It’s finally summer in earnest, and July is sure to be filled with hot nights, beachy weekends and afternoons spent taking refuge under shady trees — or in air conditioned cafés. Of course, all of those activities are vastly improved by a great book, and luckily for us, there is a veritable slew of quality reads coming out this month — just the thing to distract us from the hot weather and sit nicely beside our glistening lemonades. This month, we’re recommending quirky love stories, twisted immigrant tales, surreal fantasies, and at least one mystery you’ll stay up all night to finish. Click through to read our recommendations of the ten books you shouldn’t miss this month, and let us know what’s on your July reading list in the comments.
A Million Heavens , John Brandon (July 3)
Brandon’s third novel is quietly strange, a slowly building story of a town in decline that gathers its characters together as it goes — the father of the boy in a mysterious coma, the gas-station proprietor on a vision quest, the vengeful teenage guitarist who hears music from beyond, the existential wolf who stalks the periphery — each of them seeking solitude but finding a kind of community in the yawning desert. Brandon consistently blows us away, and this novel is no different.
Office Girl , Joe Meno (July 3)
“Office Girl,” reads the first page of Meno’s newest novel. “Or Bohemians,” suggests the second. “Or Young People on Bicycles Doing Troubling Things.” That’s the third, and probably the most accurate, if not quite pithy enough to be a book title. After all, Office Girl is a little bit like Perks of Being a Wallflower for the mid-20s set, a sweet and quirky romance peppered with drawing and photographs, quick wit and major charm. We do not, however, recommend reading while bicycling.
Mountains of the Moon , I.J. Kay (July 5)
We knew that this was a book for us when we opened it up to a cast list that included characters like “The Velvit Gentleman,” “Mum/Shut-Up” and “Welsh Slapper,” with the disclaimer “All other parts are played by innocent bystanders.” Ha! And the ensuing novel doesn’t disappoint, taking us on a bizarre, anti-chronological ride that centers around Louise Adler, who is attempting to shake off the shackles of a horribly abusive childhood by following her long-held dream of finding the moon mountains. Hallucinatory, insane, and deeply psychologically moving, this is one you’ll still be thinking about when the weather turns cold.
Sorry, Please, Thank You: Stories , Charles Yu (July 24)
In his new collection, Charles Yu applies his trademark winking, pop-culture-infused, sci-fi mentality to a series of short stories — some, it should be said, more successful than others. When they are successful, however, they’re clever and cutting: opener “Standard Loneliness Package” imagines the lives of employees at an “emotional engineering firm” in India, who are paid to feel other people’s pain all day; in “Adult Contemporary,” one character slowly realizes that he’s only a figure in someone else’s story.
Broken Harbor , Tana French (July 24)
If you’re going to read this book, you probably already know it — if not, we recommend starting with In the Woods and thanking us later. French’s fourth Dublin murder squad novel is as fierce and eloquently pulse-intensifying as the others — a family of four is attacked in an apartment complex outside Dublin, the mother alone barely surviving. Detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy is on the case.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry , Rachel Joyce (July 24)
On a whim, the painfully shy, bored, retired salesman Harold Fry decides to walk over to visit his long-lost friend Queenie Hennessy at her hospice. Not for nothing, since he is 627 miles away. As in any journey quest tale, Harold is both changed by and changes the people and landscapes he comes across, and — despite the pace of the walking — the reader will follow along breathlessly as he does so.
How to Get Into the Twin Palms , Karolina Waclawiak (July 31)
The immigrant novel is a hallowed literary tradition, but Believer deputy editor Waclawiak’s fresh and bizarre reboot makes us want to read a million more. All Anya — newly unemployed, scraping by on bingo-calling — wants is to be allowed entrance into the Twin Palms, the seedy Russian nightclub she stalks in her neighborhood. One Russian gangster, two bottles of hair dye, and a push-up bra later, she might be well on her way — and well on her way to figuring out some other things about herself as well.
You & Me , Padgett Powell (July 31)
Padgett Powell’s newest novel has no plot. There’s no real setting or exposition or description of anything. The characters have no names. It’s just two “weirdly agreeable dudes” sitting around talking to each other about who-knows-what, like a Beckettian comedy in a bubble. And it’s phenomenal.
Daniel Fights a Hurricane , Shane Jones (July 31)
In Shane Jones’ surreal second novel, Daniel is a pipeline worker with a lifelong fear of hurricanes, who slips in and out of reality as he endeavors to fight the threat they pose to his town. Playful and dreamlike, the true, the imagined and the truly-imagined swirl together to create, yes, a hurricane of a world that will suck you in and offer little hope of escape.
Triburbia , Karl Taro Greenfield (July 31)
Greenfield’s first novel is a layered portrait of a neighborhood — Manhattan’s TriBeCa — that seamlessly folds the reader in. Each chapter is written from the perspective of a different inhabitant, from the lying memoirist to the domineering fourth grader to the chef to the babysitter, and the book collects their overlapping experiences to create an authentic, wonderfully written portrayal of life — not just in TriBeCa, but anywhere.