Two Booker Prize longlisted titles on the list this week! Take a trip with them and others from New Zealand to Hungary, Los Angeles to the remote north, and even through the hidden secrets in one’s own home.
The Bee Sting by Paul Murray
The Barnes family is in trouble. Dickie’s once-lucrative car business is going under—but rather than face the music, he’s spending his days in the woods, building an apocalypse-proof bunker with a renegade handyman. His wife Imelda is selling off her jewelry on eBay, while their teenage daughter Cass, formerly top of her class, seems determined to binge-drink her way through her final exams. And twelve-year-old PJ is putting the final touches to his grand plan to run away from home.
Where did it all go wrong? A patch of ice on the tarmac, a casual favor to a charming stranger, a bee caught beneath a bridal veil—can a single moment of bad luck change the direction of a life? And if the story has already been written—is there still time to find a happy ending?
Release date: August 15th
The Second Murderer by Denise Mina
It’s early fall when a heatwave descends on Los Angeles. Private Detective Philip Marlowe is called to the Montgomery estate, an almost mythic place sitting high on top of Beverly Hills. Wealthy socialite Chrissie Montgomery is missing. Young, naïve, and set to inherit an enormous fortune, she’s a walking target, ripe for someone to get their claws into. Her dying father and his sultry bottle-blonde girlfriend want her found before that happens. To make sure, they’ve got Anne Riordan—now head of her own all-female detective agency—on the case, too.
The search for Chrissie takes the two investigators from the Montgomery mansion to the roughest neighborhoods of LA, through dive bars and boarding houses and out to Skid Row. And that’s all before they find the body at The Brody Hotel. Who will get to Chrissie first? And what happens when a woman doesn’t want to be found?
In The Second Murderer, Denise Mina becomes the first woman to recreate Raymond Chandler’s infamous detective, delivering a clever and timely new take on Philip Marlowe, as well as a propulsive, dark, and witty mystery all its own.
Release date: August 1st
The Art of Libromancy by Josh Cook
With Amazon’s growing power in both bookselling and publishing, considering where and how we get our books is more important now than ever. The simple act of putting a book in a reader’s hands—what booksellers call handselling—becomes a catalyst for an exploration of the moral, financial, and political pressures all indie bookstores face. From the relationship between bookselling and white supremacy, to censorship and the spread of misinformation, to the consolidation of the publishing industry, veteran bookseller and writer Josh Cook turns a generous yet critical eye to an industry at the heart of American culture, sharing tips and techniques for becoming a better reader and, of course, recommending great books along the way.
Release date: August 22nd
Budapest by Victor Sebestyen
Victor Sebestyen has written a sweeping, colorful and immersive history of the capital of Hungary, from the fifth century to the present day: a metropolis whose location in Europe has marked it as a crucial city—at times rich and prosperous, at times enduring unbearable hardship. It has stood at the center of the world-changing historical developments for hundreds of years: the Muslim invasion, The Reformation, both World Wars, fascism, the Holocaust and Communism.
Sebestyen mixes colorful details and anecdotes about the people, streets and neighborhoods of his hometown with its rich cultural legacy of literature, music, and architecture. He shows how its people have shifted culturally, politically and emotionally between East and West, through many revolutions, bloody battles, uprisings, and wars of conquest won and lost. He vividly brings to life the many rulers: the ruthless early Magyar, Hun, and Mongol chieftains, celebrated medieval kings and princes, Ottoman Turks, and the Hapsburgs, including the beloved Empress Elisabeth (“Sisi”). We also learn about colorful figures in politics, the arts and the sciences, among them Theodor Herzl, father of modern political Zionism; film pioneer Alexander Korda who held court with the director of Casablanca, Michael Curtiz, young reporter Billy Wilder, and photographer Robert Capa in the glamorous New York Café still going today; Edward Teller, inventor of the H bomb; and Countess Elisabeth Báthory, a cousin of the King of Poland, who became a serial killer, among many others.
Sebestyen’s compelling history of Budapest is a lively page-turner as well as being uniquely revelatory and authoritative account of one of the most important cities of Europe.
Release date: September 5th
Study for Obedience by Sarah Bernstein
A young woman moves from the place of her birth to the remote northern country of her forebears to be housekeeper to her brother, whose wife has recently left him.
Soon after her arrival, a series of inexplicable events occurs – collective bovine hysteria; the demise of a ewe and her nearly born lamb; a local dog’s phantom pregnancy; a potato blight. She notices that the local suspicion about incomers in general seems to be directed with some intensity at her and she senses a mounting threat that lies ‘just beyond the garden gate.’ And as she feels the hostility growing, pressing at the edges of her brother’s property, she fears that, should the rumblings in the town gather themselves into a more defined shape, who knows what might happen, what one might be capable of doing.
With a sharp, lyrical voice, Sarah Bernstein powerfully explores questions of complicity and power, displacement and inheritance. Study for Obedience is a finely tuned, unsettling novel that confirms Bernstein as one of the most exciting voices of her generation.
Release date: August 22nd
I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel
I stalk a woman on the internet who is sleeping with the same man as I am.
The unnamed narrator in I’m a Fan is obsessed; obsessed with the married man she is sleeping with and with one of his other lovers who is an influencer.
Through the prism of this unequal, unfaithful relationship, she examines the complexities of desire and privilege. With an unforgiving eye, the narrator relentlessly dissects the behaviour of all involved in the entanglement, herself included, and makes startling connections between the power struggles at the heart of human relationships and those of the wider world. I’m a Fan offers an incandescent critique of class, race, social media, patriarchy’s hold on us, and our cultural obsession with status and how that status is conveyed.
In this gripping debut, Sheena Patel announces herself as a dynamic new voice in literature, capable of rendering a rollercoaster of emotions viscerally on the page.
Release date: August 22nd
Swim Home to the Vanished by Brendan Shay Basham
When the river swallowed Kai, Damien’s little brother didn’t die so much as vanish. As the unbearable loss settles deeper into his bones, Damien, a small-town line cook, walks away from everything he has ever known. Driving as far south as his old truck and his legs allow, he lands in a fishing village beyond the reach of his past where he hopes he can finally forget.
But the village has grief of its own. The same day that Damien arrives, a young woman from the community’s most powerful family is being laid to rest. A stranger in town, Damien is the object of gossip and suspicion, ignored by all except the dead girl’s mother, Ana Maria, who offers Damien a room and a job.
Grateful for her kindness, Damien soon begins to fall under Ana Maria’s charismatic spell. But how long can he resist the rumors swirling through town suggesting she might have had something to do with her daughter’s death? Or deny his strange kinship with one of Ana Maria’s surviving daughters, Marta, who knows too well the grief that follows the loss of a sibling—and who is driven by a fierce need for revenge? Swiftly, Damien finds himself caught in a power struggle between the brujas, a whirlwind battle that threatens to sweep the whole village out to sea.
Resonant with the Diné creation story and the unshakeable weight of the Long Walk—the forced removal of the Navajo from their land—Swim Home to the Vanished explores the human capacity for grief and redemption, and the lasting effects it has on the soul.
Release date: August 22nd
The Details by Ia Genberg
A woman lies bedridden from a high fever. Suddenly she is struck with an urge to revisit a novel from her past. Inside the book is an inscription: a get-well-soon message from Johanna, an ex-girlfriend who is now a famous television host. As she flips through the book, pages from the woman’s own past begin to come alive, scenes of events and people she cannot forget.
There are moments with Johanna, and Niki, the friend who disappeared years ago without a phone number or an address and with no online footprint. There is Alejandro, who appears like a storm in precisely the right moment. And Brigitte, whose elusive qualities mask a painful secret.
The Details is a novel built around four portraits; the small details that, pieced together, comprise a life. Can a loved one really disappear? Who is the real subject of the portrait, the person being painted or the one holding the brush? Do we fully become ourselves through our connections to others? This exhilarating, provocative tale raises profound questions about the nature of relationships, and how we tell our stories. The result is an intimate and illuminating study of what it means to be human.
Release date: August 8th
Pet by Catherine Chidgey
Like every other girl in her class, twelve-year-old Justine is drawn to her glamorous, charismatic new teacher and longs to be her pet. However, when a thief begins to target the school, Justine’s sense that something isn’t quite right grows ever stronger. With each twist of the plot, this gripping story of deception and the corrosive power of guilt takes a yet darker turn. Justine must decide where her loyalties lie.
Set in New Zealand in the 1980s and probing themes of racism, misogyny and the oppressive reaches of Catholicism, Pet will take a rightful place next to other classic portraits of childhood betrayal and psychological suspense: Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures, Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping among them.
Release date: August 18th
Terrace Story by Hilary Leichter
Annie, Edward, and their young daughter, Rose, live in a cramped apartment. One night, without warning, they find a beautiful terrace hidden in their closet. It wasn’t there before, and it seems to only appear when their friend Stephanie visits. A city dweller’s dream come true! But every extra bit of space has a hidden cost, and the terrace sets off a seismic chain of events, forever changing the shape of their tiny home, and the shape of the world.
Terrace Story follows the characters who suffer these repercussions and reverberations: the little family of three, their future now deeply uncertain, and those who orbit their fragile universe. The distance and love between these characters expands limitlessly, across generations. How far can the mind travel when it’s looking for something that is gone? Where do we put our loneliness, longing, and desire? What do we do with the emotions that seem to stretch beyond the body, beyond the boundaries of life and death?
Based on the National Magazine Award–winning story, Hilary Leichter’s profound second novel asks how we nurture love when death looms over every moment. From one of our most innovative and daring writers, Terrace Story is an astounding meditation on loss, a reverie about extinction, and a map for where to go next.
Release date: August 29th