Best Book Club Picks for August: Haruki Murakami, Lisa Jewell, and More

Best Book Club Picks for August: Haruki Murakami, Lisa Jewell, and More

As the summer winds down and the heat hits an all-time high, perhaps it’s best to sit back and relax with a good read. This month there’s a wide variety to choose from: a famous-for-being-famous convict on the run in  Elizabeth Little’s fiction debut, a close look at a toxic small Texan town from René Steinke, and a nonfiction pick on Korea that is more focused on Gangnam than Kim Jong-un. Here’s a diverse set of picks that will satisfy no matter what your book club feels like tackling.

Famous until proven guilty

Self-professed language fanatic Elizabeth Little has written two works of nonfiction, yet she’s testing the waters of novel-writing in her debut Dear Daughter. Freed after 10 years behind bars, infamous celebutante Janie Jenkins sets out to throw the media off her trail while she attempts to uncover the truth behind the murder she believes she was wrongfully convicted of. Sure, she had motive to kill her mother, and her memories of that night are as hazy as any other—but could she have really done it? Celeb-lovin’ book clubs are sure to devour what Kirkus calls “ Agatha Christie meets Kim Kardashian.”

Hits shelves: August 4


Can’t forget the past

Against the wishes of his mother and stepfather, college student David takes a summer job at the run-down resort where his biological father went missing 15 years earlier in British fantasist Graham Joyce’s latest novel,  The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit. Sunshine and tropical resorts threaten to drive more bracing English resorts like Skegness out of business, though the heat is scorching during the summer of 1976. The slightly naïve David finds himself torn between two women, one of whom has a dangerous ex-con husband. When he isn’t juggling his job or his gals, he finds himself haunted by mysterious visions of a man and small child staring at him from the distance. But are they there to help him or lure him into danger? The supernatural elements are woven gently into this otherwise realistic coming-of-age novel.

Hits shelves: August 5


Rioting in the streets

Set amidst the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, Michaela Carter’s  Further Out Than You Thought is narrated by a twenty-something woman named Gwen who is working as a stripper and living with her performance artist boyfriend Leo. When Gwen discovers that she is pregnant, she must make a series of difficult decisions about her future as well as the future of her unborn child and her relationship with Leo. What ensues is a dark, thought-provoking debut about deciding how to live when it feels like the world is falling apart around you.

Hits shelves: August 5


The only constant is change

Typically, The Paris Review doesn’t excerpt your short story collectionunless it’s really, really good. This is the buzzworthy position in which author Jack Livings currently finds himself as readers anticipate the arrival of his debut short story collection The Dog. Set in contemporary China, this collection paints poignant portraits of individuals all grappling with tremendous changes inherent to their environment. The stories gathered here are varied and often dark, but ultimately point to an outstanding new literary talent.

Hits shelves: August 5


Oppa gangnam style

It doesn’t stop with “ Gangnam Style.” Not even close. American popular culture is full of South Korean imports, and Euny Hong tackles this phenomenon in her quippy volume, The Birth of Korean Cool. “Korea was not cool in 1985,” Hong writes by way of explanation. The question she seeks to answer is, What has changed? Meme-fluent and internet culture-savvy, this work of nonfiction sheds light on a significant cultural force and the ways in which ideas and aesthetics can travel from one place and group of people to another. From K-pop to video games, Hong takes the reader on a fascinating journey. If you book club is yearning to mix things up a little bit, we’d highly recommend this accessible and relevant nonfiction read.

Hits shelves: August 5


One is the loneliest number

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, the new novel from “ Japan’s greatest living novelist,” finds Haruki Murakami straying from the mystical realism for which his postmodern novels are known, and returning to a simpler but deceptively thoughtful structure typical of his earlier work. This book sold over a million copies in its first week on sale in Japan, and seems likely to make a similarly large splash in the U.S. The story follows the plight of train station engineer Tsukuru Tazaki, who is suddenly exiled from a group of his four closest friends and must cope with his feelings of emptiness and inconsequence. With his characteristically sparse prose and eye for negative space in relationships, Murakami shows readers a man on a mission to find out where he went wrong.

Hits shelves: August 12


The cracks that break us

In the latest novel from bestselling British author Lisa Jewell, the Bird family—as fragile as their name implies—experiences a tragedy one Easter morning that they cannot recover from. Easter Sundays were once bright and cheerful, but after a devastating incident the celebrations turn bleak. Told through 30 years of Easter Sundays, The House We Grew Up In takes readers on a tour of the events that led up to the disintegration of a formerly close family. The story kicks off when a fresh tragedy brings daughter Meg back home, eliciting unwelcome memories. As different family members take the narrative reins, the truth of what happened that one dark Easter morning and the shocking depth of the consequences that followed are carefully laid out in a powerful portrait of love, guilt, and loneliness.

Hits shelves: August 12


Don’t drink the water

Inspired in part by the town she grew up in, René Steinke’s third novel dives into the heart of smalltown Texas where church suppers and high school football reign supreme. Alternating perspectives between the residents of Friendswood, Steinke’s novel explores the life-changing events that occur after an industrial leak causes widespread and deadly pollution. Middle-aged mother Lee fights to reveal the truth behind the dumped chemicals that may have been connected to the cancer that killed her teenage daughter. Meanwhile, a high school girl is drugged at a party and sexually assaulted by the football team. Plotlines parallel the town’s struggle to deal with the consequences of what has happened as residents face their shared uncertain future. Deeply personal, empathetic, and fixed firmly in reality, book clubs reading Friendswood will be moved to conversation about the challenges of fighting for what is right.

Hits shelves: August 14


We’d like to recommend

Ah, recommendation letters. They’re annoying to ask for, and presumably even more annoying to write. But author Julie Schumacher revitalizes an under- or maybe just unappreciated art form in her new novel that follows a mediocre English professor named Jason Fitger. Fitger’s career has been marginally disappointing, and his references are laced with world-weariness and notes of cynicism as he writes letters for the most ridiculous jobs, for which students have nonetheless asked him to endorse them. Schumacher’s tone is warm and her insight into academia incisive. Plus, Dear Committee Members epistolary style will feel novel to most readers (if unbearably too real to the English professors who pick this up).

Hits shelves: August 19


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