12 of the Best New Books in August

Books Lists

From Chuck Wendig’s cyberspy thriller to Tracy Daugherty’s biography of literary giant Joan Didion, this month’s new releases will entertain a diverse readership. We’ve rounded up the 12 books we were most excited to read, including nine novels, two nonfiction titles and one collection of short stories and essays.

Check out our picks below, then leave a comment describing the books you want to read.


1blackchalkcover.jpg1. Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates

Release Date: August 4th from Picador
Why You’ll Love It: Christopher J. Yates’ debut novel is a psychological thriller about the consequences of friendship gone awry. When a group of Oxford University students play a game involving public humiliations, the consequences haunt them for years. The result is a story littered with twists that will keep you guessing until the final page. —Mack Hayden
Description: It was only ever meant to be a game played by six best friends in their first year at Oxford University; a game of silly forfeits and childish dares. But then the game changed: The stakes grew higher and the dares more personal and more humiliating, finally evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredictable and tragic results. Now, 14 years later, the remaining players must meet again for the final round.


1casualtiescover.jpg2. The Casualties by Nick Holdstock

Release Date: August 4th from Thomas Dunne Books
Why You’ll Love It: The Casualties recounts events on a few contiguous blocks in Edinburgh, Scotland during the two years before a massive asteroid crashes into Earth. Although the apocalyptic event looms on the fringes of the narrative, the story Nick Holdstock tells leading up to it is surprisingly quiet and inwardly focused—appropriately enough for a population that has absolutely no inkling of its imminent destruction. That’s what makes this decidedly un-apocalyptic world’s end novel so surprising and compelling. —Steve Nathans-Kelly
Description: Samuel Clark likes secrets. He wants to know the hidden stories of the bizarre characters on the little streets of Edinburgh, Scotland. He wants to know about a nymphomaniac, a man who lives under a bridge, a girl with a cracked face. He wants to uncover their histories because he has secrets of his own. He believes, as people do, that he is able to change. He believes, as the whole world does, that there is plenty of time to solve his problems. But Samuel Clark and the rest of the world are wrong. Change and tragedy are going to scream into his and everyone’s lives. It will be a great transformation, a radical change; and it just might be worth the cost.


letmetellyou.jpg3. Let Me Tell You by Shirley Jackson

Release Date: August 4th from Random House
Why You’ll Love It: Anyone who’s been through an American public school knows her as the author of “The Lottery,” and horror fans honor her as the mastermind behind one of the greatest haunted house novels Haunting of Hill House, but Shirley Jackson sees publication again for this set of unreleased work. Though the author died in 1965, Jackson’s work lives on through 40+ unpublished works, including essays, short stories and more, coedited by two of Jackson’s children. —Tyler R. Kane
Description: Let Me Tell You brings together the deliciously eerie short stories Jackson is best known for, along with frank, inspiring lectures on writing; comic essays about her large, boisterous family; and whimsical drawings. Jackson’s landscape here is most frequently domestic: dinner parties and bridge, household budgets and homeward-bound commutes, children’s games and neighborly gossip. But this familiar setting is also her most subversive: She wields humor, terror and the uncanny to explore the real challenges of marriage, parenting and community—the pressure of social norms, the veins of distrust in love, the constant lack of time and space.


1blackeyedsusanscover.jpg4. Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Release Date: August 11th from Ballantine Books
Why You’ll Love It: Like Gone Girl and Girl on the Train before it, this year’s summer thriller has arrived with Black-Eyed Susans. And while both of those books orbited potentially innocent defendants, the freedom of Black-Eyed Susans’ suspect lies on something more abstract: an inexplicable patch of flowers (planted by a killer who’s supposedly in jail), as well as our narrator’s suppressed memory. If you like to keep positive associations with flowers, run screaming from this book. —Tyler R. Kane
Description: As a 16-year-old, Tessa Cartwright was found in a Texas field, barely alive amid a scattering of bones, with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. Ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving “Black-Eyed Susan,” the nickname given to the murder victims because of the yellow carpet of wildflowers that flourished above their shared grave. Tessa’s testimony about those tragic hours put a man on death row. Now, almost two decades later, Tessa is an artist and single mother. In the desolate cold of February, she is shocked to discover a freshly planted patch of black-eyed susans—a summertime bloom—just outside her bedroom window. Terrified at the implications—that she sent the wrong man to prison and the real killer remains at large—Tessa turns to the lawyers working to exonerate the man awaiting execution.


endallthings.jpg5. The End of All Things by John Scalzi

Release Date: August 11th from Tor Books
Why You’ll Love It: The sixth book in John Scalzi’s celebrated Old Man’s War Series, The End of All Things follows Lieutenant Harry Wilson in his quest to discover who is behind the mysterious attacks on the human and alien races. Expect this installment to deliver just as much action and adventure as the bestselling series is famous for providing. —Frannie Jackson
Description: Humans expanded into space…only to find a universe populated with multiple alien species bent on their destruction. Thus was the Colonial Union formed, to help protect us from a hostile universe. The Colonial Union used the Earth and its excess population for colonists and soldiers. It was a good arrangement…for the Colonial Union. Then the Earth said: no more.

Now the Colonial Union is living on borrowed time—a couple of decades at most, before the ranks of the Colonial Defense Forces are depleted and the struggling human colonies are vulnerable to the alien species who have been waiting for the first sign of weakness. And there’s another problem: A group, lurking in the darkness of space, playing human and alien against each other—and against their own kind—for their own unknown reasons.


youreneverweird.jpg6. You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

Release Date: August 11th from Touchstone
Why You’ll Love It: Hands down, Felicia Day has earned her title as “queen of the geeks.” The actress and icon (not to mention Paste cover star) has been connecting nerds for years through the Internet, from her YouTube channel, Geek and Sundry, to her web series, The Guild. Although hyper-connectivity has been the target of mass criticism in the book world, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is set to paint another side of making pals in the Internet age. —Tyler R. Kane
Description: Felicia’s Day’s rags-to-riches rise to Internet fame launched her career as one of the most influential creators in new media. Now Day’s world is filled with creativity, video games and a dash of feminist activism—just like her memoir. Showcasing her hilarious and unique voice, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is proof that everyone should celebrate what makes them different and be brave enough to share it with the world, because anything is possible now—even for a digital misfit.


girlfromgarden.jpg7. The Girl from the Garden by Parnaz Foroutan

Release Date: August 18th from Ecco
Why You’ll Love It: Parnaz Foroutan was tagged by the Pen Center as a mandatory emerging voice in 2009, and this debut novel is set to unveil why. With The Girl From the Garden, the Iranian-born author dives into her own intriguing family history—a great place to start if you’re looking for an exciting new voice. —Tyler R. Kane
Description: For all his wealth and success, Asher Malacouti—the head of a prosperous Jewish family living in the Iranian town of Kermanshah—cannot have the one thing he desires above all: a male son. His young wife Rakhel, trapped in an oppressive marriage at a time when a woman’s worth is measured by her fertility, is made desperate by her failure to conceive, and grows jealous and vindictive.

Her despair is compounded by her sister-in-law Khorsheed’s pregnancy and her husband’s growing desire for Kokab, his cousin’s wife. Frustrated by his wife’s inability to bear him an heir, Asher makes a fateful choice that will shatter the household and drive Rakhel to dark extremes to save herself and to preserve her status within the family.


1incarnationscover.jpg8. The Incarnations by Susan Barker

Release Date: August 18th from Touchstone
Why You’ll Love It: Susan Barker’s novel The Incarnations delivers a hypnotic journey through 1,500 years of China’s history. Following a Beijing taxi driver who receives mysterious letters describing his past lives, the story culminates in a shocking and violent conclusion that will haunt you for weeks. —Frannie Jackson
Description: Who are you? you must be wondering. I am your soulmate, your old friend, and I have come back to this city of 16 million in search of you.

So begins the first letter that falls into Wang’s lap as he flips down the visor in his taxi. The letters that follow are filled with the stories of Wang’s previous lives—from escaping a marriage to a spirit bride, to being a slave on the run from Genghis Khan, to living as a fisherman during the Opium Wars—bound to his mysterious “soulmate.” As the letters continue to appear seemingly out of thin air, Wang becomes convinced that someone is watching him—someone who claims to have known him for over 1,000 years. And with each letter, Wang feels the watcher growing closer and closer…


lastbuswisdom.jpg9. Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig

Release Date: August 18th from Riverhead Books
Why You’ll Love It: Over the course of a 36-year literary career, Ivan Doig, who died at age 75 last April, painted as detailed and complete a picture of the American West as any writer of the last century. His final book, the appropriately titled Last Bus to Wisdom, is an unpredictable and boisterous road novel about 11-year-old boy in the summer of 1951, cast adrift on the Greyhound “dog bus.” The novel offers a fresh take on several familiar Doig themes: nontraditional families, deep connection to the land, the West as a hardscrabble world of work and the profoundly (and often humorously) interwoven nature of everyday individual lives and political and social history. —Steve Nathans-Kelly
Description: Donal Cameron is being raised by his grandmother, the cook at the legendary Double W ranch. But when Gram has to have surgery for “female trouble” in the summer of 1951, all she can think to do is to ship Donal off to her sister in faraway Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

There, Donal is in for a rude surprise: Aunt Kate-bossy, opinionated, argumentative and tyrannical—is nothing like her sister. She henpecks her good-natured husband, Herman the German, and Donal can’t seem to get on her good side, either. After one contretemps too many, Kate packs him back to the authorities in Montana on the next Greyhound. But as it turns out, Donal isn’t traveling solo: Herman the German has decided to fly the coop with him.


zeroes.jpg10. Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

Release Date: August 18th from Harper Voyager
Why You’ll Love It: Star Wars: Aftermath scribe Chuck Wendig takes on government surveillance with Zer0es, pitting pious hackers against their own ilk after they’re asked to commit to the NSA program. If you’ve ever been hesitant to enable GPS tracking on your mobile, here’s the thriller for you. —Tyler R. Kane
Description: An Anonymous-style rabble rouser, an Arab spring hactivist, a black-hat hacker, an old-school cipherpunk and an online troll are each offered a choice: go to prison or help protect the United States, putting their brains and skills to work for the government for one year. But being a white-hat doesn’t always mean you work for the good guys. The would-be cyberspies discover that behind the scenes lurks a sinister NSA program, an artificial intelligence code-named Typhon, that has origins and an evolution both dangerous and disturbing. And if it’s not brought down, it will soon be uncontrollable.


lastlovesong.jpg11. The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion by Tracy Daugherty

Release Date: August 25th from St. Martin’s Press
Why You’ll Love It: Thanks to the talented writing of Tracy Daugherty, we now have the first printed biography of literary giant Joan Didion. Following Didion from her early years through the height of her celebrated career, The Last Love Song provides an illuminating view of the author and journalist. —Frannie Jackson
Description: Tracy Daugherty takes readers on a journey back through time, following a young Joan Didion in Sacramento through to her adult life as a writer. Interviewing those who know and knew Didion personally, Daugherty maintains a respectful distance from the reclusive literary great. The Last Love Song reads like fiction; lifelong fans and readers learning about Didion for the first time will be enthralled with this impressive tribute.


1youtoobodycover.png12. You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman

Release Date: August 25th from Harper
Why You’ll Love It: You could call it horror, but that’s because there’s a cult that worships the purification of diet plans. You could call it dystopic, but that’s only because there’s a spat of strange disappearances and ethically-bankrupt reality shows ruling the psyches of the land. And you could call it suspense, but that’s because our main character is growing ever more paranoid that her seemingly disturbed roommate is slowly morphing into her twin. Whatever the label, once Alexandra Kleeman draws the curtain and you view the eerily familiar world she’s created, you’re going to want to browse around. —Jeff Milo
Description: A woman known only by the letter A lives in an unnamed American city with her roommate, B, and boyfriend, C, who wants her to join him on a reality show called That’s My Partner! A eats (or doesn’t) the right things, watches endless amounts of television, often just for the commercials—particularly the recurring cartoon escapades of Kandy Kat, the mascot for an entirely chemical dessert—and models herself on a standard of beauty that only exists in such advertising.

Meanwhile, B is attempting to make herself a twin of A, who hungers for something to give meaning to her life, something aside from C’s pornography addiction. B becomes indoctrinated by a new religion spread throughout a web of corporate franchises, which moves her closer to the decoys that populate her television world, but no closer to her true nature.

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