July’s top picks include a book we’ve all been anticipating for months, if not years. And in nine other exciting new novels and short story collections, video games come to life and death come to the beach; killers descend on Cambridge; and spies, psychopaths, and wannabe chefs take leading roles.
Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
For more than 50 years, To Kill a Mockingbird was Harper Lee’s sole novel, and on the strength of it alone, she earned a place in the canon. Now, nearly a half century later, the 88-year-old’s first novel—written before Mockingbird and just recently rediscovered—is finally being released to the public. In it, Scout returns to Maycomb as an adult.
Circling the Sun, by Paula McLain
In 2012, Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife took booksellers and book clubs by storm, telling the story of the romance between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson. Now McLain moves from Europe to Africa with Circling the Sun, which introduces us to Beryl Markham, a wild child who moves to Kenya as a kid and eventually embarks on a well-connected, high-flying life, complete with daring love affairs and a career as an aviatrix. When she meets charming safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton, she may have found her match.
Armada, by Ernest Cline
Cline follows 2012’s beloved Ready Player One with Armada, another sci-fi tale starring a teenager living in a dystopian, video game-inflected future. In the book’s opening pages, game-addicted high schooler Zack Lightman realizes something strange is going on. The world around him is starting to change in frightening ways, until it’s looking all too much like his favorite video game, Armada. Soon, Zack discovers he may need the skills learned over the course of his years of gaming to defeat aliens attacking earth.
Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal
Stradal’s debut novel, a fictional take on foodie culture, follows one woman’s trajectory from the daughter of a runaway mother and a food-loving father to star chef of a pop-up supper club. While the narrative traces a singular life story, Stradal is just as interested in the adventure great food takes us on every time we take a bite, and the way sharing it can create community and change lives.
Summer Secrets, by Jane Green
Though Green’s latest novel takes place on the breezy shores of Nantucket, it’s hardly a fluffy beach read. It hinges on shocking family secrets, terrible mistakes, and the way your past can haunt you. Cat Coombs is a twentysomething journalist who, after learning an upsetting truth, goes on a drunken binge and ends up making a horrible decision. Years later, she has to deal with the choice she made and seek redemption for her sins. But will her family forgive her?
Racing the Rain, by John L. Parker Jr.
In this prequel to Parker’s Once a Runner, called “The best novel ever written about running,” we meet star athlete Quenton Cassidy in his formative years. Before he was a competitive runner at fictional Southeastern University, Quenton was a junior high-schooler in the 1950s and ’60s who dreamed of becoming a basketball player. But a chain of shocking events that unfold in his small town force him to realize he has a gift from which he can’t run away.
Vanishing Games, by Roger Hobbs
The Ghostman returns in Vanishing Games, a sequel to Roger Hobbs’ 2013 novel. Ghostman, aka Jack Delton, is a fixer/criminal eternally toeing the line between “legal” and “suicidal.” In this sequel, he tries to interfere with a psychopath’s claim to riches, which could jeopardize the world, all while working with an estranged female acquaintance to defuse a conspiracy.
A Paris Affair, by Tatiana de Rosnay, Sam Taylor (translation)
What’s summer without a forbidden love? Tatiana de Rosnay’s A Paris Affair delves into unrequited love, infidelity, and taboo affections in a collection of short stories tracking the many faces of sexual attraction, from the hilarity of it, to the tragedy, to the appeal of illicit desire, to the lessons you learn at the end of a liaison.
Dexter is Dead, by Jeff Lindsay
Nearly two years after the Showtime series Dexter aired its final episode, the series that inspired the show is concluding with Dexter is Dead. Lindsay’s complicated title character is facing charges for a murder he didn’t commit, and the only way to clear his name is through his brother Brian, who’s embroiled in a devious arrangement with dangerous stakes. But Brian’s intervention might not be enough, so Dexter sets out to find exonerating evidence of his own…
Bradstreet Gate, by Robin Kirman
When three friends embark on their freshman year at Harvard, they can’t wait for their future to begin. But four years later, after a classmate is murdered on campus, they wish they could retreat to the past—especially when their favorite professor becomes the number one suspect. The case raises questions of innocence surrounding both the professor and the trio of friends. This one is a must-read for fans of Jeffrey Eugenides, Donna Tartt, and Meg Wolitzer.