And, no, Sally Rooney is not on this list
Against all odds, we are more than halfway through yet another dumpster fire year! The Delta variant may be raging its way through beach towns everywhere, but I’m sticking to my couch and my books—and, lucky for me, there’s no shortage of great new reads to check out. I’ve compiled a unique group of new and upcoming titles below to guide your reading through Labor Day Weekend and into the great flannel beyond.
This summer, we’ve seen new work from Claire Fuller, Jasmine Guillroy, Paula Hawkins and Stephen King, as well as Afterparties, the buzzy posthumous short story collection from Anthony Veasna So. The fall will also deliver titles from Lauren Groff, Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Colson Whitehead, as well as memoirs from Will Smith and Instagram-famous mixologist Stanley Tucci.
And, of course, September will see a new novel from millennial wunderkind Sally Rooney. The New York Times reports that the novel will follow four (beautiful, smart) Irish young people navigating “the pressures of work and relationships against the backdrop of political turmoil and fears about their economic futures.” Advance copies of the new title have been a status symbol on the literary web this summer, and I am obviously not at all hurt that I didn’t get one.
**internal and external screaming** pic.twitter.com/rYkvNflFTE
— Sophie Vershbow (@svershbow) August 16, 2021
If my winter round-up revealed my penchant for sad girl novels, then these eight books are the polar opposite: inspiring bildungsromans, stories of love that can overcome any obstacle, and a beach read or two. Read about these eight new and upcoming books below, and share the ones you’re most excited for in the comments.
Colorful by Eto Mori, trans. by Jocelyne Allen (July 20, Counterpoint Press)
The back cover says that author Eto Mori’s Colorful is “a beloved and bestselling classic in Japan,” and the coming-of-age novel lives up to that hype. A lost soul gets a do-over at life in the body of a 14-year-old boy, who’s just tried to commit suicide: a heavy premise for an otherwise lovely and heartwarming novel. What keeps Colorful from being too over-the-top life-affirming is the protagonist’s voice—thanks, in large part, to translator Jocelyne Allen’s work. Mori captures the droll, bored and, at times, inappropriate mind of a teenage boy, but makes it worthwhile for an adult reader.
The Eternal Audience of One by Rémy Ngamije (August 10, Gallery/Scout Press)
This debut novel from author Rémy Ngamije is the best book I have read this year. I wanted to highlight every sentence, savor each turn of phrase, and recreate every late ’90s playlist for my own use. In this coming-of-age story, protagonist Séraphin is a Rwandan refugee living in Namibia and studying at a South African university. But what stands out to me most is Ngamije’s voice, which is actually laugh-out-loud funny. I cannot recommend this one enough.
The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun (September 7, Atria Books)
Did anyone else pick up some serious reality TV habits over the last year? Then Alison Cochrun has written the romcom for you: Charlie, a classically handsome reality star à la The Bachelor, falls for Dev, his Indian American producer, and ruins the heteronormative, happily ever after of the show. And in doing so, readers get a sweet, uncomplicated little romance that thoughtfully approaches masculinity, sexuality and mental health.
A Lot Like Adiós by Alexis Daria (September 14, William Morrow Paperbacks)
In the middle of COVID-19 isolation last year, Alexis Daria’s debut novel, You Had Me At Hola, was a shining light. The romance told the love story of two telenovela stars and introduced readers to the Rodriguez family. She continues in this same universe with A Lot Like Adiós this fall—but absolutely does not cover the same territory. Don’t buy this novel for your abuela, folks! It is very, very sexy.
Overtime: Why We Need A Shorter Working Week by Kyle Lewis and Will Stronge (September 14, Verso Books)
If nothing else, the COVID-19 pandemic has definitely changed many people’s relationship to their work since March 2020. If you’re not working remotely (and now fighting to keep it that way), then you’ve sloughed through terrible and traumatizing working conditions in the last 18 months or struggled with unemployment. Overtime capitalizes on this labor disruption and argues against the 40-hour work week. The authors put words and arguments to a lot of my own feelings of frustration and limitation within my day job’s traditional schedule and offer a better way to work and value our time. (Someone send this to my boss please.)
Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune (September 21, Tor Books)
Author T.J. Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea was a delightful pandemic novel, popping on and off the New York Times Bestseller list all year and setting science fiction/fantasy records on Amazon in 2020. Under the Whispering Door isn’t a sequel, but it’s definitely a spiritual follow-up: Klune traces similar light fantasy territory and delivers some serious queer longing. The main character dies within the first few pages of the novel but, thankfully, that doesn’t stop the power of love.
Grave Reservations by Cherie Priest (October 26, Atria Books)
I was skeptical of Cherie Priest’s psychic detective novel when I first cracked it open beside the pool this summer. The premise—a clairvoyant secretly helps the Seattle Police solve a murder —calls to mind Shawn Spencer in Psych. But once I got a few pages in, I was hooked. Grave Reservations is a beach read for the fall, a fun and funny mystery with just the right amount of don’t-look-around-that-corner thriller. Read it over a long weekend and enjoy yourself.
Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed: 15 Voices from the Latinx Diaspora by Various Authors, edited by Saraciea J. Fennell (November 2, Flatiron Books)
I just received an advanced copy of this collection, edited by The Bronx Is Reading founder Saraciea J. Fennell, and I am so excited to dig in. Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed collects the essays and musings of over two dozen Latinx voices, including poet Elizabeth Acevedo. A mix of theory and creative work, the collection is written for a YA audience, but what I’ve read so far—Cristina Arreola’s essay about ghosts, grief and West Texas—absolutely had me hooked. Thumb through it this fall and find a new favorite author.