With summer rapidly approaching, and the last cold spell of spring seemingly past, I wanted to run through the five books I’m most anticipating being released June through September.
(1) Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (6/4)
The debut novel from poet Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous sketches a moving portrait of a gay son’s fraught relationship to his immigrant mother. Exploring Vietnamese-American identity, the story centers on the son’s coming of age, first love, and ongoing struggle to reckon with his family’s legacy. I loved Vuong’s debut poetry collection, Night Sky With Exit Wounds, and I can’t wait to kick off the summer with this.
(2) Kristen Arnett’s Mostly Dead Things (6/4)
Another debut novel focusing on family, Mostly Dead Things follows Jessa in the wake of her father’s suicide. Jessa’s forced to assume control of the family taxidermy business, while also struggling to reign in her brother and mother’s erratic behavior. To make matters worse she harbors an intense crush on her sister-in-law and just has learned that her dad had a shocking secret life. Taking place in Florida, the novel sounds surreal, and Arnett’s already received high praise from writers like Alexander Chee.
(3) Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys (7/16)
Set in the early sixties in the Jim Crow South, The Nickel Boys tracks teenaged Elwood as he’s tragically sentenced to reformatory school, The Nickel Academy, in lieu of attending the local college as he’d always planned. The Academy, based on a real Florida reform school open for over a century, tortures and abuses its students, and Elwood’s forced to devise a way to survive. I’ve been interested in Whitehead’s work since having read many positive things about The Underground Railroad, and I’m glad to have had the chance to receive an ARC of this.
(4) Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror (8/6)
A debut collection of nine essays from everybody’s favorite New Yorker critic, Trick Mirror roams among a wide range of subjects, from “the rise of the nightmare social internet” to “the punitive dream of optimization, which insists that everything, including our bodies, should become more efficient and beautiful until we die.” Tolentino’s journalism is easily among the best currently out there, and this collection seems sure to be as incisive and sharp as anything she’s ever written.
(5) Leslie Jamison’s Make It Scream, Make It Burn (9/24)
Bringing together journalism, memoir, and criticism, Jamison’s Make it Scream, Make It Burn continues the author’s streak of blending genres in inventive and unexpected ways. Personal reckonings about becoming a stepmother and giving birth sit beside pieces devoted to social subjects as diverse as the eerie online community of Second Life and the landscape of the Sri Lankan Civil War. The collection sounds sort of aimless compared to The Recovering, one of the best books I read last year, but Jamison’s always an interesting mind to follow, no matter what she’s discussing.