We recommend: The best new book releases
The best of new fiction
Tom Lake: by Ann Patchett. Set in the beginning of the pandemic, this book brings an introspective lens and explores the bonds between Lara and her three daughters. Lara narrates her 6-month romantic fling with a fictional Oscar winning actor in her youth. The memory prompts the girls to look back on their own upbringing and relationships.
The reviews are great! Washington Post says it is not about heartbreak but about all kinds of love—including “the love of stories, love of the land and trees and the tiny, red, cordiform object that is a cherry.” The Guardian calls it “epiphanic” as “the understanding comes not in some soaring climax, but cumulatively, across many moments, each one brimful of the half glimpsed, the almost understood.” (August 1)
Tastes like Shakkar: by Nisha Sharma. This is a sequel to the author’s ‘Dating Dr Dil’ which was released last year from her 'If Shakespeare was an Auntie' series. This new one is about protagonist Bobbi Kaur who is planning her best friend’s wedding with the help of Chef Bunty who is described as “egotistical, and irritatingly sexy”. The catch: someone is trying to sabotage the wedding. Sounds like a fun filmy rollercoaster! (August 1)
The End of August: by Yū Miri (Translated by Morgan Giles). Here is a historical fiction with an element of surrealism by an award winning writer who is a Korean citizen but writes in her mother tongue Japanese. In it, a Japanese girl preparing for a marathon starts seeing ghosts due to a Shamanic ritual and is tasked with setting them free while uncovering generational trauma and understanding South Korea under Japanese imperialism.
The original was published in 2004 but this translated version was released this month. Kirkus Reviews writes: “Translator Giles leaves many Korean terms relating to family and rituals untranslated, which creates an immersive effect and underscores the theme of an instinct to preserve one’s culture when another attempts to erase it. (Koreans were forced to change their names by the Japanese.) The book is overlong, but Yu’s passion for rescuing history from violence is palpable on every page.” (August 1)
The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store: by James McBride. The author returns with a crime novel set in Chicken Hill, a vibrant Black and Jewish neighborhood in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. The non-linear timeline which jumps from the 1970s to 1930s makes for an interesting dive into the culture and community of the town. The book has been featured on the New York Times August booklist. Kirkus Reviews writes: “The interlocking destinies of these and other characters make for tense, absorbing drama and, at times, warm, humane comedy. McBride’s well-established skill with narrative tactics may sometimes spill toward the melodramatic here.”(August 8)
Bridge: by Lauren Beukes. Here is one from the writer of AppleTV+’s smash hit ‘The Shining Girls’. The convoluted plot follows Bridget Kittinger who encounters a “dreamworm” which takes her to alternative realities—think parallel universes—in search of her mother who dedicated her whole life to the mysterious object and died in the original universe while also being chased by a woman seeking to eradicate her. Kirkus Reviews notes: “The worldbuilding here is skillful, as is the pacing—Beukes avoids dropping anvil-like plot points or world details, trusting the reader to unpack clues and read between the lines.” (August 8)
Happiness Falls: by Angie Kim. This mystery-thriller follows a biracial Korean-American family in crisis trying to find a father who has gone missing. The only witness to this scenario who might have some answers is his son—Eugene, who has the rare genetic condition Angelman syndrome and cannot speak. Since it is narrated by the daughter—Mia—there is a lot of introspection and unravelling of themes that connect the family together. Kirkus Reviews deems this read to be “potentially life changing” calling Mia and Eugene “amazing” creations by the author. (August 29)
This month’s poetry pick
Bright Fear by Mary Jean Chan: This poetry book has been shortlisted for The Forward Prizes for Poetry which are widely coveted awards for new poetry published in the UK and Ireland. In it, Mary Jean Chan has addressed the microaggressions stemming from queerphobia and anti-Asian racism during the Covid pandemic. (August 3)
The best of the non-fiction list
How Prime Ministers Decide: by Neerja Chowdhury. This book by veteran journalist Neerja Chowdhury reveals rare and untold details from the tenures of Prime Ministers across contemporary India. She takes a critical look at every leader’s defining decisions, ranging from Indira Gandhi’s return to power in 1980, Rajiv Gandhi’s choice to undo the Shah Bano case, Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s policy to pursue nuclear weapons and Manmohan Singh’s tenure as a PM for a decade. The book provides fascinating insights into the decisions that have been taken beyond the public’s purview, and how they have shaped modern India. (July 30)
Daughter of the Dragon: Anna May Wong's Rendezvous with American History: by Yunte Huang. Anna May Wong became one of Hollywood’s most famous Chinese-American actresses in the 20th century. This journey was riddled with a lot of difficulties in an anti-Asian racist climate. Yunte Huang tracks Wong’s life and career and presents a concise history of Asian American culture at the turn of the century. (August 22)
Where We Come From: How Grime and Rap Gave Voice to a Generation: by Aniefiok Ekpoudom. This is a unique novel about British Rap and Grime and also about how music influences society and culture. Ekpoudom tells the social history of how black and working-class communities in modern Britain created the culture of hip-hop music in the UK and revolutionised the music scene for years to come. The novel chronicles the journey of different neighbourhoods across Britain and how that has featured in modern British music. (August 29)