What to Read in April

The Artist Recommends: What to Read in July

Well, well, well… I have been out of town. On and off for a few weeks. So I missed my post for what to read in July, skipped right over the Fourth of July altogether. But I am still going to give it to you and maybe you can use it next year. Actually, I just posted a brand-new list of Best Books to read for Independence Day. But some of it is going to weave its way into the July 2024 reading recommendations, for better or worse.

Here are some Fourth of July-y reads that I have read in the past and would recommend any time of the year, though poolside with a rocket popsicle and a sparkler might work best.

  • Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders ***
  • The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien ***
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving **
  • Fever 1793, Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne ***
  • The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee ***
  • The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald **
  • Little Women, Louisa May Alcott **
  • Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder *
  • Africans in America, Johnson, Smith and WGBH Research Team ***
  • Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, Jean Lee Latham ***
  • Inside Out & Back Again, Thanhha Lai *
  • One Crazy Summer, Rita Williams-Garcia *
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred D. Taylor *
  • Sign of the Beaver, Elizabeth George Speare ***
  • Lyddie, Katherine Paterson *

Here are some pretty random U.S.A. history (mostly fiction) reads that I would like to one day read, myself:

  • Johnny Tremain, Esther Forbes
  • Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann
  • Lincoln, Gore Vidal
  • Chains, Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Night Watch, Jayne Anne Philips
  • The Demon of Unrest, Erik Larson
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
  • The Alienist, Caleb Carr
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon
  • Before We Were Yours, Lisa Wingate
  • The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Women, Kristin Hannah
  • The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd

So far this year there have been some big-time award-winners announced. There are still more announcements coming in the summer and fall. Here’s an update:

The 2024 winner of the International Booker Prize was Jenny Erpenbeck’s Kairos, a German book that I happen to be reading for a book club right now. I quickly tired of both adultery and young woman-older man stories this year, so I am not totally enjoying this book. There is something great about the writing (in translation), but it is also one of those literary, almost-plotless books. If you like that sort of thing. (The (non-International) Booker Prize will be announced later this year.)

The 2024 winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Excellence for fiction is Amanda Peter’s The Berry Pickers. I have seen this around lately. It’s a mystery involving a missing child (which is also a hard sell for me) and it takes place in Maine—which seems to be the American place right now, well, that and Baltimore. It also involves Native peoples, which is much more interesting to me (and tends not to make me super sad and anxious like missing children’s stories).

The 2024 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in Jayne Anne Phillip’s Night Watch. People are freaking out about this book. I see it everywhere and have heard it mentioned a number of times in the past month or so. I will for sure put it on next year’s reading list, if I haven’t gotten around to it by then by way of book club or peer pressure. I also included it on the Independence Day reads list because it is American historical fiction, taking place during (or post-?) Civil War in West Virginia.

The winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction is Lorrie Moore’s I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home. I haven’t heard of it and, unfortunately, it is not doing well with reader’s reviews. It is something of a ghost story and it sounds like it’s spread out all over time and even storyline. I dunno’. If you do, let me know.

The winner of the 2024 Caldecott Medal is Vashti Harrison’s Big.

The 2024 winner of the Newbery Medal is Dave Egger’s The Eyes and the Impossible, a book I had actually come across and thought looked not that great. I stand corrected, Newbery judges.

The 2024 winner of the Printz Award is A. S. King’s The Collectors. Now this is pretty intriguing. A Printz Award-winning author gave prompts to best-selling novelists and then collected their stories into this book? And then it won the Printz? It is, however, not faring well with reader reviews, same as I Am Homeless.

There are also a few other books that have seeped onto my radar during the past month:

  • Rez Ball, Byron Graves
  • World Travel: An Irreverent Guide, Bourdain and Woolever
  • The Iliad, translated by Emily Watson, Homer
  • Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone, Benjamin Stevenson

And a few book-related games:

  • Great Shakespearean Deaths Card Game
  • Victorian Parlor Games
  • Matchmaking: The Jane Austen Memory Game

And here are the books that everyone is waiting to be published in July, or so they tell me:

  • Grandest Game, Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • This Great Hemisphere, Mateo Askaripour
  • The Briar Club, Kate Quinn
  • The Lost Story, Meg Shaffer
  • The Bright Sword, Lev Grossman
  • Slow Dance, Rainbow Rowell
  • I Was a Teenage Slasher, Stephen Graham Jones
  • The God of the Woods, Liz Moore
  • The Love of My Afterlife, Kirsty Greenwood
  • State of Paradise, Laura Van Den Berg
  • Grown Women, Sarai Johnson
  • Someone Like Us, Diwan Mengestu

And while gathering those titles, I thought we’d take a mid-year look back at the books that are floating to the top of the “best books of 2024” pool. I didn’t include ones that I had already mentioned in previous posts. (It looks like the romances are taking the cake.) We’ll do a full recap in December.

  • Memory Piece, Lisa Ko
  • Good Material, Dolly Alderton
  • Anita de Monte Laughs Last, Xochitl Gonzalez
  • The Fetishist, Katherine Min
  • How to End a Love Story, Yulin Kuang
  • The Paradise Problem, Christina Lauren
  • I Hope This Finds You Well, Natalie Sue
  • This Summer Will Be Different, Carley Fortune
  • Summer Romance, Annabel Monaghan
  • The Bulgarian Training Manual, Ruth Bonapace
  • Moonbound, Robin Sloan
  • Margo’s Got Money Troubles, Rufi Thorpe
  • Bear, Julia Phillips
  • A Novel Love Story, Ashely Poston
  • Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands, Heather Fawcett (#2 in a series)
  • The Reappearance of Rachel Price, Holly Jackson;

The books I will be reading (or just read) for book clubs are:

  • One of Us Is Lying, Karen M. McManus (Already read it and giving it four stars. Solid.)
  • Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie (Reading it right now; it’s amazing but so frickin’ dense—it’s gonna take me forever.)
  • Daughter of the Moon Goddess, Sue Lynn Tan (What a pretty cover!)
  • and one book club watches a book-related movie every July, this year’s being All of Us Strangers

I had a good reading month in June, spilling over so far into July. Here are the books I loved in June. You’ll have reviews of each of them, soon:

  • Fourth Wing (Empyrean Cycle #1), Rebecca Yarros
  • Universal Love, Alexander Weinstein
  • Nettle & Bone, T. Kingfisher
  • Normal People, Sally Rooney
  • One of Us Is Lying, Karen M. McManus

For “the usual” seasonal recommendations—summer reads related to the Fourth of July, see the blog post I just posted.