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20 new books hitting shelves this summer that our critics can't wait to read

Alicia Zheng
/
NPR

June is around the corner, meaning summer is almost here! As we look forward to travel and staycations, plane rides and trips to the beach, we've asked our book critics for some advice: What upcoming fiction and nonfiction are they most looking forward to reading?

Their picks range from memoirs to sci-fi and fantasy to translations, love stories and everything in between. Here's a look:


June

/ Redhook
/
Redhook

Daughter of the Merciful Deep by Leslye Penelope

I was hooked when I first saw the gorgeous cover for Daughter of the Merciful Deep by Leslye Penelope. But the novel's premise put it at the top of my summer reading list. Penelope is known for unforgettable characters, world-building, beautiful writing and robust storytelling. Her latest work, inspired by actual events — the drowned Black towns of the American South — promises a magical, mythical and powerful tale of a young woman's quest to save her town. A historical fantasy must-read. (June 4) — Denny Bryce

/ Counterpoint LLC
/
Counterpoint LLC

The Future Was Color by Patrick Nathan

The Future Was Color by Patrick Nathan has everything I look for in a book: a unique and startling voice, a queer protagonist and a deep understanding of a particular time and place. George — once György — is a gay Hungarian immigrant working as a screenwriter in McCarthy-era Hollywood, occasionally fantasizing about his officemate, Jack. When a once-famous actress named Madeline invites George to stay and write at her spacious Malibu house, she won't take no for an answer — and so George finds himself in a hedonistic milieu where pleasure, politics and strong personalities intermingle. (June 4) — Ilana Masad

/ S&S/Saga Press
/
S&S/Saga Press

Mirrored Heavens: Between Earth & Sky, Book 3 by Rebecca Roanhorse

Rebecca Roanhorse is one of my auto-read authors — and one major reason is because of her fire Between Earth and Sky series. That trilogy comes to a stunning, fevered conclusion with Mirrored Heavens. All of the characters you love, hate and love to hate will converge on the city of Tova. Get ready for an epic battle between ancient gods, their human avatars and the mortals caught in between. (June 4) — Alex Brown

/ Crown
/
Crown

Sing Like Fish: How Sound Rules Life Under Water by Amorina Kingdon

You may know about 52 Blue, whose vocalizations likely go unheard by some other whales; it captured worldwide sympathy and became a pop-culture metaphor. But did you know all whale song is critically disrupted by ships? If that gets you wondering, keep an eye out for Sing Like Fish, which promises to illuminate the fragile symphony of the deep. (June 4) — Genevieve Valentine

/ Pantheon
/
Pantheon

Consent: A Memoir by Jill Ciment

I look forward to reading Jill Ciment's Consent and to the discussions it's sure to provoke. In this follow-up memoir to Half a Life, Ciment reconsiders what she wrote 25 years ago about her teenage affair and marriage to her art teacher, 30 years her senior. Half a Life was written before the #MeToo movement, and before her husband died at the age of 93 after 45 years of marriage. Consent promises a fuller picture. (June 11) — Heller McAlpin

/ Publisher Union Square & Co.
/
Publisher Union Square & Co.

Do What Godmother Says by L.S. Stratton

As we continue to experience the frenzy of Harlem Renaissance celebrations, commemorations and historical resonance, Do What Godmother Says by L.S. Stratton is the perfect addition to the litany of works set in this artistic period this year. It examines the intense and frequently degenerating relationship between patrons and artists during this intellectual and cultural movement. In this dual-timeline gothic thriller, a modern writer discovers a family heirloom painting by a Harlem Renaissance artist, which connects her family to a mysterious past. This historical novel is one I'm eager to read because it deftly exposes the layers of creative ownership, especially when race and wealth are involved. (June 11) — Keishel Williams

/ William Morrow
/
William Morrow

Horror Movie: A Novel by Paul Tremblay

Paul Tremblay is one of the most entertaining and innovative voices in contemporary fiction regardless of genre. Horror Movie, a story about a cursed movie that never came out and is about to get a remake, is a love letter to horror novels and horror movies, as well as a tense narrative that will redefine the cursed film subgenre. Tremblay is one of the modern masters of horror, and this new novel promises to be packed with the author's distinctive voice, knack for ambiguity and intrigue, and superb atmosphere. (June 11) — Gabino Iglesias

/ Random House
/
Random House

Cue The Sun! The Invention of Reality TV by Emily Nussbaum

Every so often there's a nonfiction title I covet like it's the next installment in my favorite mystery series. This summer it's Cue the Sun! Based on in-depth interviews with more than 300 sources from every aspect of the production process, this book is a cultural history of the genre that ate American entertainment, from New Yorker critic Emily Nussbaum. It combines the appeal of a page-turning thriller and the heft of serious scholarship. Juicy and thoughtful, it's a must-read for anyone interested in television or popular culture. (June 25) — Carole V. Bell


July

/ Orbit
/
Orbit

The Undermining of Twyla and Frank by Megan Bannen

In this return to the delightfully wacky world established in one of my personal top-five romance novels of all time, The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy, Megan Bannen takes on the friends to lovers trope with a combination of madcap joie de vivre and the exhausted practicality of a mom who's had enough. Also, there are dragons! (July 2) — Caitlyn Paxson

/ Bloomsbury Publishing
/
Bloomsbury Publishing

The Anthropologists by Ayşegül Savaş

I am eagerly awaiting Ayşegül Savaş' The Anthropologists. Born in Istanbul, Savaş has lived in England, Denmark and the U.S. also and now resides in France; in this novel she takes up themes of cultural migration through focus on a young couple seeking an apartment in a foreign city. I'm intrigued to discover how Savaş gifts her characters with an anthropological lens of exploration. (July 9) — Barbara J. King

/ New Directions
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New Directions

Elevator in Saigon by Thuân, translated by Nguyen An Lý

Elevator in Saigon is a literal and structural exquisite corpse, capturing Vietnam's eventful period from 1954 to 2004. Mimicking an elevator's movement, the novel heightens our yearning for romance and mystery, while unflinchingly exposing such narrative shaft. Channeling Marguerite Duras and Patrick Modiano, the book also offers a dead-on tour of a society cunningly leaping from one ideological mode to the next. As if challenging Rick's parting words to Ilsa in Casablanca, Thuận's sophomore novel in English implies that geopolitical debacles might have been mitigated if personal relations were held in more elevated regard than "a hill of beans." (July 9) — Thúy Đinh

/ Europa Editions
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Europa Editions

Goodnight Tokyo by Atsuhiro Yoshida, translated by Haydn Trowell

Atsuhiro Yoshida's Goodnight Tokyo begins with a film company procurer who's tasked with finding fresh kumquats for a production. From there, interlinked tales of Tokyo residents unspool in unpredictable directions. Characters range from a cabdriver to a star of a detective TV series who might be an actual detective. Readers will be reminded of Jim Jarmusch's 1991 movie Night on Earth, which also takes place in the wee hours of the morning and threads together the stories of strangers. (July 9) — Leland Cheuk

/ Knopf
/
Knopf

Navola: A novel by Paolo Bacigalupi

I love when a beloved author — especially one known mostly for a certain type of book — throws us a daring curveball. Navola is exactly such a pitch. Paolo Bacigalupi, who has won pretty much every major award in the science-fiction field with his climate-conscious dystopianism, is veering hard left with his new novel. It doesn't take place in the future, and it isn't a cautionary tale. Instead, it's a hefty tome of high fantasy set in a dreamed-up world akin to Renaissance Florence. Only with, you guessed it, dragons. But also high finance, political intrigue, and de' Medici-esque opulence. Bacigalupi is one of today's most gripping spinners of speculative fiction, and I can't wait to dive into this surprising magical foray. (July 9) — Jason Heller

/ Crown
/
Crown

The Lucky Ones: A Memoir by Zara Chowdhary

In 2002, two train carriages were set on fire in Gujarat, India. Within three weeks, more than 2,000 Muslims were murdered in response by Hindu mobs. By the end of the year, more than 50,000 Muslims became refugees in their own country. The Lucky Ones is a unique memoir in English of this largest-ever massacre in independent India. It is also about a communal crisis bringing a fractured family together. A must-read in our warring world today. (July 16) — Jenny Bhatt

/ Pantheon
/
Pantheon

Sharks Don't Sink: Adventures of a Rogue Shark Scientist by Jasmin Graham

Author Jasmin Graham is a marine biologist specializing in smalltooth sawfish and hammerhead sharks. Who are the real sharks in this story? Graham had to face the sharp-teethed truths of academia, while creating a world of curiosity and discovery around the complex lives of sharks. To combat the racism she encountered in academia, Graham created an "ocean of her own" to become an independent scientist and a champion of social justice, a journey she unspools in this new memoir. (July 16) — Martha Anne Toll

/ Hogarth
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Hogarth

Liars by Sarah Manguso

I have long been a fan of Sarah Manguso's crystalline prose, from her fragmented illness memoir The Two Kinds of Decay to her tightly constrained 2022 novel Very Cold People. Her second novel, Liars, marries restraint with rage — in it, Manguso traces the full arc of a 15-year relationship between Jane, a successful writer, and John, a dilettante artist-cum-techie, in aphoristic vignettes. The result is a furious, propulsive meditation on wifehood, motherhood and artistic ambition. (July 23) — Kristen Martin

/ Harper
/
Harper

The Horse: A Novel by Willy Vlautin

Musician and Lean on Pete author Willy Vlautin captures the American West like few other writers. His prose is always excellent, his characters always beautifully drawn, and that promises to be the case with his next novel, about an isolated Nevada man in his 60s who is visited by a blind horse that refuses to leave. (July 30) — Michael Schaub


August

/ Bloomsbury Publishing
/
Bloomsbury Publishing

Einstein in Kafkaland: How Albert Fell Down the Rabbit Hole and Came Up With the Universe by Ken Krimstein

Art and science collide in Ken Krimstein's new graphic biography. In this book, the author of the brilliant and whimsical The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt similarly translates careful research into scenic, emotive comics — in this case tracking the potential effects of an adventitious meeting in Prague between two geniuses on the cusp of world-changing discoveries. (Aug. 20) — Tahneer Oksman

/ Farrar, Straus and Giroux
/
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Survival Is a Promise: The Eternal Life of Audre Lorde by Alexis Pauline Gumbs

I'd probably be interested in a new biography of Audre Lorde if it focused on the eating habits of the brilliant thinker, poet, feminist and activist. But biographer Alexis Pauline Gumbs promises to more than exceed that bar. An award-winning poet, writer, feminist and activist in her own right, Gumbs is among the first researchers to delve into Lorde's manuscript archives. The resulting book highlights the late author's commitment to interrogating what it means to survive on this planet — and how Lorde's radical understanding of ecology can guide us today. (Aug. 20) — Ericka Taylor

/ Andrews McMeel Publishing
/
Andrews McMeel Publishing

Et Cetera: An Illustrated Guide to Latin Phrases by Maia Lee-Chin, illustrated by Marta Bertello

To those claiming Latin is dead, I say res ipsa loquitur — the thing speaks for itself — in children's cartoons, Hollywood cartoons and enduring epics. As a fan of both Mr. Peabody and the Muses, the idea of combining Maia Lee-Chin's thoughtful scholarship and Marta Bertello's dynamic artistry is captivating. Their new book reimagines the world of Latin's invention and tops my summer reading list. (Aug. 27) — Marcela Davison Avilés

Copyright 2024 NPR

Meghan Collins Sullivan is a senior editor on the Arts & Culture Desk, overseeing non-fiction books coverage at NPR. She has worked at NPR over the last 13 years in various capacities, including as the supervising editor for NPR.org – managing a team of online producers and reporters and editing multi-platform news coverage. She was also lead editor for the 13.7: Cosmos and Culture blog, written by five scientists on topics related to the intersection of science and culture.