With summer now in full swing, there is no better time to savor a new book under the warm glow of the sun. Nevertheless, with an endless array of undiscovered literature seemingly awaiting your attention, picking a book may feel like a daunting task.
If that is the case for you—look no further! We have compiled some of the best releases from the past year, with page-turners for readers of every type. From thrillers to poetry, the following 19 books are all freshly released within the last year. Mostly. While some come from debut authors who have hit the ground running and others are the latest among a long line of hits, there is something here for everyone.
If there was ever a perfect duo to write a book on the intersection of history and music, this would be it. Authored by Pulitzer-prize winning writer Jon Meacham and Grammy-award winning country musician Tim McGraw, Songs of America celebrates the distinctly American tune of patriotism and protest—from Revolutionary War battle cries to suffrage movement hymns. The authors have appeared on multiple shows to discuss their New York Times bestseller—The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, TODAY, and The View among others.
Described in an Adroit review as “an exquisite archeology,” T Kira Madden’s debut work is both a memoir and a mosaic: small, self-contained stories pieced together to form a larger story. The principal characters—the “tribe of fatherless girls”—are three high school friends who each grapple with a biracial and queer relationship awakening as they find their place within a conservative, rural community.
Ocean Vuong, a poet who released his debut poetry collection in 2016 to critical acclaim, has recently released his first novel. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous amalgamates Vuong’s ethereal literary touch with his Vietnamese-American heritage, documenting the struggles faced by an interracial, queer couple in predominantly white, conservative Appalachia. Despite covering raw issues from substance abuse to PTSD, Vuong’s deft poetic touch still surfaces. In this New York Times bestseller, gunshots ring “like Little League home runs cracked one after another out of the night’s park.”
Despite being published in August 2018, Educated, a 40+ week New York Times bestseller and the author’s debut memoir, still earns a spot in this list. In her work, Westover describes her journey from living in a Mormon fundamentalist family—one that constantly prepared for the “End of Ages”—to a Gates Scholar and Cambridge-educated historian. Much like J.D. Vance’s 2016 breakout book Hillbilly Elegy, Westover reveals life in the decaying Midwest with raw grit and intensity; her stunning depiction of inter-and-intrapersonal conflict with religion and culture was one of the primary reasons that she earned a spot in TIME’s “100 Most Influential People of 2019.”
Stephanie Burt of the New York Times writes that “Helal’s first stellar book belongs to many categories, and to none.” Her assessment of the poetry collection perfectly sums up its core struggle: finding a place while preserving the different facets of one’s identity. Helal, an Egyptian-American who has lived in both countries, synthesizes her experiences grappling with each country’s customs and institutions in pursuit of what she describes as a “common humanity.” Justin Phelps Reed’s review of the collection for Adroit echoed this sentiment; he describes it as a reckoning with “geographic, linguistic, and memorial distances.”
Sally Rooney’s new novel about a relationship between a popular football captain and an introverted girl may initially seem like another take on a tired, overdone young adult romance theme. However, when both graduate high school and enroll at Trinity College in Dublin, the usual script flips. As they each acclimatize to their new environment, both embark on new paths before eventually falling back on the other. Normal People is a New York Times bestseller and will become a Hulu series in 2020.
The title for Issue Eighteen contributor Hanif Abdurraqib’s new book reads: “This… is a love letter to a group, a sound, and an era. It is called Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes To A Tribe Called Quest.” Go Ahead In The Rain documents the thirty-year career of hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest; however, it is far more than a historical documentary or a musical critique. Instead, as Maria Esquinca writes in her review of the book for Adroit, it is “partly autobiographical, partly non-fiction, partly historical”—a “genre-bending” conversation about music’s role in shaping the racial culture of America.
After listing many hit debut works, we now move to the complete opposite of the spectrum with Lost and Found, Danielle Steel’s 174th novel. She certainly has the pedigree, with over 800 million book sales worldwide placing her as the fourth highest-selling fiction author of all time. Her latest New York Times bestseller follows a romantic format familiar to readers of her books. In Lost and Found, a wealthy Manhattan mother experiences a crisis of confidence and begins a road trip around the country to meet her past romantic partners and confront forgotten encounters from long ago.
The Collected Schizophrenias can best be described as a balancing act. Written by a schizophrenic for fellow members of “collected schizophrenias” (as she puts it), Esmé Weijun Wang’s work intimately analyzes and balances the scientific methodology and popular culture surrounding the mental disease. As a former head researcher at Stanford (who also holds an MFA from the University of Michigan), Wang deftly dispels misconceptions and elucidates the complexities behind the misunderstood disease.
Many readers who regularly peruse periodicals may recognize this author. Colson Whitehead is “America’s Storyteller,” the headline by which he appeared in the July 8th cover of TIME magazine. After winning a Pulitzer Prize for The Underground Railroad three years ago, Whitehead transitions from slavery to the Jim Crow era in his latest book, The Nickel Boys. This novel follows the life of two boys through an abusive reform school, haunted by the specter of segregation. Based on a true story, Whitehead dramatizes and personifies the tumultuous era of Civil Rights reform in a piece of America still snarled in the past.
Winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Overstory discusses one of today’s most important issues: environmentalism. The novel follows nine characters—among them a Vietnam veteran, a young coding prodigy, and the last descendant of immigrant pioneers—whose close relationships with trees, lasting sometimes for generations, lead them to a deep appreciation of the world’s threatened forests. Throughout his book, Powers combines critical commentary with a deft sense for storytelling for what the Pulitzer Committee describes as an “ingeniously structured narrative.”
Much like Long Live The Tribe of Fatherless Girls and The Collected Schizophrenias, Ariana Reines’s A Sand Book is a mosaic of sorts. It tackles the entropy that defines our present—echoes of Sandy Hook’s gunshots, Hurricane Sandy’s violent gales, and silent screams by the Rio Grande pervade the pages. Michael J. Emmons eloquently summarizes the underlying themes in his review of the work for Adroit: fragments of “chaos, estrangement, dissonance… the impossibility of spiritual fulfillment” drive the poetry; it is a “map of the desert we all have to navigate.”
We are rarely completely open with anyone. Whether it’s with family members, spouses, or significant others, most of us keep small snippets of our private lives to ourselves. Nevertheless, when we allow it, one person can see beyond this veil—a therapist. In her New York Times Bestselling book, Maybe You Should Talk To Someone, Lori Gottlieb discusses her role both serving as AND learning under a therapist. From suicidal grandparents to soul-searching young women, she offers poignant insight into the human condition and reflects on her search for answers amidst the throes of her patient’s problems. Maybe You Should Talk To Someone has also been converted to a forthcoming show from ABC.
John McCarthy’s newest poetry collection, Scared Violent Like Horses, tackles the personal battle against socioeconomic decay that plagues his home—part of “flyover country”—in the rural Midwest. In a recent interview with Lisa Higgs, McCarthy spoke about his work, noting that it is an “elegy” of sorts, one that he hopes can help “convert trauma into tenderness” and address the lingering woes that plague the region. Scared Violent Like Horses was selected by Victoria Chang as the winner of the Jake Adam York poetry prize.
As Katherine Coldiron describes it in her review for Adroit, The Conviction of Cora Burns is “meaty, potent, and spicy.” In Kirby’s debut novel, Cora Burns is a released convict who finds work in the home of Thomas Jerwood, a gentleman-scientist studying hereditary criminality. Yet, despite finding stable footing for the first time in her life, Burns’ reality quickly begins to crumble yet again as she pursues the truth behind her family—whom she has never seen—and her role with Mr. Jerwood. In this mystery/thriller novel, Burns dives deep into the “dark underbelly” of Victorian London to unearth her true past and her true identity.
Despite the balmy temperatures and tropical wind, summer can also often be a time of loneliness and emotional introspection. For those who feel that way (and for those who don’t), Delia Owens’ debut novel, Where The Crawdads Sing, may strike the right note. Where The Crawdads Sing focuses on Kya Clark, a so-called “Marsh Girl” who lives alone in the wilderness until she is drawn into suspicion for a local small-town murder. She begins to draw attention from the locals, particularly from two young men who become intrigued by her wild beauty and manage to establish a connection with her. Both for thrillers and romantics, this 18-week #1 New York Times bestseller (with a 5- star rating on Amazon!) is sure to impress.
Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt works day-to-day as a psychologist and a consultant to law enforcement. Naturally, her work has forced her to study a long-problematic issue that has been in the public spotlight for centuries: racial discrimination and violence within our country’s police force. Her new book, Biased, focuses on the unconscious prejudice and ingrained stereotypes that affect us everywhere, “from courtrooms and boardrooms, in prisons, on the street, and in classrooms and coffee shops.” She shines light on the problem with a multitude of everyday examples but also offers practical individual and systemic suggestions for improvement. Eberhardt, a former MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, has been featured in TIME and NPR to discuss her New York Times bestselling book.
Running To The Edge is the latest book by Matthew Furman, the Deputy Sports Editor of The New York Times. It chronicles the fascinating rise of Bob Larsen, a man who seemingly “unlocked” the art of coaching runners. From winning seven state titles in a tiny San Diego community college to launching a struggling UCLA upstart track program into national championships in his first year, Larsen is widely hailed as one of the best athletics coaches of all time. In his book, Furman combines journalist-level investigative research with newsroom-esque storytelling to highlight Larsen’s pursuit of “the epic run.”
Our last featured work is by Arthur Sze, a former Pulitzer Prize finalist. Sight Lines is his tenth book of poetry, one that incorporates a potpourri of intercultural and intersensory experiences. In his interview with Adroit, Sze speaks extensively about “destabilizing language” and forcing readers to go beyond English to “consider how the Chinese use pictorial elements.” In addition, Sze also notes that he “tries to use contrasts,” creating both “plurality and polyphony” in the process.