It’s a feast of fiction that we’re looking forward to in the coming month. But, our anticipated reads also include philosophy, art, and photography.
Thunderclap by Laura Cumming
As a brilliant art critic and historian, Laura Cumming has explored the importance of art in life and can give us a perspective on the time and place in which the artist worked. Now, through the lens of one dramatic event in 17th century Holland, Cumming illuminates one of the most celebrated periods in art history.
In 1654, an enormous explosion at a gunpowder store devasted the city of Delft, killing hundreds of people and injuring thousands more. Among those killed was the extraordinary painter Carel Fabritius, renowned for his paintings The Goldfinch and his haunting masterpiece A View of Delft, which depicts the very streets through which the victims would be carried to their graves. Fabritius’s contemporary and rival Vermeer, painter of the iconic portrait Girl with a Pearl Earring, narrowly escaped death.
Framing the story around Fabritius’s life, Cumming deftly weaves a sequence of observations about paintings and how they relate to everyday life. Like Dutch art itself, the story gradually links country, city, town, street, house, interior—all the way to the bird on its perch, the blue and white tile, the smallest seed in a loaf of bread. The impact of a painting and how it can enter our thoughts, influence our views, and understanding of the world is the heart of this book and Cumming has brought her unique eye to her most compelling subject yet.
Featuring beautiful full-color images of Dutch paintings throughout, this is a stunningly rich book about one of the most vibrant periods in European art and life.
Release date: July 11th
Twentieth-Century Man by Christopher Wallace
Peter Beard lived an astonishing life. The artist, wildlife photographer, and bon vivant enthralled and inspired both because of his work and his legendary lifestyle. A scion of American industry turned explorer of Africa and environmental advocate, Beard embodied the extremes of his time: grand adventurer and sexually voracious partier, friend of everyone from the Rolling Stones to Jackie Onassis to Andy Warhol to Karen Blixen. And Beard had a passion—probably more like an obsession—with the faults of the entire human experiment, with the ways in which our consumption of the world’s resources have come to consume us all.
Beard’s outsize life and character—his death-defying documentation of both the endangered wildlife of Africa, and, closer to home, some of the world’s most beautiful women for a range of fashion magazines—animate this lively but authoritative biography. The journalist Christopher Wallace, long fascinated by Beard’s artistic legacy, adventurous spirit, and hard-partying persona, came to know him well later in Beard’s life. Capturing the varied social and cultural scenes that Beard moved through with glamorous ease over five decades, Wallace also makes a powerful case for the lasting impact of his work.
In Twentieth-Century Man, Wallace has rendered this towering figure in all of his contradictions and complexities—a deeply romantic and idiosyncratic personality, beloved by so many, whose sensibilities nonetheless remained firmly rooted in an era characterized by racist and colonialist attitudes. Stirring and visceral, Twentieth-Century Man is the definitive portrait of Peter Beard.
Release date: July 4th
A Terribly Serious Adventure by Nikhil Krishnan
What are the limits of language? How can philosophy be brought closer to everyday life? What is a good human being?
These were among the questions that philosophers wrestled with in mid-twentieth-century Britain, a period shadowed by war and the rise of fascism. In response to these events, thinkers such as Philippa Foot (originator of the famous trolley problem), Isaiah Berlin, Iris Murdoch, Elizabeth Anscombe, Gilbert Ryle, and J. L. Austin aspired to a new level of watchfulness and self-awareness about language as a way of keeping philosophy true to everyday experience.
A Terribly Serious Adventure traces the friendships and the rivalries, the shared preoccupations and the passionate disagreements of some of Oxford’s most innovative thinkers. Far from being stuck in their ivory towers, the Oxford philosophers lived. They were codebreakers, diplomats, and soldiers in both World Wars, and they often drew on their real-world experience in creating their greatest works, masterpieces of British modernism original in both thought and style.
Steeped in the dramatic history of the twentieth century, A Terribly Serious Adventure is an eye-opening look inside the rooms that changed how we think about our world. Shedding light on the lives and intellectual achievements of a large and spirited cast of characters, Cambridge academic Nikhil Krishnan shows us how much we can still learn from the Oxford philosophers. In our fractious, post-truth world, their acute sense of responsibility for their words, their passionate desire to get the little things right, stands as an inspiring example.
Release date: July 4th
The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt
Bob Comet is a retired librarian passing his solitary days surrounded by books and small comforts in a mint-colored house in Portland, Oregon. One morning on his daily walk he encounters a confused elderly woman lost in a market and returns her to the senior center that is her home. Hoping to fill the void he’s known since retiring, he begins volunteering at the center. Here, as a community of strange peers gathers around Bob, and following a happenstance brush with a painful complication from his past, the events of his life and the details of his character are revealed.
Behind Bob Comet’s straight-man façade is the story of an unhappy child’s runaway adventure during the last days of the Second World War, of true love won and stolen away, of the purpose and pride found in the librarian’s vocation, and of the pleasures of a life lived to the side of the masses. Bob’s experiences are imbued with melancholy but also a bright, sustained comedy; he has a talent for locating bizarre and outsized players to welcome onto the stage of his life.
With his inimitable verve, skewed humor, and compassion for the outcast, Patrick deWitt has written a wide-ranging and ambitious document of the introvert’s condition. The Librarianist celebrates the extraordinary in the so-called ordinary life, and depicts beautifully the turbulence that sometimes exists beneath a surface of serenity.
Release date: July 4th
Nothing Special by Nicole Flattery
New York City, 1966. Seventeen-year-old Mae lives in a rundown apartment with her alcoholic mother and her mother’s sometimes-boyfriend, Mikey. She is turned off by the petty girls at her high school, and the sleazy men she typically meets. When she drops out, she is presented with a job offer that will remake her world entirely: she is hired as a typist for the artist Andy Warhol.
Warhol is composing an unconventional novel by recording the conversations and experiences of his many famous and alluring friends. Tasked with transcribing these tapes alongside several other girls, Mae quickly befriends Shelley and the two of them embark on a surreal adventure at the fringes of the countercultural movement. Going to parties together, exploring their womanhood and sexuality, this should be the most enlivening experience of Mae’s life. But as she grows increasingly obsessed with the tapes and numb to her own reality, Mae must grapple with the thin line between art and voyeurism and determine how she can remain her own person as the tide of the sixties sweeps over her.
For readers of Ottessa Moshfegh and Mary Gaitskill, this blistering, mordantly funny debut novel brilliantly interrogates the nature of friendship and independence and the construction of art and identity. Nothing Special is a whip-smart coming-of-age story that brings to life the experience of young girls in this iconic and turbulent American moment.
Release date: July 11th
The Quiet Tenant by Clémence Michallon
Aidan Thomas is a hard-working family man and a somewhat beloved figure in the small upstate town where he lives. He’s the kind of man who always lends a hand and has a good word for everyone. But Aidan has a dark secret he’s been keeping from everyone in town and those closest to him. He’s a kidnapper and serial killer. Aidan has murdered eight women and there’s a ninth he has earmarked for death: Rachel, imprisoned in a backyard shed, fearing for her life.
When Aidan’s wife dies, he and his thirteen-year-old daughter Cecilia are forced to move. Aidan has no choice but to bring Rachel along, introducing her to Cecilia as a “family friend” who needs a place to stay. Aidan is betting on Rachel, after five years of captivity, being too brainwashed and fearful to attempt to escape. But Rachel is a fighter and survivor, and recognizes Cecilia might just be the lifeline she has waited for all these years. As Rachel tests the boundaries of her new living situation, she begins to form a tenuous connection with Cecilia. And when Emily, a local restaurant owner, develops a crush on the handsome widower, she finds herself drawn into Rachel and Cecilia’s orbit, coming dangerously close to discovering Aidan’s secret.
Told through the perspectives of Rachel, Cecilia, and Emily, The Quiet Tenant explores the psychological impact of Aidan’s crimes on the women in his life—and the bonds between those women that give them the strength to fight back. Both a searing thriller and an astute study of trauma, survival, and the dynamics of power, The Quiet Tenant is an electrifying debut by a major talent.
Release date: June 20th
Honeybees and Distant Thunder by Riku Onda
In a small coastal town just a stone’s throw from Tokyo, a prestigious piano competition is underway. Over the course of two feverish weeks, three students will experience some of the most joyous – and painful – moments of their lives. Though they don’t know it yet, each will profoundly and unpredictably change the others, for ever.
Aya is a piano genius, well, she was, until she ran away from the stage and vanished; will Makun, tall and talented in every way, bring her back? Or will it be child of nature, Jin, a pianist without a piano, who carries the sound of his father’s bees wherever he goes? Each of them will break the rules, awe their fans and push themselves to the brink. But at what cost?
Release date: June 27th
Ripe by Sarah Rose Etter
A year into her dream job at a cutthroat Silicon Valley start-up, Cassie finds herself trapped in a corporate nightmare. Between the long hours, toxic bosses, and unethical projects, she also struggles to reconcile the glittering promise of a city where obscene wealth lives alongside abject poverty and suffering. Ivy League grads complain about the snack selection from a conference room with a view of unhoused people bathing in the bay. Start-up burnouts leap into the paths of commuter trains, and men literally set themselves on fire in the streets.
Though isolated, Cassie is never alone. From her earliest memory, a miniature black hole has been her constant companion. It feeds on her depression and anxiety, growing or shrinking in relation to her distress. The black hole watches, but it also waits. Its relentless pull draws Cassie ever closer as the world around her unravels.
When she ends up unexpectedly pregnant at the same time her CEO’s demands cross into illegal territory, Cassie must decide whether the tempting fruits of Silicon Valley are really worth it. Sharp but vulnerable, unsettling yet darkly comic, Ripe portrays one millennial woman’s journey through our late-capitalist hellscape and offers a brilliantly incisive look at the absurdities of modern life.
Release date: July 11th
I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home by Lorrie Moore
A daring novel about love and death and what lies between; a ghost story set in the 19th and 21st centuries; an elegiac consideration of grief, devotion (filial and romantic) and the vanishing and persistence of all things–seen and unseen.
A teacher visiting his dying brother in the Bronx. A mysterious journal from the 19th century stolen from a boarding house. A therapy clown and an assassin both presumed dead but perhaps not dead at all . . .
A meditation on what it means to be haunted by the past. To what extent–both in our national history and in the heart–does life persist on into death and vice versa?
With her distinctive, irresistible wordplay and singular wry humor and wisdom, Moore deftly reveals how, even in death, it’s life that reverberates.
Bold, meditative, theatrical, this new novel is an inventive, poetic portrait of lovers, siblings and the stories we have all been told, which may or may not be true but that take us on a windswept, imagined journey into the tragic-comic landscape that is, unmistakably, the Lorrie Moore Zone.
Release date: June 20th
Loot by Tania James
Abbas is just seventeen years old when his gifts as a woodcarver come to the attention of Tipu Sultan, and he is drawn into service at the palace in order to build a giant tiger automaton for Tipu’s sons, a gift to commemorate their return from British captivity. His fate—and the fate of the wooden tiger he helps create—will mirror the vicissitudes of nations and dynasties ravaged by war across India and Europe.
Working alongside the legendary French clockmaker Lucien du Leze, Abbas hones his craft, learns French, and meets Jehanne, the daughter of a French expatriate. When Du Leze is finally permitted to return home to Rouen, he invites Abbas to come along as his apprentice. But by the time Abbas travels to Europe, Tipu’s palace has been looted by British forces, and the tiger automaton has disappeared. To prove himself, Abbas must retrieve the tiger from an estate in the English countryside, where it is displayed in a collection of plundered art.
Release date: June 13th