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The Best New Books of June 2019

Your summer reads start here.

We’ve officially reached 2019’s summer blockbuster season at the movie theatre, and the same could be said of the bookstore. June brings us new books from Eve Ewing, Brian Evenson, Ocean Vuong, Kristen Arnett, Chanelle Benz, and Nicole Dennis-Benn, to name a few. Here are our favorite books of the month at the Chicago Review of Books.

The Truffle Underground
By Ryan Jacobs
Random House, June 4

The Truffle Underground has all of the makings of the next compulsively readable food exposé, a deeply researched dive into the dark origins of the world’s most valuable fungus—from the scientific mysteries of their growth to the story of the hapless French farmer who discovered the secret to cultivating them to brutal crimes in the forests and the white-collar crimes that surround this secretive industry. Through it all, a question lingers: What, other than money, draws people to these dirt-covered knobs?”

Song for the Unraveling of the World
By Brian Evenson
Coffee House Press

“From a modern master of the form, a new short story collection that dexterously walks the tightrope between literary fiction, sci-fi, and horror. A newborn’s absent face appears on the back of someone else’s head, a filmmaker goes to gruesome lengths to achieve the silence he’s after for his final scene, and a therapist begins, impossibly, to appear in a troubled patient’s room late at night. In these stories of doubt, delusion, and paranoia, no belief, no claim to objectivity, is immune to the distortions of human perception. Here, self-deception is a means of justifying our most inhuman impulses — whether we know it or not.”

In West Mills
By De’Shawn Charles Winslow
Bloomsbury

“For readers of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie and The Turner House, an intimately told story about a woman living by her own rules and the rural community that struggles to understand her.”

Mostly Dead Things
By Kristen Arnett
Tin House

“One morning, Jessa-Lynn Morton walks into the family taxidermy shop to find that her father has committed suicide, right there on one of the metal tables. Shocked and grieving, Jessa steps up to manage the failing business, while the rest of the Morton family crumbles. Her mother starts sneaking into the shop to make aggressively lewd art with the taxidermied animals. Her brother Milo withdraws, struggling to function. And Brynn, Milo’s wife—and the only person Jessa’s ever been in love with—walks out without a word. As Jessa seeks out less-than-legal ways of generating income, her mother’s art escalates—picture a figure of her dead husband and a stuffed buffalo in an uncomfortably sexual pose—and the Mortons reach a tipping point. For the first time, Jessa has no choice but to learn who these people truly are, and ultimately how she fits alongside them.”

The Summer Demands
By Deborah Shapiro
Catapult

“On the verge of her fortieth birthday, and shaken by a recent miscarriage, Emily inherits an abandoned summer camp in Massachusetts and discovers a magnetic young woman living undetected in a cabin whose presence will force her to question everything she thought she knew.”

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
By Ocean Vuong
Penguin Press

“Brilliant, heartbreaking, tender, and highly original, poet Ocean Vuong’s debut novel is a sweeping and shattering portrait of a family, and a testament to the redemptive power of storytelling.”

Underland
By Robert Macfarlane
W. W. Norton & Company

“Hailed as the great nature writer of this generation (Wall Street Journal), Robert Macfarlane is the celebrated author of books about the intersections of the human and the natural realms. In Underland, he delivers his masterpiece: an epic exploration of the Earth’s underworlds as they exist in myth, literature, memory, and the land itself.”

1919
By Eve L. Ewing
Haymarket Books

” The Chicago Race Riot of 1919, the most intense of the riots that comprised the ‘Red Summer’ of violence across the nation’s cities, is an event that has shaped the last century but is widely unknown. In 1919, award-winning poet Eve L. Ewing explores the story of this event—which lasted eight days and resulted in thirty-eight deaths and almost 500 injuries—through poems recounting the stories of everyday people trying to survive and thrive in the city. Ewing uses speculative and Afrofuturist lenses to recast history, and illuminates the thin line between the past and the present.”

Patsy
By Nicole Dennis-Benn
Liveright

“A beautifully layered portrait of motherhood, immigration, and the sacrifices we make in the name of love from award-winning novelist Nicole Dennis-Benn.”

Bunny
By Mona Awad
Viking

The Vegetarian meets Heathers in this darkly funny, seductively strange novel from the acclaimed author of 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl.”

The Gone Dead
By Chanelle Benz
Ecco

“An electrifying first novel from ‘a riveting new voice in American fiction’ (George Saunders): A young woman returns to her childhood home in the American South and uncovers secrets about her father’s life and death.”

How Could She
By Lauren Mechling
Viking

“An assured and savagely funny novel about three old friends as they navigate careers, husbands, an ex-fiancé, new suitors, and, most importantly, their relationships with one another.”

The Ice at the End of the World
By Jon Gertner
Random House

“A riveting, urgent account of the explorers and scientists racing to understand the rapidly melting ice sheet in Greenland, a dramatic harbinger of climate change.”

Dream Sequence
By Adam Foulds
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

“Adam Foulds’s Dream Sequence offers us, through the meticulously observed lives of this contemporary Echo and Narcissus, a stunning and finally terrifying vision of what it is to live at this current moment, with the borders between our inner and outer lives made porous by a world full of flickering screens both large and small.”

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