August is traditionally the month when the publishing industry takes a four-week nap — high-profile books are usually rolled out in July or delayed until September. That’s not the case this year. Some of the biggest names in literature, and some extremely promising new names, are releasing highly anticipated books this month. As summer starts to wind down, you can take your pick from a host of new books, including an Oprah-approved novel about slavery, a chronicle of one of rock music’s most notorious days, an essay collection from one of the country’s greatest writers, and more.
Known and Strange Things by Teju Cole
Journalist and author Cole shocked the literary world with Open City, his 2011 novel about a Nigerian physician living in New York. His new book collects dozens of essays covering a dizzying range of topics, including authors such as Virginia Woolf and James Baldwin, President Obama, the Black Lives Matter movement, and much more.
Carousel Court by Joe McGinniss Jr.
The son of the late respected journalist McGinniss (The Selling of the President 1968, Fatal Vision), McGinniss Jr. received rave reviews for his 2008 novel The Delivery Man. His sophomore effort is a dark literary thriller that follows a young married couple in California whose lives are torn apart by the economic crisis engulfing the country.
Altamont: The Rolling Stones, The Hells Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock’s Darkest Day by Joel Selvin
No one who’s ever seen the documentary Gimme Shelter can forget the image of Meredith Hunter, a young African American man, being stabbed to death by a member of the Hells Angels gang at the Altamont Free Concert in 1969. Music journalist Selvin looks at the events of the dark December day that culminated in Hunter’s slaying.
Still Here by Lara Vapnyar
In her latest novel, Moscow-raised author Vapnyar (The Scent of Pine) follows four immigrants from Russia now living in New York, including Sergey, an analyst trying to market an app that would allow the dead to continue to have an online presence, and his wife, Vica, who tries her best to earn money in a struggling economy.
The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward
Author and Tulane professor Ward won critical praise for her two most recent books: Salvage the Bones, a National Book Award–winning novel about Hurricane Katrina, and Men We Reaped, a memoir. She edits this anthology of poems and essays about race in America, with contributors including Edwidge Danticat, Claudia Rankine, and Kevin Young.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Pulitzer Prize finalist Whitehead’s newest novel was already highly anticipated before Oprah Winfrey picked it as the latest entry in her book club. The book is the story of Cora, a slave in 19th-century Georgia, who with a friend escapes from the plantation where she works via an actual underground railroad. Whitehead’s novel is already an early favorite for the next round of literary awards.
The Terror Years: From al-Qaeda to the Islamic State by Lawrence Wright
New Yorker writer Wright took on Scientology in Going Clear and Satanic child abuse panic in Remembering Satan. His latest book expands on 10 of his magazine articles about al-Qaeda, ISIS, and the Americans who are trying to stop him. The book’s release comes just weeks before the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America.