August 2018 Books to Read!

I’m posting this a bit later than I should because the last few weeks have been busy with work and summer fun. But now we are moving to the latter half of the season, and this is a great time to be a reader because publishers tend to publish some of their best books of the year over the next few months! Here are a few coming out this month that caught my attention. Please let me know if there are any I’m missing that you’re excited for.

The links to Amazon.com are affiliate links, so if you purchase the book (or any item) by going there from this page, we’ll make a bit of money for the site. Do not feel obligated, of course — we’ll keep going regardless! Release dates are based on the U.S. release date.

August 7

A Chill in the Air: An Italian War Diary, 1939–1940
by Iris Origo
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

In 1939 it was not a foregone conclusion that Mussolini would enter World War II on the side of Hitler. In this previously unpublished and only recently discovered diary, Iris Origo, author of the classic War in Val d’Orcia, provides a vivid account of how Mussolini decided on a course of action that would devastate his country and ultimately destroy his regime.

Though the British-born Origo lived with her Italian husband on an estate in a remote part of Tuscany, she was supremely well-connected and regularly in touch with intellectual and diplomatic circles in Rome, where her godfather, William Phillips, was the American ambassador. Her diary describes the Fascist government’s growing infatuation with Nazi Germany as Hitler’s armies marched triumphantly across Europe and the campaign of propaganda and intimidation that was mounted in support of its new aims. The book ends with the birth of Origo’s daughter and Origo’s decision to go to Rome to work with prisoners of war at the Italian Red Cross.

Together with War in Val d’OrciaA Chill in the Air o?ers an indispensable record of Italy at war as well as a thrilling story of a formidable woman’s transformation from observer to actor at a great historical turning point.

War in Val d’Orcia: An Italian War Diary, 1943–1944
by Iris Origo
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

In the Second World War, Italy was torn apart by German armies, civil war, and the Allied invasion. In a corner of Tuscany, one woman—born in England, married to an Italian—kept a record of daily life in a country at war. Iris Origo’s powerful diary, War in Val d’Orcia, is the spare and vivid account of what happened when a peaceful farming valley became a battleground.

At great personal risk, the Origos gave food and shelter to partisans, deserters, and refugees. They took in evacuees, and as the front drew closer they faced the knowledge that the lives of thirty-two small children depended on them. Origo writes with sensitivity and generosity, and a story emerges of human acts of heroism and compassion, and the devastation that war can bring.

The Reservoir Tapes
by Jon McGregor
Catapult

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Catapult:

Returning us to the extraordinary territory of Jon McGregor’s Man Booker Prize long-listed novel Reservoir 13The Reservoir Tapes take us deep into the heart of an English village that is trying to come to terms with what has happened on its watch.

A teenage girl has gone missing. The whole community has been called upon to join the search. And now an interviewer arrives, intent on capturing the community’s unstable stories about life in the weeks and months before Becky Shaw vanished.

Each villager has a memory to share or a secret to conceal, a connection to Becky that they are trying to make or break. A young wife pushes against the boundaries of her marriage, and another seeks a means of surviving within hers. A group of teenagers dare one another to jump into a flooded quarry, the weakest swimmer still awaiting his turn. A laborer lies trapped under rocks and dry limestone dust as his fellow workers attempt a risky rescue. And meanwhile a fractured portrait of Becky emerges at the edges of our vision?a girl swimming, climbing, and smearing dirt onto a scared boy’s face, images to be cherished and challenged as the search for her goes on.


August 14

Flights
by Olga Tokarczuk
translated from the Polish by Jennifer Croft
Riverhead Books

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Riverhead Books:

A seventeenth-century Dutch anatomist discovers the Achilles tendon by dissecting his own amputated leg. Chopin’s heart is carried back to Warsaw in secret by his adoring sister. A woman must return to her native Poland in order to poison her terminally ill high school sweetheart, and a young man slowly descends into madness when his wife and child mysteriously vanish during a vacation and just as suddenly reappear. Through these brilliantly imagined characters and stories, interwoven with haunting, playful, and revelatory meditations, Flights explores what it means to be a traveler, a wanderer, a body in motion not only through space but through time. Where are you from? Where are you coming in from? Where are you going? we call to the traveler. Enchanting, unsettling, and wholly original, Flights is a master storyteller’s answer.

Paul reviewed the book for The Mookse and the Gripes here.

Narrator
by Bragi Ólafsson
translated from the Icelandic by Lytton Smith
Open Letter Books

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Open Letter Books:

On a rainy day in the middle of June, on the day England and Costa Rica meet in the World Cup, G., a thirty-five-year-old aspiring writer is waiting in line at the post office to mail off a manuscript—a story about a day in the life of a thirty-five-year-old man.

That’s when he notices a man he knows. Or rather knew. Sort of knew. A man who used to go out with a girl G. loved from afar. The only girl he’s ever loved. All his hatred of this man comes rushing back—including his foolish wish that the man would die—and he takes off, following him throughout the streets of Reykjavik. This strange game of cat and mouse takes some dark turns though, evolving into a complex, introspective journey of a man struggling to complete the unfinished narrative of his own life.

The Greens of May Down to the Sea: Antogony, Book II
by Luis Goytisolo
translated from the Spanish by Brendan Riley
Dalkey Archive

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Dalkey Archive:

The second volume of Goytisolo’s acclaimed Antagonia tetralogy, The Greens of May Down to the Sea follows Raúl Ferrer Gaminde and his wife as they move from Barcelona to Rosas to begin a new life. Where the first volume of Antagoniaoccupied itself with the themes of war and political revolution, the second volume closely follows Raúl’s development as a writer, his anxieties about the purposes of writing, and his willingness to sacrifice the other aspects of adult life to his creative impulses. Told in short, often dizzyingly complex fragments of thought and memory, the reader is invited into Raul’s inner world, into his many fantasies, worries, and resentments, revealing over time his transformation from political radical to inner-directed artist.

Ball Lightning
by Cixin Liu
translated from the Chinese by Joel Martinsen
Tor Books

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Tor Books:

When Chen’s parents are incinerated before his eyes by a blast of ball lightning, he devotes his life to cracking the secret of this mysterious natural phenomenon. His search takes him to stormy mountaintops, an experimental military weapons lab, and an old Soviet science station.

The more he learns, the more he comes to realize that ball lightning is just the tip of an entirely new frontier. While Chen’s quest for answers gives purpose to his lonely life, it also pits him against soldiers and scientists with motives of their own: a beautiful army major with an obsession with dangerous weaponry, and a physicist who has no place for ethical considerations in his single-minded pursuit of knowledge.


August 21

Summer
by Karl Ove Knausgaard
translated from the Norwegian by Ingvild Burkey
Penguin Press

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Penguin Press:

The grand finale of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s masterful and intensely-personal series about the four seasons, illustrated with paintings by the great German artist Anselm Kiefer.

2 June–It is completely dark out now. It is twenty-three minutes to midnight and you have already slept for four hours. What you will dream of tonight, no one will ever know. Even if you were to remember it when you wake up, you wouldn’t have a language in which to communicate it to us, nor do I think that you quite understand what dreams are, I think that is still undefined for you, that your thoughts haven’t grasped it yet, and that it therefore lies within that strange zone where it neither exists nor doesn’t exist.

The conclusion to one of the most extraordinary and original literary projects in recent years, Summer once again intersperses short vividly descriptive essays with emotionally-raw diary entries addressed directly to Knausgaard’s newborn daughter. Writing more expansively and, if it is possible, even more intimately and unguardedly than in the previous three volumes, he mines with new depth his difficult memories of his childhood and fraught relationship with his own father. Documenting his family’s life in rural Sweden and reflecting on a characteristically eclectic array of subjects–mosquitoes, barbeques, cynicism, and skin, to name just a few–he braids the various threads of the previous volumes into a moving conclusion.

At his most voluminous since My Struggle, his epic sensational series, Knausgaard writes for his daughter, striving to make ready and give meaning to a world at once indifferent and achingly beautiful. In his hands, the overwhelming joys and insoluble pains of family and parenthood come alive with uncommon feeling.

Notes from the Fog: Stories
by Ben Marcus
Knopf

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Knopf:

With these thirteen transfixing, ingenious stories, Ben Marcus gives us timely dystopian visions of alienation in a modern world–cosmically and comically apt. Never has existential catastrophe been so much fun.

In “The Grow-Light Blues,” a hapless, corporate drone finds love after being disfigured testing his employer’s newest nutrition supplement–the enhanced glow from his computer monitor. A father finds himself outcast from his family when he starts to suspect that his son’s precocity has turned sinister in the chilling “Cold Little Bird.” In “Blueprints for St. Louis,” two architects in a flailing marriage consider the ethics of artificially inciting emotion in mourners at their latest assignment–a memorial to a terrorist attack.

In the bizarre but instantly recognizable universe of Ben Marcus’s fiction, characters encounter both surreal new illnesses and equally surreal new cures. Marcus writes beautifully, hilariously, and obsessively, about sex and death, lust and shame, the indignities of the body, and the full parade of human folly. A heartbreaking collection of stories that showcases the author’s compassion, tenderness, and mordant humor. Blistering, beautiful work from a modern master.

A heartbreaking collection of stories that showcases the author’s compassion, tenderness, and mordant humor–blistering, beautiful work from a modern master.


August 28

Between Eternities: And Other Writings
by Javier Marías
translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa
Vintage International

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Vintage International:

Javier Marías is a tireless examiner of the world around us: essayist, novelist, translator, voracious reader, enthusiastic debunker of pretension, and vigorous polymath. He is able to discover what many of us fail to notice or have never put into words, and he keeps looking long after most of us have turned away. This new collection of essays–by turns literary, philosophical, and autobiographical–journeys from the crumbling canals of Venice to the wide horizons of the Wild West, and Marías captures each new vista with razor-sharp acuity and wit. He explores, with characteristic relish, subjects ranging from soccer to classic cinema, from comic books and toy soldiers to mortality and memory, from “The Most Conceited of Cities” to “Why Almost No One Can Be Trusted,” making each brilliantly and inimitably his own. Trenchant and wry, subversive and penetrating, Between Eternities is a collection of dazzling intellectual curiosity, offering a window into the expansive mind of the man so often said to be Spain’s greatest living writer.

We That Are Young
by Preti Taneja
Knopf

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Knopf:

Jivan Singh, the bastard scion of the Devraj family returns to his New Delhi childhood home at the age of twenty-three after fifteen years in the United States. His arrival coincides with the unexpected resignation of the founder and aging patriarch of the Company–its simple name belying its vast holdings across industry and entertainment, and the family’s national renown. On the same day, Sita, Devraj’s youngest daughter, disappears–refusing to marry the man her father wants for her. Now, Radha and Gargi, Sita’s older sisters, are given the Company–and a brutal struggle for power begins. Set against the backdrop of the anti-corruption protests that spread across India in 2011 and 2012, We That Are Young is brilliant in its fierce, incandescent storytelling and the energy of its prose. It tells a deeply insightful tale of India today, the pace of life in one of the world’s fastest growing economies, the clash of youth and age, and the ever-present specter of death. But more than that, it is a novel about the human heart–and its inevitable breaking point.

Paul reviewed the book for The Mookse and the Gripes here.

French Exit
by Patrick deWitt
Ecco

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Ecco:

Frances Price — tart widow, possessive mother, and Upper East Side force of nature — is in dire straits, beset by scandal and impending bankruptcy. Her adult son Malcolm is no help, mired in a permanent state of arrested development. And then there’s the Price’s aging cat, Small Frank, who Frances believes houses the spirit of her late husband, an infamously immoral litigator and world-class cad whose gruesome tabloid death rendered Frances and Malcolm social outcasts.

Putting penury and pariahdom behind them, the family decides to cut their losses and head for the exit. One ocean voyage later, the curious trio land in their beloved Paris, the City of Light serving as a backdrop not for love or romance, but self destruction and economical ruin – to riotous effect. A number of singular characters serve to round out the cast: a bashful private investigator, an aimless psychic proposing a seance, and a doctor who makes house calls with his wine merchant in tow, to name a few.

Brimming with pathos, French Exit is a one-of-a-kind ‘tragedy of manners,’ a send-up of high society, as well as a moving mother/son caper which only Patrick deWitt could conceive and execute.

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