It’s Brutal Out There: 24 Page-Turning Reads for July

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We’re not really sure what to say besides it is simply too hot to do anything but read. Running? Going outside? Moving one’s corporeal form around in just about any manner? Pretty much out of the question. (We don’t make the rules.) Reading books, however, is a way to keep your mind active without generating unnecessary heat. Not to mention the cooling effect as you turn page after page! We rest our case, along with the rest of our weary, wilted selves. Here’s what we’ve been into this month…

FICTION
Recommended by Lindsay

Filthy Animals Cover ImageFilthy Animals

For any readers out there who are on the fence about picking up a story collection: Take a chance on Filthy Animals. Brandon Taylor is one of those writers who is so good, I’m honestly angry at him. How dare these stories be so beautifully wrought, so intimate, so compelling. I’m so irate I’ll probably keep re-reading it until Brandon comes out with another book.

Recommended by Steve

Parable of the Sower Cover ImageParable of the Sower

I finally got around to reading Parable of the Sower recently, and not only does it live up to the hype — it’s truly a transcendent work — it felt uncomfortably plausible. If you’ve been meaning to pick up this classic, there’s no better month: The story begins on July 20, 2024.

Also available as a graphic novel adaptation!

Recommended by Chelsea

Razorblade Tears: A Novel Cover ImageRazorblade Tears: A Novel

Two fathers are drawn together in their shared fight to find out what really happened to their sons. Cosby manages to exquisitely write two anti-heroes that you will root for from page one and miss immediately after you finish the book.

Recommended by Elyse

Animal: A Novel Cover ImageAnimal: A Novel

Lisa Taddeo has a voice that won’t be denied. In Animal, the more uncomfortable or taboo the act or the situation, the more openly and unashamedly she presents it. Joan, a young woman who has experienced significant trauma, heads out on a journey across the country to find the one person who might be able to shed light on her past. Not an easy read but, in my opinion, well worth the time.

Check out our virtual event with Lisa Taddeo!

Recommended by Kathy

The Sweetness of Water: A Novel Cover ImageThe Sweetness of Water: A Novel

Yes, I know it’s our First Editions Club pick; I know it’s the Oprah pick. But is it good despite all the hype? I’m here to tell ya, it’s great! Be patient (30 pages patient) and you will be rewarded with a compelling, unforgettable novel. I loved this one.

See below for more information about our First Editions Club!

Recommended by Heather

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead: A Novel Cover ImageEveryone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead: A Novel

This book is just so funny. As one who has hidden certain facets of her life and personality in a desperate attempt to fit in, I can identify. The Catholic Church of my youth never brought me so much laughter.

Recommended by Rae Ann

The Forest of Vanishing Stars: A Novel Cover ImageThe Forest of Vanishing Stars: A Novel

A woman stolen from her parents at birth has lived most of her life in the forest. She encounters a band of Jewish refugees as WWII erupts around them. Both rely on the skills of the other in this story of survival based on true events.

Recommended by Hannah

For the Wolf (The Wilderwood #1) Cover ImageFor the Wolf (The Wilderwood #1)

Little Red Riding Hood meets Beauty and the Beast in this richly atmospheric fantasy debut! It has it all: beautiful prose, careful folkloric world-building, delicious dual-perspective irony, slow-burn romance… Even if you’re like me and don’t typically read fantasy, this novel is not one to miss. (And I promise the author and I sharing a first name is purely coincidental!)

Recommended by Becca

The Woman in the Purple Skirt: A Novel Cover ImageThe Woman in the Purple Skirt: A Novel

By Natsuko Imamura, translated by Lucy North

This voyeuristic short novel is sparse and suspenseful. It reads like a sophisticated episode of Black Mirror. If you are looking for a book that you will devour in a single sitting and then think about forever, look no further than The Woman in the Purple Skirt.

Recommended by Heather

Hairpin Bridge: A Novel Cover ImageHairpin Bridge: A Novel

This is the perfect summer read. Engaging, consuming, can’t-put-it-down mystery. I so understand the need to get to the bottom of something, to understand what happened, and thinking that you know someone and what they would do — and wow. Just wow. Did not see this coming.

Recommended by Heather

In the Heights: Finding Home Cover ImageIn the Heights: Finding Home

As we search for ourselves, our place, and our people in a world that’s gone way past broken, In the Heights demonstrates how we create the home and family we need. A celebration of music, dance, love and family.

NONFICTION
Recommended by Karen

The Hero's Way: Walking with Garibaldi from Rome to Ravenna Cover ImageThe Hero’s Way: Walking with Garibaldi from Rome to Ravenna

Tim Parks is an Englishman who has lived and written about Italy for years. In this book he and his wife, Eleonora, hike the 250-mile route that Giuseppe Garibaldi took in his retreat from Rome in 1849. I love a book that allows you to take a vacation vicariously and this one has the added benefit of teaching you a fascinating piece of the puzzle that led to the unification of Italy.

Recommended by Sarah

The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America Cover ImageThe Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America

“To be clear, this is not a pro-gun or anti-gun book. Guns are not the key variable here. It’s Black people.” Dr. Anderson presents illuminating and compelling evidence for the intersection of race, guns, violence and systemic oppression. Continue your anti-racism education by picking up this book by a renowned historian and educator.

Recommended by Sissy

Kin: A Memoir Cover ImageKin: A Memoir

An adolescent is pulled between worlds — poor and poorer, secular and spiritual, generous and withholding. Every second of this rural Kentucky memoir is almost too tense to bear. Not only is Rodenberg forced to witness and participate in adult situations at a very young age, but the adults in her life are often as confused as children themselves. How does one learn, or even survive?

Recommended by Chelsea

Yoke: My Yoga of Self-Acceptance Cover ImageYoke: My Yoga of Self-Acceptance

I’ve been a Jessamyn Stanley fan for a long time; I was in the audience at her event here at Parnassus for Every Body Yoga. This collection of essays explores not only our relationship with yoga but wrestles with big questions about cultural appropriation, racism and materialism. Jessamyn’s way with words made each essay memorable and thought-provoking.

Recommended by Sissy

Outlove: A Queer Christian Survival Story Cover ImageOutlove: A Queer Christian Survival Story

This is required reading for all ex-vangelicals. Rodgers’s journey through the Christian gay conversion therapy world is so painful, yet her growth is so beautiful and wise.

Recommended by Sidney

Nowhere Girl: A Memoir of a Fugitive Childhood Cover ImageNowhere Girl: A Memoir of a Fugitive Childhood

When I saw this book being compared to Tara Westover’s Educated, I knew this coming-of-age memoir would be right up my alley. Cheryl Diamond describes her exceedingly unstable childhood with vivid memories of growing up as an outlaw — having lived six (yes, six) different lives by the time she was nine years old. Both heartbreaking and hopeful, Nowhere Girl tells the story of an unthinkable adolescence.

Recommended by Sissy

The Cruelty Is the Point: The Past, Present, and Future of Trump's America Cover ImageThe Cruelty Is the Point: The Past, Present, and Future of Trump’s America

I’ve followed Serwer’s articles in the Atlantic for several years. In this collection of his most moving pieces, he’s added a short introduction to each one with new insights and background. Bonus: Kevin Kruse blurbed it.

Recommended by Ben

Shearwater: A Bird, an Ocean, and a Long Way Home Cover ImageShearwater: A Bird, an Ocean, and a Long Way Home

Mingling nature writing with memoir, Morgan-Grenville spends a year following the fascinating Manx shearwater around the world. Fulfilling a lifelong quest, he goes from the Scottish coast to the wilds of Argentina to the edge of Ireland as the bird embarks on its own astounding journey. Lively, humble, and well-researched, it’s perfect for readers of Helen MacDonald and Marc Hamer.

Recommended by Ben

The Passenger: How a Travel Writer Learned to Love Cruises & Other Lies from a Sinking Ship Cover ImageThe Passenger: How a Travel Writer Learned to Love Cruises & Other Lies from a Sinking Ship

On assignment aboard the cruise ship Viking Sky in 2019 when its engines failed in a cyclone and it drifted perilously close to Norway’s coast, Kwak finds his adventure beginning even as his story sinks. Droll and sympathetic to below-deck staff, rescue crews and fellow passengers, he flashes from the predicament at sea to the disintegrating relationship with his long-time partner back on dry land.

Recommended by Patsy

Letters to Camondo Cover ImageLetters to Camondo

I adored this book! In 58 imaginary letters to Moïse de Camondo, the author recounts the history of this art collector friend of his great-great grandfather’s cousin, neighbors and members of the Jewish diaspora who both arrived Paris in 1869. If you are dreaming of a trip to Paris, are in search of a fresh perspective and appreciated books like The Hare with the Amber Eyes and A Gentleman in Moscow, this book is for you.

Recommended by Sissy

Books Promiscuously Read: Reading as a Way of Life Cover ImageBooks Promiscuously Read: Reading as a Way of Life

I do not write. I just read. I often forget that not every person is a reading-obsessed nerd. This book put into words what I’ve never been able to: Reading takes a mind to another place in both literal and figurative ways. I particularly loved the quotes from my favorite authors about how reading transformed their worlds.

Recommended by Andy

Waves and Beaches: The Powerful Dynamics of Sea and CoastWaves and Beaches: The Powerful Dynamics of Sea and Coast Cover Image

Patagonia has reissued the classic Waves and Beaches in a beautifully illustrated edition. Originally published in 1964 (I bought my first copy in 1968), it has been updated to include new information about the effects of global warming on our coastlines. It is essential reading for surfers, sailors, oceanographers, climate activists and all those fascinated by the struggle for supremacy between the land and the sea.

POETRY
Recommended by Ben

Worldly Things Cover ImageWorldly Things

Conversational and neighborly, with empathy and without pretension, Kleber-Diggs threads the everyday with the expansive. These poems are about many things: the ghost of his father; racism in our nation; his experience as a Black son, husband, dad, citizen. Page after page, he shows how despite the sufferings and misunderstandings we all wade through, there exists connection, luminosity, joy.

First Editions Club: July Selection

The Sweetness of Water: A Novel Cover ImageThe Sweetness of Water: A Novel

Dear Friends,

I have a confession to make: I haven’t always been an avid reader of historical fiction. For a long time, the genre brought to mind stories that have been told so many times they begin to feel completely divorced from our current reality.

But something interesting is happening — more and more, I see debuts in historical fiction that can take whatever preconceived notion I have of the past, flip it on its head, and make me reconsider everything I know about the present. The Sweetness of Water is a perfect example. With this novel, Nathan Harris is redefining historical fiction, digging into the facets of life in the post-Civil War South that we haven’t seen in films and history books. The Sweetness of Water shows us the interior lives of the freed Black men who remained in the South, the women who restructured their lives while their husbands and sons went to war, and the white men who needed to reckon with the atrocities they committed.

The Sweetness of Water breathes so much life into these narratives. This is a necessary novel, and one I look forward to becoming a classic in the coming years.

Yours in reading,
Lindsay Lynch

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.