Every month, a deluge of new books comes flooding out from big publishers, indie houses, and self-publishing platforms. So every month, The A.V. Club narrows down the endless options to five of the books we’re most excited about.
Antkind by Charlie Kaufman (July 7, Random House)
Acclaimed filmmaker Charlie Kaufman (Anomalisa, Synecdoche, New York) tries his hand at literature with his debut novel, Antkind. As is to be expected from the mind behind stories like Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, there’s nothing straightforward about the plot. B. Rosenberger Rosenberg (yes, that’s the name), a frustrated film critic and academic, facing down the back half of his lackluster career, stumbles upon a man who may have created just the thing to secure B.’s place in academic history: a film that is three months long. B. agrees to the man’s terms—he will watch the entire thing, start to finish (pausing only to eat and sleep), and then at the end of that time, he will destroy the man’s movie—in hopes that the exclusive knowledge will leapfrog him to a place of professorial and popular success. This unusual premise ends up being the leaping off point for a sprawling story of memory, doppelgängers, and the narrator’s repeatedly expressed distaste for the works of a filmmaker named... Charlie Kaufman.
Hitchcock Blonde: A Cinematic Memoir by Sharon Dolin (July 7, Terra Nova)
Nearly all of us have distinct memories tied to popular culture (almost enough to build an entire website around). Poet Sharon Dolin’s pop culture memories are most firmly tied to the work of Alfred Hitchcock, and in her memoir, Hitchcock Blonde, she uses 10 of his iconic films to tell her story of growing up in Brooklyn in the ’60s and ’70s with a traveling salesman father and a mother with schizophrenia. As she remembers watching the films, then rewatches them, she finds that what creates suspense and what can make memory so terrifying are not so different: “My childhood was filled with absence,” she writes, “haunted by partial views.”
Craigslist Confessional: A Collection Of Secrets From Anonymous Strangers by Helena Dea Bala (July 7, Gallery Books)
Unsatisfied in her career, five years ago Helena Dea Bala quit her job as a lawyer and lobbyist and decided she would spend a year listening to people. She posted an ad on Craigslist saying she would listen, without any judgment, to people’s stories, whatever secrets they wouldn’t or couldn’t share with anyone else. The result is Craigslist Confessional, over 40 stories, whittled down from nearly 300, wherein strangers spoke with Dea Bala about depression and suicide, PTSD and war, sex addiction and affairs, and more. The intimate tales collected here show just what people are willing to reveal to an empathetic stranger, and how listening to others can change someone in turn.
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones (July 14, Gallery/Saga)
A prolific writer of literary horror as well as a chronicler of the Indigenous experience through the lens of genre fiction, Stephen Graham Jones returns with his first novel since 2017’s Mapping The Interior. Jones’ style has been compared to that of his contemporary and occasional collaborator Paul Tremblay, and The Only Good Indians moves at a similarly creeping clip, pacing that contrasts with the straightforwardness of Jones’ prose. Action scenes unfold with a disarming efficiency, and the dialogue is infused with the evasiveness of real life, leaving readers to look between the lines for the ancestral ghosts that similarly flick in and out of our guilt-ridden protagonist’s peripheral vision. Themes of legacy and tradition, and the consequences of leaving them behind, are developed from a specifically Native American perspective, but the lingering horror of regret is universal.
Intimations by Zadie Smith (July 28, Penguin Books)
In an essay for The New York Times, published in March, Sloane Crosley cautioned fellow writers tempted to rush to make art from the pandemic. “From an artistic standpoint, it’s best to let tragedy cool before gulping it down and spitting it back into everyone’s faces.” A good rule of thumb, and yet perhaps an exception could be made for Zadie Smith. In her slim paperback collection, Intimations, the lauded nonfiction and fiction writer has penned six essays on life in the early days of the pandemic. No mere chronicling, the essays use the global shutdown as a jumping-off point for grander considerations and feature Smith’s usual grace, patience, and thoughtfulness. In “Something To Do,” for instance, she mulls over an artist’s relationship to time, how the shutdown changes time, and how her reason for writing, at its simplest, is merely a way to fill it. “There is no great difference between novels and banana bread. They are both just something to do,” she writes. The author will donate her royalties to the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund—Mayor’s Fund and the Equal Justice Initiative.
More in July: Alice Knott by Blake Butler (July 7, Riverhead); True Love by Sarah Gerard (July 7, Harper); Vernon Subutex 2 by Virginie Despentes (July 7, FSG Originals); Sensation Machines by Adam Wilson (July 7, Soho); In The Land Of Good Living: A Journey To The Heart Of Florida by Kent Russell (July 7, Knopf); Cool For America by Andrew Martin (July 7, Farrar, Straus & Giroux); Fraternity by Benjamin Nugent (July 7, Farrar, Straus & Giroux); The Heart And Other Monsters by Rose Andersen (July 7, Bloomsbury); The Son Of Good Fortune by Lysley Tenorio (July 7, Ecco); The Rules Of Contagion: Why Things Spread And Why They Stop by Adam Kucharski (July 7, Basic); Memoirs And Misinformation by Jim Carrey (July 7, Knopf); A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green (July 7, Dutton); Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell (July 14, Random House); My Favorite Girlfriend Was A French Bulldog by Legna Rodriguez Iglesias (July 14, McSweeney’s); Make Russia Great Again by Christopher Buckley (July 14, Simon & Schuster); Natural History by Carlos Fonseca (July 14, Farrar, Straus & Giroux); Mansour’s Eyes by Ryad Girod (July 14, Transit); Inheritors by Asako Serizawa (July 14, Doubleday); Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford (July 14, Grove); Sex And Lies: True Stories Of Women’s Intimate Lives In The Arab World by Leila Slimani (July 14, Penguin); Niche: A Memoir In Pastiche by Momus (July 14, Farrar, Straus & Giroux); F*ckface: And Other Stories by Leah Hampton (July 14, Henry Holt); Remain In Love: Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, Tina by Chris Frantz (July 21, St. Martin’s Press); Pew by Catherine Lacey (July 21, Farrar, Straus & Giroux); Malorie by Josh Malerman (July 21, Del Ray); The Answer Is…: Reflections On My Life by Alex Trebek (July 21, Simon & Schuster); On Nostalgia by David Berry (July 21, Coach House); Riding With The Ghost by Justin Taylor (July 21, Random House); I Hold A Wolf By The Ears by Laura van den Berg (July 28, Farrar, Straus & Giroux); Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethewey (July 28, Ecco); Let’s Never Talk About This Again by Sara Faith Alterman (July 28, Grand Central); It Is Wood, It Is Stone by Gabriella Burnham (July 28, One World); The Butterfly Lampshade by Aimee Bender (July 28, Doubleday); Life Events by Karolina Waclawiak (July 28, Farrar, Straus & Giroux); Total F*cking Godhead: The Biography Of Chris Cornell by Corbin Reiff (July 28, Post Hill); Must I Go by Yiyun Li (July 28, Random House)