Another month, another stack of books in our must read pile. For fiction addicts, we have an unusual amount of non-fiction on our list this month — maybe it’s an aftereffect of so much delicious (but oh so sugary) beach reading, or maybe it’s just that we can’t resist subjects as compelling as George Orwell’s diaries, Paul Auster’s memoir, and D.T. Max’s biography of David Foster Wallace. But don’t worry, we have plenty of novels and short stories this month as well, for a well-rounded month full of fine literature, fascinating lives, and some hilarious missives to boot. Click through to check out our list of the books we’re most excited about this August, and let us know which ones you’ve been itching to read in the comments.
Battleborn , Claire Vaye Watkins (August 2)
Battleborn may be Claire Vaye Watkins’s debut story collection, but it already feels like an age-old classic written by a master of the form. The stories, which span the length of Watkins’s home state of Nevada in brothels, movie sets, ghost towns, and open desert, feel fierce and clean and bottomless, blistering building blocks in the new mythology of the American West. Bonus: read our recent interview with Watkins here.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette , Maria Semple (August 14)
The day before she’s meant to take her daughter on a family cruise to Antarctica (a reward for her good grades, of course), Bernadette Fox — once-famous architect, agoraphobic recluse, beloved mother to 15-year-old Bee — disappears. It’s left to her daughter to sift through the papers her mother leaves behind — bills, invoices, correspondence — to try to decipher where she went, and maybe who she was. Semple, once a writer for Arrested Development, picks apart the mundane interactions of everyday life with a hilarious hand, and you’re sure to be as swept up in this witty, inventive mystery as we were.
Diaries , George Orwell (August 20)
Never before published in the United States, this wonderfully annotated collection of George Orwell’s diaries from 1931 to 1949 is sure to fascinate any fan of his work. From his down and out years to his stint working at the BBC during WWII (“something halfway between a girls’ school and a lunatic asylum…. Our radio strategy is even more hopeless than our military strategy.”), the reader can catch a glimpse of this essential English writer’s internal life, and watch the ideas that became Animal Farm and 1984 bloom, percolate, and grow.
The Devil in Silver , Victor LaValle (August 21)
Victor LaValle’s excellent third novel is sort of like what One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest might have been like if, in addition to Nurse Ratched, the devil lived on the ward. Yes, the devil, with the frail body of an old man, the head of a bison marked by dead white eyes, and feet that clatter “like horseshoes on cobblestones,” stalks New Hyde hospital, a destitute mental institution in Queens. Of course, there’s resistance — brutish troublemaker Pepper and his friends, who come up with a plan to fight back. At turns hilarious and utterly terrifying, this is a novel that will keep you up at night, whether you believe in devils or no.
One Last Thing Before I Go , Jonathan Tropper (August 21)
Jonathan Tropper, who also penned the bestselling This is Where I Leave You , is a master of the arrested coming of age story, with a deft hand for reluctant family reunions, and his newest novel is no exception. 44-year-old Drew Silver, washed-up drummer and washed-up husband, decides to refuse a surgery that would save his life, and instead spends his remaining time trying to become a better man — much to everyone’s exasperation.
Winter Journal , Paul Auster (August 21)
“You think it will never happen to you,” Auster begins, “that it cannot happen to you, that you are the only person in the world to whom none of these things will ever happen, and then, one by one, they all begin to happen to you, in the same way they happen to everyone else.” An unconventional memoir about the body and its experiences, the passage of time, and Auster’s mother’s life and death, this book is deeply personal, and yet inevitably, essentially, terrifyingly universal.
The Orchardist , Amanda Coplin (August 21)
William Talmadge is a reclusive orchardist, living peacefully in a lush valley in the Pacific Northwest — until two sisters appear on his land, wild, pregnant escapees from a brothel. Talmadge takes them in, but someone is looking for them. Coplin’s eloquent first novel is a harrowing triumph, a sparkling, utterly unsentimental ode to the capacities of the human heart.
More Baths, Less Talking , Nick Hornby (August 21)
Oh, how we love Nick Hornby. And we especially love his column in The Believer, eloquently entitled “Stuff I’ve Been Reading,” so it’s no surprised that we’d be tickled to have this collection of his columns all in one place. Packed with hilarious observations, perfect turns of phrase, and an expansive and eclectic reading list, even the most practiced literary types might just pick up a few tips.
The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving , Jonathan Evison (August 28)
Benjamin Benjamin has lost everything — his wife, his children — all in one horrible stroke. Depressed, impoverished, and pushing off the one friend he still has, he gets a job as a caretaker for a stubborn, ever-cynical teenager suffering from muscular dystrophy. Ultimately, with a little help from a madcap, mistake-filled road trip and several teens in various states of duress, Benjamin might just turn his story into one of redemption — or even one of family.
Every Ghost Story is a Love Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace , D.T. Max (August 30)
The first major biography of beloved author David Foster Wallace obviously skyrockets to the top of our list, particularly when penned by preeminent Wallace scholar D.T. Max. As Tom Bissell quipped, “If you love Wallace’s work, you obviously need to read this book; if you don’t love Wallace’s work, you especially need to read this book.”