BitchReads17 Books You Should Read in June

Summer is an ideal time to read a good, engrossing book. Whether you’re reading on vacation, in the park, or on the beach, the warmer weather makes reading a pleasant activity. There are so many books to choose from. Here’s Bitch’s picks for June.

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1. Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women by Brittney Cooper

Beyond Respectability book cover

{ University of Illinois Press }
Release Date: May 3, 2017
Price: $25.95

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Dr. Brittney Cooper, a women’s studies professor at Rutgers University and cofounder of the Crunk Feminist Collective, is one of academia’s brightest scholars. She’s so brilliant, in fact, that she’s releasing three books in the course of one year. Beyond Respectability is the second book in that trilogy, and it focuses on Black female intellectuals—including Anna Julia Cooper, Mary Church Terrell, Pauli Murray, and Toni Cade Bambara—from the 1800s through the 1970s.

If Black women’s history is your thing, Beyond Respectability should definitely be on your June reading list.


2. My Soul Looks Back by Jessica B. Harris

My Soul Looks Back book cover

{ Scribner }
Release Date: May 9, 2017
Price: $25.00

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New York City has always been a remarkable place, but in the 1970s, the city served as mecca and muse for Black creatives. Historian and journalist Jessica B. Harris had a front-row view to the ascension of James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Nina Simone, and other elite Black folks in their orbit. She chronicles it all, including her relationship with one of Baldwin’s closest friends, Sam Floyd, in My Soul Looks Back.

Like other history-driven memoirs, including Nina Simone’s I Put a Spell On You, My Soul Looks Back also serves as a historical record for those who are obsessed with the Black Arts Movement.


3. Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

Rich People Problems book cover

{ Doubleday }
Release Date: May 23, 2017
Price: $27.95

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Kevin Kwan struck gold with his debut novel, Crazy Rich Asians. The satirical novel follows a wealthy Singaporean family that’s dysfunctional—and hilarious. Now, Crazy Rich Asians is being adapted for the big screen, its follow-up China Rich Girlfriend is a bestseller, and the Shang-Young family’s saga is coming to an end. Rich People Problems is the final installment in the wildly popular series. This time, Nicholas Young is battling his own family as his grandmother, Su Yi, nears death. Kwan’s biting wittiness is still center stage though.

Rich People Problems is the perfect vacation read.


4. Wolf Whistle Politics: The New Misogyny in Public Life Today edited by Diane Watchell

Wolf Whistle Politics book cover

{ The New Press }
Release Date: May 23, 2017
Price: $15.95

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Nearly seven months after the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton losing the electoral college to Donald Trump is still shocking. This political moment is painful, especially for feminists who anticipated the election of the first female president. Wolf Whistle Politics aims to make sense of the senseless through a collection of essays. Naomi Wolf kicks the anthology off with an introduction that really grapples with what this moment means. Then, there are thoughtful essays from Lindy West, Rhon Manigault-Bryant, Amy Davidson, and others about everything from whiteness to Trump’s infamous “grab ‘em” comment.

If you need guidance on how to grieve Clinton’s loss and move forward politically, Wolf Whistle Politics is definitely worth your time.


5. We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life book cover

{ Vintage }
Release Date: May 30, 2017
Price: $15.95

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Samantha Irby, a.k.a bitches gotta eat, is one of the wittiest and self-reflective essayists in the writing business. She’s following up 2013’s Meaty, her debut collection of essays, with We’re Never Meeting in Real Life, another set of hilarious commentary about navigating the world as a Black woman. This time, Irby is chronicling everything from how her childhood influenced her understanding of money to the death of her father to vying to be the next Bachelorette. She’s a hoot, as always, but leaves the reader feeling more enlightened and informed than they were at the start of the book.

We’re Never Meeting in Real Life is for the bookworm who likes to read on the beach.


6. You’re in the Wrong Bathroom! And 20 Other Misconceptions About Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People by Laura Erickson-Schroth and Laura A. Jacobs

You're in the Wrong Bathroom book cover

{ Beacon Press }
Release Date: May 30, 2017
Price: $16.00

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State after state is passing asinine “bathroom bills” that target transgender and gender nonconforming people. Those laws, as Laverne Cox has beautifully articulated, are designed to extinguish a trans person’s right to exist. It is all rooted in transphobia and homophobia, which is the reason You’re in the Wrong Bathroom! is such a pertinent book for this moment. Psychiatrist Laura Erickson-Schroth and psychotherapist Laura A. Jacobs debunk 21 misconceptions about transgender and gender nonconforming people, including the ideas that trans people are “trapped in the wrong body,” mentally ill, and dangerous to those they share bathrooms with.

You’re in the Wrong Bathroom! is not a light or easy read. It’s purposefully dense, but serves as a great resource for those invested in fighting for trans rights.


7. Rwandan Women Rising by Swanee Hunt

Rwandan Women Rising book cover

{ Duke University Press }
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Price: $34.95

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Women comprise 64 percent of Rwanda’s Parliament. It’s a percentage that few other nations have been able to reach, but really speaks to the resilience of Rwandan women in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide. Swanee Hunt, the Eleanor Roosevelt lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, offers a comprehensive history of 70 Rwandan women, including activists and erased heroes, who were instrumental in rebuilding the country after such devastating loss. The book explores a number of difficult subjects, including rape and reproductive rights, but it does so in a way that really drives home the visionary leadership of Rwandan women.

You will love Rwandan Women Rising if you have an interest in foreign policy and resistance narratives.


8. The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs

The Bright Hour book cover

{ Simon & Schuster }
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Price: $25.00

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Nina Riggs was 37 when an oncologist diagnosed her with breast cancer—a family curse that dated back to her paternal grandfather, who underwent a mastectomy in the 1970s. Riggs’s great-aunt had breast cancer, too. So did her aunt. Her own mother died from multiple myeloma blood cancer. And Riggs died in February, leaving behind two young children, her husband, and this incredible memoir about living fully in the face of death. “We are breathless, but we love the days,” she writes. “They are promises. They are the only way to walk from one night to the other.” The Bright Hour is about learning to accept the end of life.

It’s a tearjerker, but if you enjoyed When Breath Becomes Air, this book will hit the same emotional spots.


9. The Crime Writer by Jill Dawn

{ Harper Perennial }
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Price: $15.99

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The Crime Writer is historical fiction about novelist Patricia Highsmith, who primarily wrote psychological thrillers (including The Talented Mr. Ripley and The Price of Salt, on which 2015’s Carol was based), as she moves to Suffolk, England, in the mid-1960s. It explores her romance with Sam, a married woman, as well as a weird mentor-mentee relationship with the young reporter Virginia “Ginny” Smythson-Balby. It’s unclear what’s fact and what’s fiction, which is what makes the book so compelling.

It’s a quick read for those who love mysteries.


10. Daring to Drive: A Saudi Womans Awakening by Manal al-Sharif

Daring to Drive book cover

{ Simon & Schuster }
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Price: $25.00

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Women in Saudi Arabia are forbidden from driving. They’re forced to navigate the country with guardians who are often their fathers or sons. Manal al-Sharif, a devout Muslim, stood for none of that: In her memoir, Daring to Drive, al-Sharif explores how she became the face of a movement that’s fighting for women to get the right to drive. It’s a story of resilience that will move you into action as well.

If you’re searching for an inspiring memoir, Daring to Drive should be on your must-read list.


11. Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys Into Race, Motherhood, and History by Camille T. Dungy

Guidebook to Relative Strangers book cover

{ W.W. Norton & Company }
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Price: $25.95

Buy the book here »

Camille T. Dungy is a combo poet-lecturer who often crisscrosses the country with her daughter. In Guidebook to Relative Strangers, Dungy offers a wealth of essays about how her Blackness, her illness, and her motherhood has impacted how she navigates the world from Maine to Ghana to Denver. There are beautiful essays about how her daughter’s voluminous hair draws unnecessary attention, about losing her childhood home to developers, and about visiting slave-holding jails in Ghana. What resonates most within these essays is Dungy’s self-awareness: She knows who she is and how her identities impact how she’s perceived.

If you’ve been searching for an Eat, Pray, Love-esque memoir that isn’t exploitative, Guidebook to Relative Strangers is definitely worth your time.


12. Hunger by Roxane Gay

Hunger book cover

{ Harper Collins }
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Price: $25.99

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Roxane Gay’s writing is unparalleled. Whether she’s writing essays about feminism, penning comics for Marvel, exploring kidnapping in a novel, or writing a collection of short stories about difficult women, Gay is a writer who makes us all smarter. Hunger, her first full-length memoir, is an honest look at Gay’s relationship with her body, especially after she’s violated as a teen. The body-positive movement has few stories like this, though that shouldn’t be the case. It offers a way forward for those who are still figuring out their relationships to their own bodies.

Bad Feminist is a great precursor for Hunger. Read it, and then this.


13. Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me by Janet Mock

Surpassing Certainty by Janet Mock

{ Atria }
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Price: $24.99

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Since revealing that she’s transgender in Marie Claire in 2011, Janet Mock has beautifully explored her life’s experiences through her column in Allure, her former MSNBC show “So Popular!” and her first memoir, 2014’s Redefining Realness. In Surpassing Certainty, Mock goes inward again to examine her 20s, the decade when she defined herself. She writes so beautifully about her own experiences as a Black transgender woman, but also has a resonant voice around popular culture.

If you want a meaty coming-of-age narrative, pick up Surpassing Certainty when it’s released.


14. The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions by Peter Brannen

The Ends of the World book cover

{ Ecco Press }
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Price: $27.99

Buy the book here »

Climate change is real, even as the Trump administration withdraws from the Paris climate agreement. It is causing Antarctica to thaw, weather to become more erratic, and could lead to the end of the world. Award-winning science journalist Peter Brannen’s horrifying new book makes the threat more immediate: The world has ended five times. It will end again. By exploring those previous five endings—from South Africa to New York—The Ends of the World attempts to offer a way forward.

If you want to understand the immediate threat of climate change, read this terrifying book—and get prepared.


15. The Grim Sleeper: The Lost Women of South Central by Christine Pelisek

The Grim Sleeper book cover

{ Counterpoint LLC }
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Price: $26.95

Buy the book here »

As a reporter at the LA Weekly, Christine Pelisek often frequented the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner’s office to check in on possible leads for stories. After one fateful visit, she began to piece together the case of “The Grim Sleeper,” a serial killer in South Central Los Angeles who targeted Black sex workers and drug addicts for decades. Through this fascinating read, Pelisek delves deeply into the connections between the war on drugs, the misguided search for The Southside Slayer, the Los Angeles Police Department’s indifference, and the cultural disregard for sex workers.

The Grim Sleeper is an engrossing read for those invested in true crime, but also a cautionary tale for law enforcement.


16. You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me: A Memoir by Sherman Alexie

{ Little Brown and Company }
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Price: $28.00

Buy the book here »

Sherman Alexie cemented his place on all middle school bookshelves with his National Book Award–winning book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. He’s also written extensively about the relationship between race, poverty, and masculinity. However, Alexie has rarely written about himself. In You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, the acclaimed author examines his tumultuous relationship with his mom Lillian, who developed an alcohol addiction that prevented her from caring well for her children. After she died, Alexie wrote this memoir to excavate his mother’s life, and figure out how her childhood impacted his own.

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me is in the same vein as Maya Angelou’s Mom & Me & Mom.


17. Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive by Kristen J. Sollee

Witches, Sluts, Feminists book cover

{ Threel Media }
Release Date: June 20, 2017
Price: $16.95

Buy the book here »

Kristen Sollee is incredible: She’s taught the intersectional-feminist class “Legacy of the Witch” at The New School, founded the sex-positive website Slutist, created the annual Legacy of the Witch festival, and written extensively about the relationship between witchcraft and feminism. Her first book, Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive, explores the gendered history of women accused of witchcraft in the United States. She also takes it a step further by delving into the modern reclamation of the word “witch.”


If the history of sexuality fascinates you, then this book is right for you.

Evette Dionne
by Evette Dionne
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Evette Dionne is Bitch Media’s editor-in-chief. She’s all about Beyoncé, Black women, and dope TV shows and books. You can follow her on Twitter.

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