July 2019 Books to Read!

And just like that, half the year is done! And that includes a few of my favorite months (April, May, and June were very nice). With July hitting I usually feel like the year is practically over, but I’m hoping to slow down some things and enjoy the season as much as possible. Some good reading should help!

Here are some I’m most excited about this month. Let me know what you’re looking forward to!

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.

July 2

A Girl Returned
by Donatella Di Pietrantonio
translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein
Europa Editions

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Europa Editions:

“I was the Arminuta, the girl returned. I spoke another language, I no longer knew who I belonged to. The word ‘mama’ stuck in my throat like a toad. And, nowadays, I really have no idea what kind of place mother is. It is not mine in the way one might have good health, a safe place, certainty.”

Told with an immediacy and a rare expressive intensity that has earned it countless adoring readers and one of Italy’s most prestigious literary prizes, A Girl Returned marks the English-language debut of an extraordinary literary talent. Set against the stark, beautiful landscape of Abruzzo in central Italy, this is a compelling story about mothers and daughters, about responsibility, siblings, and caregiving.

Without warning or explanation, an unnamed 13-year-old girl is sent away from the family she has always thought of as hers to live with her birth family: a large, chaotic assortment of individuals whom she has never met and who seem anything but welcoming. Thus begins a new life, one of struggle, tension, and conflict, especially between the young girl and her mother. But in her relationship with Adriana and Vincenzo, two of her newly acquired siblings, she will find the strength to start again and to build a new and enduring sense of self.


July 9

Jacob’s Ladder
by Ludmilla Ulitskaya
translated from the Russian by Polly Gannon
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

One of Russia’s most renowned literary figures and a Man Booker International Prize nominee, Ludmila Ulitskaya presents what may be her final novel. Jacob’s Ladder is a family saga spanning a century of recent Russian history — and represents the summation of the author’s career, devoted to sharing the absurd and tragic tales of twentieth-century life in her nation.

Jumping between the diaries and letters of Jacob Ossetsky in Kiev in the early 1900s and the experiences of his granddaughter Nora in the theatrical world of Moscow in the 1970s and beyond, Jacob’s Ladder guides the reader through some of the most turbulent times in the history of Russia and Ukraine, and draws suggestive parallels between historical events of the early twentieth century and those of more recent memory.

Spanning the seeming promise of the prerevolutionary years, to the dark Stalinist era, to the corruption and confusion of the present day, Jacob’s Ladder is a pageant of romance, betrayal, and memory. With a scale worthy of Tolstoy, it asks how much control any of us have over our lives?and how much is in fact determined by history, by chance, or indeed by the genes passed down by the generations that have preceded us into the world.

Early Work
by Andrew Martin
Picador

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Picador:

For young writers of a certain temperament?if they haven’t had such notions beaten out of them by MFA programs and the Internet?the delusion persists that great writing must be sought in what W. B. Yeats once called the “foul rag and bone shop of the heart.” That’s where Peter Cunningham has been looking for inspiration for his novel?that is, when he isn’t teaching at the local women’s prison, walking his dog, getting high, and wondering whether it’s time to tie the knot with his college girlfriend, a medical student whose night shifts have become a standing rebuke to his own lack of direction. When Peter meets Leslie, a sexual adventurer taking a break from her fiancé, he gets a glimpse of what he wishes and imagines himself to be: a writer of talent and nerve. Her rag-and-bone shop may be as squalid as his own, but at least she knows her way around the shelves. Over the course of a Virginia summer, their charged, increasingly intimate friendship opens the door to difficult questions about love and literary ambition.

With a keen irony reminiscent of Sam Lipsyte or Lorrie Moore, and a romantic streak as wide as Roberto Bolaño’s, Andrew Martin’s Early Work marks the debut of a writer as funny and attentive as any novelist of his generation.

Three Summers
by Margarita Liberaki
translated from the Greek by Karen Van Dyck
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

Three Summers is the story of three sisters growing up in the countryside near Athens before the Second World War. Living in a big old house surrounded by a beautiful garden are Maria, the oldest sister, as sexually bold as she is eager to settle down and have a family of her own; beautiful but distant Infanta; and dreamy and rebellious Katerina, through whose eyes the story is mostly observed. Over three summers, the girls share and keep secrets, fall in and out of love, try to figure out their parents and other members of the tribe of adults, take note of the weird ways of friends and neighbors, worry about and wonder who they are. Karen Van Dyck’s translation captures all the light and warmth of this modern Greek classic.


July 16

The Storyteller Essays
by Walter Benjamin
translated from the German by Tess Lewis
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

“The Storyteller” is one of Walter Benjamin’s most important essays, a beautiful and suggestive meditation on the relation between narrative form, social life, and individual existence—and the product of at least a decade’s work. What might be called the story of The Storyteller Essaysstarts in 1926, with a piece Benjamin wrote about the German romantic Johann Peter Hebel. It continues in a series of short essays, book reviews, short stories, parables, and even radio shows for children. This collection brings them all together to give readers a new appreciation of how Benjamin’s thinking changed and ripened over time, while including several key readings of his own—texts by his contemporaries Ernst Bloch and Georg Lukács; by Paul Valéry; and by Herodotus and Montaigne. Finally, to bring things around, there are three short stories by “the incomparable Hebel” with whom the whole intellectual adventure began.

The Nickel Boys
by Colson Whitehead
Doubleday

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Doubleday:

As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart: He is “as good as anyone.” Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood 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 destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, whose mission statement says it provides “physical, intellectual and moral training” so the delinquent boys in their charge can become “honorable and honest men.”

In reality, 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 supplies, 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 naive, that the world is crooked, 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. Formed in the crucible of the evils Jim Crow wrought, the boys’ fates will be determined by what they endured at the Nickel Academy.

Based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative that showcases a great American novelist writing at the height of his powers.


July 23

History. A Mess
by Sigrún Pálsdóttir
translated from the Icelandic by Lytton Smith
Open Letter Books

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Open Letter Books:

While studying a seventeenth-century diary, the protagonist of History. A Mess. uncovers information about the first documented professional female artist. This discovery promises to change her academic career, and life in general . . . until she realizes that her “discovery” was nothing more than two pages stuck together. At this point there’s no going back though, and she goes to great lengths to hide her mistake—undermining her sanity in the process. A shifty, satirical novel that’s funny and colorful, while also raising essential questions about truth, research, and the very nature of belief.


July 30

Käsebier Takes Berlin
by Gabriele Tergit
translated from the German by Sophie Duvernoy
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

In Berlin, 1930, the name Käsebier is on everyone’s lips. A literal combination of the German words for “cheese” and “beer,” it’s an unglamorous name for an unglamorous man—a small-time crooner who performs nightly on a shabby stage for laborers, secretaries, and shopkeepers. Until the press shows up.

In the blink of an eye, this everyman is made a star: a star who can sing songs for a troubled time. Margot Weissmann, the arts patron, hosts champagne breakfasts for Käsebier; Muschler the banker builds a theater in his honor; Willi Frächter, a parvenu writer, makes a mint off Käsebier-themed business ventures and books. All the while, the journalists who catapulted Käsebier to fame watch the monstrous media machine churn in amazement—and are aghast at the demons they have unleashed.

In Käsebier Takes Berlin, the journalist Gabriele Tergit wrote a searing satire of the excesses and follies of the Weimar Republic. Chronicling a country on the brink of fascism and a press on the edge of collapse, Tergit’s novel caused a sensation when it was published in 1931. As witty as Kurt Tucholsky and as trenchant as Karl Kraus, Tergit portrays a world too entranced by fireworks to notice its smoldering edges.

Chances Are . . .
by Richard Russo
Knopf

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Knopf:

One beautiful September day, three men convene on Martha’s Vineyard, friends ever since meeting in college circa the sixties. They couldn’t have been more different then, or even today–Lincoln’s a commercial real estate broker, Teddy a tiny-press publisher, and Mickey a musician beyond his rockin’ age. But each man holds his own secrets, in addition to the monumental mystery that none of them has ever stopped puzzling over since a Memorial Day weekend right here on the Vineyard in 1971: the disappearance of the woman each of them loved–Jacy Rockafellow. Now, more than forty years later, as this new weekend unfolds, three lives are displayed in their entirety while the distant past confounds the present like a relentless squall of surprise and discovery. Shot through with Russo’s trademark comedy and humanity, Chances Are . . . also introduces a new level of suspense and menace that will quicken the reader’s heartbeat throughout this absorbing saga of how friendship’s bonds are every bit as constricting and rewarding as those of family or any other community.

For both longtime fans and lucky newcomers, Chances Are . . . is a stunning demonstration of a highly acclaimed author deepening and expanding his remarkable achievement.

Professor Andersen’s Night
by Dag Solstand
translated from the Icelandic by Agnes Scott Langeland
New Directions

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from New Directions:

In this existential murder mystery, it is Christmas Eve, and fifty-five-year-old professor Pal Andersen is alone, drinking coffee and cognac in his living room. Lost in thought, he looks out of the window and sees a man strangle a woman in the apartment across the street. Failing to report the murder, he becomes paralyzed by indecision. Professor Andersen’s Night is an unsettling yet highly entertaining novel, written in Dag Solstad’s signature concise, dark, and witty prose. “He’s a kind of surrealistic writer of very strange novels,” Huraki Murakami wrote, “I think he is serious literature.”

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