Need a lush and epic novel set in some remote and rugged land? We've got two. Need a post-apocalyptic fiction fix? Done. How about spies? Take your pick, we've got real and fictional.
Our Best Books of the Month list for August has something for all tastes, from a dark novel about cheerleaders to a legendary writer's memoir on aging, from a surprisingly impressive novel by a former teen actress to a nonfiction look at the history and science of dreams.
Oh, and an added bonus: in addition to our Debut Spotlight (The Orchardist), half of this month's Best Books are debut novels (The Light Between Oceans, Dog Stars, When It Happens to You, We Sinners, and City of Women).
SPOTLIGHT: The Light Between Oceans, by ML Stedman
Malissa says: When a baby washes up in a rowboat, a lighthouse keeper and his young wife decide to raise the child as their own. M. L. Stedman's vivid characters and gorgeous descriptions of the solitude of Janus Rock and of the unpredictable Australian frontier create a perfect backdrop for the tale of longing, loss, and the overwhelming love for a child that is "The Light Between Oceans."
The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller
Chris says: Adventure writer Peter Heller's The Dog Stars is a first novel set in Colorado after a superflu has culled most of humanity. A man named Hig lives in a former airport community"”McMansions built along the edge of a runway"”which he shares with his 1956 Cessna, his dog, and a slightly untrustworthy survivalist... Poetic, thoughtful, transformative, this novel is a rare combination of the literary and highly readable.
Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies, by Ben Macintyre
Jon says: What do a Polish pilot, a Peruvian party girl, and a Spanish chicken maven have in common? They were all central to the ruse that kept Hitler guessing over the location of the D-Day invasions. Double Cross goes behind the standard narratives of armies and generals to chronicle the unlikely and outlandish stories of the spooks, spymasters, and double agents that changed the course of the war.
Dare Me, by Megan Abbott
Neal says: Oh my, these beautiful, terrible girls with their "Aruba-tanned" legs and their ferocity and fears. This brilliantly dark story, sharp and suspenseful and chilling, made me desperately glad I have sons. These aren't "Mean Girls" or "Breakfast Club" teens. More like "Glee" on steroids. Megan Abbott is a scary genius. Her voice is fierce and fearless.
When It Happens to You, by Molly Ringwald
Mari says: Any lingering Brat Pack associations you may bring to Molly Ringwald's first novel will rapidly evaporate. Ringwald renders the families and lovers in her intertwined stories with a compassionate eye for the kind of heartbreak that upends reality, as well as a keen sense of the more subtle ways in which trust breaks and mends. Each of her eight stories explores the dynamics of fidelity and betrayal.
Winter Journal, Paul Auster
Mia says: At nearly 64, one of our greatest modern writers is feeling his age. In his quietly transfixing new memoir, Winter Journal, Paul Auster meditates on what it means for his mind, body, and creativity to experience the unforgiving passage of time. This should be--and is--an intensely personal chronicle, but Auster makes the journey equally ours by inviting us into its unfolding.
The Double Game, Dan Fesperman
Neal says: The Double Game begins as a playful spy caper within a spy caper, in which clues to a mystery are found in the pages and plots of old spy novels. Okay, clever enough. But the story quickly becomes more refreshingly and unexpectedly mysterious with each turn of the page, and I realized that Fesperman has achieved something remarkable here. He's turned the spy novel on its head, while paying homage to the genre.
Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep, David K. Randall
Ben says: In our bedrooms each night, something odd happens--we try to fall asleep. No one knows exactly why. What happens if we don't sleep? And if Freud was wrong about dreams, then why do we dream? David K. Randall answers these questions and more. He takes us through the history of human thinking about sleep, all the way up to the latest rest techniques used by Olympic athletes. You'll sleep better having read this book.
We Sinners: A Novel, Hanna PylvÃ¤inen
Kevin says: Each chapter takes the perspective of a different member of the Rovaniemi family, adherents of a hyper-conservative Finnish church in the Midwest, whose faith is tearing them apart. With nuanced storytelling and an eye for beautiful, economical prose, PylvÃ¤inen isn't afraid to take big risks with her first novel. I found that I kept thinking about We Sinners long after I had set it on my bookshelf.
City of Women, David R. Gillham
Sara says: While the world hardly lacks for WWII novels, City of Women is extraordinary for what it does not do. It doesn't detail the events or imagined conversations of Hitler's Reich, and it has not a single scene of life in the death camps. Instead, it chronicles life for "ordinary" Berliners at a time that was anything but. Gillham shows us a world in which not all Germans are bad, not all Jews are victims, and loyalty is a fiction.
DEBUT SPOTLIGHT: The Orchardist: by Amanda Coplin
Seira says: Set against the rugged beauty of Washington State at the turn of the twentieth century, Amanda Coplin's debut novel introduces readers to William Talmadge and his lovingly cultivated orchards of apples and apricots. Coplin's characters are deeply rooted in the mystery of the American West, and she brings them together, like the grafting of Talmadge's trees, to form a unique family bound not by blood but by the shared experience of tragedy.
>See all the Best Books of Month, including your favorite categories (romance, mystery & thriller, biography, cookbooks, and more)