Every month, a deluge of new books comes flooding out from big publishers, indie houses, and self-publishing platforms. So every month, The A.V. Club narrows down the endless options to five of the books we’re most excited about.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (June 2, Riverhead)
Brit Bennett follows up her New York Times-bestselling debut, The Mothers, with another years-spanning novel of family, secrets, and life-altering decisions made in one’s youth. The Vignes sisters, the identical twins at the heart of The Vanishing Half, grow up in Louisiana in an intentional community for light-skinned Black residents. Their story diverges (and begins) when the girls run away at 16, and one decides to pass as white, while the other marries “the darkest man she could find.” With this ambitious, heady conceit, The Vanishing Half puts itself in conversation with other passing narratives, while telling a story of family and race in mid-century and present-day America.
Dolls! Dolls! Dolls! Deep Inside Valley Of The Dolls, The Most Beloved Bad Book And Movie Of All Time by Stephen Rebello (June 2, Penguin)
It’s no surprise that a book about the making of the Valley Of The Dolls movie is a fun, trashy read. Dolls! Dolls! Dolls! by unabashed Valley fan Stephen Rebello tells a gossipy tale of how 1966’s biggest bestselling book came to the big screen, working its way through a variety of screenwriters and casting options. You’d have to be almost as huge a fan as Rebello to appreciate some of the minutiae, like detailed descriptions of scenes written by Harlan Ellison and Dorothy Kingsley that didn’t make it into the movie. But for those curious about how such a successful property turned into one of the wildest cinematic disasters of all time—and a subsequent cult classic—Dolls! Dolls! Dolls! offers an entertaining behind-the-scenes look at the movie’s bumpy creative process.
Bluebeard’s First Wife by Ha Seong-Nan (trans. by Janet Hong, June 16, Open Letter)
Ha Seong-Nan’s stories unfold like folk tales. Their clear, tightly focused problems and the counterintuitive way characters go about solving them leave room for hubris to be punished, for ironies to click into place in their final moments. But, like the book’s title, the premises in the Korean writer’s second collection published in English are often red herrings, as Ha eschews even the kind of “happy” ending that the original Bluebeard story provided for far grimmer conclusions. As with her previous collection, last year’s Flowers Of Mold, in Bluebeard’s First Wife, Ha favors ruin and decay over tidiness, defying narrative expectations and crafting nightmarish visions that spark with dark energy.
Death In Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh (June 23, Penguin)
My Year Of Rest And Relaxation, Ottessa Moshfegh’s 2018 novel in which a young woman holes up in her New York City apartment for a year, leaving only for coffee and sedatives, may seem like the most, let’s say, topical choice among the writer’s books to read during a shutdown. But Death In Her Hands, Moshfegh’s latest darkly comedic work, may be just as fitting. The novel is a fast-paced murder-mystery, which begins with the narrator finding a note in the woods: “Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body.” Except there’s no body. Across 250 brisk pages, the widowed protagonist investigates the supposed crime in her rural town, and while the stranger’s death is its ostensible subject, the novel soon becomes about one woman’s stark isolation and her quickly loosening grip on reality. Not timely at all!
Action Park: Fast Times, Wild Rides, And The Untold Story Of America’s Most Dangerous Amusement Park by Andy Mulvihill with Jake Rossen (June 30, Penguin)
Decades before going to a packed amusement park posed a guaranteed risk to your health, New Jersey’s Action Park—tagline: “Where you’re the center of the action”—built a reputation in skinned knees, broken bones, and, tragically, a handful of deaths. That legend has only grown in the years since it closed down, urged on by a feature-length documentary, YouTube videos, and the memories of those who braved the pulse-pounding contraptions of Action Park mastermind Eugene Mulvihill. In the wake of a Mental Floss oral history, writer Jake Rossen has teamed with Mulvihill’s son Andy for Action Park: Fast Times, Wild Rides, And The Untold Story Of America’s Most Dangerous Amusement Park. Part coming-of-age memoir, part dispeller (and confirmer) of myths, the book tells the story of the park through the younger Mulvihill’s eyes, a chronological account of the summers he spent helping his father realize visions like a waterslide that sent riders through a full 360-degree, inverted loop. Whether or not those riders emerged with a full mouth of teeth is another story—one of several told in “You’re not going to believe this” fashion throughout Action Park.
More in June: The Fallen by Carlos Manuel Álvarez (June 2, Graywolf); Ornamental by Juan Cárdenas (June 2, Coffee House); Nothing Is Wrong And Here Is Why by Alexandra Petri (June 2, W.W. Norton); Surviving Autocracy by Masha Gessen (June 2, Riverhead); A Burning by Megha Majumdar (June 2, Knopf); I’m Gonna Say It Now: The Writings Of Phil Ochs (June 15, Backbeat); The Lightness by Emily Temple (June 16, William Morrow); Step Off! My Journey From Mimbo To Manhood by Dan Cortese (June 16, Wiley); Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri (June 23, Riverhead); Love by Roddy Doyle (June 23, Viking); The Fire In His Wake by Spencer Wolff (June 23, McSweeney’s); Self Care by Leigh Stein (June 30, Penguin); Of Bears And Ballots: An Alaskan Adventure In Small-Town Politics by Heather Lende (June 30, Algonquin Books); The Ghost Factory by Jenny McCartney (June 30, Fourth Estate)