The Most Exciting Book Releases Of Summer 2020

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Summer 2020 isn’t going to look like any summer anyone has ever had before. Rather than stretched out on a beach towel at the Rockaways or lingering over a spritz with a book on a shady patio, we’ll be stationed in the one sunny spot in our apartments, soaking up whatever semblance of outdoor sunshine we can find in our own homes. A stack of good books, though, makes this ten thousand times easier; one of the reasons I’ve managed to keep my own head above water is that I’ve been cramming books into my own head with a determination not seen since I was an angst-ridden high school student desperate for escape.

Each of the books below will transport you away from a reality of face masks and mass unemployment and into another, perhaps no less difficult but nonetheless someone else’s story. In Hannah Orenstein’s Head Over Heels, a young gymnast gives up her dreams of Olympic fame to guide another talented hopeful in that direction instead. In Cherie Dimaline’s Empire of Wild, a woman finally finds her husband who disappeared, only he seems more… supernatural than he did a year ago. P. Djèlí Clark’s Ring Shout tells the story of a young bootlegger fighting the Ku Klux Klan in an alternate history. And Susanna Clarke, author of the much-beloved Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, finally returns with a new novel, Piranesi, about a magical house and the man who lives there.

Though the release dates listed below are up-to-date as of publishing, the book industry has been frequently moving around pub dates, so be aware that what you see below is subject to change.

JUNE

PIZZA GIRL, Jean Kyoung Frazier. June 9. A pregnant 18-year-old pizza delivery girl forms an unlikely friendship with a stay-at-home mom who orders pickle-covered pizzas weekly. Bookshop.

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HEAD OVER HEELS, Hannah Orenstein. June 23. After a disastrous performance ends her gymnastics career, a young woman moves home and agrees to help train a promising gymnast with aspirations to compete in the Olympics. But when scandal strikes the gymnastics world, it has repercussions for the protagonist and the entire sport. Bookshop.

NOTHING CAN HURT YOU, Nicola Maye Goldberg. June 23. In the late 90s, a community in upstate New York struggles to come to terms with the murder of a college student. Bookshop.

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TOKYO UENO STATION, Yu Miri. June 23. A dead man, plagued by bad luck during his life, haunts the train station where he lived out the last few years of his life in a homelass encampment. The Guardian says it’s “an urgent reminder of the radical divide between rich and poor in postwar Japan.” Bookshop.

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I KILLED ZOE SPANOS, Kit Frick. June 30. In this YA thriller inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, a young woman with a true crime podcast doesn’t believe that the new girl in town murdered a local teen. Read an excerpt here. Bookshop.

JULY

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THE GOLDEN CAGE, Camilla Läckberg, Neil Smith (Translator). July 7. When a woman discovers her wealthy, distant husband is having an affair, she becomes hell-bent on revenge. “Läckberg reinforces her position as the thriller queen of Scandinavia,” writes Publisher’s Weekly. Bookshop.

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FLORENCE ADLER SWIMS FOREVER, Rachel Beanland. July 7. In 1930s Atlantic City, three generations of the Adler family cope with tragedy, heartbreak, and secrets after they take in a mysterious young woman who escaped Nazi Germany. “A riveting page-turner about characters who know how to keep a fierce secret, even when it is nearly impossible to do so,” writes De’Shawn Winslow. Bookshop.

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MOTHER DAUGHTER WIDOW WIFE, Robin Wasserman. July 7. From the author of the acclaimed Girls on Fire, a novel about an amnesiac woman in a fugue state who checks herself into an experimental research facility. I read this novel last week, and it is extraordinary: a riveting plot, compelling, sympathetic characters — despite their many foibles — and intellectually rich. I loved it. Liz Phair says “Wasserman has a unique gift for describing the turbulent intersection of love and need, hinting that the freedom we seek may only be the freedom to change.” Bookshop.

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OTHER PEOPLE’S PETS, R. L. Maizes. July 14. An animal empath, raised by a single father who trained her as a thief, drops out of veterinarian school when her father is diagnosed with cancer and must rob houses to pay the bills — but only targets homes with pets whose maladies she can treat before leaving. Kevin Wilson calls it “remarkable.” Bookshop.

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THE YEAR OF THE WITCHING, Alexis Henderson. July 21. In this fantasy novel, a young woman raised in a puritanical society learns that her late mother once consorted with witches, knowledge that leads her to discover the dark, violent foundation of the governing church. Bookshop.

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THE PULL OF THE STARS, Emma Donoghue. July 21. In Ireland, a doctor, a nurse, and a volunteer health aide fight to keep their patients alive amid the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. From the author of Room. Bookshop.

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THE BUTTERFLY LAMPSHADE, Aimee Bender. July 28. The latest novel from the author of such surreal, beautiful books as The Girl In The Flammable Skirt and Willful Creatures, in which a woman must make sense of a series of strange interactions with various objects. Bookshop.

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EMPIRE OF WILD, Cherie Dimaline. July 28. A woman spends a year searching for her husband, and eventually finds him — but he doesn’t recognize her. He insists he’s a preacher spreading the word of Christ, yet there seems to be something very old, and very dangerous, wrong with him. Bookshop.

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CROSSINGS, Alex Landragin. July 28. On the eve of the Nazi occupation of Paris, a German-Jewish bookbinder discovers a book meant to be read either straight through, or in an alternative chapter sequence. “This delightful puzzle box of a novel is full of clever structural tricks that echo works by Nabokov and Cortazar,” writes Dan Chaon. Bookshop.

AUGUST

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EVERY BONE A PRAYER, Ashley Blooms. August 4. An Appalachian child with a unique connection to animals must contend with her abuse. “This is the kind of book we need to set literary expectations for a new decade,” writes Kiese Laymon. Bookshop.

A SAINT FROM TEXAS, Edmund White. August 4. The story of the lives of twin sisters from Texas, one who ascends to the height of Parisian society, the other who dedicates decades to religious service. “Like a waltz that goes out of control, this is a wild, dizzying, joyful romp. A Saint from Texas is a daring and exuberant novel,” says Ann Beattie. Bookshop.

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IMPERFECT WOMEN, Araminta Hall. August 4. When a seemingly perfect woman is murdered, her two best friends discover secrets that endanger the narratives the women had constructed around their friend — and their own lives. From the author of the acclaimed Our Kind Of Cruelty. Bookshop.

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THE COMEBACK, Ella Berman. August 11. A young Hollywood actress tries to pick herself up after years of being abused by her director. Bookshop.

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DISAPPEAR DOPPELGÄNGER DISAPPEAR, Matt Salesses. August 11. When his girlfriend stumbles upon someone who is almost exactly like him — except perfect — a man whose life is crumbling at the edges must figure out how to protect himself when his perfect doppelganger exists. Bookshop.

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ORDINARY HAZARDS, Anna Bruno. August 18. A woman sits down at a bar with a haphazard group of locals for a night, during which details from her mysterious past will emerge. Bookshop.

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SISTERS, Daisy Johnson. August 25. After a series of shocking events, two inseparable sisters find their relationship strained. Jeff VanderMeer calls it “a taut, disturbing, and brilliantly written psychological drama of the first order.” Bookshop.

SEPTEMBER

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RUTHIE FEAR, Maxim Loskutoff. September 1. A modern western about a young woman who, as a child, witnesses a strange, headless apparition that seems to foretell her rural community’s buckling under class tension and natural disaster. Bookshop.

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FIFTY WORDS FOR RAIN, Asha Lemmie. September 1. In postwar Japan, an eight-year-old illegitimate daughter of an aristocratic mother and African American GI father lives in her imperial grandparent’s attic, where she receives painful chemical baths to lighten her skin every night. When she forms a powerful bond with her legitimate older brother, their lives — and the future of their family — are changed forever. Bookshop.

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EVENING, Nessa Rapoport. September 1. Stories and long-hidden secrets about a family unfold as a woman sits shiva for her recently-estranged late sister. “My shabby words do not even begin to convey how brilliant this book is,” says E. Jean Carroll. Bookshop.

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PIRANESI, Susanna Clarke. September 15. From the author of the much-beloved Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, about a man whose mysterious house has infinite rooms and corridors and an imprisoned ocean. My friend and book genius Emily Hughes says the best way to describe this “enchanting” novel is by asking, “what if Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea had a baby with the movie Memento?” Bookshop.

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DAUGHTERS OF THE WILD, Natalka Burian. September 22. A group of foster siblings in rural West Virginia are tasked with cultivating a mysterious, magical vine. When one of the sibling’s baby goes missing, she discovers the vine is much more powerful than she and her siblings anticipated. Barnes & Noble.

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THE LEFT-HANDED BOOKSELLERS OF LONDON, Garth Nix. September 22. The latest fantasy offering from the author of Sabriel and Lirael, in which a girl in a slightly alternative 1980s London must join forces with both left- and right-handed booksellers to find her missing father. Bookshop.

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THE TALENTED MISS FARWELL, Emily Gray Tedrowe. September 29. A woman living a double life as a small town treasurer and wealthy art collector is embezzling from the town treasury to fund her art business. But when the art market starts to rupture, it becomes less clear how she’s going to repay her hometown. “Becky Farwell is one of the most wickedly compelling characters I’ve read in ages — a Machiavellian marvel, a modern Becky Sharp, a character to root for despite your better judgment,” writes Rebecca Makkai. Bookshop.

OCTOBER

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MEMORIAL, Bryan Washington. October 6. When his estranged Japan-based father falls ill just as his mother arrives for a visit, a young chef departs for Japan as his boyfriend is left in an amusing but meaningful roommate situation with the visiting mom. From the National Book Award honoree author of Lot. Bookshop.

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THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE, V.E. Schwab. October 6. A desperate woman in 18th century France makes a deal to live forever, but with a price: everyone she meets will forget her. But 300 years later, a young man in a bookstore remembers her name. From the beloved author of A Darker Shade of Magic. Bookshop.

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THE ONCE AND FUTURE WITCHES, Alix E. Harrow. October 13. In the late 19th century, three suffragists rediscover the ways of witches, who had been all but eradicated by years of witch-burning. From the author of the truly wonderful The Ten Thousand Doors of January. Bookshop.

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A GOLDEN FURY, Samantha Cohoe. October 13. In 18th century France and England, a young alchemist who discovered the secret to immortality — only for her mother to go insane and destroy it — must protect her remaining family as scientists hungry for immortality aim to procure it at any cost necessary. Bookshop.

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RING SHOUT, P. Djèlí Clark. October 13. A bootlegger in Prohibition-era Georgia must fight the encroaching hate of the rising Ku Klux Klan, which is fueled by sorcery and monsters. “One of the most powerful and propulsive pieces of speculative fiction I’ve read in years. Fearless. Utterly fearless,” writes Tochi Onyebuchi. Bookshop.

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DARK ARCHIVES: A LIBRARIAN’S INVESTIGATION INTO THE SCIENCE AND HISTORY OF BOOKS BOUND BY HUMAN SKIN, Megan Rosenbloom. October 20. I don’t often include nonfiction in my book lists, but how could I not mention this one? The title says it all, I think. Absolutely thrilled for and creeped out by this. Bookshop.

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PLAIN BAD HEROINES, Emily M. Danforth. October 20. Past and present become terrifyingly entangled when a filmmaker begins working on a movie about a mysterious boarding school where, a century earlier, a group of girls died in troubling circumstances. Sarah Waters says it’s “brimming from start to finish with sly humor and gothic mischief. Brilliant.” Bookshop.

Written by

I’m a columnist for OneZero, where I write about the intersection of health & tech. Also seen at Elemental, The Atlantic, VICE, and Vox. Brooklyn, NY.

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