16 Books That Should Be On Your Radar: June 2018

Every month, the Writer’s Bone crew reviews or previews books we've read or want to read. This series may or may not also serve as a confessional for guilty pleasures and hipster novels only the brave would attempt. Feel free to share your own suggestions in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

Daniel Ford: I guarantee you’re going to fall in love with Sarah Winman’s writing style and her beautifully drawn characters. If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe Matt Haig (one of our other favorite authors), who said, “This is an astoundingly beautiful book. It drips with tenderness. It breaks your heart and warms it all at once.”

The main character, Ellis, broke my heart eight different ways, but also gave me plenty of reasons to keep hoping, which is the mark of a great character. If you’re one of those readers that annotates or underlines lines you like, you’re going to be very busy reading this novel.  

Providence by Caroline Kepnes

Sean Tuohy: There is no way easy to describe this superb novel (out June 19 from Lenny). It’s part love story, part thriller, part supernatural tale. Somehow author Caroline Kepnes is able to blend them together masterfully to create a well-crafted, page-turning story. Jon and Chloe share a deep connection until Jon is kidnapped for four years. When he returns he’s given a deadly supernatural gift. Kepnes creates extraordinary characters that you love from page one, and spins a dark story into something original and tender.

Sex and the City and Us by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

Daniel Ford: The opening of Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s Sex and the City and Us is deeply personal, which is no surprise given the author’s close connection to the television show she’s writing about. Still, the words, “I left my fiancé for Sex and the City,” should shock you out of thinking this is simply a breezy narrative about an HBO series that debuted 20 years ago. Armstrong, who also wrote Seinfeldia, discovered why viewers are still drawn to Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte (and not just for what they’re wearing or who they’re sleeping with). Readers will learn about a female writing staff that ended up fiercely devoted to one another, and to divulging and working through their issues on screen, New York City’s cupcake wars, and how one of the most influential shows on television almost didn’t happen. Armstrong’s definitive ranking of “Sex and the City” episodes is the perfect complement to this book. Okay, fine, add a Cosmo and a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes.

That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam

Nick Kreiss: In That Kind of Mother, Rumaan Alam employs his unique observational style to draw sophisticated, nuanced, and poignant statements about race, identity, and motherhood. When reading Rumaan, one can't help but feel as if every single word is in its right place, filled to the brim with meaning and raw emotion. In a year in which readers have been spoiled with so many thoughtful, noteworthy reflections on motherhood, That Kind of Mother finds a way to include an entirely new capsule of emotions into the dialogue. Rumaan's words drip with empathy, humanity, honesty, and benevolence. This feels like the type of book the world needs to read right now.

Rebecca Weston: Jen Wang’s latest graphic novel, The Prince and the Dressmaker, is a sheer delight. With all the charm of a traditional fairytale and all the warmth of contemporary inclusivity, the text and the joy-filled illustrations fit like a glove. Our story begins when Prince Sebastian hires Frances, an unappreciated seamstress, to make dresses for him. In secret, Frances helps Sebastian transform into the trendsetting Lady Crystallia. But when Frances is presented with the opportunity of a lifetime, the prince’s secret identity, and his and Frances’s budding relationship, is in danger of being compromised. What will happen if the prince’s subjects, not to mention his parents, find out about Lady Crystallia? Will Sebastian be banished, or will he be loved for who he is? The tale of a poor seamstress with high aspirations and a prince who likes to wear dresses was written for young readers, but one is never too old for stories about embracing others’, and one’s own, true selves while donning fashionable attire.

Bluff by Michael Kardos

Daniel: Michael Kardos could have gone a myriad different directions in his third novel Bluff. His main character Natalie Webb is deliciously broken when we meet her and he could have easily kept breaking her or completely redeeming her effectively. It’s to Kardos’ credit that he chose a path for Natalie that doesn’t feel clichéd or anticipated. This novel has the charm of a sleight-of-hand magician, and the tenseness of a high-stakes poker game. Be warned, once you crack open the eye-catching cover, you’re not going to be able to put the book down.

Invisible Ghosts by Robyn Schneider

Rebecca: I have been a fan of Robyn Schneider’s young adult novels since reading The Beginning of Everything (Katherine Tegen Books, 2013) and Extraordinary Means (2015). So, I jumped at the chance to chat with Robyn about her books, including her latest, Invisible Ghosts (audio from our conversation is below). In each of her stories, Robyn explores the nature of relationships—those we have both with the living and the dead. In Invisible Ghosts, Rose Asher has put her life on hold to hang out with her older brother, Logan, a Netflix-addicted ghost. But when Rose’s childhood friend Jamie moves back to town, everything changes all over again. Jamie has grown up endearingly nerdy, impossibly hot, and effortlessly cool. It’s a combination that only he can pull off. As Rose and Jamie fall for one another, will they be able to let go of their ghosts, both literal and figurative? As you read to find out, you will accompany Rose and Jamie on a sweet, fun, and reflective journey.

Calypso by David Sedaris

Daniel: I’ve been a David Sedaris fans since I read his book Naked in one day several years ago. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard reading something in my entire life. His most recent essay collection, Calypso, features his hallmark humor, but also deeper universal themes about love, loss, family, and mourning. His approach to these issues is so subtle and affecting that I found myself tearing up when I least expected it (I was on a bus to New York City, so at least I was in public). I lost someone close to me this past year, and have been dealing with the aftermath in varying degrees of success. Sedaris’ essays about the death of his mother and the suicide of his sister Tiffany really hit home and grappled with many of the questions and feelings I’ve had these past few months. Sedaris doesn’t need my help selling books, but this one might be his best. Oh, and there’s a whole chapter about shitting your pants in public if you like that sort of thing (which I very much do).

Daniel: I just adored this book. If you’re not ensorcelled by Eleanor and her supporting cast within the first hundred pages, then you’re not our kind of people. Honeyman brilliantly tells this narrative in the first person, which allowed her not only to let readers directly into Eleanor’s head, but also control the flow of information (some of it quite tragic) that readers get to know about her. I kept having to remind myself that Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is a debut novel, and when I did I got all those feelings of jealous and resentment every author gets, but more than that, I just marveled at the characters she built. Don’t be surprised if you shed a tear or two into the sand this summer if you drop this novel into your beach bag.  

A Good American by Alex George

Daniel: Dipping into Alex George's debut novel, I was reminded how good it feels to read his prose. A period novel that starts in 1904, A Good American features two German immigrants (Frederick and Jett) and the memorable (and musically inclined) supporting cast they find once they settle in Beatrice, Missouri. The couple’s grandson, James, narrates the story and his insights and commentary into his grandparent’s tale are filled with laughs and heart.

Author’s Corner

By Julia Fine, author of What Should Be Wild

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

This book is a master class in pacing and authorial control. Every detail matters, and every moment is taut. A beautiful and terrifying story about the limits of maternal love.

Open Mic Night in Moscow And Other Stories from My Search for Black Markets, Soviet Architecture, and Emotionally Unavailable Russian Men by Audrey Murray

I started reading this book at the airport and was actually pleased when my flight was delayed—it’s not out until July but it should definitely be on your radar. At 28, stand-up comedian Murray embarked on a solo trip across the former USSR. Always hilarious, compulsively readable, and surprisingly poignant—the only travel guide of its kind.

Fen by Daisy Johnson

This collection is absolutely brilliant. Johnson’s writing is raw and vulnerable and feisty and lush, and every story is packed with revelations about what it means to be a woman or a girl. She has a novel coming in the fall (Everything Under) and I am chomping at the bit.

If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim

This one comes out in August, so I guess I’m just pushing it into the outer rings of your radar for now. Lee Haemi, Kim’s protagonist, is one of the most frustrating and beautiful and well-drawn women I’ve read in ages. This is a story of Korea rebuilding after the war, but also a story about the pull of tradition and the limits of bravery and how to build a life around another person, be it spouse, sibling, or child. A truly beautiful, thoughtful book that will sit with me for some time.


Dave Pezza and guest reader Phoef Sutton (Emmy Award-winning screenwriter and co-host of Film Freaks Forever!) discuss Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend.

In NovelClass' Season 2 mid-season finale, Dave Pezza and guest readers Sean Tuohy and Daniel Ford discuss Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch live from Belmont Books.