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12 Must-Read Books of August

12 Must-Read Books of August

  • The new books you should read in August 2021.

We have made it to what they call the “dog days” of summer, when temperatures typically reach their enervating peak—though it’s a little hard to believe it can get much hotter. For those of us still in school, a return to the classroom, whether virtually or in person, looms on the horizon. Vacations are starting to come to their end and the desk chair, whether at home or in the office, beckons. But don’t despair of the season’s imminent end, dear readers! An escape is a simple turn of the page away, and below are twelve new releases worth making some time for this month.

Cover of Afterparties

By Anthony Veasna So
Ecco Books

Cambodian-American writer Anthony Veasna So made a big splash when his story “Three Women of Chuck’s Donuts” appeared in The New Yorker last February. This posthumously-published collection fulfills that promise and then some, welcoming readers into the vibrant and intoxicating world of our country’s immigrant and queer communities with these nine immersive tales. The sort of seismic, star-making debut that only comes once every decade.

Cover of Pilgrim Bell

Pilgrim Bell
By Kaveh Akbar
Graywolf Press

Kaveh Akbar has been such a generous and influential fixture in the poetry scene that it’s hard to believe this is only his second collection. Following up on Calling a Wolf a Wolf, Akbar continues to vigorously and thoughtfully interrogate the question of religious devotion in a difficult world with a unique and steadfast voice, making a humble offering of his faith and self that any reader can find grace in.

Cover of The Glassy Burning Floor of Hell

The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell
By Brian Evenson
Coffee House Press

Brian Evenson has long been one of the best-kept secrets in literary horror circles, his work whispered about with the kind of fervent adoration more typically enjoyed by the likes of Stephen King. This new collection seems poised to break him out even bigger, with stories that feel at once ripped from today’s apocalyptic headlines and sourced from the darkest corners of our collective imagination. Short fiction fans of any genre shouldn’t miss it.

Cover of So We Look to the Sky

So We Look to the Sky
By Misumi Kubo; Translated by Polly Barton

Already a runaway bestseller in Japan, So We Look to the Sky arrives on American shores this month with a glittering translation from Polly Barton. Building on the wave of such recent hits as Convenience Store Woman and Breasts and Eggs, Misumi Kobo paints a prismatic and unflinching portrait of modern life, grappling with knotty issues of fertility, childbirth, abuse, poverty, and illness with an effervescent touch that never feels forced.

Cover of The President and the Frog

The President and the Frog
By Carolina De Robertis

Carolina De Robertis’s previous novel Cantoras was a finalist for both the Kirkus Prize and a Lambda Literary Award, recognition that feels long overdue for a writer who’s never been afraid to tackle political complexities head on. Her newest book, set in an unnamed Latin American country, promises to introduce her to a whole new audience with its playful but profound take on a democracy in crisis that bears some uncanny resemblances to our own.

Cover of Blind Spot

Blind Spot
By Myriam Tadessé; Translated by Gila Walker
Seagull Books

Drawing on her personal experiences in the French entertainment world, Ethiopian-born actress and stage director Myriam Tadessé presents this searing and candid memoir about the challenges of living as a biracial performer in her adopted home. Brief in page count but expansive in scope, it is a commanding missive from a country whose failures to account for systemic inequality resonate uncomfortably with America’s current quagmires.

Cover of Dirty Work

Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America
By Eyal Press
Farrar, Straus & Giroux

As the past year has shown, there is a wide gulf between work that’s considered essential and high paying. Eyal Press expands further on this idea in this illuminating study of America’s “most ethically troubling jobs.” By shedding a light on the work done by drone pilots and prison guards, and on slaughterhouse kill floors, Press gives a face to the people doing the jobs the privileged are shielded from, asking tough moral questions in the process.

Cover of Against White Feminism

Against White Feminism: Notes on Disruption
By Rafia Zakaria
W.W. Norton and Co.

As the call to reckon with white supremacist legacies in our nation’s history grows, the moment is right for this bracing and compassionate manifesto for reconstructing the feminist movement to center voices of color. For Rafia Zakaria—a Muslim American, an immigrant, a civil rights attorney—the fight is personal and she brings a wide breadth of knowledge to bear here. Make room beside Audre Lorde and Angela Davis on your shelves.

See Also

Cover of Velvet Was the Night

Velvet Was the Night
By Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Del Rey

Having already mastered the speculative and crime genres, New York Times bestselling author Silvia Moreno-Garcia brings readers this sultry historical noir, just in time for the hottest month of the year. Set in 1970’s Mexico, Velvet Was the Night is a tale told with style and verve, immersing readers in this unique time and place, weaving strands of political dissent and student radicalism into a plot as thought-provoking as it is engrossing.

Cover of Real Estate

Real Estate
By Deborah Levy

Bloomsbury Publishing

We here at the CHIRB have been eagerly following the unfolding of Deborah Levy’s Working Autobiography over the past few years, and the third and final installment finally arrives this month. A three-time finalist for the Booker Prize, Levy’s singular blend of personal memoir and philosophical inquiry recalls the intellectual rigor of Virginia Woolf and immediacy of Ali Smith, but stands as its own remarkable achievement. An unmissable literary event.

Cover of After the Sun

After the Sun
By Jonas Eika; Translated by Sherilyn Nicolette Hellberg
Riverhead Books

Short story fans are spoiled for choice this month, but readers should still make time for Danish phenom Jonas Eika’s debut collection. Hopping both across the globe and genres, from Cancun to Copenhagen, the surreal to the hyperreal, each piece here unearths a new facet of the human condition, tying his disparate characters together as citizens in the increasingly confounding world of late capitalism. A major new international talent.

Cover of Moon and the Mars

Moon and the Mars
By Kia Corthron
Seven Stories Press

Kia Corthron’s debut doorstopper The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter won the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize back in 2016 and we’ve been awaiting her follow-up with much anticipation. Set in the Five Points neighborhood of New York City, which will be familiar to any Gangs of New York fans, Corthron’s new historical epic spins an absorbing and linguistically nimble tale that proves she’s one of our most dynamic and risk-taking writers.

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