We all know the routine. You put the kids to bed (finally) and sit down on the couch to take a “quick” look at your phone. An hour later, you’re depressed, exhausted and pissed off. You know what’s better than doomscrolling? Any of the great reads below, several of which are hot off the press. Give your sanity a boost.
by Raven Leilani
Here’s the perfect antidote to the taut ball of nerves we’ve all been carrying around since March. Told in stunning detail, Luster follows a lonely 23-year-old slacker as she fits a little too comfortably into a suburban couple’s open marriage. This story combines social commentary, racial politics and searing humor. E-readers, you might want to forgo the Kindle for the actual book. You’ll want something to grip.
The Vanishing Half
by Brit Bennett
Chances are, if you’re meeting with your book club this summer—virtually, masked, however— you’ll be discussing The Vanishing Half. The story about twin sisters growing up together in a small, southern black community, running away at age sixteen and then forging wildly different life paths will immediately suck you in and hold your attention until the very last page. You’ll also be feeling all the feelings when you’re done, so have your group text on standby.
The Boy in the Field
by Margot Livesey
I don’t read many thrillers because there’s enough happening in my daily life to get the blood racing—three kids under the age of six (oh, and a pandemic), to be exact. But The Boy in the Field is just my speed. The story features three siblings as they process the experience of finding the victim of a violent crime on their walk home from school in Oxford. A mystery with a literary layer, this coming-of-age saga also happens to be a page-turner. Turns out, that’s my kryptonite.
The Boyfriend Project
by Farrah Rochon
We are living through possibly the least sexy time in history—I would literally pay someone to have sex for me right now—so it’s very satisfying to read about women who are out there, embracing life, going for it. After being humiliated in a viral video, not only does our heroine in The Boyfriend Project strike up a steamy office romance, she also pursues her career dreams and launches a meaningful friendship with a trio of women. In an ideal world, this book would be made into a movie or limited-run TV series with a cool director, hot cast and prestigious network. Until then, I’ll be waiting.
by Natasha Trethewey
Okay, if you’re missing your mom right now, this memoir will not help the cause. But! Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey balances the sorrow by doubling down on beauty. This short memoir is about the trauma Trethewey endured when her mother was murdered by her stepfather — and the exquisite, unbreakable bond between Natasha and her mother. That Trethewey manages to weave hope into darkness is a true testament to her writing. You could read this in one day, but not one sitting.
This is Major: Notes on Diana Ross, Dark Girls, and Being Dope
by Shayla Lawson
Like a lot of people right now, I’m trying to catch up on 400 years of racial injustice. I’ve been all over the place, jumping from book to book, looking for ways to challenge my perspective. On this path, I discovered the pop culture memoir essay collection, This is Major. It became a funny, poignant way to get to know a Black woman my age who grew up in a neighboring state, went to similar schools and worked in the same type of offices. And yet, of course, our experiences are vastly different.
Life Among the Savages
by Shirley Jackson
So maybe you read Jackson’s gothic short story The Lottery back in middle school and it has stuck with you since? Or maybe you caught Elizabeth Moss’s Shirley on Hulu recently? My hot take is that the movie was OK but totally left out a major detail of Jackson’s life: she had a brood of kids underfoot. So, um, maybe that’s why she was a little kooky? Anywho, it’s led to this seriously funny, breezy collection of parenting vignettes about life in rural Vermont. Life Among the Savages is a fun read to dip into even if you can only sneak away for five minutes at a time.
Clap When You Land
by Elizabeth Acevedo
In the aftermath of losing their beloved father in a plane crash, two sisters—one in the Dominican Republic, the other in New York City—discover each other’s existence. You’ll want to hop in for the family secrets and stay for the rich descriptions of life in the DR. If you can swing it, listen to Acevedo, a National Poetry Slam champion, read this one aloud in the audio version. Trust me.
My Baby First Birthday
by Jenny Zhang
This book of poems had a permanent spot in my tote bag for a month straight this summer, proving to be as essential to my well-being as a mask, wallet and sunscreen. Raw and visceral and not at all for the faint of heart, this collection is perfect for moms because, well, it’s hard to gross us out. Bodily fluids? Seen ‘em all. Sometimes, when you’re waiting on line at the post office in the middle of a pandemic, you need a primal point of brevity to add a jolt to your day. Like, “if a person is happy five times or more/ then that is a good life/ I said that is a good life/ there’s no point in resisting/it’s too late anyway—/ we will figure out the rest from here.”
Happy All The Time
by Laurie Colwin
Fans of Nora Ephron, pre-Internet New York, and complicated women will appreciate Colwin’s charming novel. Its descriptions of food will make your mouth water and has a plot so simple, your brain will thank you: two couples fall in love. There, that’s it! What else do we really need?