Exactly what constitutes a beach read has inspired much debate—but perhaps the answer is no more complicated than whether a book is easy to get lost in. Under that definition, the best new books coming in July are ideal for the beach (or the couch, the airplane, or the hammock). Isabel Kaplan’s novel NSFW, for example, is an intoxicating exploration of male-dominated workplaces, and Bolu Babalola’s Honey & Spice will steam up your sunglasses. Our Wives Under the Sea, by Julia Armfield, is a claustrophobic story centered on a queer couple’s fraying marriage after an undersea expedition goes wrong. These books and more will transport, distract, and absorb you this summer. Here, the nine best new books to read in July.
Honey & Spice, Bolu Babalola (July 5)
Kiki Banjo is a young Black woman running a college radio show about women’s empowerment, dating, and relationships—a tad ironic, since she tends to avoid romantic attachments herself. After condemning a new student as a playboy over the airwaves, Kiki accidentally—and very publicly—ends up kissing him. To save their reputations, the pair take the only obvious course of action: fake a relationship. Look forward to sizzling chemistry and well-developed characters in this debut novel from Bolu Babalola, a pop-culture scholar who previously authored the short-story collection Love in Color.
Fellowship Point, Alice Elliott Dark (July 5)
Agnes and Polly are octogenarians who have been best friends for their entire lives, though they’ve each made different choices: Agnes is a popular author who never married, while Polly’s identity revolves around being a wife and mother. They come together at Fellowship Point, a retreat in Maine—but the future of that land is now in limbo, and the women don’t agree on what should happen to it. When a pushy editor urges Agnes to write a memoir, long-buried secrets are unearthed, further testing Agnes’ and Polly’s friendship. Fellowship Point is long—nearly 600 pages—but an utterly engrossing, sweeping work.
NSFW, Isabel Kaplan (July 5)
The unnamed female narrator in Isabel Kaplan’s adult debut—following the YA novel Hancock Park—recently graduated from Harvard and landed a coveted job at a TV network. Readers are dropped into the protagonist’s life as she realizes that her workplace exemplifies misogyny, and sexual misconduct is rampant. As she weighs what to do, she’s also balancing unhealthy relationships with food and with her mother. NSFW is gripping, with a lot to unpack, making it excellent book-club fodder.
Night of the Living Rez, Morgan Talty (July 5)
Morgan Talty grew up as part of the Penobscot Indian Nation, a small community in Maine—and that’s where the 12 stories in his debut collection are set. Night of the Living Rez offers a hypnotizing glimpse into the lives of people figuring out what it means to survive in the wake of inherited tragedies. There’s pain and addiction in these stories, but there’s also friendship and family, beautifully tinted with both sadness and humor.
Our Wives Under the Sea, Julia Armfield (July 12)
Marine biologist Leah’s submarine recently sank—and though she survived, she’s irreparably changed. Leah’s wife, Miri, who had assumed herself a widow, is desperate to understand what happened in that vessel. As the relationship between the two women deteriorates, Julia Armfield—the author of the short-story collection Salt Slow—alternates between two voices: Leah’s, in the form of journal entries she wrote while stranded in the deep, dark sea, and Miri’s, in the present day. Our Wives Under the Sea is a haunting, evocative novel that juxtaposes the horrors beneath the waves with the life and love that exist on land.
Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence, Ken Auletta (July 12)
Two decades ago, and long before the MeToo movement took off in 2017, journalist Ken Auletta wrote a New Yorker profile that exposed some of Harvey Weinstein’s violent and volatile tendencies. In this nearly 500-page biography, Auletta goes even deeper into the Hollywood mogul’s life, examining the forces that allowed him to become a convicted sexual abuser. Hollywood Ending—Auletta’s 13th book, following titles like World War 3.0: Microsoft and Its Enemies—is a difficult but important read.
Any Other Family, Eleanor Brown (July 12)
Three sets of parents adopted four biological siblings and pledged to keep their kids as connected as possible. It’s as complicated as it sounds. In Eleanor Brown’s novel, each of the adoptive mothers is dealing with her own insecurities and expectations about parenting when the group goes on a summer vacation to Aspen. While there, the kids’ birth mother calls with the news that she’s pregnant again, so the parents begin sorting through applications from potential adopters to figure out who will join their makeshift family. Brown, who previously wrote The Weird Sisters and The Light of Paris, delivers a character study that digs into boundaries and belonging.
Big Girl, Mecca Jamilah Sullivan (July 12)
Mecca Jamilah Sullivan’s debut novel transports readers to 1990s Harlem, where Malaya—an 8-year-old, obese Black girl—is longing for lots of things: to be able to eat what she wants instead of being dragged to Weight Watchers meetings; to fit in at her predominantly white Upper East Side prep school. To be accepted no matter what she looks like. Over the course of about 10 years, Malaya grows up, all the while seeking freedom from the constraints of her body.
Calling for a Blanket Dance, Oscar Hokeah (July 26)
Each chapter in Oscar Hokeah’s debut novel is told through the point of view of a family member—one of several generations of Native people whose lives are deeply intertwined. At the center of it all is Ever Geimausaddle, an angry young man with a propensity for violence. Hokeah skillfully recreates the years leading up to and following Ever’s birth, capturing the traumas and complexities that shaped him into who he is and may determine who he becomes.