August Adult Picks

August is a big month for book releases. Some of the biggest names in books, from thrillers to historical fiction, are putting out new material. I’ll get to them. But first, I’m choosing to focus on some really interesting books being put out by authors who aren’t quite so well known.

Eight of these ten books are on my personal to-be-read list. Granted, I’m a librarian, so that list is currently 347 items long. Still, 8 books is a lot to look forward to. Is it bad that I’m hoping for a lot of rainy August evenings, so I have an excuse to sit inside with a good book?

 

what made
*What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen by Kate Fagan (out August 1st)
Sports journalist Kate Fagan relates the story of Ivy League freshman and track star Maddy Holleran, who seemingly had it all and succeeded at everything she tried, but who secretly grappled with mental illness before taking her own life during the spring semester. This is the story of Holleran’s life, and her struggle with depression, which also reveals the mounting pressures young people, and college athletes in particular, face to be perfect, especially in an age of relentless connectivity and social media saturation.

bitch doctrine
*Bitch Doctrine: Essays for Dissenting Adults by Laurie Penny (out August 1st)

Smart and provocative, witty and uncompromising, this collection of Laurie Penny’s celebrated essays establishes her as one of the most important and vibrant political voices of our time. Bitch Doctrine takes an unflinching look at the definitive issues of our age, from the shock of Donald Trump’s election and the victories of the far right to online harassment and the transgender rights movement.

 

you play
*You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Trainwrecks, and Other Mixed Messages by Carina Chocano (out August 8th)

From the moment we’re born, we’re told stories about what girls are and they aren’t, what girls want and what they don’t, what girls can be and what they can’t. “The girl” looms over us like a toxic cloud, permeating everything and confusing our sense of reality. In You Play the Girl, Carina Chocano shows how we metabolize the subtle, fragmented messages embedded in our everyday experience and how our identity is shaped by them. She explains how growing up in the shadow of “the girl” taught her to think about herself and the world and what it means to raise a daughter in the face of these contorted reflections. In the tradition of Roxane Gay, Rebecca Solnit, and Susan Sontag, Chocano brilliantly shows that our identities are more fluid than we think, and certainly more complex than anything we see on any kind of screen.

 

wonderlandscape
Wonderlandscape: Yellowstone National Park and the Evolution of an American Cultural Icon
by John Clayton (out August 8th)
Yellowstone is America’s premier national park. Today is often a byword for conservation, natural beauty, and a way for everyone to enjoy the great outdoors. But it was not always this way. Wonderlandscape presents a new perspective on Yellowstone, the emotions various natural wonders and attractions evoke, and how this explains the park’s relationship to America as a whole.

Whether it is artists or naturalists, entrepreneurs or pop-culture icons, each character in the story of Yellowstone ends up reflecting and redefining the park for the values of its era. For example, when Ernest Thompson Seton wanted to observe bears in 1897, his adventures highlighted the way the park transformed from a set of geological oddities to a wildlife sanctuary, reflecting a nation was concerned about disappearing populations of bison and other species. Subsequent eras added Rooseveltian masculinity, democratic patriotism, ecosystem science, and artistic inspiration as core Yellowstone hallmarks.
As the National Park system enters its second century, Wonderlandscape allows us to reflect on the values and heritage that Yellowstone alone has come to represent―how it will shape the America’s relationship with her land for generations to come.

 

the arena
*The Arena: Inside the Tailgating, Ticket-Scalping, Mascot-Racing, Dubiously Funded, and Possibly Haunted Monuments of American Sport by Rafi Kohan (out August 8th)

The American sports stadium, for all its raucous glory, is an overlooked centerpiece―a veritable temple―of our national culture. A hallowed ground for communal worship, this is where history is made on grass, artificial turf, hardwood, and even ice; where nostalgia flows as freely as ten-dollar beers; where everything thrills, from exploding fireworks to grinning cheerleaders. In The Arena, “an altogether new and riveting sports classic” (Josh Wilker), intrepid sportswriter Rafi Kohan crisscrosses the country, journeying from one beloved monument to the next. As he finagles access to the unexpected corners and hidden corridors of our most frequented fields, he discovers just what makes them tick―and what keeps us coming back time and time again.

 

wild things
*Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult by Bruce Handy (out August 15th)

In Wild Things, Vanity Fair contributing editor Bruce Handy revisits the classics of every American childhood, from fairy tales to The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and explores the back stories of their creators, using context and biography to understand how some of the most insightful, creative, and witty authors and illustrators of their times created their often deeply personal masterpieces. Along the way, Handy learns what The Cat in the Hat says about anarchy and absentee parenting, which themes are shared by The Runaway Bunny and Portnoy’s Complaint, and why Ramona Quimby is as true an American icon as Tom Sawyer or Jay Gatsby.

 

real food
*Real Food Heals: Eat to Feel Younger and Stronger Every Day by Seamus Mullen with Genevieve Ko (out August 22nd)
Healthy cooking reinvented by top chef Seamus Mullen, with over 125 Paleo-inspired recipes designed to revitalize your health every day. In the high-end food world, “healthy cooking” has long been taboo. But as one of the only high-profile chefs today guided by the understanding that the food we eat has a deep impact on our health, Seamus Mullen has rewritten the old rule that healthy can’t be delicious.

 

to siri
*To Siri with Love: A Mother, Her Autistic Son, and the Kindness of Machines by Judith Newman (out August 22nd)

From the author of the viral New York Times op-ed column “To Siri with Love” comes a collection of touching, hilarious, and illuminating stories about life with a thirteen-year-old boy with autism that hold insights and revelations for us all. From the charming (Gus weeping with sympathy over the buses that would lie unused while the bus drivers were on strike) to the painful (paying $22,000 for a behaviorist in Manhattan to teach Gus to use a urinal) to the humorous (Gus’s insistence on getting naked during all meals, whether at home or not, because he does not want to get his clothes dirty) to the profound (how an automated “assistant” helped a boy learn how to communicate with the rest of the world), the stories in To Siri with Love open our eyes to the magic and challenges of a life beyond the ordinary.

 

i'll have
I’ll Have What She’s Having: Nora Ephron and the Three movies that Changed Romantic Comedy by Erin Carlson (out August 29th)

Entertainment journalist Erin Carlson tells the story of the real Nora Ephron and how she reinvented the romcom through her trio of instant classics. Along the way, Carlson examines how Ephron explored in the cinema answers to the questions that plagued her own romantic life and how she regained faith in love after one broken engagement and two failed marriages. Carlson also explores countless other questions Ephron’s fans have wondered about: What sparked Reiner to snap out of his bachelor blues during the making of When Harry Met Sally? Why was Ryan, a gifted comedian trapped in the body of a fairytale princess, not the first choice for the role? After she and Hanks each separately balked at playing Mail’s Kathleen Kelly and Sleepless’ Sam Baldwin, what changed their minds? And perhaps most importantly: What was Dave Chappelle doing … in a turtleneck? An intimate portrait of a one of America’s most iconic filmmakers and a look behind the scenes of her crowning achievements, I’ll Have What She’s Having is a vivid account of the days and nights when Ephron, along with assorted cynical collaborators, learned to show her heart on the screen.

 

martha stewart
*Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooker: 100 Recipes for Flavorful, Foolproof Dishes (Including Desserts!) Plus Test-Kitchen Tips and Strategies by the Editors of Martha Stewart Living (out August 29th)
Leave it to the experts at Martha Stewart to figure out the best ways to use this favorite appliance. The 110 recipes in this book make the most of the slow cooker’s assets (low heat, hands-off cooking), while also uncovering its hidden potential. Readers will find that they can not only braise cuts of meat until meltingly tender and let soups and stews simmer away untended, but also gently poach fish, cook up creamy scalloped potatoes, and bake a perfect cheesecake. This book has everything home cooks need to maximize flavor and make life a whole lot easier.

 

That’s what’s interesting me this month. Here are a few others that might interest you:

Crime Scene by Jonathan Kellerman & Jesse Kellerman (out August 1st)

The Medical Examiner by James Patterson (out August 1st)

The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory (out August 2nd)

Barely Legal by Stuart Woods (out August 2nd)

Any Dream Will Do by Debbie Maccomber (out August 8th)

The Store by James Patterson (out August 14th)

Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton (out August 22nd)

Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs (out August 22nd)

Need to Know by Fern Michaels (out August 29th)

The Right Time by Danielle Steel (out August 29th)