10 Must-Read Books for July

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Bookended by highly entertaining reality novels that rely on healthy doses of unreality — Linda Rosenkrantz’s groundbreaking Talk and Hilary Liftin’s Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper — July is the best time to lose yourself in the in-between. And while you’re there, why not enjoy the best of new American short fiction? Or a surfing memoir? Or an investigation of the global cocaine trade? No matter how or where you spend your summer vacation, one thing is for sure: you won’t be able to escape the everyman’s opinion of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, the sequel-cum-prequel to To Kill a Mockingbird.

Talk, Linda Rosenkrantz (NYRB Classics, July 7)

A novel of recorded and edited conversations, a reality novel before the existence of reality novels, almost an act of television on paper, Linda Rosenkrantz’s newly reissued Talk — which predicts the work of Sheila Heti and others — is sure to be one of the most discussed novels of the summer.

Turning into Dwelling, Christopher Gilbert (Graywolf Press, July 7)

Even before Gilbert’s death in 2007, his first collection of poetry, the Walt Whitman Award-winning Across the Mutual Landscape, had become an underground classic. This month Graywolf releases that volume together with his second, unpublished collection — tied together with a wonderful introduction by Terrance Hayes — for a new generation of readers. Turning into Dwelling is one of the important poetry discoveries of 2015.

Mirages of the Mind, Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi trans. Matt Reeck (New Directions, July 7)

The first U.S. publication of Yousufi, who at 91 is quite possibly Pakistan’s most revered comedic writer. By way of a large volume of infinitely hilarious sketches, Mirages of the Mind tells the story of Indian Muslims who relocate to Pakistan — where Yousufi’s name is now synonymous with the very idea of literary humor.

Oreo, Fran Ross (New Directions, July 7)

Thirty years after Ross’ death, we’re getting a hugely welcome reprint of her “hilarious badass novel” (as the intro describes it) Oreo. Although the book defies description, I’ll just add that it stars Oreo, daughter of a black mother and Jewish father, whose odyssey through Manhattan parodies Theseus. Like Rosenkrantz’s Talk (see above), this is a comedic classic duly recovered.

Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee (HarperCollins, July 14)

Shrouded in a murky history — long past and recent — Go Set a Watchman, which might well be the most anticipated novel in recent memory, will live or die by the quality of its writing. That is to say that if the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird is good, the controversy surrounding its publication with whither and die. The only thing left to do is read.

New American Stories, ed. Ben Marcus (Vintage Contemporaries Originals, July 21)

We’re due for a major reconsideration of the American short story, and there is no better guide for this project than Ben Marcus, one of our best writers of short fiction. Unsurprisingly, this collection is overfilled with brave, inventive fiction from names known (Zadie Smith, Don DeLillo) and unknown. My personal favorite is Robert Coover’s virtuosic, hilarious, and death-drunk “Going for a Beer.”

ZeroZeroZero, Roberto Saviano (Penguin Press, July 14)

The American audience will know Saviano from Gomorrah, his famous investigation of the Italian crime syndicate known as the Camorra. After selling two million copies worldwide, Gomorrah was made into an excellent film by Matteo Garrone. Well, this is Saviano’s follow-up, and it’s about the global cocaine trade.

Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, Susan Southard (Viking, July 28)

John Hersey’s short book Hiroshima is one of a handful of the most revered works of English language journalism in the 20th century. Southard’s book on the twin disaster at Nagasaki, published on its 70th anniversary, works within and extends Hersey’s legacy. An absolute must-read in 2015 nonfiction.

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, William Finnegan (Penguin Press, July 21)

With Barbarian Days, Finnegan, who is known mostly as a New Yorker staff writer, is sure to have written one of the classics of surf lit. It’s meditative and, well, New Yorker-y — just imagine a surf memoir that opens with an epigraph form Edward St. Aubyn.

Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper, Hilary Liftin (Viking, July 21)

I’ve said it many, many times now: ghostwriting and celebrity are the dual futures of fiction. So when you find these subjects colliding in a single novel, you might as well enter it like a wormhole into the future. Everything about this novel is unreal; even its title is suspicious. It turns out that Liftin, an actual celebrity ghostwriter who has written for Miley Cyrus, simply wanted to write her own celebrity memoir. Probably everyone will read this book, and for good reason: it’s the easiest sell of the summer.