10 New Must-Reads for August


It’s the tail end of summer but you wouldn’t know from the heat, would you? We propose a list of books worth reading as you hightail it to the beach while there’s still time, because you have 30 days left in this fine month. Make it count by reading a few of the following books (mostly novels, plus one nonfiction upstart). It doesn’t matter if you’re in to crime thrillers, political dramas, fantasy worlds, or tales about a quirky family of art stars — we guarantee that you’ll find something you like on this list. So read on, dear readers, and let us know what you’re excited about reading in the weeks to come.

White Heat by Melanie (MJ) McGrath (August 4)

Edie Kiglatuk is a no-nonsense, slightly alcoholic resident of a tiny town in the Arctic; her former job was being a polar bear hunter. She now takes white people on hunting expeditions. A sample: “Maybe it was just the romance of the High Arctic they were after, the promise of living authentically in the wild with the Eskimo, like the expedition brochure promised. Still, she thought, they wouldn’t be living long if they couldn’t bring down something to eat.” White Heat is a crime thriller, and is McGrath’s first crack at fiction.

Beijing Welcomes You by Tom Scocca (August 4)

Scocca, a writer for The New York Observer, Slate, and The Awl, among other publications, has interviewed scientists, architects, and other personalities in the Chinese capital in order to figure out what makes it tick. You can see his photos from the Beijing Olympics here.

Lights Out in Wonderland by DBC Pierre (August 8)

Gabriel Brockwell is in limbo. He is also in rehab. Brockwell says he is in limbo because “firstly… I decided to kill myself. And then because of this idea: I don’t have to do it immediately.” In a moment of inspiration, he decides to take a whirlwind, drug-addled, hedonistic tour, which results in an elaborate banquet created by his friend, Nelson Smuts. Tim Adams at The Guardian writes, “Pierre indulges his taste for the satyricon for all he is worth, dogged all the time, apparently, by his knowledge that the revels, like his novel, are ultimately doomed to disturbed and heroic failure.”

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson (August 9)

The Fangs are a bizarre quartet; the parents are rowdy performance artists who have been featured in Artforum, and the kids are their willing, pint-sized counterparts, ready to stage an intervention on the population at any time. As it says on the opening page: “Mr. and Mrs. Fang called it art. Their children called it mischief.” Fans of Wes Anderson and things that are labeled “quirky” will probably enjoy this debut novel from Kevin Wilson, whose excellent collection of short stories we featured back in 2009.

House of Holes: A Book of Raunch by Nicholson Baker (August 9)

“Shandee finds a friendly arm at a granite quarry. Ned drops down a hole in a golf course. Luna meets a man made of light bulbs at a tanning parlor.” This book is billed as a “sex-positive escapade” from the risqué author of Vox and The Fermata. Maybe you can determine exactly how many holes are in it. The Awl doesn’t yet know, and neither do we.

The Magician King: A Novel by Lev Grossman (August 9)

This is the follow-up to The Magicians, which was published two years ago and received a boatload of praise from critics and readers near and far. This time around, Quentin Coldwater is having a not-so-great time living in the lap of luxury as the king of Fillory, a magical kingdom far, far away from his parents’ house in the very unmagical town of Chesterton, Massachusetts. But sometimes we need to go back to where we came from to complete a quest, right? If you’ve been with us so far, then you’ll be excited to know that Grossman’s website is interactive; you can see a map of the magician’s voyage here or send a postcard to Fillory here.

Duel Series by Melville House (August 12)

Five novels with the same title by Giacamo Casanova, Anton Chekov, Joseph Conrad, Heinrich von Kleist, and Alexander Kuprin are released in Melville House’s X5 series. It’s an ambitious undertaking, and one we’ve thoroughly enjoyed. You can see the trailer below:

The Submission by Amy Waldman (August 16)

Claire Burwell, the widow of a man who died on September 11, 2001, finds herself on a panel to decide on the World Trade Center memorial; the names of those who submitted their projects are withheld. (Her rival is a woman with sang-froid who prefers a cold, black obelisk sitting in a pool of water.) When the winner is determined, people are shocked to discover the designer is a Muslim architect. Waldman puts us in the center of the controversy in her latest novel.

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka (August 23)

Julie Otsuka depicts the lives of women brought over from Japan to the fabled shores of northern California to become the wives of men living there. Instead of the bounty expected, however, the women find that their husbands are treated no better than slaves, and that the same kind of backbreaking labor is expected of them. An excerpt from the novel was featured in the August issue of Harper’s (subscribers only, though, so don’t say we didn’t warn you).

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta (August 30)

What happens after the Rapture? You’ll have to read The Leftovers to find out. In an interview with Wendy Werris at Publishers Weekly, Perrotta, the author of Little Children, says, “The premise of the book might interest readers who gravitate toward the intersection of genre fiction and literary fiction — people who liked The Road or The Handmaid’s Tale or Never Let Me Go.” In other words, it’s going to be dark.