The 12 Books You Should Be Reading This June

From a cruise gone wrong to a pasta almanac to a real-life murder mystery involving a legendary New Yorker

June 2, 2021 9:12 am
Photo collage of 3 books: The Pasta Man, The Great Mistake, & Widespread Panic
The Pasta Man, The Great Mistake, Widespread Panic
Quadrille Publishing, Knopf Publishing Group

June brings with it a lot of promise: warmer weather, encouraging statistics on the pandemic and the promise of relative normalcy on the horizon among them. You might well be thrilled by the coming weeks and months, or you might remain concerned about what they’ll hold. But whether you need a good beach as you re-enter society or a distraction to keep you company while you wait out the last stages of the pandemic, the books slated for release over the course of this month have plenty to offer, from gripping trips into history to chronicles of our changing planet.

islands of abandonment book
Islands of Abamdonment by Cal Flyn

Islands of Abandonment: Nature Rebounding in the Post-Human Landscape by Cal Flyn (June 1)

Remember all of those “nature is healing” memes you saw early on in the pandemic? Turns out that in certain parts of the globe, a lack of humans really is beneficial to the environment, including the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Cal Flyn’s new book takes the reader around the world, exploring numerous variations on this phenomenon.

Widespread Panic by James Ellroy
Knopf Publishing Group

Widespread Panic by James Ellroy (June 15)

In a shocking break from the norm, crime fiction legend James Ellroy shifts gears and writes a book-length meditation on the cultish Georgia jam band … just kidding. It’s the 1950s, everyone’s corrupt and bad people are fighting worse people — all of it told in blistering prose. It’s a James Ellroy novel, and here, a host of real-life Hollywood figures — James Dean and Burt Lancaster among them — are along for the ride.

The Passenger by Chaney Kwak
David R. Godine Publisher

The Passenger: How a Travel Writer Learned to Love Cruises & Other Lies from a Sinking Ship by Chaney Kwak (June 8)

There aren’t many notable works of literature exploring the world of cruise ships. David Foster Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again is one of the handful of examples, though the cruise ship he was writing about wasn’t sinking when he was on it. Advantage: Chaney Kwak, whose new book chronicles the author’s stint on a cruise ship that was unexpectedly hit by a cyclone and began to sink. One writer’s travel nightmare might be your next gripping read.

Somebody’s Daughter: A Memoir by Ashley C. Ford
Flatiron Books: An Oprah Book

Somebody’s Daughter: A Memoir by Ashley C. Ford (June 1)

Over the years, Ashley C. Ford has amassed a substantial audience for her incisive works of nonfiction and her work as a podcast host. Now, Ford turns to her own life for inspiration, focusing on her family and her relationship with her incarcerated father. The result is a harrowing, insightful look at race, poverty and the bonds of family.

The Great Mistake by Jonathan Lee
Knopf Publishing Group

The Great Mistake by Jonathan Lee (June 15)

Like his previous novel High Dive, Jonathan Lee’s The Great Mistake takes readers back in time to focus on a historical act of violence. Here, the time and place is early 20th century New York City, and the focus is on Andrew Haswell Green, the planner behind the likes of the New York Public Library and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Specifically, it’s on Green’s murder — and what it revealed about the breadth of his life.

Life on the Line by Emma Goldberg

Life on the Line: Young Doctors Come of Age in a Pandemic by Emma Goldberg (June 1)

What does it mean to be on the verge of graduating medical school on the eve of a pandemic? Emma Goldberg’s Life on the Line focuses on six young doctors who find themselves challenged by the arrival of COVID-19. Goldberg, a reporter for The New York Times, brings a meticulous sense of detail to this account — an inside look at a critical moment in contemporary medicine.

Seeing Serena by Gerald Marzorati
Scribner Book Company

Seeing Serena by Gerald Marzorati (June 15)

Something about tennis makes it irresistible to talented writers, from John McPhee (with Levels of the Game) to Rowan Ricardo Phillips (with The Circuit: A Tennis Odyssey) to … Foster Wallace, an elite junior player who would return to the subject throughout his writing. Now, award-winning author Gerald Marzorati takes his shot, with a new book focusing on (as you might have guessed) Serena Williams — specifically, Williams over the course of the 2019 season, a consequential moment in her career.

Unraveled by Maxine Bédat

Unraveled: The Life and Death of a Garment by Maxine Bédat (June 1)

The last few decades have taught us plenty about supply chains and how the garments we wear are designed, made and sold. In Unraveled, Maxine Bédat takes an everyday item of clothing — in this case, jeans — and looks at how a single pair is made, and what that tells us about the state of the world right now.

Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor
Riverhead Books

Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor (June 22)

Brandon Taylor’s debut novel Real Life was one of the highlights of 2020. Now, he’s back with a short story collection with the decidedly memorable title Filthy Animals. Here, he focuses on a number of interwoven lives in the Midwest, exploring questions of trauma and interpersonal connections through deft characterization.

The Pasta Man by Mateo Zielonka
Quadrille Publishing

The Pasta Man: The Art of Making Spectacular Pasta by Mateo Zielonka (June 8)

You might know Mateo Zielonka from his Instagram feed, which abounds with mouth-watering images of food being prepared. In this new book, he shares his approach to making pasta that’s both photogenic and delicious. What’s not to like?

A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa (June 1)

Can a book save your life? In A Ghost in the Throat, Doireann Ní Ghríofa makes the case that it can. Ní Ghríofa’s book won substantial acclaim when published across the Atlantic; now, it’s available in the United States, and chronicles its author’s fascination with a harrowing poem from the 18th century with an even more harrowing origin story.

Last Best Hope by George Packer
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Last Best Hope: America in Crisis and Renewal by George Packer (June 15)

Last year was, by all accounts, a hugely significant one for the country for numerous reasons. In his new book Last Best Hope, National Book Award winner George Packer takes stock of the year that was and explores questions of social and political division, offering readers a comprehensive treatise on the state of a nation.


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