August is here, summer is already dwindling, and once again, we have a list of books to enjoy, no matter what’s happening with the weather. There’s a short-story collection everyone should read, a new monkey king protecting San Francisco, a self-care guide for those who are grieving, and even a memoir about Southern Black womanhood. There’s something for everyone on this list, and as we enjoy the outdoors, be sure to keep a book by your side.
Every book recommendation in this list comes from a Bitch Media editor with complete editorial independence. However, Bitch Media is an affiliate of Bookshop.org, and we want to make sure you know that a small percentage of any books you click through and purchase will come back to Bitch as a commission. Bookshop.org does not ship internationally.
Anthony Veasna So is having the kind of debut release authors dream of: Ecco ordered a first print run of more than 100,000—nearly unheard of for a story collection. The book has already been featured in publications such as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and NPR. It’s unfortunate that, So, who died in December 2020 at the age of 28, can’t be here to receive the well-deserved praise for Afterparties, an excellent collection that follows Cambodian Americans navigating California’s Central Valley in the aftermath of the Camodian Genocide. Through characters like Ves and Maly, cousins who love sharing weed and jokes, So questions what it means to be Khmer when their homeland has been decimated. Posthumous debuts can be a hit or a miss, but So’s magic dances on the page.
Liz is living a charmed life, or so it seems: She’s a D.C-based journalist at a prestigious newspaper, where she edits “My Turn,” a weekly column in which people write about the most interesting aspects of their lives, including their marriages. Liz has a close relationship with her adult son, Peter, and she’s finally moved past the ex-husband, Sidney, who left her for another woman. But when that woman, Nicole, submits an essay that’s about her marriage to Sidney, Liz can’t resist learning more. Under the guise of another editor, she begins an email correspondence with Nicole. In the process, Liz learns that she’s not as healed from Sidney’s betrayal as she thought, and she has to reckon with the fact that it has kept her from letting anyone—including friends and potential romantic partners—get too close. If you enjoy Younger, you’ll absolutely love Her Turn.
After Anna Qu’s father died, her mother relocated from Wenzhou, China, to New York and left Anna with her grandparents. But the image of her mother that lives in Anna’s mind is shattered when, at age 7, her mother brings her to America. Anna’s mother, who has married the owner of a sweatshop and had two children with him, has little patience or regard for her oldest child: Anna is forced to sleep in the basement and, rather than going to school, is made to work more than 40 hours a week in the sweatshop. Appealing to child protective services is no help; Anna simply learns how little the system can do for neglected and abused children—and how little it cares. Made in China is a harrowing memoir about the indifference we show toward children, especially those who emigrate to the United States.
Maya McQueen knows she’s a supernatural being, but she’s unsure of the limits of her abilities because she has so many and no real outlet to use them. So she runs an activist magazine in San Francisco and organizes Occupy Wall Street rallies, hoping that eventually she can put her talents to use. That moment comes when she begins investigating a number of shapeshifter murders and realizes San Francisco needs some extraordinary protection. Maya’s rise as a superhero known as the “monkey king” is an origin story for the ages.
Grief is an inescapable part of our lives, but when we’re confronted with it, it can seem impossible to navigate in a way that both honors the process and allows us to continue living. Nneka M. Okona (who has contributed to Bitch) has created a comprehensive guidebook that teaches people how to live with grief without disregarding it. Whether it’s advising people to create better boundaries, name their emotions, or simply cook, Self-Care for Grief offers up useful and important tips for creating a self-care practice that can survive not only grief, but any other obstacles we encounter in our lives.
Nora Spangler is up for partner at her law firm, pregnant with her second child, and struggling to stay afloat. Though her husband, Hayden, also works full-time, she’s carrying more of the household load, including washing all the dishes, keeping all the schedules, and taking out the trash. Their move to an elite neighborhood called Dynasty Ranch seems to bode well for Nora, who is enthralled by the domestic harmony of their new home, a place where all the women are successful and all the men pull their fair share of the household weight. But when she starts investigating a wrongful death case in Dynasty Ranch, Nora realizes there’s more than meets the eye—and these husbands aren’t helping their wives by choice. The Husbands is a fascinating thriller about the lengths women will go to get the support they deserve.
Eric Garcia is on the autism spectrum, but his life doesn’t resemble mainstream media’s coverage of the disorder: He’s a political journalist who graduated from the University of North Carolina, and he recognizes the ways in which autistic people are left out of conversations about autism. Using his own experience as a springboard, Garcia offers up a compelling narrative about the ways autistic people are overlooked and mistreated in schools, in medicine, and through policies that, rather than making life better for those on the spectrum, result in even more stigma.
When Eleanor fell in love with Aaron as a teenager, she never expected their relationship to last through college or to culminate in a marriage and two children. From the outside, their marriage seems successful, but in 2011, when Aaron develops a rash that soon takes over more and more of his body, Eleanor finds herself questioning not only the medical mystery that is invading her husband’s body and confounding his doctors, but the nature of their marriage itself. Was their summer romance ever meant to survive as long as it has? And if so, what is the toll that has taken on both Aaron and Eleanor? Everything I Have Is Yours is a harrowing memoir about a marriage in turmoil that asks a lot of questions but offers no easy answers.
Twenty years ago, R&B star Aaliyah died in a tragic plane crash. She was 22 at the time, and just beginning to hit her stride as an artist and an actor. Though she’d already released several multi-platinum albums, Aaliyah, her final album—released one month before her untimely death—was a masterpiece that signaled a shift in her content and her maturity. Though Aaliyah’s been iconized in death, there’s still a lot we don’t know about her life, her career, and what she was planning to do next. Kathy Iandoli’s comprehensive biography peels back the layers, revealing more about who Aaliyah was and why she’s still such a beloved figure.
Nichole Perkins feels like everyone’s best friend: The writer and podcaster is introspective, observant, and funny as hell. All that and more shines through in a debut memoir that follows her from childhood and college through adulthood as she grapples with trying to retain her essence in a world that would prefer to strip her bare and leave her with nothing. In Sometimes I Trip on How Happy We Could Be, Perkins chronicles everything from her complicated relationship with her drug-addicted father and how she learned to lean into the beauty of pleasure to realizing the “traditional” path of finishing college, getting married, and having children isn’t as clear-cut as it seems. If you’ve enjoyed Perkins on podcasts, you’ll absolutely love this memoir.
Losing a parent was one of writer and reporter Kat Chow’s biggest fears, and when her mother died from cancer in 2004, she had to confront the loss head-on—for herself, but also for her family, who struggled to acknowledge the death at all. Seeing Ghosts is a tribute to Chow’s mother, the chronicle of a remarkable life that traces a journey from China to the United States and into a troubled marriage that neither of Chow’s parents could fully settle into. Chow leans into the way that grief is inescapable, drawing parallels between her mother’s slow decline and her brother’s death as a premature infant. Seeing Ghosts is an aching read that will settle in your bones and wrap itself around your heart.
Alexandra Brodsky, a civil rights attorney who has written extensively about rape culture on college campuses, understands the stakes of the #MeToo movement better than most people involved in the fight to end sexual violence against girls and women. She knows that as more people who’ve been assaulted and harassed come forward against powerful men, there will be more backlash that challenges the very foundations of civil rights law. Sexual Justice grapples with that dilemma, offering a guidebook for how to address sexual harassment in the workplace without letting the rhetoric of anti-feminist pundits and lawmakers define and frame it.
Deborah Feldman’s first memoir, Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots, was a huge success in 2012. It chronicled Feldman’s decision to leave her Orthodox community and became the basis for the Netflix series of the same name. Exodus, Revisited is the perfect follow-up, delving deeper into what inspired Feldman’s initial decision. Beyond her literal choice, Feldman also considers what it means to be Jewish and to have a homeland. It, like Unorthodox, is a beautifully-written meditation about the very essence of community.