Plunge into summer with the 10 best books of July

Whether you’re hitting the road or staying put, a bumper crop of summer reads offers a welcome distraction. Dig right in.

Courtesy of Macmillan Publishers and Simon & Schuster
“Girl, Serpent, Thorn” by Melissa Bashardoust, Flatiron Books, 336 pp.; and “Musical Chairs” by Amy Poeppel, Atria/Emily Bestler Books, 416 pp.

1. The Color of Air by Gail Tsukiyama

Gail Tsukiyama’s novel of enduring love – and just as important, enduring friendships – is set in Hawaii against the backdrop of the 1935 Mauna Loa volcano eruption. She immerses readers in the stories of close-knit characters with a gentle tone and rich descriptions that do not obscure the darker context of the historic setting. 

2. Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

What if the beauty is also the beast? That’s the premise of Melissa Bashardoust’s feminist fairy tale. The Princess Soraya has grown up hidden away in the palace while her twin brother rules. A curse has made her poisonous to the touch, and since a baby she’s been taught to apologize for and minimize her existence. Then a soldier captures a parik, a magical creature, who says she knows how to break the curse. Soraya must choose: Her family or her freedom.

3. The Son of Good Fortune by Lysley Tenorio

Courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers
“The Son of Good Fortune” by Lysley Tenorio, Ecco, 290 pp.

Lysley Tenorio follows up his story collection “Monstress” with a novel that highlights the tested-but-never-torn bond between a Filipino American mother and son. The young adult son, Excel Maxino, must stop hiding and face his daunting future. Tenorio adds a unique twist to the #OwnVoices immigrant narrative. 

4. Becoming Duchess Goldblatt by Anonymous

Duchess Goldblatt is a source of wry wisdom and off-kilter commentary on Twitter. And, as she’s the first to admit, she’s entirely fictional. It might be assumed that her creator would share her warmth, generosity, and love of life, but the real story is more complicated. Spurred by loneliness and loss, the anonymous author’s story is a testament to the powers of redemption, reinvention, and yes, country singer Lyle Lovett. 

5. Natural History by Carlos Fonseca

When a curator for a museum of natural history and a famous fashion designer discover they share a design aesthetic, she proposes they collaborate on an exhibition. From this premise, Carlos Fonseca unspools a genre-defying, literary puzzle of a novel. Propelled forward by exquisite prose, the book is a credit to translator Megan McDowell as well as to the author. 

6. Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel

Amy Poeppel’s novel offers a delightful ode to contemporary life as Bridget, a classical cellist, anticipates a summer of romance. That is, until her beau dumps her via email and her two grown kids move back home unannounced. But there’s always Will, her dear friend since Juilliard, the rock that anchors the chaos. 

7. Austen Years by Rachel Cohen

In a luminous gift to Janeites everywhere, Rachel Cohen recounts how only the novels of Jane Austen gave her the calming insight she needed to grapple with several challenges in her own life.

8. The Golden Thread by Ravi Somaiya

Courtesy of Hachette Book Group
“The Golden Thread: The Cold War and the Mysterious Death of Dag Hammarskjöld” by Ravi Somaiya, Twelve, 304 pp.

U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld was negotiating an end to the Congolese civil war when he died in a plane crash in 1961. To this day, many believe he was assassinated. Journalist Ravi Somaiya explores one of the most compelling mysteries of the Cold War in this grim and absorbing book.

9. The Vapors by David Hill

Gamblers and gangsters abound in David Hill’s nonfiction debut. “The Vapors” details the surprising history of Hot Springs, Arkansas, a small town that was once home to the country’s most lavish casinos and spas. It’s an engaging portrait of America’s less-than-savory past.

10. Fathoms by Rebecca Giggs

Rebecca Giggs crafts a beautifully written and deeply searching reflection on whales, earth’s most awe-inspiring creatures.

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