10 best books of June: the Monitor's picks

From the Tour de France to the dark side of America's economy, these new June releases cover plenty of ground.

"We Begin Our Ascent" is a debut novel by Joe Mungo Reed.

1.  We Begin Our Ascent, by Joe Mungo Reed
Debut novelist Joe Mungo Reed propels readers through the fascinating competitive sports world of the Tour de France. Professional cyclist and reluctant illegal doper Sol examines his days as athlete, husband of a brilliant scientist, and new father with a humorous, philosophical lens. The narrative is richly poetic and smartly suspenseful, with themes of sacrifice, loyalty, and morality.

2.  Reporter, by Seymour M. Hersh
Seymour M. Hersh, who has won just about every prize journalism can bestow, has written a memoir telling the story behind his stories, including his groundbreaking work on the My Lai Massacre and Watergate. Ultimately the book yields up a warts-and-all picture not just of Hersh but of an entire era of journalism. It’s the most captivating account of the field since Judith Miller’s 2015 work “The Story.”

3.  Frenemies, by Ken Auletta
Media critic Ken Auletta offers a contemporary examination of the advertising industry. It’s a business that has undergone changes so dramatic that the field sometimes seems to be in free fall as social media undermines and replaces traditional ways of doing business. Auletta has produced a book that is insightful and highly readable.

4.  Our Towns, by James Fallows and Deborah Fallows
Co-written by husband-and-wife journalists who took a five-year journey across the United States, “Our Towns” documents a story most often ignored in national news – the surprising success of many of America’s smaller cities. Hope and a sense of possibility seep into every page of this book, driven in part by immigrants and refugees, a population that challenges contemporary urban defeatism.

5.  Rough Beauty, by Karen Auvinen
In her new memoir, award-winning poet Karen Auvinen recounts her struggle to rebuild her life after a devastating fire left her in a remote mountain community with nothing but the opportunity to begin again. Auvinen’s candor as she wrestles with her impulsion to grow and to fight against outgrown or unreasonable restraints reveals admirable courage.

6.  Uncensored, by Zachary R. Wood
Zachary R. Wood gained fame when, as a student at elite Williams College, he invited to campus speakers sometimes labeled racist (Wood is black), sexist, or homophobic as part of the college’s Uncomfortable Learning initiative. The first three-quarters of Wood’s memoir are a powerful and thought-provoking recounting of his childhood. Surprisingly, the last quarter of the book, about his life at college and controversial decisions there, is less persuasive and largely rooted in self-defense.

7.  The Lost Family, by Jenna Blum
Peter Rashkin’s wife and young daughters perished in a Nazi death camp. Now, in the mid-1960s, he’s established himself as a leading New York restaurateur. Into his life walks June, a beguiling fashion model who upends Peter’s careful hold on his memories. The novel traces three decades as they are experienced by Peter, June, and later their daughter, Elsbeth, all trying to come to terms with the imprint of the past in this absorbing and emotionally resonant story.

8.  First in Line, by Kate Andersen Brower
Washington reporter extraordinaire Kate Andersen Brower spins nonfiction into prose that reads like a novel in this examination of the 13 most recent vice presidents of the United States. Brower has a great eye for detail that’s mixed with a capacity for hard work: She did 200-plus interviews, including former veeps and their family members.

9.  The Dante Chamber, by Matthew Pearl
Matthew Pearl’s second Dante-themed literary mystery begins with a murder inspired by one of the punishments in Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” Five years after the original 1865 case in Boston, London has become the scene of a new series of killings. A quartet of literary giants, including poet Christina Rossetti, races to solve the case. Pearl demonstrates a scholar’s grasp of Dante in this darkly atmospheric novel.  

10.  Squeezed, by Alissa Quart
Journalist Alissa Quart offers a compassionate, thoughtful examination of the economic struggles faced today by America’s middle class. Quart looks at income inequality; the rising costs of education, health care, rent, and day care; and the impact of the gig economy on the lives of many Americans who had hoped for more.

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