With so many excellent books released on June 1 this year, no one should find it difficult to start a summer To Be Read pile. Whether you prefer a thriller, memoir, history or literary fiction, you’ll discover something fresh among this month’s new titles.
If Arnett’s “Mostly Dead Things” concerned a queer woman’s longing for family, “With Teeth” shows one modern queer family’s imperfect, even dark, life over 16 years. Sammie and Monika have a son, Samson, but his difficult, sometimes violent tendencies play a role in his parents’ eventual separation. As Samson becomes a teenager, these relationships shift in unexpected ways.
“Somebody’s Daughter: A Memoir,” by Ashley C. Ford (June 1)
Ford, the popular podcast host, grew up in Fort Wayne, Ind., while her father was incarcerated. Raised by her angry mother and rigid grandmother, Ford’s only contact with her father was through his deeply loving letters, which bolstered her self-worth despite family tensions. It’s a searing and gorgeous book that allows for unanswered questions.
“The Other Black Girl: A Novel,” by Zakiya Dalila Harris (June 1)
Readers should stay on their toes while glued to the pages of Harris’s smart and sardonic exploration of Black women trying to advance in New York’s publishing world. Just when you think you’re reading career satire, Harris upends her plot with a science fiction twist that both surprises and broadens the story into something more urgent and ultimately — well, you decide. Just read this novel.
“The Engagement: America’s Quarter-Century Struggle Over Same-Sex Marriage,” by Sasha Issenberg (June 1)
Journalist and political science professor Issenberg writes a comprehensive history of the road to the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision that made same-sex marriage legal across the United States. From the 1990 Hawaii same-sex marriage license applications through lawyer Mary Bonauto’s work, Issenberg’s chronicle is an important contribution.
“Rememberings: Scenes From My Complicated Life,” by Sinead O’Connor (June 1)
O’Connor’s memoir is also a survivor story. Her tale of growing up in an abusive Irish Catholic home, being sent to a reform school, gaining worldwide fame at age 20 and raising her own four children is scintillating.
“Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization,” by Edward Slingerland (June 1)
While Slingerland argues for the benefits of intoxication — you might not want to give this book to someone in recovery — along the way he also writes about agriculture, creativity, geography and aesthetics. “Drunk” celebrates tipsiness rather than sordid excess. Sip this book responsibly, and at your own risk.
“How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America,” by Clint Smith (June 1)
Smith, a Black poet and staff writer at the Atlantic, writes about “a crime that is still unfolding”: our nation’s history of enslavement. He takes readers from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello to Dakar, Senegal, and finally on a trip with his grandparents to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in his reckoning with America’s past.
“Bewilderness: A Novel,” by Karen Tucker (June 1)
Deep in North Carolina, a young woman named Luce meets an Army sergeant named Wilky, who plans to whisk her away to a new life in Florida, free of the opiates to which they’ve both been addicted. When Wilky overdoses, Luce’s best friend, Irene, follows her back into a cycle of drugs, grief and despair. Tucker’s debut is full of raw honesty and assured, beautiful prose.
“Widespread Panic: A Novel,” by James Ellroy (June 15)
Attention fans of noir fiction: The “L.A. Confidential” author is back, with a look at 20th-century Hollywood. The conceit? Freddy Otash, the historical “fixer” (LAPD cop turned extortionist, really), has been stuck in purgatory for decades, and his only way out is to confess to his involvement in misdoings. If you love Ellroy, you’ll love this wild ride.
“Filthy Animals: Stories,” by Brandon Taylor (June 22)
Like the protagonist of his debut novel, “Real Life,” Taylor trained as a scientist, and he brings to his marvelous first story collection a scientist’s sense of wonder. Although the linked stories often deal with pain and mess, their primary narrator, Lionel — queer, Black, a graduate student at a Midwestern university — develops as he navigates difficulty, sometimes with dance students Sophie and Charles.
Bethanne Patrick is the editor, most recently, of “The Books That Changed My Life: Reflections by 100 Authors, Actors, Musicians and Other Remarkable People.”
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