12 Must-Read Books of July 2023 – Chicago Review of Books


The dog days of summer are here, and the book releases keep marching on!

From high-profile returns from award-winning authors to can’t-miss additions to the genres of memoir, horror, poetry, and more, there’s something for every reader’s taste this month. So grab your towel and one of these 12 new July releases and head to the beach, because it’s time for some reading under the sun!

The Best Possible Experience
By Nishanth Injam
Pantheon Books

The Best Possible Experience is an emotionally rich collection of short stories that paint a fascinating portrait of contemporary India and its diaspora. Nishanth Injam’s stories prod at our understanding of home and departure with a classical elegance and modern eye. Beautiful at both the individual and collective levels, The Best Possible Experience is truly a profound debut.

Crook Manifesto
By Colson Whitehead

It goes without saying that Colson Whitehead has already built one of the most impressive bibliographies in recent years—including two Pulitzer Prize-winning novels The Nickel Boys and The Underground Railroad—but we may look back on his Harlem saga and the breadth of its scope as one of his capstone achievements. As a direct sequel to his 2021 novel Harlem Shuffle, Crook Manifesto sees Ray Carney thrown back into his crooked ways amidst the turbulence of 1970’s New York. Whitehead is well-known for his propulsive scene work, insightful eye, and of course his trademark wit, but what he is building in this budding trilogy is something we rarely see in modern fiction: an epic of not only one flawed character, but also of a city through its most pivotal—and often brutal—transformations. 

All-Night Pharmacy
By Ruth Madievsky

On the night of her high school graduation, a young woman follows her older sister Debbie to Salvation, a Los Angeles bar patronized by energy healers, aspiring actors, and all around-misfits. But after sharing a bag of unidentified pills, the evening turns into a haze that culminates in Debbie going missing. Pulsing with danger and paranoia, Ruth Madievsky calls upon the propulsive uncertainty of a David Lynch movie to create this portrait of a young woman struggling with attempts at sobriety and sexual embodiment. All-Night Pharmacy is an old-school LA novel in the best way, a total fever dream of lingering violence and lost souls. 

The Librarionist
By Patrick deWitt

Patrick deWitt, whose previous novels include the national bestseller French Exit and the Booker Prize short-listed The Sisters Brothers, returns with a humorous and heartfelt story that is sure to resonate with book lovers. The Librarionist follows Bob Comet, a retired librarian who has saved his life through and for literature. With his trademark wit and compassion, deWitt delivers a stunning celebration of the extraordinary moments within a so-called ordinary life. 

The Beast You Are
By Paul Tremblay
William Morrow

We may be in the dog days of summer, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t start preparing for spooky season. Paul Tremblay is one of our most gifted horror writers working today, and his new short story collection The Beast You Are brings the unsettling vibes and dark psychological haunts that you’d come to expect from the author of The Cabin at the End of the World and A Head Full of Ghosts. In “The Last Conversation,” a person wakes in a sterile, white room and begins to receive increasingly disturbing instructions via intercom from a woman named Anne. In the title story, the secrets of a village, a dog, and a cat become intertwined with a giant monster that returns to wreak havoc every thirty years. This masterpiece of literary horror will have you looking over your shoulder and questioning your own thoughts for days to come. 

Toy Flights: A Boyhood
By Don Paterson

Don Paterson, the only poet to have won the famed T.S. Eliot Prize twice, dives deep into his upbringing in Scotland in Toy Flights. A vivid recreation of the customs of the Scottish working class, family, and music, this lyrical memoir is an unforgettable account of one of our most gifted modern poets. 

Inside the Wolf
By Amy Rowland
Algonquin Books

Gun violence is unfortunately an ever present threat in the United States, and few works of fiction have been able to capture its lingering traumas as well as Amy Rowland’s Inside the Wolf. The novel follows Rachel Ruskin, a failed academic who returns home to her family’s tobacco farm in Shiloh, North Carolina. When another child is accidentally shot and killed, she is confronted with this bitter legacy of her own grief and the town’s history of racism and violence. Inside the Wolf is both a page-turner and a probing investigation of masculinity, guns, and America’s past and present. 

No One Prayed Over Their Graves
By Khaled Khalifa 
Translated from the Arabic by Leri Price
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

From the National Book Award finalist Khaled Khalifa comes the story of two friends whose lives are altered by a flood that devastates their Syrian village. On a December morning in 1907, Hanna and Zakariya return to their village near Aleppo to discover that their neighbors and families have all tragically died in a massive flood. The traumatic event forever changes Hanna, who goes from being a wealthy libertine landowner to an ascetic mystic obsessed with death and the meaning of life. Through its intimacy and grace, No One Prayed Over Their Graves is a heart-wrenching and beautiful exploration of change in Syria. 

See Also

Somebody’s Fool
By Richard Russo

For lovers of Nobody’s Fool and Everybody’s Fool, it’s time to return to the upstate New York town of North Bath in Somebody’s Fool. Ten years after the death of the magnetic Donald “Sully” Sullivan, the town of North Bath is going through a major transition as it is annexed by its much wealthier neighbor, Schulyer Springs. As the messy consolidation of the police departments unfolds, a decomposing body turns up in the abandoned hotel situated between the two towns, which sparks an uncomfortable reckoning for all involved. Richard Russo’s latest is a wry and shrewdly considered novel about the often forgotten rural American town. 

The Light Room
By Kate Zambreno
Riverhead Books

The Light Room, which chronicles the life of a mother and two daughters amid the profound uncertainty about public health and climate change, is sure to resonate with readers in this modern moment. Kate Zambreno explores her own isolation and disconnection through intimate and piercing closeups, placing into focus the precariousness of bringing both art and children into the world while our world is in crisis. 

Because You Were Mine
By Brionne Janae
Haymarket Books

In their latest collection of poems, Cave Canem Poetry Prize winner Brionne Janae dives into the deep, unsettled waters of intimate partner violence, queerness, grief, and survival. With both linguistic power and poise, Janae interrogates familial artistic lineages and positions of power in relationships. Because You Were Mine is a remarkable poetry collection to find solace and support in.

Small Worlds
By Caleb Azumah Nelson 
Grove Press

Caleb Azumah Nelson has already established himself as one of our most gifted young writers, and his latest novel Small Worlds perfectly highlights his many talents. Set over the course of three summers, the novel follows a first-generation Londoner born to Ghanaian immigrant parents whose life takes a drastic turn when he decides to forgo college to pursue music. Moving from London, England to Accra, Ghana and back again, Small Worlds is an unforgettable journey in every sense of the word. 


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