The Best Books of August 2019

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The Best Books of August 2019

Our picks for the best new books of August include everything from R.F. Kuang’s explosive fantasy sequel to Sarah M. Broom’s powerful memoir. Many of these books—and our most anticipated titles for the rest of 2019—first got on our radar when we attended BookExpo and BookCon earlier this summer. Exploring diverse topics ranging from New Orleans’ history to crime on the ocean, these eight books (listed in order of release date) deliver entertaining reads you don’t want to miss this month.


Thumbnail image for bbaug19dragon.jpgThe Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang

Release Date: August 6th from Harper Voyager

Why You’ll Love It: Following The Poppy War, which was one of our favorite books of 2018, R.F. Kuang’s sophomore novel continues an enthralling saga from one of fantasy’s exciting new voices.

Description from the Publisher: (Spoilers for The Poppy War ahead.) Three times throughout its history, Nikan has fought for its survival in the bloody Poppy Wars. Though the third battle has just ended, shaman and warrior Rin cannot forget the atrocity she committed to save her people. Now she is on the run from her guilt, the opium addiction that holds her like a vice and the murderous commands of the fiery Phoenix—the vengeful god who has blessed Rin with her fearsome power. Though Rin does not want to live, she refuses to die until she avenges the traitorous Empress who betrayed Rin’s homeland to its enemies. Her only hope is to join forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who plots to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress and create a new republic.


Thumbnail image for bbaug19girls.jpgThe Girls: An All-American Town, a Predatory Doctor, and the Untold Story of the Gymnasts Who Brought Him Down by Abigail Pesta

Release Date: August 6th from Seal Press

Why You’ll Love It: This powerful read gives a voice to the survivors of Larry Nassar’s abusive reign of terror, delivering a must-read for the #MeToo era.

(You can read Paste’s full review of the book here.)

Description from the Publisher: We think of Larry Nassar as the despicable sexual predator of Olympic gymnasts, but there is an astonishing, untold story. For decades, in a small-town gym in Michigan, he honed his manipulations on generations of aspiring gymnasts. In The Girls, these brave women describe Nassar’s increasingly bold predations through the years, recount their warning calls unheeded and demonstrate their resiliency in the face of a nightmare. Award-winning journalist Abigail Pesta unveils this deeply reported narrative at a time when the nation is wrestling with the implications of the MeToo movement.


Thumbnail image for bbaug19antiracist.jpgHow to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

Release Date: August 13th from One World

Why You’ll Love It: Kendi’s crucial book explains why being aware of racism isn’t enough, revealing how being antiracist is necessary for “contributing to the formation of a just and equitable society.”

Description from the Publisher: Antiracism is a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism, pointing us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. At its core, racism is a powerful system that creates false hierarchies of human value; its warped logic extends beyond race, from the way we regard people of different ethnicities or skin colors to the way we treat people of different sexes, gender identities, and body types. Racism intersects with class and culture and geography and even changes the way we see and value ourselves. Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of antiracist ideas—from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilities—that will help readers see all forms of racism clearly, understand their poisonous consequences and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves.


Thumbnail image for bbaug19inland.jpgInland by Téa Obreht

Release Date: August 13th from Random House

Why You’ll Love It: Eight years after captivating readers with The Tiger’s Wife, Téa Obreht returns with a sophomore novel “grounded in true but little-known history” that delivers a stunning narrative.

Description from the Publisher: In the lawless, drought-ridden lands of the Arizona Territory in 1893, two extraordinary lives unfold. Nora is an unflinching frontierswoman awaiting the return of the men in her life—her husband, who has gone in search of water for the parched household, and her elder sons, who have vanished after an explosive argument. Nora is biding her time with her youngest son, who is convinced that a mysterious beast is stalking the land around their home. Meanwhile, Lurie is a former outlaw and a man haunted by ghosts. He sees lost souls who want something from him, and he finds reprieve from their longing in an unexpected relationship that inspires a momentous expedition across the West. The way in which Lurie’s death-defying trek intersects with Nora’s plight is the surprise of this brilliant novel.


Thumbnail image for bbaug19memorypolice.jpgThe Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder

Release Date: August 13th from Pantheon

Why You’ll Love It: Finally available in English for the first time (it was published 25 years ago in Japan), The Memory Police weaves a haunting, Orwellian story about government surveillance that’s just as relevant today.

Description from the Publisher: On an unnamed island off an unnamed coast, objects are disappearing: first hats, then ribbons, birds, roses—until things become much more serious. Most of the island’s inhabitants are oblivious to these changes, while those few imbued with the power to recall the lost objects live in fear of the draconian Memory Police, who are committed to ensuring that what has disappeared remains forgotten. When a young woman who is struggling to maintain her career as a novelist discovers that her editor is in danger from the Memory Police, she concocts a plan to hide him beneath her floorboards. As fear and loss close in around them, they cling to her writing as the last way of preserving the past.


Thumbnail image for bbaug19nobodysvictim.jpgNobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls by Carrie Goldberg with Jeannine Amber

Release Date: August 13th from Plume

Why You’ll Love It: Another essential read for the #MeToo era, Nobody’s Victim illuminates the nightmare “stalking, blackmail and sexual violence” wreaks on people’s lives and reveals how lawyer Carrie Goldberg is helping her clients fight back.

Description from the Publisher: “We are all a moment away from having our life overtaken by somebody hell-bent on our destruction.” That grim reality—gleaned from personal experience and twenty years of trauma work—is a fundamental principle of Carrie Goldberg’s cutting-edge victims’ rights law firm. Nobody’s Victim invites readers to join Goldberg on the front lines of the war against sexual violence and privacy violations as she fights for revenge porn and sextortion laws, uncovers major Title IX violations and sues the hell out of tech companies, schools and powerful sexual predators. Goldberg shares the diabolical ways her clients are attacked and how she, through her unique combination of advocacy, badass relentlessness, risk-taking and client-empowerment, pursues justice for them all.


bbaug19yellowhouse.jpgThe Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom

Release Date: August 13th from Grove Press

Why You’ll Love It: With her luminous memoir, Sarah M. Broom tells the story of New Orleans that America’s been missing.

(You can read Paste’s full review of the book here.)

Description from the Publisher: In 1961, Sarah M. Broom’s mother Ivory Mae bought a shotgun house in the then-promising neighborhood of New Orleans East. Widowed, Ivory Mae remarried Sarah’s father Simon Broom; their combined family would eventually number twelve children. But after Simon died, six months after Sarah’s birth, the Yellow House would become Ivory Mae’s thirteenth and most unruly child. Sarah M. Broom’s The Yellow House tells a hundred years of her family and their relationship to home in a neglected area of one of America’s most mythologized cities. This is the story of a mother’s struggle against a house’s entropy, and that of a prodigal daughter who left home only to reckon with the pull that home exerts, even after the Yellow House was wiped off the map after Hurricane Katrina.


bbaug19outlawocean.jpgThe Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Against the Last Untamed Frontier by Ian Urbina

Release Date: August 20th from Knopf

Why You’ll Love It: Ian Urbina’s reporting exposes the criminal underworld operating on our oceans, examining often overlooked issues that deserve our attention.

(You can read Paste’s essay about the book here.)

Description from the Publisher: Too big to police and under no clear international authority, the world’s oceans play host to rampant criminality and exploitation. Traffickers and smugglers, pirates and mercenaries, wreck thieves and repo men, vigilante conservationists and elusive poachers, seabound abortion providers, clandestine oil-dumpers, shackled slaves and cast-adrift stowaways—drawing on five years of perilous and intrepid reporting, Ian Urbina introduces us to the inhabitants of this hidden world. Through their stories of astonishing courage and brutality, survival and tragedy, he uncovers a globe-spanning network of crime and exploitation that emanates from the fishing, oil and shipping industries, and on which the world’s economies rely.


Looking for even more reading recommendations? Check out our lists of the best audiobooks and the best Young Adult novels of August.

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