This June, we’re diving into powerful memoirs like Dave Eggers’s Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and Manal Al-Sharif’s Daring to Drive, as well as novels that run the gamut from classic sci-fi (Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) to intimate family dramas (Katie Kitamura’s A Separation and Zinzi Clemmons’s What We Lose). Check out all the books we’ve recommended so far here.
At the start of A Separation, the young, unnamed narrator is sent to Greece to look for her recently estranged husband — by his mother, who doesn’t yet know about their split. Kitamura’s prose is impeccably tight and controlled, making the twist midway through truly unexpected and dark. – Gabriella Paiella, Staff Writer
American feminist discourse can feel saturated with debates about the Hollywood wage gap (guess what: everyone in Hollywood makes plenty of money!) or the latest Instagram controversy, which is one reason it’s worth getting a little perspective on what exactly the fight for gender equality is really about. Enter Daring to Drive, the memoir of Saudi driving activist Manal al-Sharif. Growing up in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, Sharif traces her troubled childhood, descent into Wahhabi-Salafist Islamic extremism, and eventual reemergence as a women’s rights activist. Sharif has been through hell and back: she was viciously beaten by her parents, brainwashed by extremist ideology, and eventually imprisoned in nightmarish conditions just for driving a car. This book will piss you off and make you want to fight for women’s rights in a way no empowering Dove campaign could. – Jessica Roy, News Editor
A fantastic debut novel about a young woman named Thandi grappling with her mother’s recent death, her race, a complicated romantic relationship, and more. I went into this book blindly, having no idea what it was about or what to expect and wound up loving it so much I finished it in the course of a weekend. Author Zinzi Clemmons paints Thandi’s grief and sadness with so much light you never feel you’re going to drown in it. One of my favorite lines: “Yes, there is that dark, terrifying loneliness that scares me, but I am acquainted with fear. If I stay inside it long enough, root my heels in deeper, it doesn’t feel scary anymore. It feels like home.” – Aude White, Communications Manager
The older and squarer I get, the more I love a good 600-page book about people in bands doing drugs. Motley Crue’s The Dirt will always be the ultimate classic of this genre, but Meet Me in the Bathroom, by Cut contributor Lizzy Goodman, is quickly becoming my new favorite. An oral history of rock music in New York in the ‘00s — the Strokes, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, LCD Soundsystem — it’s a vivid, kaleidoscopic, extremely fun ode to a moment in time that only just became the past. – Izzy Grinspan, Senior Editor
This sci-fi thriller, the inspiration for the movie Blade Runner, is set on a futuristic Earth that’s been destroyed by “the World War” and is being slowly consumed by radioactive dust. It follows bounty hunter Rick Deckard — one of the few humans who hasn’t emigrated to Mars — as he hunts down eerily human-like androids and “retires” (read: kills) them. At just a couple hundred pages, the book is both fodder for a complex moral and philosophical debate and a quick, engrossing read. — Claire Landsbaum, Staff Writer
It was announced last week that Tracy K. Smith would be the nation’s new poet laureate. Her most recent collection of poems, Life on Mars, plays with science-fiction themes while remaining loosely tethered to Earth — which makes for an appropriate escape in a time when we’d all desperately like to be shot into space. Not a poetry person? Her 2016 memoir, Ordinary Light, is equally good. –Dayna Evans, senior writer
This book is so weird! I love it! Nobody writes characters as bizarre as Matthew Klam does, and nobody eviscerates their characters as lovingly. In the seven short stories that make up Sam the Cat, Klam draws bleakly funny portraits of young Americans who have absolutely no problems, and therefore have all the problems. They are insufferable, intolerable, in a totally addictive way. And no matter how wretched or tortured their situations, Klam makes sure that the portrait of male misery is a punchline rather than something to pity. I haven’t laughed this hard in a while. And, after writing the acclaimed debut book every dude in your college Creative Writing Seminar dreams of, Klam disappeared for 16 years — but he’s back this summer though with a new book, Who is Rich? I can’t wait. – Allison P. Davis, senior culture writer
This book has won just about every award possible since it was published last year. Now it’s out in paperback, which means you have no excuse not to finally read it. Desmond’s up-close account of the relentlessness of poverty — specifically, of what it’s like to spend almost all your income on rent, live in miserable conditions that your landlord has no incentive to improve, risk getting kicked out if you complain or call the cops, and not be able to find another place to live because you’ve already been evicted before — is horrifying.–Molly Fischer, features editor
Dave Eggers’s debut book is a tour de force that transcends genre: the narrative is almost too intricately detailed to be true, but the voice — manic-depressive, rambling, funny — carries the kind of authenticity of lived experience. (It also includes a preface called “Rules and Suggestions for Enjoyment of This Book,” which encourages the reader to skip over large chunks.) Reach for this instead of Eggers’s newer Silicon Valley satire The Circle.– Sarah Nechamkin, editorial intern
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