The 30 Most Anticipated New Books of Summer 2020

Culture
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We’re navigating new and unpredictable times—arguably stranger than fiction. But, perhaps for that reason, there’s no better moment to dive into a world other than our own, whether that world is conjured by a novel, memoir, non-fiction book, or a hybrid. We need the insight, the connection, the solace of the written word.

Maybe you’re unsure whether your next beach read will reach an actual beach this year. Rest assured: no matter where you’re reading, this summer promises legendary literary talent that will transport you, even if only in your mind. Beloved writers including Elena Ferrante and Jasmine Guillory return with their special brands of savory and sweet, while spectacular new voices such as Megha Majumdar and Emily Temple pave the way for where we’ll go next. After combing through dozens of upcoming releases, we’ve narrowed it down to the books we think will bring you the most joy, insight, and adventure this summer. These are the worlds we’re most excited to explore.

1

A Burning by Megha Majumdar

amazon.com

$25.95

Release Date: June 2

Megha Majumdar’s simmering, ambitious debut follows three seemingly separate characters whose lives intertwine after a terrorist attack on a train in India. Jivan, a Muslim girl raised in the slums, is accused of inciting the attack, and her case is only aggravated by PT Sir, a gym teacher who enmeshes himself in right-wing politics. Meanwhile, Lovely, an outcast with big dreams, realizes she can save Jivan — if she’s willing to make an enormous sacrifice. 

2

The Book of Rosy: A Mother’s Story of Separation at the Border by Rosayra Pablo Cruz and Julie Schwietert Collazo

amazon.com

$26.99

Release Date: June 2

This book promises to be everything Jeanine Cummins’ controversial novel American Dirt wasn’t — and, this time, it’s all true. When Rosy Cruz decides to flee her violence-ridden home in Guatemala for the United States, she takes two of her children on an impossible journey to the Arizona border. There, instead of finding peace, they are ripped apart by border officials implementing President Trump’s new “zero tolerance” policy. As she connects with Immigrant Families Together founder Julie Collazo, who shares in the storytelling, Cruz reveals the extent of the horror at border facilities, and offers hope in the face of desperate odds. 

3

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

amazon.com

$27.00

$16.39 (39% off)

Release Date: June 2

This one is sure to be one of 2020’s best and boldest by the author of The Mothers. Identical twin sisters Stella and Desiree are born in a small Southern community in the 1960s, when they decide to run away from home at 16 and carve out new lives in New Orleans. But as they turn down separate paths, Desiree returns home with her daughter, while Stella conjures a life of secrecy as a black woman passing as white. A tale of family, identity, race, history and perception, Bennett’s next masterpiece is a triumph of character-driven narrative.  

4

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan

Release Date: June 2

A love story packed with irony and introspection, Naoise Dolan’s story of gender, class and relationship dynamics in Hong Kong is reminiscent of Sally Rooney’s greatest hits. After schoolteacher Ava arrives in China from Dublin, she enters into an easy, unexciting quasi-relationship with banker Julian, who likes to buy her lavish gifts that, despite her feminist guilt, she’s inclined to accept. But then she meets Edith, a dazzling lawyer whom she can’t help desiring (deeply). When Julian arrives back on the scene, Ava must choose between comfort and courage. 

5

Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell

amazon.com

$30.00

$17.83 (41% off)

Release Date: June 2

The imaginative and award-winning author of Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell returns to spin a web of music and money as a psychedelic British band in the ‘60s finds fame and fallout among such legends as John Lennon and Diana Ross. Treading similar ground to 2019’s Daisy Jones & The Six but incorporating Mitchell’s beloved multiverse and his signature sweeping style, this one is bound to top the charts. 

6

The Dragons, The Giant, The Women: A Memoir by Wayétu Moore

amazon.com

$26.00

Release Date: June 2

As the migrant experience becomes crushingly more common around the world, stories such as The Dragons, The Giant, The Women remind us just how personal (and painful) these displacements can be. Growing up in Liberia, Moore’s family is forced to flee an outbreak of war, and only after a rebel soldier smuggles them to Sierra Leone can they begin the journey to America. After settling in Texas, Moore reflects on the homes she’s already lost — and how to find them again. 

7

You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat

amazon.com

$26.00

$20.28 (22% off)

Release Date: June 9

For anyone who’s ever felt their body or their identity takes up too much space, this deeply affecting story of doubt, love and identity is a gut-punch and a solace. Arafat’s protagonist, a young Palestinian-American woman, grows from an anxious teenager who has recently come into her sexuality to an aspiring author and DJ living with her girlfriend in Brooklyn. But her intense need to connect (and her years of bottled-up desires) draw her into a series of dangerous encounters, and she soon lands at The Ledge, a treatment center for “love addiction.” 

8

I Hold A Wolf By The Ears: Stories by Laura Van Den Berg

amazon.com

$26.00

Release Date: June 9

Laura Van Den Berg has the uncanny ability to see what the rest of us cannot, and her newest story collection, the hauntingly titled I Hold A Wolf By The Ears, is a seductive, eerie plunge that subverts the mundane. In one story, a man feeds his wife sedative-laced seltzer to calm her nerves. In another, a young actress is paid to impersonate deceased wives for their widowers. As ever, Van Den Berg is unafraid of the fearsome, and she forces her readers to always look a little closer at the monsters within. 

9

Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier

amazon.com

$12.99

Release Date: June 9

A riotously funny yet difficult story of two women in opposite life stages but similar mental states, Pizza Girl follows an 18-year-old pregnant protagonist floundering as a pizza delivery girl in suburban Los Angeles. She encounters Jenny, a middle-aged stay-at-home mother who orders pickle-covered pizzas for her son every week. Obsessed by this tiny oddity, our Pizza Girl realizes she and Jenny might collide in more ways than one. 

10

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

amazon.com

$26.00

$17.31 (33% off)

Release Date: June 9

Ferrante fans rejoiced after the mysterious author announced another book set in the same legendary location as her Neapolitan novels, including My Brilliant Friend. Naples serves as a character in and of itself in this tale, which explores young Giovanna’s search for identity between the elegant luxuries of her city and the gritty, dangerous deceits. We have no doubt this is one to watch. 

11

How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

amazon.com

$28.00

Release Date: June 16

We’re only just beginning to see the impacts climate change will have on our fiction, and Imbolo Mbue’s revelatory novel of a fictional African village ruined by Big Oil is a mighty addition to the stacks. In Kusawa, pipeline spills and toxic water make everyday living impossible, and a corrupt government refuses assistance. Desperate, the people take the revolution into their own hands. A tour de force of fiction that feels so wrenchingly real, Mbue’s sophomore novel is one you must not miss. 

12

The Lightness by Emily Temple

amazon.com

$26.99

Release Date: June 16

A senior editor at Literary Hub, Emily Temple took some time away from writing about books to write her own and I’ve been dying to get my hands on it. Olivia, reeling from the disappearance of her father, who was last seen headed out to a meditation retreat, follows his path to the so-called Levitation Center. There, she joins a program with several other girls as they attempt ultimate enlightenment: the ability to levitate. But physics and faith make these fledgling bonds more complicated than they seem, and the girls are bound for danger if they continue. 

13

A Short Move by Katherine Hill

amazon.com

$16.95

Release Date: June 16

I’ve been waiting for a well-done literary look into professional sports, and A Short Move is just the lens I wanted. In 1971, high school football star Mitch “Wilk” Wilkins leaves behind his pregnant girlfriend for a sure ticket to the NFL, where he becomes a triumphant middle linebacker for the New England Patriots. But even with a family who has tied their identities to his, Wilk’s body begins to deteriorate inside the intensity of pro football, and his relationships are equally pressured. So what matters more? Success? Or survival? 

14

Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory

amazon.com

$11.99

Release Date: June 23

Here’s your all-important beach read of the summer. No one does heart-fluttering romance with wit and insight like bestseller Jasmine Guillory. In her final installment of The Wedding Date series, protagonist Olivia Monroe moves to LA to start her own law firm — not to meet the frustratingly attractive junior senator Max Powell. But after discovering Max is more than his hotshot job makes him out to be, Olivia realizes she’ll have to navigate life as a public figure if she wants to be with him beyond the first few dates. 

15

Nine Shiny Objects by Brian Castleberry

amazon.com

$27.99

Release Date: June 30

Summer 2020 seems marked by literary ambition, and Brian Castleberry’s debut is no different: It’s about the (possible) discovery of aliens, a hitchhiking journey west, a ragtag community designed to erase divisions of race and sexuality, and the crime that erupts among them. This is a story about how our individual histories follow us, about light versus dark, but also about our clouded perception of America — and how it continues to divide us.  

16

Blue Ticket by Sophie Mackintosh

amazon.com

$26.95

Release Date: June 30

From the powerful imagination behind The Water Cure comes Blue Ticket, a Handmaid’s Tale-esque dip into the fraught choice of motherhood — and what it really looks like when that decision is made for us. In the protagonist’s world, this choice is made by lottery. Once you start your period, you draw a ticket. If it’s white, you’ll get married and have children. If it’s blue, you’ll have a career and no family. Calla, who draws a blue ticket, begins to question this choice, and after becoming pregnant, she’s forced on the run. 

17

It Is Wood, It Is Stone by Gabriella Burnham

amazon.com

$26.00

Release Date: June 30

I’ll be honest: I would recommend this book based on the cover alone. Thankfully, the story inside is equally gorgeous, depicting three women in São Paulo: the anxious and listless Linda, her conflicted but steady maid, Marta, and Celia, an intoxicating artist with whom Linda leaves home. A lush depiction of privilege and power, sex and stability, It Is Wood, It Is Stone is an elegant announcement of a new talent. 

18

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

amazon.com

$27.00

$20.02 (26% off)

Release Date: June 30

I first read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s nostalgic Signal To Noise in 2015, and I’ve been hunting the shelves for more ever since. She’s back again with a glamorous gothic suspense set in a deliciously imagined 1950s Mexico — specifically inside the walls of the High Place, a mansion in the countryside where protagonist Noemi’s cousin is apparently facing a dangerous fate. Sign me up immediately. 

19

Want by Lynn Steger Strong

amazon.com

$25.99

Release Date: July 7

A novel reminiscent of the author’s tremendous essays for Catapult, Want is about a bankrupt working mother and wife who, well, wants things — such as a successful career and the ability to be angry without it paralyzing her. And so she reunites with Sasha, a childhood friend, only to discover Sasha is facing the same uncertainty. This is a smart, sharp depiction of what happens when women give into their desires.  

20

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Gallery / Saga Press
amazon.com

$26.99

$18.39 (32% off)

Release Date: July 14

If a little heart-racing horror is the only thing getting you out of your own head this summer, wow, is this startling novel for you. After a horrific event in their childhood puts their lives in danger, four Indian American men try to create their own futures. But, instead, the cultures and traditions they grew up with follow them in unusual, terrifying ways. 

21

Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman

Simon & Schuster
amazon.com

$26.00

Release Date: July 14

Confession: Call Your Girlfriend podcast co-host Ann Friedman went to my alma mater, and ever since she gave a presentation to a few of us sweaty, starry-eyed juniors, I’ve been following her newsletter like a lovelorn puppy. But don’t worry too much for me: She always delivers. Finally, she and her CYG co-host Aminatou Sow (who just so happens to be her long-time best friend) are releasing a deeply funny and immensely heartfelt look into what makes a friendship last despite time, distance, trials and major life changes. 

22

Well-Behaved Indian Women by Saumya Dave

amazon.com

$16.00

Release Date: July 14

A lovely story that both soothes and challengse, Well-Behaved Indian Women chronicles the lives of three generations of women. Simran, the youngest, wants to be a writer, to her mother’s chagrin. Her mother, Nandini, is a doctor who’s done everything she can to give her family the American Dream, despite the pressure it places on her. And Mimi, Nandini’s mother, is trying to make up for her fractured relationship with Nandini by connecting with Simran. Set along the backdrop of Manhattan, this is a tender tale that never shies away from the tension at its root. 

23

Afterland by Lauren Beukes

Mulholland Books
amazon.com

$28.00

$17.79 (36% off)

Release Date: July 28

In Afterland, the world is run by women. A mysterious pandemic — agh, that word again — has destroyed the vast majority of the male population, and women are desperate to keep the human race alive. Men are valuable, and so protagonist Cole must protect her son, Miles, by disguising him as a girl. Of course, an army of dangerous people are after them, including Cole’s own sister. 

24

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

amazon.com

$27.00

Release Date: August 4

The title of this extraordinary debut poses the question: Who is Vivek Oji, and how did he die? The son of a Nigerian father and Indian mother, Vivek is a complex, shy character who suffers from an unknown affliction that causes him to go into deep depression. He also eventually realizes he is queer and genderfluid, something he struggles to reconcile as he befriends his cousin Osita. Of course, we know how this sad, spiritual story ends, but how we get there is a testament to Emezi’s immense literary prowess. 

25

Luster by Raven Leilani

amazon.com

$26.00

Release Date: August 4

Darkly funny with wicked insight, Luster is the story of Edie, a young artist living in Bushwick, who agrees to participate in an open marriage with digital archivist Eric. But soon Evie is let go from her admin job, and she finds herself becoming more intertwined in Eric’s family life — and the racial dynamics that come with it — than she anticipated. This keenly observed, dynamic debut is so cutting it almost stings. 

26

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

amazon.com

$26.99

Release Date: August 4

I’m a sucker for a complicated narrator, and we might have met the queen of them all in Franny Stone, the protagonist of this tantalizingly beautiful epic. Franny’s life has been marked by secrets and loss, and so she turns to where she cannot reach: the skies. Transfixed by birds, Franny boards a ship in Greenland to pursue the world’s last flock of Arctic terns. But the longer their journey continues, the more the crew begins to wonder about all that Franny is hiding.

27

Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant Women by Lyz Lenz

Bold Type Books
amazon.com

$26.00

$17.31 (33% off)

Release Date: August 11

Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist and author of God Land Lyz Lenz returns with this searing look into the maternal death crisis facing America, as well as the policies and prejudices that push pregnant women into corners. Tracing our current cultural ideologies back to their historical roots, she makes a startling case for changing our mindset toward childbirth — and empowering the women who endure it. 

28

The New Wilderness by Diane Cook

amazon.com

$27.99

Release Date: August 11

Remember what I said about the growing arena of climate fiction? Here we have another, this one set in a haunting, elegiac dystopia within a powerful mother-daughter tale. Bea and her young daughter, Agnes, live in the City — where basically everyone lives — but the City is dangerous, overrun by pollution that’s slowly killing Agnes. The only alternative is the Wilderness State, the last parcel of protected land in the country. Human interference there is forbidden, until a scientific study opens up and Bea leaps to join. 

29

This Is The Night Our House Will Catch Fire: A Memoir by Nick Flynn

amazon.com

$22.15

Release Date: August 25

“You have the ethics of a drowning man,” Nick Flynn’s therapist tells him during one of their sessions, as his marriage and family ties threaten to rip apart. When he was a child, his troubled mother set fire to their family home, and her suicide haunts him years later. He enters into a tumultuous five-year affair, which he spells out in this book with intricate, soul-deep detail, plunging the depths of his memory to lay bare all he’s done wrong — and all that he can still make right. 

30

Sisters by Daisy Johnson

amazon.com

$26.00

Release Date: August 25

Much hype has been made about Daisy Johnson, the youngest writer ever to have been short-listed for the Man Booker prize, but not without reason: She knows her way on the page. Her newest release follows sisters July and September, who start to drift apart as they enter a new life in an isolated home with their single mother. Exploring the fraught dynamics of blood and betrayal, Sisters is yet another of Johnson’s masterpieces. 

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