11 New Books Coming in August



This debut collection, set in the Cambodian American community in California, focuses on queer characters. The legacy of the Khmer Rouge’s genocide looms, but So, who died in 2020, creates plenty of lighthearted moments, too. In one scene, a character chides a member from an older generation: “Violence will not solve our problems, and neither will the model minority myth.”

[ Read more about So. | Read our review. ]

King recounts the major accomplishments of her professional and personal life, from winning 39 Grand Slam titles and demolishing Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” match to throwing herself into political and social activism.

Mildred Harnack, born in Milwaukee, lived an extraordinary life: She was studying at a German university when the Nazi party, exploiting the country’s economic and political instability, rose to power. Alarmed, Harnack organized a large underground resistance group in Berlin, and was eventually arrested and killed on Hitler’s orders. Donner — Harnack’s great-great niece — draws on notes, diaries, letters and declassified intelligence materials to offer this window into 1930s Germany and Harnack’s remarkable actions.

Billy Summers isn’t a typical hit man — he’s thinking about Émile Zola when the book opens, for starters, and has a strict rule of only killing “bad guys.” Though he’s close to retirement, he’s persuaded to carry out a last hit, but is wary: “If noir is a genre, then ‘one last job’ is a sub-genre,” he thinks. “In those movies, the last job always goes bad.” His prediction comes true, of course, but King offers plenty of unexpected swerves.

Wilson, a noted literary biographer, uses Dante’s “The Divine Comedy” to structure this book, which focuses on the middle period of Lawrence’s life, from 1915 through 1925. Each section finds the author in a new location — England, Italy and the American Southwest — and follows how he essentially became a different man in each place. As Wilson writes: “For all his claims to prophetic vision, Lawrence had little idea what was going on in the room let alone in the world. His fidelity as a writer was not to the truth but to his own contradictions, and reading him today is like tuning into a radio station whose frequency keeps changing.”

Current discussions around the ethics of A.I. and other technological advances center on essentially ancient questions, O’Gieblyn says: “Today artificial intelligence and information technologies have absorbed many of the questions that were once taken up by theologians and philosophers: the mind’s relationship to the body, the question of free will, the possibility of immortality.” The philosophical queries that guide her book remain clear and accessible, and O’Gieblyn, who was once religious but no longer believes in God, draws on her own experiences to strong effect.

The first novel in a planned trilogy, this book borrows from Slimani’s family history in Morocco after World War II. Mathilde, a Frenchwoman, struggles to adjust to life with her Moroccan husband, Amine. The lead-up to Morocco’s independence exacerbates tensions at home, as Amine reconciles his political beliefs with his marriage to a Frenchwoman, and Mathilde works to find a measure of autonomy in a country that she finds hostile.

In her first novel, Jeffers, a nominee for the National Book Award in poetry, traces the history of one family from the arrival of its first enslaved ancestors. At its heart is Ailey, growing up in the 1980s, who returns each year to her family’s ancestral home in Georgia. As she gets older, she uncovers secrets about her history that challenge her sense of self and belonging.

“Like many of the ghost stories I’ve grown up with, this one needs to start with a death,” writes Chow, a founding member of NPR’s “Code Switch.” The death at the heart of this book is of Chow’s mother, in 2004. For years, Chow and her family rarely spoke of their mother, and even avoided looking at pictures of her. Now, Chow dives deeper into her mother’s life and the history of her family, from Hong Kong to the U.S. and beyond.

Kleeman’s fiction veers toward the dystopian: Her debut, “You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine,” focused on characters whose enchantment with television led them down disturbing paths. Now, she follows a novelist, Patrick Hamblin, who arrives in Los Angeles to help with the film adaptation of one of his books. The usual Hollywood horrors are here — corruption, outsize egos, an unruly former child star — but Patrick is unnerved by the extent of the ecological damage he sees in California, which seems headed for an environmental apocalypse.

“America’s colleges and universities have a dirty open secret,” writes Harris, a staff writer for The Atlantic. “They have never given Black people an equal chance to succeed.” He details the lengths states have gone to to avoid integration — at the time of the book’s writing, six states had “not proved to the federal government that they have desegregated their higher-education systems” — and explores how these exclusionary approaches perpetuate inequity.


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