On the bookshelf
10 June books for your reading list
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Reviewer Bethanne Patrick recommends 10 promising titles, fiction and non-fiction, to consider for your June list.
Thieves, obnoxious women, and the odd tea-leaf reader populate the pages of this month’s recommended books, which cover settings including a medieval village, a dystopian future, and the landscape of two world wars. You can read as a means of escape, but also for new surprises. On both fronts, the June books won’t disappoint.
Woman of Light
By Kali Fajardo-Anstine
One world: 336 pages, $28
Fajardo-Anstine’s collection of stories “Sabrina & Corina” was a finalist for a 2020 National Book Award; eager fans didn’t have to wait too long for her debut novel, which is set in 1930s Denver. Luz “Little Light” Lopez is a tea leaf reader and laundress whose dream memories of her native family bring her to New Mexico Territory, even as she becomes embroiled in the Colorado case of a Mexican accused of murder.
Tracy Flick can’t win
By Tom Perrotta
Scribner: 320 pages, $27
Perrotta’s very late follow-up to his hilarious 1998 novel “Election” (the film starred Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick) picks up with former high school presidential candidate Tracy Flick as vice principal of the same school, divorced and lonely and shooting for a promotion. While she sadly misinterprets the townspeople she turns to for support, short chapters from many viewpoints alternately have readers laughing and gasping.
By Marcy Dermansky
Knopf: 240 pages, $26
Dermansky (“Very Nice,” “The Red Car”) uses economic prose to talk about 30-something Allison Brody, whose East Coast escape from a Los Angeles producer boyfriend takes the form of a pear when a storm destroys his new home in North Carolina. Recovering from surgery to fix a hole in her head, Allison might also be in love with her surgeon. Allison isn’t well, but Allison’s story is wickedly funny and wonderfully compact – paradoxically both satisfying and leaves you wanting more.
By Ottessa Moshfegh
Penguin Press: 320 pages, $27
The edgy novelist’s new book imagines an utterly realistic medieval village plagued by plagues, schemes and dastardly characters. She crafted an incisive allegory of life in these United States in recent years, not coincidentally also filled with plagues, schemes, and dastardly rulers. Moshfegh renews the same old story by placing it back in the past, brandishing his pen like an Arcimboldian brush to sketch the mechanisms of corruption.
By Lidia Yuknavich
Riverhead books: 352 pages, $28
Meet Laisvé, who lives in a town called the Stream, its past largely submerged underwater as its inhabitants struggle to survive the present. Laisvé recently discovered that she is a “carrier” who can move between different historical periods. Don’t let the talking box turtle deter you, for Yuknavitch is firmly in the driving seat: his powerful, woven fable unites the world’s workers across time, space, and class to begin designing a better world.
Nimitz at War: Command Leadership from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay
By Craig L. Symonds
OUP: 496 pages, $30
Those on the West Coast understand (or should understand) the importance of the war in the Pacific, led by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz during World War II. Symonds, a professor at the US Naval Academy, creates a comprehensive and painstaking portrait of a Texas interior man who later commanded ocean fleets, whose low-key demeanor belied a keen sense of psychology as well as strategy .
The Facemaker: A Visionary Surgeon’s Battle to Repair Disfigured WWI Soldiers
By Lindsey Fitzharris
FSG: 336 pages, $30
Many screen adaptations of World War I stories feature a soldier with a painted tin full or partial face mask; plastic surgeon Harold Gillies saw the need but believed he could do better. Gillies, born in New Zealand, opened a hospital in England to reconstruct faces using his experience and innovations, in many cases repairing the lives and psyches of desperate veterans.
female dog: on the female of the species
By Lucy Cooke
Basic books: 400 pages, $30
When did we decide that female animals (including humans) were the non-competitive kind? Cooke, a British science journalist, argues convincingly against this assessment in an informative and often cheeky investigation that details mating and more. She also shows how women are making a difference in scientific research, by asking questions and coming up with studies that their male colleagues haven’t thought of or cared about.
How to raise an anti-racist
By Ibram X. Kendi
One world: 288 pages, $28
Kendi’s latest, which is the LA Times Book Club’s June selection, combines her personal experience as a parent with her scientific expertise to show how racism affects every stage of a child’s life, even in utero: his wife, a black doctor, had many of her valid prenatal concerns dismissed. Kendi emphasizes the crucial role of parents in protecting their children while seeking social change. Like all his books, this one is accessible to all without distinction of race or class. Read it.
Thieves: True Stories of Vagrants, Killers, Rebels and Swindlers
By Patrick Radden Keefe
Double day: 368 pages, $30
A new book by Keefe (“Empire of Pain,” “Say Nothing”) means dropping everything and closing the blinds; you’ll be turning pages for hours. “Rogues” is a collection of Keefe’s New Yorker articles on criminals and con artists and more. It’s highly entertaining, sure, but what stands out most is Keefe’s fascination with what makes us human, even when we’re most imperfect.