Every month, a deluge of new books comes flooding out from big publishers, indie houses, and self-publishing platforms. The A.V. Club narrows down the endless options to five of the books we’re most excited about.
Variations On The Body by María Ospina (trans. by Heather Cleary, July 6, Coffee House)
Variations On The Body, the first book of fiction from Colombian writer María Ospina, explores the lives of girls and women living in Bogotá. The six stories are “subtly connected”; e.g., a sister who is only mentioned in one story becomes the protagonist in the next. “Policarpa” follows an escaped FARC fighter as she re-enters society, writing a considered memoir about her experience in the jungle under an editor who prefers a more sensationalist telling. (Anxious writers may want to skip this one, as the line edits are presented directly on the page, strikethroughs and all.) This isn’t the first project from translator Heather Cleary that Coffee House has published. The Minneapolis-based press also released her translation of Roque Larraquy’s Comemadre, one of The A.V. Club’s favorite books of 2018. If Variations On The Body is half as good as that one, it will be well worth seeking out.
This Is Your Mind On Plants by Michael Pollan (July 6, Penguin)
For those who like to read their NPR instead of listen to it, let us suggest the latest project from Michael Pollan, the bestselling author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. In case the title doesn’t make it clear, This Is Your Mind On Plants combines two of Pollan’s favorite interests: plants and drugs. Here he focuses on caffeine, opium, and mescaline, exploring why humans are so attracted to altering our consciousnesses and why drugs like caffeine are socially acceptable while others aren’t. Here’s hoping This Is Your Mind also delivers a pithy recommendation on drug ingestion for the masses, even if it’s something as tame as “Do drugs, not too much, mostly coffee.”
Pessoa: A Biography by Richard Zenith (July 13, Liveright)
While The Book Of Disquiet may not be one of the most popular among the classics, those who’ve read Fernando Pessoa’s fragmented, unfinished, posthumously published “autobiography” often feel very strongly about it. At first glance, Richard Zenith’s 1,000-page biography of the eccentric Portuguese modernist would seem to be exclusively for such readers. Yet Pessoa has an energy and allure all its own. In addition to performing lively close readings of Pessoa’s work, Zenith delves into his more than 100 distinct literary alter egos, providing capsule biographies and chronologies for the most significant. Drawing on reams of both published and unpublished work from the multifarious writer, Pessoa elucidates the incredibly vibrant inner life of one of the 20th century’s most brilliant artists.
Intimacies by Katie Kitamura (July 20, Riverhead)
There’s a restrained intensity to Katie Kitamura’s prose, one that made her last novel, the superb divorce-meets-mystery drama A Separation, feel like you were reading it in the eye of a tornado, the tight, muted sentences suggesting an overwhelming tempest just beyond them. It’s that willingness to keep readers at an intriguing distance before revealing the messy emotions driving it all that should serve her well in the new book, Intimacies, about a woman trying to escape her past. The protagonist, an interpreter who abandons her life to work at the International Court in The Hague, slowly finds herself embroiled in new dramas, while wondering whether she can face who she is now, any more than who she once was.
New Teeth by Simon Rich (July 27, Little, Brown)
In his 2013 short story collection, The Last Girlfriend On Earth, Simon Rich explored the pitfalls (and occasional highs) of modern dating. His novel What In God’s Name dug into faith and yearning in typically absurd yet empathetic fashion. With the riotous New Teeth, Rich once again sets out to tackle a universal topic: growing up. Rich provides some hilarious insights into parenting in short stories like “Learning The Ropes,” which sees a pair of pirates co-parent an adorable little stowaway. He questions an aging man’s relevance in a story about a superhero put on desk duty, and tells a biting story of found family in “Raised By Wolves.” As he comes to terms with being a dad, Rich doesn’t lose his touch for fantastical constructs that tap into all-too-real feelings.
More in July: The Sunset Route: Freight Trains, Forgiveness, And Freedom On The Rails In The American West by Carrot Quinn (July 6, The Dial); Give My Love To The Savages by Chris Stuck (July 6, Amistad); Wayward by Dana Spiotta (July 6, Knopf); Big Dark Hole by Jeffrey Ford (July 6, Small Beer Press); A Life In The Making by Franz Michael Felder (July 6, Pushkin); A Shock by Keith Ridgway (July 6, New Directions); It Never Ends: A Memoir With Nice Memories! By Tom Scharpling (July 6, Abrams); Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness by Kristen Radtke (July 13, Pantheon); The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix (July 13, Berkeley); Ghost Forest by Pik-Shuen Fung (July 13, One World); Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro (July 13, Charco Press); To Walk Alone In The Crowd by Antonio Muñoz Molina (July 13, Farrar, Straus & Giroux); Appleseed by Matt Bell (July 13, Custom House); The Cult Of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann, And The Great Startup Delusion by Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell (July 20, Crown); Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder (July 20, Doubleday); everyman by M Shelly Conner (July 20, Blackstone); The Woman From Uruguay by Pedro Mairal (July 20, Bloomsbury); The Bachelor by Andrew Palmer (July 20, Hogarth); Better To Have Gone: Love, Death, And The Quest for Utopia In Auroville by Akash Kapur (July 20, Scribner); A Song Everlasting by Ha Jin (July 27, Pantheon); Summer Fun by Jeanne Thornton (July 27, Soho); The Great Peace by Mena Suvari (July 27, Hachette)