While autumn decor and Halloween decorations are already splattering the aisles of retail shops, it’s still summer. And amid sun-filled day trips, campfires and outdoor activities, you may have missed some of the fantastic literature released in the past few months. Don’t worry, though — that’s where this list comes in. Before you switch over into pumpkin spice latte mode, here are five beach-ready books released this summer that you’re going to want to add to your “to be read” pile.
“Seven Days In June” by Tia Williams (Grand Central Publishing, $27). Bestselling erotica writer Eva Mercy unexpectedly runs into award-winning author Shane Hall at a literary event, causing both passion to bubble up and buried traumas to reemerge. As teenagers, the pair spent one week in June entangled in a steamy romance. Neither ever got over the other, and now, as adults, the attraction between them is stronger than ever. But don’t let the romantic aspects fool you; this novel is about much more than reunited love. Williams’ complex, developed characters dive into the highs and lows of Black life, sexism in publishing, living with an invisible disability and self-harm, among other topics. “Seven Days In June” is a dynamic contemporary romance novel that packs a powerful punch.
“What Makes You Think You’re Awake?” by Maegan Poland (Blair, $17.95). Carmen Maria Machado’s “Her Body and Other Parties” meets “The Twilight Zone” in this sharp and strange short story collection. From a mosquito-borne illness that results in paralysis invading a small Southern town to a solar flare blackout and a woman whose backyard shed freezes time, “What Makes You Think You’re Awake?” feel both painstakingly relatable and wholly uncomfortable. Each story has something that doesn’t sit well, something that makes you squirm and gets under your skin — but it’s impossible to pull away. With overarching themes of longing, loneliness and desire, this is a dark and dreamy collection where every story left me wanting more.
“The Shimmering State” by Meredith Westgate (Atria, $27). Mem, or Memoroxin, is a dangerous new party drug that has become available in Los Angeles. The experimental pill contains a person’s selected happy memories, and while intended to be used for those living with Alzheimer’s, trauma or mental illness, people are using Mem to experience the lives of others. Lucien and Sophie meet at a rehab facility for the drug and feel a deep, pulsating attraction to one another. But do they have a connection, or is what they are feeling a side effect of Mem? This dreamlike literary debut, which blends romance and dystopian science fiction, is hypnotic and unique.
“Ace of Spades” by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (Feiwel & Friends, $18.99). If you can’t deny the itch for all things spooky, “Ace of Spades” will be able to satisfy that craving. In this dark academia YA thriller that has been dubbed “Get Out” meets “Gossip Girl,” Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, two Black students at the prestigious Niveus Private Academy, are shoved into their school’s spotlight when someone named Aces uses anonymous text messages to reveal Devon and Chiamaka’s secrets. Dedicated to “all the Black kids drowning in the sunken place, desperately trying to claw their way out,” Àbíké-Íyímídé’s writing is exquisite — perfectly paced and rooted in reality. Content warning: This novel deals with racism, homophobia and suicidal intention.
“Summer Fun” by Jeanne Thornton (Soho Press, $27). The second novel from two-time Lambda Literary Award finalist Jeanne Thornton follows Gala, a trans woman living in small-town New Mexico who is obsessed with a classic 1960s pop band called the Get Happies, particularly their mysterious lead singer, B—. Gala wants to know why the band stopped making music and never released their rumored album, “Summer Fun.” So she starts writing letters to B—, and in doing so, sheds light not only on the Get Happies but also on herself. “Summer Fun” is a kooky, delightful read about transformative creation in music, identity, self and culture.