upon their arrival, Agatha is cornered into teaching math at the local all-girls high school (run by hapless, punitive men), where she makes a new friend and carves out a little world for herself away from her sisters. At home, Agatha’s response to the residents of Little Neon is more recognition than religious platitudes, and as stories of abusive priests appear in the news, Agatha finds her anger hard to bear. Luchette’s writing is both wry and earnest, which might be my favorite combination. –ES (in Lit Hub’s Summer Fiction Preview)

 

Stephen Kurczy, The Quiet Zone: Unraveling the Mystery of a Town Suspended in Silence

Stephen Kurczy, The Quiet Zone: Unraveling the Mystery of a Town Suspended in Silence
Dey Street Books, August 3

For years, Green Bank, West Virginia, has instituted a ban on digital technology (including consumer electronics) that could interfere with the workings of the Green Bank Observatory, which is used by astronomers and researchers. Stephen Kurczy immerses himself in this unique setting, tracing the history of a town unlike any other in the US and its present-day relationship to digital technology. from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Megan Abbott, The Turnout

Megan Abbott, The Turnout
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, August 3

Megan Abbott’s latest novel captures the psychological paranoia of Black Swan and the toxic sibling rivalry of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Sisters Dara and Marie Durant, former ballerinas turned ballet instructors, inherit their family’s modest ballet studio after the unexpected death of their parents. Dara and Marie couldn’t be more different. Steely-eyed Dara is the “dark” to dreamy, childish Marie’s “light.” The pair are locked in their roles, obediently executing the traditions established by their mother. Every year, the studio performs The Nutcracker—a considerable feat of planning, time, and money. However, their routine is upended when a fire nearly burns down the school. To repair the damage, the sisters hire a recommended contractor. The contractor’s arrival kicks off the deconstruction of their carefully curated lives. The Turnout unfolds like a dark fairy tale, unpacking the rigid demands of femininity. Abbott fans and suspense lovers alike won’t be disappointed with this exploration of human frailty and twisted love. –VW (in Lit Hub’s Summer Fiction Preview)

 

Josh Mitchell, The Debt Trap: How Student Loans Became a National Catastrophe

Josh Mitchell, The Debt Trap: How Student Loans Became a National Catastrophe
Simon & Schuster, August 3

Josh Mitchell, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, uncovers the history of the predation that created the student debt industry, which has created impossible financial barriers for at least one generation of Americans and shows no signs of slowing down—a phenomenon that Mitchell likens to the housing bubble. It is, unsurprisingly, a shocking history, dominated by an attitude of exploitation toward American students and their families. from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Ash Davidson, Damnation Spring

Ash Davidson, Damnation Spring
Scribner, August 3

This ambitious, assured debut drops us into a 1977 Pacific Northwest logging town clinging to their way of life as their land is razed around them. Midwife Colleen starts to suspect the herbicides used in logging are the cause of her and other women’s miscarriages; but while she seeks answers, her husband Rich, unbeknownst to her, spends their family’s savings on purchasing the land on which he works. Meanwhile, a burgeoning environmentalist movement threatens loggers’ livelihoods. Told in alternating points of view from Colleen, Rich, and their son Chub’s perspective, it’s a devastating page-turner with a love story at its center. –WC (in Lit Hub’s Summer Fiction Preview)

 

Michel Foucault, Prisons Information Group, Kevin Thompson, Perry Zurn and Erik Beranek, Intolerable: Writings from Michel Foucault and the Prisons Information Group (1970–1980)

Michel Foucault, Prisons Information Group, Kevin Thompson, Perry Zurn and Erik Beranek, Intolerable: Writings from Michel Foucault and the Prisons Information Group (1970–1980)
University of Minnesota Press, August 3

The Prisons Information Group was formed by French intellectuals and activists to interrogate and resist the harsh policies of the French carceral state, and included the likes of Gilles Deleuze, Helene Cixous, and Michel Foucault (the latter would develop and refine his framework of carceral criticism through his work in the group). Though “resistance” in the Trump Era became more of a brand than a battle plan, it is not hard to see the relevance of the Prisons Information Group to the current movement for prison reform and abolition: lessons of past resistance are always important to the future. from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Pamela Korgemagi, The Hunter and The Old Woman
House of Anansi, August 3

As much as we like to give ourselves credit for understanding the role of the natural world in the equilibrium of the planet we are, ultimately, a destabilizing and delusional species—we put ourselves at the center of the story, and treat our environment like cheap background scenery. The Hunter and The Old Woman goes some small way toward redressing this narrative imbalance, offering parallel protagonists—as advertised by the title—whose lives seem destined to intersect from the moment they’re born. The eponymous Old Woman, however, is a cougar who inhabits an almost mythic forest realm at the far edges of the human world.

Korgemagi has written The Hunter and The Old Woman as a kind of realist parable, and unapologetically anthropomorphizes the animal characters, giving them what we might think of as “emotional range.” This is a bold decision, and I can imagine some readers taking issue with it out of an overdeveloped sensitivity to… well, I don’t know what exactly: the idea that there is a correct way to embody cougar consciousness in a novel is absurd. By dispensing with the syntactical ticks that sometimes pass for non-human ideation in fiction, Korgemagi deftly elevates—and equalizes—the emotional stakes of her dual protagonists. And though we know they’re stand-ins for the cyclical collisions of Man and Nature, the parallel fates of these fully drawn characters, The Hunter and The Old Woman, feel intimate and urgent. (If only we could be made to feel this way about the fate of the natural world.) –JD (in Lit Hub’s Summer Fiction Preview)

 

Adam Serwer, The Cruelty Is the Point: Essays on Trump's America

Adam Serwer, The Cruelty Is the Point: Essays on Trump’s America
One World, August 3

Adam Serwer, a staff writer for The Atlantic, adds this contribution to the long process of reckoning with the Trump administration, analyzing the dynamics and inequalities that led to his rise and examining Trump as a phenomenon that is consistent with the path of US history. His essays expand on the effects of American history on the present and the possibilities of our political future. from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Anthony Veasna So, Afterparties
Ecco, August 3

Afterparties, a “history-haunted comedy of Cambodian-American manners,” has been one of our most anticipated short story collections of 2021 for a while now. Even if you’re late to the (after)party, you might remember So’s story, “Three Women of Chuck’s Donuts,” which was published in the New Yorker in February 2020. Or take it from George Saunders, who described these stories as being “like beams of wry, affectionate light, falling from different directions on a complicated, struggling, beloved American community.” –ET (in Lit Hub’s Summer Short Story Preview)

 

Halimah Marcus (ed.), Horse Girls
Harper Perennial, August 3

This is not your mother’s anthology of equestrian memoir (though she’ll probably like it): just a glance at the line-up of heavy-hitting writers should be enough to tell you that, with contributions from Carmen Maria Machado, Jane Smiley, T Kira Madden, Maggie Shipstead, and many more. In offering a broad array of perspectives across culture, class, and gender Horse Girls upends the rarified stereotypes of privilege and exclusivity so often ascribed to the wealthy, white “horsey set.” from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Brian Evenson, The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell

Brian Evenson, The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell
Coffee House Press (August 3)

Evenson is one of our greatest contemporary writers of literary horror; I’m always psyched—and a little afraid—when he has a new book out. According to the publisher, his latest collection “envisions a chilling future beyond the Anthropocene that forces excruciating decisions about survival and self-sacrifice in the face of toxic air and a natural world torn between revenge and regeneration.” Gah, and also: give it. –ET (in Lit Hub’s Summer Short Story Preview)

 

Tom Gatti, Long Players: Writers on the Albums that Shaped Them

Tom Gatti, Long Players: Writers on the Albums that Shaped Them
Bloomsbury, August 3

Long Players collects essays from contemporary writers on the albums that have shaped them, and the list is impressive: Marlon James, Patricia Lockwood, Rachel Kushner, Bernardine Evaristo, and many others weigh in. Ben Okri writes on Miles Davis; Daisy Johnson on Lizzo; David Mitchell on Joni Mitchell. (One of these catch your attention yet?) There’s a lot to connect to in this collection of stories on the moments music history meets personal history. from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Julie Kavanaugh, The Irish Assassins: Conspiracy, Revenge and the Phoenix Park Murders that Stunned Victorian England

Julie Kavanagh, The Irish Assassins: Conspiracy, Revenge and the Phoenix Park Murders that Stunned Victorian England
Grove, August 3

As true crime stories go, this one has it all: clandestine plotting, scandalous affairs, shadowy organizations, brutal murders, far-reaching political implications, and, for good measure, someone known as “the Irish Sherlock Holmes.” The year was 1882 and British Prime Minister William Gladstone had been making progress in backroom negotiations with pro-Irish independence leader Charles Stewart Parnell—until the brutal murder of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Thomas Burke, Chief Secretary and Undersecretary for Ireland. The two were cut down in Phoenix Park by a group of American-funded hardline nationalists called The Invincibles, a crime that would become internationally notorious, and effectively ended the possibility of negotiated independence. Kavanagh’s gripping account of the murders is a stark reminder that history is a chaotic jumble of chance, circumstance, and opportunity, as much about what could have been as about what was. from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

James Tate Hill, Blind Man's Bluff

James Tate Hill, Blind Man’s Bluff
W.W. Norton, August 3

James Tate Hill—who writes a column for Lit Hub recommending audiobooks each month—recounts his experience with Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, which resulted in the legal blindness he tried to cover up for years. His memoir delves into this period of his life along with the way his relationship with vision, and self-acceptance, evolved over time. from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi's SAVAGE TONGUES

Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, Savage Tongues
HMH, August 3

From the award-winning Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi comes the story of Arezu, an Iranian American teenager who goes to Spain in search of her father, only to find herself in an affair with his step-nephew, a 40-year-old man. Twenty years later, Arezu returns to the place with her best friend (an Israeli American scholar on the side of the Palestinians; an eerily timely detail) to try to make sense of what happened. As a narrator, Arezu is a brutally honest guide through her past. This is a pulls-no-punches look at abandonment, ownership, trauma, and the convergence of political and personal pain. It is also a touching ode to friendship, a partial salve for these wounds. –KY (in Lit Hub’s Summer Fiction Preview)

 

Anna Qu, Made in China: A Memoir of Love and Labor

Anna Qu, Made in China: A Memoir of Love and Labor
Catapult, August 3

Anna Qu reported her mother to child services after being forced to work in a Queens factory as a teenager. Two decades later, accessing her own report from the Office of Children and Family Services, she finds a number of inaccuracies. Her memoir explores her relationship to this history, her family’s immigration story, trauma, and survival through abuse. from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Adam Harris, The State Must Provide: Why America's Colleges Have Always Been Unequal—and How to Set Them Right

Adam Harris, The State Must Provide: Why America’s Colleges Have Always Been Unequal—and How to Set Them Right
Ecco, August 10

Adam Harris looks at the state of affairs in higher education, which continues to entrench stark racial and class inequalities in the US, examining how we got here—from crucial legal decisions on school segregation to the historical climate that oppressed Black students—and what problems keep us from moving forward. His account indicts a system that should be upholding higher ideals of equality while also offering ideas on what must change. from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

A.K. Blakemore, The Manningtree Witches

A.K. Blakemore, The Manningtree Witches
Catapult, August 10

If you too like to be excited (and disturbed, and amused) by your sentences, I suggest you pick up this tensile first novel by poet A.K. Blakemore, one of at least two great Witch Trial-related novels being published this summer. This one concerns the sharp-eyed, sharp-tongued Rebecca West and her years-long battle against the terrifying, black-clad Witchfinder General. I’m shivering just thinking about it, but never have I been so glad to be so upset! –ET (in Lit Hub’s Summer Fiction Preview)

 

Elly Fishman, Refugee High: Coming of Age in America

Elly Fishman, Refugee High: Coming of Age in America
The New Press, August 10

Elly Fishman captures the 2017-8 academic year at Chicago’s Roger C. Sullivan High School, tracking the highs and lows of the school’s refugee and immigrant student community in this thoroughly reported account. Fishman examines the concept of the American Dream in the context of the American education system with stunning clarity and insight. from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, American Estrangement

Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, American Estrangement
Norton, August 10

I’ve been waiting for a new collection by Sayrafiezadeh since his excellent debut Brief Encounters with the Enemy, which he published back in 2013. I’m thrilled he’s back. “There are powerful social, economic, political, and ethnic forces shaping the characters in American Estrangement,” Sayrafiezadeh told The New Yorker‘s Cressida Leyshon, “often from afar, often imperceptibly, and they are therefore unnameable. I wanted to avoid having my characters be completely aware of society. I wanted them to be a little clueless—as are we all.” Indeed. If you’re not convinced yet, start with “A,S,D,F.–ET (in Lit Hub’s Summer Short Story Preview)

 

Eleanor Henderson, Everything I Have Is Yours

Eleanor Henderson, Everything I Have is Yours
Flatiron, August 10

New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Henderson depicts a different kind of marriage story in this earnest memoir. When she was a teenager, Henderson met her future husband Aaron at a local record store. Their summer romance blossomed into a long-term relationship, ultimately leading to marriage and children. Although their married life seemed picture perfect, it battled universal stressors: parenting, financial woes, and work. One day, Aaron began to develop a rash, which developed into painful lesions. What had caused Aaron to become ill? Is there a cure? Henderson unpacks this medical mystery in the context of relationships and modern love. Just how far would you go to save the person you love? –VW

 

Jennifer Otter Bickerdike, You Are Beautiful and You Are Alone: The Biography of Nico

Jennifer Otter Bickerdike, You Are Beautiful and You Are Alone: The Biography of Nico
Hachette, August 10

Jennifer Otter Bickerdike takes a close look at iconic Warhol muse and Velvet Underground collaborator Nico. You Are Beautiful and You Are Alone makes a strong case for Nico’s legacy as an influential yet underappreciated singer-songwriter. Bickerdike utilizes the archives at the Andy Warhol Museum and at Nico’s record labels, various private collections, rarely seen footage, and exclusive new interviews to demythologize—and thereby humanize—the iconic German rock star. from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Kyle Beachy, The Most Fun Thing: Dispatches from a Skateboard Life

Kyle Beachy, The Most Fun Thing: Dispatches from a Skateboard Life
Grand Central, August 10

There are a lot of very serious books in this preview—but even though life has been hard for so many people over the last year, it’s ok to have fun. This is perhaps one of the more important lessons from Kyle Beachy’s hybrid work of memoir and cultural criticism, which examines skateboarding as a cultural phenomenon that has grown up alongside the punk-aligned 80s skatekids who now have teenagers of their own. What does it mean to be in one’s early forties and still not quite be able to land more than one in four kickflips? Why does it bring such joy? And where, exactly, is the line between counter- and corporate culture when it comes to a “sport” like skateboarding? from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Lizzie Johnson, Paradise: One Town's Struggle to Survive an American Wildfire

Lizzie Johnson, Paradise: One Town’s Struggle to Survive an American Wildfire
Crown, August 17

The climate apocalypse has been here for awhile now, depending on where you choose to look. For San Francisco Chronicle reporter Lizzie Johnson, that was Paradise, California, which was left devastated in the wake of 2018’s Camp Fire, one of the deadliest wildfires in the nation’s history. Assigned to cover the breaking story Johnson had a firsthand view of the town’s destruction (85 people died) and has since put together this important minute-by-minute document of the consequences of climate change, based on frontline reporting, public records, and extensive interviews with survivors. from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Maurice Carlos Ruffin, The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You

Maurice Carlos Ruffin, The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You
One World, August 17

Maurice Carlos Ruffin follows up on his darkly provocative, critically acclaimed debut novel, We Cast a Shadow, with this collection of stories set in and around his native New Orleans. The characters in Ruffin’s stories struggle, in their various ways, to navigate the depths of a great American city too often mythologized for its flamboyant surfaces. –JD (in Lit Hub’s Summer Short Story Preview)

 

Eyal Press, Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America

Eyal Press, Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, August 17

This nation’s success, such as it is for those at the top of the pyramid, relies on a veritable army of the underpaid and overworked to carry out the very worst kind of labor. As Eyal Press reveals in this engrossing account of terrible jobs—from factory farms to the prison-industrial complex—American capitalism is an unsustainable system that continues to demand a brutal toll from its workers, both physically and morally. If we think so many of them are “essential” why can’t we create better conditions for what they do? from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Jaime Cortez, Gordo

Jaime Cortez, Gordo
Black Cat, August 17

Gordo is the Winesburg, Ohio of the 21st century—but instead of revealing mid-America of the 1910s, Cortez plumbs the lives of those living in a migrant labor camp in California in the 1970s through the eyes of Gordo, “a fat, precocious nine-year-old sissy boy” (his words, not mine: Litquake 2019). “The Jesus Donut” launches this book like a missile. A man who looks like “Mr. Kentucky Fried Chicken” shows up at Gyrich Farms Worker Camp (the name, Guy-rich, indicates Cortez’s parodic sensibilities) with a van full of donuts for sale, amid five kids, including our narrator, Gordo. Thing is, nobody has a cent. That is until Olga pulls a quarter from her dirty sneaker and buys two for twenty cents. “Body of Christ” says Olga as she raises a donut piece to each kneeling kid (something she insists they do for their reward) and they respond, “Amen” in an impromptu, forced communion. I nearly fell off my chair laughing. Cortez’s dialogue, timing, and humor is quick, dark, and hilarious and the voice of Gordo, singular and soaring, full of naïveté and grit that wrangles humor and human complexity with serious high stakes themes, for in the background, migrant workers carry burdens many of us don’t. While I’ve only read two chapters, I can tell Gordo, like Winesburg, Ohio, is capable of changing not only what it means to be American today, but what American literature can be; that of giving voice to the periphery. Hands down, top debut of 2021. –Kerri Arsenault (in Lit Hub’s Summer Short Story Preview)

 

Patrick Nathan, Image Control: Art, Fascism, and the Right to Resist

Patrick Nathan, Image Control: Art, Fascism, and the Right to Resist
Counterpoint, August 17

In Image Control, Patrick Nathan looks for the root of fascism, and humanity’s susceptibility to it, in the aesthetics of the internet. Nathan argues that encountering images at warp speed and in isolation from their context has negatively affected our ability to digest nuance (a dynamic that anyone who’s witnessed an argument online can attest to). Nathan’s unique work of analysis diagnoses a problem underlying many of our online interactions, one with important implications for both personal relationships and national politics. from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

William deBuys and Rebecca Gaal (illustrated by), The Trail to Kanjiroba: Rediscovering Earth in an Age of Loss

William deBuys and Rebecca Gaal (ill.), The Trail to Kanjiroba: Rediscovering Earth in an Age of Loss
Seven Stories Press, August 17

William deBuys’s The Trail to Kanjiroba is both the story of the author’s journeys to Upper Dolpo, an isolated area in northwestern Nepal, and an analysis of the scientific advances that have helped humans interpret the natural world over the course of centuries. It is a work of close attention to a unique landscape, the kind of story that will only grow more important as landscapes of all kinds fall under the threat of human-caused destruction and climate change. from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Still Mad: American Women Writers and the Feminist Imagination

Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Still Mad: American Women Writers and the Feminist Imagination
W.W. Norton, August 17

Literary critics Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, authors of The Madwoman in the Attic, now look at the legacy of literary second wave feminists in Still Mad, which revisits work by Toni Morrison, Adrienne Rich, Ursula K. Le Guin, Maxine Hong Kingston, Gloria Anzaldúa, and others. This is a great chance to revisit some of our most foundational writers and thinkers.  from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Rafia Zakaria, Against White Feminism: Notes on Disruption

Rafia Zakaria, Against White Feminism: Notes on Disruption
W.W. Norton, August 17

The empty language of empowerment and girlbossery by which mainstream (white) feminism is disseminated has been to the detriment of the vast majority of women, and to the very idea of women’s equality. Rafia Zakaria looks at the white supremacy woven throughout the women’s movement and makes the case for the absolute necessity of a new framework. from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Simon Kuper, The Barcelona Complex: Lionel Messi and the Making—and Unmaking—of the World's Greatest Soccer Club

Simon Kuper, The Barcelona Complex: Lionel Messi and the Making—and Unmaking—of the World’s Greatest Soccer Club
Penguin Press, August 17

How did FC Barcelona become the biggest, most successful sports franchise on the planet? (Sorry, Americans, it’s true.) Financial Times journalist Simon Kuper was given hitherto unthinkable access to the inner workings of this beloved institution—that’s run more like a global conglomerate than a soccer club—and charts Barca’s rise in parallel to the careers of two of its mega-stars, Johan Cruyff and Lionel Messi. But can Barcelona’s status as global sports superpower outlive the incredible career of the latter, whose time as the best player in the world is coming to an end? from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

George R. Stewart, Storm

George R. Stewart, Storm
NYRB, August 17

The landscape of California and its accompanying weather turmoil (drought, lightning, fire) is no new subject these days, but it was in 1941 when George Stewart wrote this novel. The main character is Maria—the storm itself—who is depicted as both human and otherworldly, as she gathers her forces and makes her way from Japan to the West Coast, crossing paths with the citizens of the places she lands. Storm is considered the first of its kind, paving the way for an entire genre of fiction, the eco-novel. Fans of The Overstory will be transfixed with this reissue, which follows the storm every day of its existence as we would a volatile and dramatic character, and leaves us with a renewed awareness of the interconnectedness of our mysterious and awe-inspiring world. –Julia Hass (in Lit Hub’s Summer Fiction Preview)

 

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Not "A Nation of Immigrants": Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and a History of Erasure and Exclusion

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Not “A Nation of Immigrants”: Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and a History of Erasure and Exclusion
Beacon Press, August 24

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz is not the historian America deserves, but she is definitely the historian America needs. With her customary precision and fearlessness Not a Nation of Immigrants takes aim at a persistent national myth that whitewashes the genocidal settler-colonialism and mass enslavement of Africans upon which America was built. This is exactly the kind of book white supremacists are trying to ban in schools (do don’t let them!). from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Peter Heller, The Guide

Peter Heller, The Guide
Knopf, August 24

From the author of The Dog Stars and The River, a thriller both menacing and lyrical, set in an exclusive retreat: a wilderness zone in which billionaires can Experience Nature (and escape America’s years-long pandemic). Jack is relieved to get a job there as the eponymous guide, but when he hears a scream one night, he begins to wonder if all is really as it seems. Spoiler: it’s not. –ET

 

Geo Maher, A World Without Police: How Strong Communities Make Cops Obsolete

Geo Maher, A World Without Police: How Strong Communities Make Cops Obsolete
Verso, August 24

What would law enforcement and public life look like without police? The Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, along with the further organizing and conversations that those protests inspired, produced a blueprint for such a society, one that Geo Maher breaks down in A World Without Police as he advocates for police abolition alongside community safety. from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Robert Levine, The Failed Promise: Reconstruction, Fredrick Douglass, and the impeachment of Andrew Johnson

Robert Levine, The Failed Promise: Reconstruction, Fredrick Douglass, and the impeachment of Andrew Johnson
W.W. Norton, August 24

Robert S. Levine, Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, provides a well-researched study of the presidency and impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Levine brings the leadership of Frederick Douglass and other African American activists into clear view, providing a detailed deconstruction of post-Civil War America that considers the failed promise of Black equality and its lasting reverberations. from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Erwin Chemerinsky, Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights (Liveright, August 24)

Erwin Chemerinsky, Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights
Liveright, August 24

Erwin Chemerinsky continues his career of groundbreaking research into civil rights with Presumed Guilty, which looks at the foundations of a society that tolerates racist policing.  Chemerinsky finds, in particular, that a series of Supreme Court decisions driven by conservative justices enabled police to take violent, and sometimes deadly, actions, particularly against communities of color. from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Sumana Roy, How I Became a Tree

Sumana Roy, How I Became a Tree
Yale University Press, August 31

“I was tired of speed,” Sumana Roy writes, “I wanted to live to tree time.” In How I Became a Tree, Roy blends literary criticism, philosophy, and botanical study to contemplate humanity’s engagement with the natural world, and consider what it means to emulate trees themselves. from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Jo Hamya, Three Rooms

Jo Hamya, Three Rooms
HMH, August 31

The narrator of Jo Hamya’s debut novel has a familiar goal: to “afford a flat, not just a room, and then to settle in it and invite friends to dinner.” But as a 21st-century worker, a path there—to stability, independence, permanence—seems near impossible. We follow the narrator from living in a rented room at Oxford as a research assistant, to a rented couch as a temp at a high-powered magazine, to finally, exhausted, moving back in with her parents. (Hamya gives us send-ups of academia and media along the way.) It’s an anti-coming of age story, a bleak portrait of a generation for whom a “room of one’s own” lingers permanently out of reach. –WC (in Lit Hub’s Summer Fiction Preview)

 

Matt Siegel, The Secret History of Food: Strange and True Stories About the Origins of What We Eat

Matt Siegel, The Secret History of Food: Strange and True Stories About the Origins of What We Eat
Ecco, August 31

We’re likely all a little conversationally rusty at the moment, so a collection of surprising food histories—collected from ancient and obscure sources—sounds like the perfect thing to liven up your dinner party repertoire. (And if you’re looking for more reasons to love ice cream, The Secret History of Food makes the case that in addition to being the perfect summer treat, it also helped defeat the Nazis.) from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Stephon Alexander, Fear of a Black Universe: An Outsider's Guide to the Future of Physics

Stephon Alexander, Fear of a Black Universe: An Outsider’s Guide to the Future of Physics
Basic Books, August 31

Stephon Alexander, a professor of physics at Brown University and the 2020 president of the National Society of Black Physicists, dives headfirst into the mysteries of our universe. Fear of a Black Universe not only unpacks the poetry of theoretical physics but also critiques the glaring homogeneity of the field. Alexander merges the personal with the scientific in this compelling guide. from Lit Hub’s Summer Nonfiction Preview

 

Hilma Wolitzer, Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket

Hilma Wolitzer, Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket
Bloomsbury, August 31

In the foreword to this collection, Elizabeth Strout informs us that Hilma Wolitzer published her first literary work (a poem about winter) at the age of nine, in a publication run by the New York City Department of Sanitation. Wolitzer is now 91, and the author of many books, including this brilliantly-titled collection, which collects mostly short stories written in the ’60s and ’70s, but also a new story—so new it includes Zoom.  –ET






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