We’re right in the middle of summer, and whether you spend it on the porch, by a pool, or in the air conditioning, it’s a great time to pick up a book! There are a ton of great titles out there to choose from, including some that are just hitting shelves and some that are seeing a resurgence in popularity.
In addition to the list below, we’d like to recommend you check out Next Avenue’s list of Contemporary Black Novelists to Read Now for a list of titles that detail experiences of being Black in America.
All of the titles below are linked to Amazon, but many can be purchased from independent booksellers. To support local businesses, browse the websites of the stores on this list. You can also call or e-mail to see what their policies are and find out about curbside pickup and delivery. (Please note: The list includes Browzer’s Bookshop, but they are temporarily closed.)
Many of books are also available in print for pickup from Madison libraries. Visit this link to learn more. You can also search for titles in e-book and audiobook format through the Wisconsin Library System.
Do you have a great book to recommend? Contact SAIL at 608-230-4321 or email@example.com and we’ll make sure to share the recommendation! If you’ve read any of the books on this list, let us know what you thought!
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ story lines intersect?
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?
In a small town in Virginia, a group of people know each other because they’re part of a special treatment center, a hyperbaric chamber that may cure a range of conditions from infertility to autism. But then the chamber explodes, two people die, and it’s clear the explosion wasn’t an accident. A powerful showdown unfolds as the story moves across characters who are all maybe keeping secrets, hiding betrayals. Chapter by chapter, we shift alliances and gather evidence: Was it the careless mother of a patient? Was it the owners, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? Could it have been a protester, trying to prove the treatment isn’t safe?
Maybe You Should Talk To Someone by Lori Gottleib
One day, Lori Gottlieb is a therapist who helps patients in her Los Angeles practice. The next, a crisis causes her world to come crashing down. Enter Wendell, the quirky but seasoned therapist in whose office she suddenly lands. With his balding head, cardigan, and khakis, he seems to have come straight from Therapist Central Casting. Yet he will turn out to be anything but. As Gottlieb explores the inner chambers of her patients’ lives — a self-absorbed Hollywood producer, a young newlywed diagnosed with a terminal illness, a senior citizen threatening to end her life on her birthday if nothing gets better, and a twenty-something who can’t stop hooking up with the wrong guys — she finds that the questions they are struggling with are the very ones she is now bringing to Wendell. With startling wisdom and humor, Gottlieb invites us into her world as both clinician and patient, examining the truths and fictions we tell ourselves and others as we teeter on the tightrope between love and desire, meaning and mortality, guilt and redemption, terror and courage, hope and change.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
This American classic is the luminous and haunting novel about Janie Crawford, a Southern Black woman in the 1930s, whose journey from a free-spirited girl to a woman of independence and substance has inspired writers and readers for close to 70 years.
This poetic, graceful love story, rooted in Black folk traditions and steeped in mythic realism, celebrates boldly and brilliantly African-American culture and heritage. And in a powerful, mesmerizing narrative, it pays quiet tribute to a Black woman who, though constricted by the times, still demanded to be heard.
Something Rich and Strange by Ron Rash
No one captures the complexities of Appalachia – a rugged, brutal landscape of exquisite beauty – as evocatively and indelibly as author and poet Ron Rash. Winner of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, two O Henry prizes, and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, Rash brilliantly illuminates the tensions between the traditional and the modern, the old and new south, tenderness and violence, man and nature. Though the focus is regional, the themes of Rash’s work are universal, striking an emotional chord that resonates deep within each of our lives.
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
This is not a new book, but it’s definitely one with renewed interest! Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. “To repudiate his legacy,” Chernow writes, “is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.” Chernow here recounts Hamilton’s turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.
Note from your musical theatre-loving blog editor: Have you checked out the musical based on this book? It is, quite simply, extraordinary. Hear songs here or subscribe to Disney Plus to see a video of the Broadway production!
Why Did I Come Into This Room? by Joan Lunden
“I’m too old for Snapchat, but too young for Life Alert.” In her most candid and revealing book yet, acclaimed broadcast journalist and Baby Boomer Joan Lunden delves into the various phases of aging that leave many feeling uncomfortable, confused, and on edge. In her hilarious book, Lunden takes the dull and depressing out of aging, replacing it with wit and humor.
Happy reading, and stay safe! As always, SAIL is here for whatever you need, Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 608-230-4321 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.