10 books you should read in August, including Michael Mann's Heat 2 and T.J. English's Dangerous Rhythms

10 books you should read in August, including Michael Mann's Heat 2 and T.J. English's Dangerous Rhythms

Also check out Scenes From My Life, a moving memoir from late actor Michael K. Williams

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Clockwise from bottom left: Complicit (Image: Simon & Schuster), Witches (Image: Catapult), Didn’t Nobody Give A Shit What Happened To Carlotta (Image: Brown), Dangerous Rhythms: Jazz And The Underworld (Image: William Morrow), A Career in Books: A Novel About Friends, Money, and the Occasional Duck Bun (Image: Plume)
Clockwise from bottom left: Complicit (Image: Simon & Schuster), Witches (Image: Catapult), Didn’t Nobody Give A Shit What Happened To Carlotta (Image: Brown), Dangerous Rhythms: Jazz And The Underworld (Image: William Morrow), A Career in Books: A Novel About Friends, Money, and the Occasional Duck Bun (Image: Plume)
Graphic: Libby McGuire

Every month, a deluge of new books comes flooding out from big publishers, indie houses, and self-publishing platforms. To help you navigate the wave of titles arriving in August, The A.V. Club has narrowed down the options to 10 of the books we’re most excited about, including an exploration of the ways jazz and the mob intertwined, an on-page follow-up to the on-screen classic Heat, a biography of Man Ray’s muse, and a memoir from the late Michael K. Williams.

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A Career in Books: A Novel About Friends, Money, And The Occasional Duck Bun

A Career in Books: A Novel About Friends, Money, And The Occasional Duck Bun

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Image: Plume

Kate Gavino (August 2, Plume)

A love of books radiates throughout writer-illustrator Kate Gavino’s new graphic novel, in which a trio of newly graduated and debt-laden Asian American besties pursue their dreams in New York City’s often infuriating publishing industry. Bonding with a 90-something prize-winning author whose novels have fallen off the radar helps the young women sharpen and clarify their own ambitions. Gavino, creator of Last Night’s Reading, knows her way around the literary landscape. A well-told story about friendship and the importance of fighting for your space and for what you want, A Career In Books may especially appeal to those who have led that assistant life, who always read the acknowledgments, and who don’t need to google Binky Urban.

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Didn’t Nobody Give A Shit What Happened To Carlotta

Didn’t Nobody Give A Shit What Happened To Carlotta

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Image: Little, Brown

James Hannaham (August 2, Little, Brown)

After more than 20 years behind bars, Carlotta is shocked to find herself sprung from jail and on parole just as the long Fourth of July weekend starts to unfold in New York, 2015. For Carlotta, who entered prison as Dustin, there was no justice to be had in a “justice” system that constantly did her worse than dirty. Yet she won’t let that keep her down. Freedom beckons—but can she follow the punitive rules put in place by a prickly PO? Like the transformed city she navigates to great comic effect, Carlotta is irrepressible. She endures. James Hannaham won multiple accolades for his previous outing, Delicious Foods; with Carlotta, it’s a good bet more are on the way.

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Ben And Beatriz 

Ben And Beatriz 

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Image: Graydon House

Katalina Gamarra (August 2, Graydon House)

It’s been a tough couple of years, but some great stuff has come out of the pandemic, including this unapologetically sexy, smart and fun romantic romp from Katalina Gamarra. (If you’re not picking up what the title is laying down, revisit your Complete Shakespeare.) Too hot and rich for his own good, Ben has abs of steel, a stifling WASP family and a secret Austen habit. Beatriz is brainy, bisexual, biracial, and understandably bitter about how Ben’s racist family treats her when she’s dragged to his house for a week as a favor to her cousin. These two Harvard hotties can’t stand each other… or can they? Prepare to embark on a journey of horniness, hatefucking and heaps of character growth. All aboard!

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Dangerous Rhythms: Jazz And The Underworld

Dangerous Rhythms: Jazz And The Underworld

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Image: William Morrow

T.J. English (August 2, William Morrow)

“You cannot understand America without knowing the history of jazz—or the mob. Taken together, they are part of the country’s origin story, symphonically intertwined,” writes journalist T.J. English in his latest nonfiction. Early 20th century mobsters, smelling money in the emerging art form, offered musicians outlets to ply their trade. But rooted in a “plantation mentality,” these relationships were devastatingly unequal for the mostly Black performers who depended on access to audiences for a living: club bookings, radio play, jukebox offerings, and more were heavily controlled or influenced by organized crime. English, who has explored mob history in earlier books, illuminates the evolution of jazz and the experiences of artists like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, and more within this social context.

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Heat 2

Heat 2

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Image: William Morrow

Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner (August 9, William Morrow)

Nearly three decades after his 1995 instant-classic L.A. crime thriller Heat hit theaters, writer-director Michael Mann is back with a prequel/sequel in novel form. Co-written with Meg Gardiner, Heat 2 takes us to 1988 Chicago, where methodical crook Neil McCauley and obsessive cop Vincent Hanna—opposing forces perhaps more alike than not—nearly cross paths years before their fateful L.A. encounter, as a sociopathic killer slips past Hanna and into McCauley’s blind spot. Fast-forward past L.A. and cut to South America: Chris Shirhelis, McCauley’s surviving crewman, is rebuilding his life and a new operation, unaware he’s on a collision course with old enemies. Told in a style as propulsive and cinematic as the film, Heat 2 is an exciting and engrossing tale that leaves the door open to a third installment.

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The Monsters We Defy 

The Monsters We Defy 

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Image: Hachette

Leslye Penelope (August 9, Hachette)

It’s the Roaring Twenties in D.C., and Clara Johnson is on a mission. Able to communicate with supernatural entities, Clara can see what others cannot: the souls of poor Black residents have been ensnared by a malevolent force intent on stealing their destinies after working their bodies to death for free labor. With the help of friends old and new, Clara orchestrates a dangerous caper to acquire an ancient ring with the power to save souls—and liberate herself from the magical trap she’s been caught in. Real-life Black teen Carrie Johnson, who killed an armed white cop entering her home during the capital’s 1919 riots (charges against her were ultimately dropped), inspired the ornery, obstinate Clara, a character who is a pleasure to read. Leslye Penelope has penned several fantasy series; here’s to hoping Monsters is the start of her next.

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Kiki Man Ray: Art, Love ​​And Rivalry In 1920s Paris

Kiki Man Ray: Art, Love ​​And Rivalry In 1920s Paris

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Image: W. W. Norton

Mark Braude (August 9, W.W. Norton)

If the only “Kiki de Montparnasse” you are aware of is a lingerie brand, please check out this top-notch, highly readable nonfiction from cultural historian Mark Braude right now. There was a real Kiki, and she’s worth knowing. Born into poverty in 1901 and raised by her grandma in the French countryside, Alice Prin made her way to Paris, where she eventually became Kiki, queen of Montparnasse—no less than the face of an age, a model and muse for many early 20th century artists. Exploring how she managed that—and her complicated relationship with American expat photographer Man Ray—is Braude’s aim. Prin died in 1953, years after peak Kiki, leaving behind a diverse body of work: her 1929 memoir (which she later extensively rewrote)—Hemingway contributed the intro to the original English version; several appearances in silent short films of the 1920s; a recording of her singing ballads in her late chanteuse phase; her own drawings and paintings; and, of course, the many sculptures, photos, and paintings for which she posed. (Someone ping Overlooked—better late than never.)

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Complicit 

Complicit 

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Image: Simon & Schuster

Winnie M Li (August 16, Simon & Schuster)

It’s 2017 in New York City. The #MeToo movement has arrived, and screenwriting prof Sarah Lai is thrown off balance by a reporter’s request to discuss assault allegations about her old boss, billionaire movie producer Hugo North. Ten years earlier, the promising film career she’d fought hard to build crashed and burned around her as colleagues rode the rocketship of a hit to fame and fortune. Credit for her work was denied and opportunities were lost—sacrificed at the altar of North’s insatiable ego. But the reporter’s query catalyzes an overdue personal reckoning: Sarah wasn’t always on the losing end of Hollywood’s power dynamics. Her choices had consequences. Will she go public with her own story? Winnie M Li takes tricky subject matter and expertly mines it for potent, transfixing drama.

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Witches: A Novel

Witches: A Novel

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Image: Catapult

Brenda Lozano, translated from the Spanish by Heather Cleary (August 16, Catapult)

Who needs a standard plot when you can write as exquisitely as Brenda Lozano? Feliciana is a curandera of rural Mexico, seemingly as old as the hills she hails from, her mystical healing powers borne from deep connection to nature and language. Zoe is a young journalist from the city, interviewing Feliciana about the murder of Paloma, the healer’s muxe cousin killed for daring to fully exist. Back and forth, the women reveal themselves, through stories of mothers, daughters, sisters, lovers—men are essential but peripheral, often dangerous—in a rhythm that enchants and floats the story forward, confirming the capacity of words to cast a powerful spell.

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Scenes From My Life: A Memoir 

Scenes From My Life: A Memoir 

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Image: Crown

Michael K. Williams with Jon Sternfeld (August 23, Crown)


Michael K. Williams, best known for his portrayal of Omar Little on The Wire, died of an overdose last September, just weeks before he and writer Jon Sternfeld were due to turn in the manuscript that became this moving memoir of the actor’s life. Williams grew up in the projects of East Flatbush, his showbiz success a product of grit and hard work and turning his scars, literal and figurative, to his advantage. Having carved a path out of a system designed to keep people like him down, Williams wanted to help others do the same. Scenes From My Life was to be one part of that effort. Laying bare his struggles with addiction, he hoped, would let others know they weren’t alone. His warmth and hard-earned wisdom shine through the pages, his story ending far too soon.

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