Ten books to read in July

Bethanne Patrick

THE WASHINGTON POST – The best thing about social distancing? You have a valid excuse to stay home and read. Of course, some establishments are re-opening, and that includes bookstores.

Patronise them when you can and remember to wear a mask when you do. You’ll want to be safe and courteous as you check out July’s bumper crop of new titles.

Say It Louder!: Black Voters, White Narratives, and Saving Our Democracy by Tiffany D Cross

Cross is a veteran news analyst whose time on the campaign trail has convinced her that black voters can shape the future of the United States (US) – if they are not silenced. She examines the paradox of a system designed to exclude black lives that would not exist without them.

Notes on a Silencing: A Memoir by Lacy Crawford

Assaulted at 15 by two fellow students at a prestigious prep school, Crawford spent years putting her past behind her. But when she found out she wasn’t the only victim, she came forward, only to learn about the extensive and sustained efforts by school leaders to cover up a culture of abuse.

The Vapors: A Southern Family, the New York Mob, and the Rise and Fall of Hot Springs, America’s Forgotten Capital of Vice by David Hill

Hill, a native of Hot Springs, Arkansas, takes readers back to the 1930s to ’60s, when that city was as rife with gang activity as Las Vegas or Miami. When Owney Madden came to town and decided to open a resort called The Vapors, casinos and racetracks followed. Hill interweaves this history with first-person accounts, including one from his grandmother.

Antkind: A Novel by Charlie Kaufman

Once you enter the world of protagonist B Rosenberger Rosenberg, who has seen a three-month-long film masterpiece that no one else has, you won’t be able to extricate yourself until the 700-plus-page novel is finished. Kaufman (the screenwriter of Being John Malkovich, Anomalisa and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) crafts a mind-bending fever dream that’s also a ripping good read.

Want: A Novel by Lynn Steger Strong

Despite a PhD, a husband and kids, Elizabeth feels like she’s reached a dead end: She’s bankrupt and can’t find a job in academia, while her husband struggles to get his carpentry business off the ground. But when she reconnects with her childhood friend, Sasha, old patterns resurface alongside an overwhelming desire for complete fulfilment.

Utopia Avenue: A Novel by David Mitchell

This rock-opera of a book follows Utopia Avenue, a bizarre band whose members include Jasper de Zoet (yes, a descendant of the title character in Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, set in 17th-Century Japan). Mitchell’s rich imaginative stews bubble with history and drama, and this time the flavour is a blend of Carnaby Street and Chateau Marmont.

Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism by Anne Applebaum

Please listen to Applebaum, and not simply because she was previously a columnist at The Washington Post. She’s been sounding alarm bells about anti-democratic trends in Europe for a long time, and as an acclaimed historian of the Soviet Union (she won a Pulitzer in 2004 for Gulag: A History), Applebaum understands how and why authoritarianism takes hold.

Hamnet: A Novel by Maggie O’Farrell

Imagine that a penniless Latin tutor married to a somewhat wild woman had a son they loved to distraction, who died of a plague. His name was Hamnet – and a few years later the tutor would pen a play titled Hamlet. But that’s really as far as O’Farrell goes with the Shakespeare stuff in this brilliant examination of grief and family bonds.

Afterland: A Novel by Lauren Beukes

Three years after a pandemic known as The Manfall, the world is run by women. Is it a better place? Not for mothers like Cole, who will go to any length to protect her 12-year-old son from a fate as a reproductive resource, object or “stand-in son”. To evade Cole’s sister, mother and son must race across a US transformed by imbalance and despair.

Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethewey

When a poet writes a memoir, take note. When that poet is Trethewey, former poet laureate of the US, start reading immediately. The author was 19 when her stepfather shot and killed her mother at their home in Atlanta. While the book grapples with personal pain, its expansion into the societal ills of racism and domestic abuse lifts it to a new level of urgency.