The Heat Is (Still) On: 25 Books to Read Now

We’re in that in-between time, when it’s still hot as blazes, vacation season is receding in the rear-view mirror, and autumn still seems like a distant dream (because it is). Luckily, August brings a whole lot of great new reads, including some newly available in paperback, and our booksellers have selected the best of the batch. Read on to find a new favorite!

Recommended by Ann

The Great Believers: A Novel Cover ImageThe Great Believers

I just read this in the paperback and found it engrossing and tender. Makkai does a wonderful job reminding us that the saddest stories are often the most essential. I loved this book.

Recommended by Karen

Chances Are . . .: A novel Cover ImageChances Are . . .

Three mismatched friends from college meet years later in Martha’s Vineyard, a place that was a turning point in their lives. That summer in 1971 was when Jacy, the woman they all loved, disappeared without a trace. This is an engrossing mystery from a writer who always satisfies.

Recommended by Cat

Summerlings: A Novel Cover ImageSummerlings

What better way to wind up summer than with this fantastic novel of a 1950s childhood summer, complete with a spider infestation, neighbors who may be Russian spies, a neighborhood block party, and best friends.

Recommended by Chelsea

This Is How You Lose the Time War Cover ImageThis Is How You Lose the Time War

This epistolary novel may be the most moving, beautiful, and romantic book I’ve ever read. Two time-traveling agents from warring factions start a correspondence and eventually fall in such love that, if discovered, would be the end of them both. I still think about the beauty of this book daily.

Recommended by Mary Laura

The Gifted School: A Novel Cover ImageThe Gifted School

If you miss the badly behaved parents from Big Little Lies, if you couldn’t get enough of the college applications scandal earlier this year, or if you live in a place with a crazy-competitive school admissions scene, this story of families flipping out over a new “gifted school” in their Colorado town will crack you up and make you cringe.

Recommended by Devin

The Nickel Boys: A Novel Cover ImageThe Nickel Boys

Elwood has Martin Luther King, Jr. as his guide, a hope of attending college, and a grandmother that keeps him on his path. When Elwood is taken to The Nickel Academy after accepting a ride from a stranger in a stolen car, he is stripped of his rights, his freedom, and his dreams. Well researched by Whitehead, this is a fiction book based on a now-closed reform school in Florida.

Recommended by Kathy

Twilight Sleep Cover ImageTwilight Sleep

Out of print for several decades, this is Edith Wharton”s novel of the Jazz Age with surprisingly modern themes — sex, drugs, and the role of work and money in one’s life.

Recommended by Sarah

Travelers Cover ImageTravelers

This is a timely novel about the complexities of the immigrant experience. It follows the interconnected stories of six African immigrants in Europe trying to find the balance between the idealism of a fresh start and the realities of navigating a new identity and culture.

Recommended by Kay

The Mere Wife: A Novel Cover ImageThe Mere Wife

If you’re searching for something on the stranger side, this modernized, magical realist take on Beowulf might be the tragedy for you. Using often dreamlike prose to retell an ancient story of mothers and monsters, this book will eat your heart whole.

Recommended by Kevin

The Dispossessed: A Novel (Hainish Cycle) Cover ImageThe Dispossessed

TFW you want to go back three years in time to slap yourself for leaving unread on the shelf a life-changingly excellent book about the tragedy of striving for utopia. /facepalm

Recommended by Mary Laura

Any Other Place: Stories Cover ImageAny Other Place

From Kentucky to Korea, place plays a role in the emotional struggles of all the characters in this gorgeous collection. And holy moly — I know we’re not supposed to look at a collection of short stories as just a precursor to a novel, as if we’re waiting for the author’s “real” book; but as I read Any Other Place I kept thinking that when Croley gives us a book-length story, it’s going to knock everyone’s socks off.

Recommended by Ben

Night Sky with Exit Wounds Cover ImageNight Sky with Exit Wounds

These confessional, lyrical, lean poems are full of yearning: grappling with a lost homeland, a complicated father figure, the desire for sexual union. Exploring the trauma of war, starkness of violence, and physicality of gay romance, they engage life’s full spectrum that runs from pain to ecstasy. His recent debut novel confirms what we glimpse in this imagistic collection: that this young writer’s name is one to remember.

(Watch the new episode of A Word on Words featuring Ocean Vuong on Nashville Public Television.)

Recommended by Ann

Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life Cover ImageFlash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life

If you are in menopause, have gone or will go, you must read this book. It’s brilliant and fierce, a comforting dose of solidarity and a riveting read. Thank you, Darcey Steinke!

Recommended by Margy

I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution Cover ImageI Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution

Nussbaum is on Fresh Air as I write. This book wrestles with how we separate (not reconcile) artists and their art. How do we deal with the queasy feeling we have now over the work of Woody Allen, John Updike, Louis C.K., and the ever-growing list of problematic creators when that work has shaped us?

Recommended by Steve

The Fate of Food: What We'll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World Cover ImageThe Fate of Food: What We’ll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World

If the climate crisis has you freaked out, Amanda Little is here to freak you out a little more. But there are also smart people trying some extraordinary things to solve it, and Little provides fascinating glimpses into their lives and work — vertical indoor farms! AI robot weeders! lab-grown meat! — that make the future feel more tenable.

Recommended by Steve

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion Cover ImageTrick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion

If you’ve read any of Jia Tolentino’s work for The New Yorker, you already know. Whether she’s writing about growing up religious (attending a Houston megachurch dubbed “The Repentagon”), the complexities of her college town Charlottesville, or the titular trick mirror, aka the Internet, Tolentino is sharp, knowing, self-effacing, compassionate, wickedly funny, and highly relatable.

Recommended by Betsy

Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays (FSG Classics) Cover ImageSlouching Towards Bethlehem

The selection for Parnassus Classics Club next month! After being blown away by two essays in Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror, I revisited this 1960s/’70s portrait of America. In perfect balance, Didion is both inconspicuous and whip-smart in her exploration of place, making her a prime witness to the ways in which a shifting landscape changes its characters and vice versa. Read it and come to book club!

Recommended by Keltie

The Ice at the End of the World: An Epic Journey into Greenland's Buried Past and Our Perilous Future Cover ImageThe Ice at the End of the World: An Epic Journey into Greenland’s Buried Past and Our Perilous Future

One of my Dad’s favorite novels was The Greenlanders. He loved Norse history and epic sagas. I loved this book for the same reasons: stories of great explorers, hero scientists, and what brings us to this apocalyptic moment in the life of an ancient ice sheet. It is an elegant tale about what the least populated place on Earth can tell us about what lies ahead for the rest of the planet.

Recommended by Ben

The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe Cover ImageThe Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe

By reframing what is meant by “Christ,” Franciscan priest Richard Rohr asserts that the divine is in all things, that we’re all more loved and connected than we realize. Drawing from Buddhism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and other theologians to flesh out his perspective, he depicts a mystical, inclusive vein of spirituality. While some may find him a bit too New-Agey, he shakes up Christian dogma with refreshing insights.

Recommended by Sissy

God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America Cover ImageGod Land: A Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America

A journalist by trade, Lenz investigates faith and politics as she reveals her personal story of divorce in the wake of The Election.

Recommended by Sissy

The Ghost Clause Cover ImageThe Ghost Clause

Norman explores how lovers miss one another even while living together. Can we make up for lost time once a shared life is over?

Recommended by Keltie

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America Cover ImageDopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America

I recommended this last year as a must-read for anyone who wanted to understand the opioid epidemic through an accessible narrative about how it unfolded in one small part of America. I make this second appeal for the paperback — because these very stories are the starting point for prosecutions making headlines right now. I think Beth Macy and some scrappy Virginia lawyers are to thank for that.

Recommended by Sydney

Raised in Captivity: Fictional Nonfiction Cover ImageRaised in Captivity: Fictional Nonfiction

Klosterman is back, and this essay collection is just as quirky and on-brand as ever. Fans of his previous work will enjoy the cultural elements that make this title a “fictional nonfiction.” Some chapters are relatable, some absurdly strange, but all satisfying and thought-provoking.

Recommended by Keltie

Places and Names: On War, Revolution, and Returning Cover ImagePlaces and Names: On War, Revolution, and Returning

This is a memoir of two parts: first, Elliot Ackerman sits down for tea with a rebel fighter in a Syrian refugee camp; second, Ackerman remembers his own Great Battle, as a Marine in Fallujah years before. Both have blurry contours. Did he once fight against this man with whom he now shares tea? Did the words that came with the Silver Star he won in Fallujah make too pretty the tale?

Recommended by Kevin

The Man They Wanted Me to Be: Toxic Masculinity and a Crisis of Our Own Making Cover ImageThe Man They Wanted Me to Be: Toxic Masculinity and a Crisis of Our Own Making

Sexton’s last book chronicled Trump’s 2016 campaign. This one takes a deeper look at one of the primary forces underlying it: toxic masculinity. The cultural criticism of American masculinity is balanced here with beautifully rendered, tragic recollections of the male role models of his youth.

First Editions Club: August Selection

Chances Are . . .: A novel Cover ImageChances Are . . .

It’s a bit of a hallmark in the YA genre, but not employed as frequently in adult literature: the coming of age story. But who doesn’t love to learn the defining moments in a character’s life, the things that made them feel as though they had crossed into adulthood?

I’m a firm believer that a coming-of-age can happen multiple times in a person’s life — and at any age — so I was thrilled to pick up Chances Are… and read what I truly believe is one of the best such stories for adults in recent memory. As anyone who has read Richard Russo knows, he has an extraordinary skill for narrating everyday life and for highlighting the unassuming moments that form the core of his characters — not to mention a knack for the absurd and hilarious. Chances Are… showcases these gifts, as well as building a slow-burning mystery in the form of a disappeared friend of our three protagonists.

Russo is at the height of his talents here and it is my utmost pleasure to put a signed first edition in your hands.

Yours in reading,
Catherine Bock
Inventory Manager
(Note: This book was published on July 30, 2019. Signed copies will ship after Richard Russo’s appearance at the store on Aug. 14.)

More about our First Editions Club: Every member receives a first edition of the selected book of the month, signed by the author. Books are carefully chosen by our staff of readers, and our picks have gone on to earn major recognition including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Plus, there’s no membership fee or premium charge for these books. Build a treasured library of signed first editions and always have something great to read! Makes a FABULOUS gift, too.

Parnassus Book Club — Upcoming Meeting Schedule 

August — Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate*
Monday, Aug. 19 at 6:30pm
Thursday, Aug. 22 at 10am
*Note: Join the Parnassus staff, in conjunction with Citywide Book Club, for a discussion of The Woman’s Hour by Elaine Weiss on Wednesday, Aug. 21.

September — So Much Life Left Over by Louis de Bernieres
Monday, Sept. 16 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 6:30pm
Thursday, Sept. 19 at 10am

Classics Club — Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
Monday, Sept. 30 at 10am and 6:30pm

Are you a member of our store book club? Would you like to be? Parnassus Book Club and Classics Club meetings are free and open to anyone. Buy the book, read along, and join the discussion!