The Best Books of July 2019

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The Best Books of July 2019

Our picks for the best new books of July include everything from Colson Whitehead’s powerful novel to Ben Folds’ new memoir. Exploring diverse topics from time travel to a sleepwalking epidemic, these eight books (listed in order of release date) deliver entertaining reads you don’t want to miss this summer.


Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

Release Date: July 2nd from Del Rey

Why You’ll Love It: Chuck Wendig’s massive novel will captivate you from start to finish, delivering a chilling, original take on society’s collapse amidst an epidemic.

Description from the Publisher: Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking and is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and her sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead. For as the sleepwalking phenomenon awakens terror and violence in America, the real danger may not be the epidemic but the fear of it. With society collapsing all around them—and an ultraviolent militia threatening to exterminate them—the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic.


What Do We Need Men For?: A Modest Proposal by E. Jean Carroll

Release Date: July 2nd from St. Martin’s Press

Why You’ll Love It: In her compelling book, Elle advice columnist E. Jean Carroll transforms a challenging topic into a gripping yet easily readable text.

(Read Paste’s essay on the novel here.)

Description from the Publisher: When E. Jean Carroll realized that her eight million readers and question-writers all seemed to have one thing in common—problems caused by men—she hit the road. Crisscrossing the country, E. Jean stopped in every town named after a woman between Eden, Vermont and Tallulah, Louisiana to ask women the crucial question: What Do We Need Men For? E. Jean intertwines the stories of the fascinating people she meets on her road trip with her “horrible history with the male sex” (including mafia bosses, media titans, boyfriends, husbands, a serial killer and a president), creating a decidedly dark yet hopeful narrative. Her answer to the question What Do We Need Men For? will shock men and delight women.


Shapes of Native Nonfiction: Collected Essays by Contemporary Writers edited by Elissa Washuta and Theresa Warburton

Release Date: July 3rd from University of Washington Press

Why You’ll Love It: This essay collection boasts 27 Native writers examining myriad topics with wit and insight, resulting in a must-read from talented voices to watch.

Description from the Publisher: Just as a basket’s purpose determines its materials, weave and shape, so too is the purpose of the essay related to its material, weave and shape. Editors Elissa Washuta and Theresa Warburton ground this anthology of essays by Native writers in the formal art of basket weaving. Using weaving techniques such as coiling and plaiting as organizing themes, the editors have curated an exciting collection of imaginative, world-making lyric essays by 27 contemporary Native writers from tribal nations across Turtle Island into a well-crafted basket.


Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

Release Date: July 9th from Avid Reader Press

Why You’ll Love It: The result of nearly a decade of immersive reporting, Lisa Taddeo’s fascinating book follows three women’s stories to define what desire means in America.

Description from the Publisher: We begin in suburban Indiana with Lina, a homemaker and mother of two whose marriage, after a decade, has lost its passion. Starved for affection, Lina embarks on an affair that quickly becomes all-consuming. In North Dakota we meet Maggie, a 17-year-old high school student who begins a physical relationship with her married English teacher before he breaks it off when he turns 30. When she later learns that this man has been named North Dakota’s Teacher of the Year, she steps forward with her story—and is met with disbelief by former schoolmates and the jury that hears her case. Finally, in an exclusive enclave of the Northeast, we meet Sloane—a refined restaurant owner—who is happily married to a man who likes to watch her have sex with other men and women. One day, they invite a new man into their bed—but he brings a secret with him that will finally force Sloane to confront the uneven power dynamics that fuel their lifestyle.


The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Release Date: July 16th from Doubleday

Why You’ll Love It: Based on a real Florida reform school that abused children for 111 years, Colson Whitehead’s enthralling novel will stick with you long after the final page.

Description from the Publisher: Abandoned by his parents but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood Curtis is about to enroll in the local black college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to be sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy. The Nickel Academy is a grotesque chamber of horrors where the sadistic staff beats and sexually abuses the students, corrupt officials and locals steal food and any boy who resists is likely to disappear “out back.” Stunned to find himself in such a vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold onto Dr. King’s ringing assertion “Throw us in jail and we will still love you.” His friend Turner thinks Elwood is worse than naïve and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble. The tension between Elwood’s ideals and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades.


This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Release Date: July 16th from Saga Press

Why You’ll Love It: Forget love stories in which one person pines for their time-traveling beau. Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone turn the genre on its head by writing both lovers as time travelers in this entertainingly original novel.

Description from the Publisher: Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading. Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future. Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right?


A Dream About Lightning Bugs: A Life of Music and Cheap Lessons by Ben Folds

Release Date: July 30th from Ballantine Books

Why You’ll Love It: Proving he’s as talented a memoirist as he is a songwriter, Ben Folds delivers a book that will delight his fans.

Description from the Publisher: Ben Folds is a celebrated American singer-songwriter, beloved for songs such as “Brick,” “You Don’t Know Me,” “Rockin’ the Suburbs,” and “The Luckiest,” and is the former frontman of the alternative rock band Ben Folds Five. But Folds will be the first to tell you he’s an unconventional icon, more normcore than hardcore. Now, in his first book, he looks back at his life so far. Folds digs deep into the life experiences that shaped him, imparting hard-earned wisdom about both art and life. Collectively, these stories embody the message he’s been singing about for years: Smile like you’ve got nothing to prove, because it hurts to grow up, and life flies by in seconds.


Marilou Is Everywhere by Sarah Elaine Smith

Release Date: July 30th from Riverhead Books

Why You’ll Love It: Poet Sarah Elaine Smith weaves a stunning debut novel, exploring the lengths one girl will go to experience familial love.

Description from the Publisher: Fourteen-year-old Cindy and her two older brothers live in rural Pennsylvania, in a house with occasional electricity, two fierce dogs, one book and a mother who comes and goes for months at a time. So when a glamorous teen from a more affluent, cultured home goes missing, Cindy escapes her own family’s poverty and slips into the missing teen’s life. As Jude Vanderjohn, Cindy is suddenly surrounded by books and art, by new foods and traditions, and most important, by a startling sense of possibility. In her borrowed life she also finds herself accepting the confused love of a mother who is constitutionally incapable of grasping what has happened to her real daughter. As Cindy experiences overwhelming maternal love for the first time, she must reckon with her own deceits and, in the process, learn what it means to be a daughter, a sister and a neighbor.


Looking for even more reading recommendations? Check out our lists of the best audiobooks and the best Young Adult novels of July.