7 Books You Should Be Reading This August
Great road novels, the power of investigative journalism and more
Raise your hand if your August looks a little different than what you’d imagined it would earlier in the year. Maybe you’ve found a socially distanced corner of a beach somewhere; maybe you’ve embraced your air conditioning and are weathering a difficult time in climate-controlled splendor. Either way, you’re going to need something to read.
August brings with it some transportive novels that can take you on an unexpected road trip. The month’s new titles also include some thrilling works of nonfiction, including at least one by an InsideHook editor. So pick out a book, kick up your feet and embrace the waning days of summer.
The New Wilderness by Diane Cook (Aug. 11)
For readers of Diane Cook’s debut, the excellent short story collection Man V. Nature, Cook’s ability to create a magnetic fictional setting with a touch of the surreal will come as little surprise. But for those unfamiliar with her earlier work, well, you have the enviable experience of reading Cook for the first time. The New Wilderness is set in a futuristic society where most people reside in a heavily polluted city, and where the planet’s sole natural landscape offers its own dangers and challenges.
Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-Up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World by Lesley M.M. Blume (Aug. 4)
When American forces dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the full effects of radiation on human beings were unknown. Lesley M.M. Blume’s Fallout tells the story of how the world was made aware of the devastating power of nuclear weapons, through the work of John Hershey’s intensive reporting that would become the book Hiroshima. Blume’s book offers a thrilling look at the harrowing effects of war and of the importance of journalism.
The Great Offshore Grounds by Vanessa Veselka (Aug. 25)
Vanessa Veselka’s followup to her critically acclaimed debut novel Zazen tells the story of an epic journey around a continent, as two half sisters uncover family secrets while seeking their inheritance. Veselka blends an anti-authoritarian aesthetic with gripping prose, blending lived-in portraits of her characters’ existences with deft usage of big ideas. And she has a penchant for memorably skewed familial situations to boot — never a bad thing when you’re telling stories like this one.
The Book of Atlantis Black: The Search for a Sister Gone Missing by Betsy Bonner (Aug. 4)
The situation Betsy Bonner describes in her new book The Book of Atlantis Black is a particularly unsettling one. The body of Bonner’s sister Atlantis may have been found in a Tijuana hotel — but there’s also evidence that the body in question may have belonged to someone else. Bonner’s book follows its author as she recounts her history with her sister and searches for the truth about what actually happened to her.
The Sprawl: Reconsidering the Weird American Suburbs by Jason Diamond (Aug. 25)
By and large, when thinking about great books, music or art, the suburbs are presented as an inherently stifling place — the sort of region a nascent artist needs to cast off before finding their voice. In his new book The Sprawl, InsideHook’s own Jason Diamond goes beyond this overly simplified dynamic to find the strange histories of suburban spaces and trace the bold creative works that have utilized the suburbs as their muse. At a time when many people are rethinking the suburbs, The Sprawl offers plenty to ponder.
The Last Great Road Bum by Héctor Tobar (Aug. 25)
At the heart of Héctor Tobar’s new novel The Last Great Road Bum is a true story: that of Joe Sanderson, who spent three decades traveling across the world, and who ended his life fighting in El Salvador in the 1980s. Tobar drew on Sanderson’s own writings to offer this fictionalized version of a singular life — one that spans international conflicts and explores interpersonal conflicts, on the way towards a moving conclusion.
Villa of Delirium by Adrien Goetz (Aug. 18)
Author Adrien Goetz knows his art: he teaches at the Sorbonne and edits the Louvre’s quarterly magazine Grande Galerie. It’s not all that surprising, then, that his novel Villa of Delirium crosses over with the art world in many ways. It’s about an affluent family who build a replica of a Greek palace on the Riviera, and follows their shifting fortunes over the course of the 20th century. Villa of Delirium is a historical epic that’s not afraid to grapple with questions of art and philosophy.
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