Stylist’s books editor Francesca Brown presents the 10 incredible books you need to add to your bookshelf this July.
There’s something about this month, bookworms, because July is bringing some of the biggest, most unmissable titles of the year.
From the searing true lives of Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women and Cash Carraway’s Skint Estate, to the feminist confusion and fury of Laura Williams’ Supper Club and Anna Hope’s Expectation, via the moving stories of Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn and David Nicholls’ latest book, Sweet Sorrow, you will find a world of reading delight in 10 titles that are worthy of both your money and your time.
Plus, there’s some excellent thrillers for beach packing. What more could you ask for?
The non-fiction read of the summer: Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
When someone describes an author as “living and breathing” their subjects, they’re probably not even close to what journalist and author Lisa Taddeo undertook while writing this intense and dazzlingly unique book. After eight years and an almost-telepathic representation of her three subjects – Lina, Maggie and Sloane – Taddeo has created a book that explores these women’s desires and disappointments and, in doing so, has made something so universal it’ll knock the breath right out of you.
From sexual assault and violence to relationship power games via hope, belief and want, Taddeo’s book is a timely addition to the #metoo movement while also giving an addictive voice to women’s hidden inner lives. It’ll be a classic of its genre.
(out 9 July, Bloomsbury)
The buzzed-about addictive read: Expectation by Anna Hope
Three more women are at the heart of Anna Hope’s so-close-to-the-bone-it’s-a-bit-uncomfortable Expectation which explores how our long-held desires and hopes can be so wide of the mark in reality. At the book’s opening in 2004, Hanna, Cate and Lissa are living halcyon days sharing a house on the edge of London Fields and planning for a better world. Fast forward to 2010 (and back and forwards) and it turns out career disappointments, motherhood or the lack of it, are just some of the ways in which life doesn’t always turn out how you expect.
However, the real joy of this novel – while exploring just what second wave feminism has done for this generation of women (“you’ve had everything… we changed the world for you. For our daughters. And what have you done with it?”) – is in it’s writing; the dialogue and the honesty behind these characters who are doing their best, who are trying to live up to the fictional counterparts that they themselves have created… It’s the perfect summer reading.
(out 11 July, Doubleday)
The essential hormone handbook: Hormonal by Eleanor Morgan
The joy of Eleanor Morgan’s guide is just how revealing and informative it is. Whether exploring the history of women’s medicine (the ancient Greeks believed in the “wandering womb” which would float around the body causing all sorts of issues) to explaining just why we crave a carb download just before our periods (the spike of cortisol partnered with a drop in serotonin, FYI), she has created a go-to manual that also acts as an understanding of our minds as well as our bodies – how hormones can affect your self-belief, anxiety levels, confidence and beyond. An essential read for all adults, it should also be made part of the core curriculum up and down the land.
(out 4 July, Little, Brown)
The stunning read: Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Patsy is a book that’ll make you reassess your own belief systems. Patsy is a 28-year-old gay Jamaican women who dreams of following her friend, Cicely, to the US hoping to find freedom in love and a more economically vibrant society. But, in order to make it happen, she must leave behind her own five-year-old daughter, Tru.
Written with incredible empathy for Patsy, Dennis-Benn isn’t afraid of exploring the taboo notion that not all mothers necessarily have maternal feelings while also drawing a complex picture of what it’s like to be an immigrant in America (this is set in the late Nineties) along with questions of colourism, the pursuit of self-fulfilment and love. It’s brave and excellent reading.
(out 4 July, Oneworld)
The historical thriller with attitude: The Hiding Game by Naomi Wood
Inspired by a photograph of the Bauhaus art school’s Metal Ball in 1929, Mrs Hemingway author Naomi Wood was inspired to write a book that would be, “a kind of Secret History for the Roaring Twenties.” Filled with the self-belief of students who want to embrace something radically new, The Hiding Game is an insight into love, rivalry and self-deception all set against the sinister rise of the Nazi party (notes which worryingly strike a resonance with contemporary politics). Tense and absorbing, this is a book that you’ll want to dive into and hungrily read to the last word.
(out 11 July, Picador)
The hard-hitting memoir: Skint Estate by Cash Carraway
There’s been a much-needed explosion in books that explore something other than a middle class experience (Lowborn, Common People) and Cash Carraway’s memoir is an explosive, funny and insightful exploration of what it means to live below the poverty line in modern day Britain. “I am not walking talking Take A Break magazine article. I am not a stain on society. Or a statistic of shame.”
Navigating her way as a single mother while holding up a light to food banks, zero hours, women’s refuges and the fecklessness of politicians, Skint Estate is a call to arms for those in society who get swept to one side which also underlines the importance of love, community and speaking out. You have to read it.
(out 11 July, Ebury)
The genre-breaking spy story: American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson
If this isn’t made into a film/HBO series then there’s something wrong with the world. It’s 1986 and Thomas Sankara (AKA “Africa’s Che Guevara”) is a charismatic Communist revolutionary and President of Burkina Faso. He’s doing good things for the country but he’s also come under the watchful eye of the FBI. Enter Marie Mitchell – a young black intelligence officer who’s passed over for everything in favour of the white boys’ club that surrounds her. Except, now they’ve got a mission for her…
Written with verve and detail, this is a fantastic thriller that explores the black experience in Reagan’s America, the personal vs political of serving your country and just who is on the side of righteousness.
(out 4 July, Dialogue)
The big summer novel: Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls
One Day, Starter For Ten and Us author (and Cold Feet and Patrick Melrose screenwriter) Nicholls holds an extra-special place in British readers’ hearts so there’s much expectation riding on his new book, Sweet Sorrow. And, he’s definitely nailed all his signature ingredients: slightly damaged teenage hero, Charlie, joins a summer acting troupe in order to woo the much-cooler Fran leading to a long hot summer of teenage awakening with Shakespearean allusions peppered throughout… But – and this is Nicholls’ talent – what really sets this story apart is the dialogue: funny, telling, laughter-inducing, he’s hard to beat. Read in a sun-dappled garden and conjure up the embarrassments of every teenage love you ever had.
(out 11 July, Hodder & Stoughton)
The exploration of mental health: Starling Days by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
“On fish days, she shaved legs, armpits, and plucked her eyebrows. On fish days, she was slippery, soft, almost but not quite liquid. Bear days were the days in which black fur rose from her skin.” Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s book is a poetic, hypnotic exploration of mental health as Mina struggles to find solutions and understanding via her marriage, her knowledge of mythological women (she’s a classicist), travels (the couple move to London) and, finally, love for another woman. It’s a strangely mind-expanding read that’s a must for anyone who’s struggled with depression or loves someone who does.
(out 11 July, Sceptre)
The feminist rulebreaker: Supper Club by Lara Williams
The first rule of Supper Club is… Lara Williams’ feminist and subversive story of a secret supper club is a radical retake on the notion that women must starve themselves to meet society’s demands while repressing the trauma of childhoods, family and violence. Instead, these women become gluttons revelling in Bachallian meet ups, dumpster diving for restaurant leftovers, prepping huge slabs of steak washed down with Kir Royales and Espresso Martinis in order to liberate themselves and their bodies. Written with total glee and rollocking sense of unlimited possibility, Williams is one to watch.
(out 4 July, Hamish Hamilton)
Main image: Unsplash
Book jackets: Supplied