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August Book-Ahead: What We're Excited To Read Next Month


August can sometimes be a dull stretch when it comes to publishing — but not this year. Here are six books we're particularly looking forward to next month.

Our critic Thúy Đinh is having a busy month. First up, it's Afterparties, the late Anthony Veasna So's debut story collection. "While So's untimely death in December 2020 still seems devastatingly abrupt, the fact that many of the stories in Afterparties thoughtfully explore ways of being — and not being bound, by one's past — lends his fiction a timeless vitality," Đinh says. "As So's stories exuberantly show, his characters' courage to reject Ahab's destructive quest and embrace 'the profound calm of Ishmael's aimless wandering' engenders infinite renewal."

Considerably less calm is The Prisoner, a page-turning memoir by celebrated South Korean novelist Hwang Sok-yong. "Sok-yong's life resembles a series of harrowing quests to further the rapprochement of North and South Korea," says Đinh. And The Prisoner "cinematically intertwines his personal history with South Korea's collective history to depict how a lack of closure regarding the Korean War — there has been no formal peace treaty since the war ended in 1953 — has rendered many South Korean lives rootless, unfulfilled. By offering the reader a holistic view of his literal and metaphorical imprisonment, Hwang poignantly illustrates what it means to be exiled by politics, geography, language, and emotional ties."

Reviewer Jenny Bhatt says that in Against White Feminism, "Rafia Zakaria critiques white feminism as a center of power and privilege, discusses how it adheres to an agenda of capitalist consumerism, and highlights how it continues to marginalize women of color at a personal and a global level. She argues for a feminism that pitches itself against whiteness, which is 'not construed as a biological category, but as a set of practices and ideas that have emerged from this bedrock of white supremacy, which is a legacy of empire and slavery.'"

"In Redemptor, Jordan Ifueko throws us headfirst back into the world of Raybearer with a vengeance," says critic Danny Lore. "A fast-paced sequel to her bestselling YA debut, Redemptor picks up from the terrifying deals made in its predecessor and keeps up a breath-stopping tension centered around protagonist Tarisai's found family and the politics of dark spirits and scared nations."

Critic Kamrun Nesa says she's been waiting for The Heart Principle "since its announcement almost two years ago, and it won't surprise anyone to know the wait has been worth it. It's a beautifully compassionate story between two people whose awkward, somewhat unsuccessful one night stand turns into a cathartic release from the professional and personal pressures they're experiencing. Hoang is brilliant at encouraging self-love to her characters and pushing them to ignore what society thinks, and I can't wait for readers to fall in love with Anna and Quan."

And finally, reviewer Heller McAlpin says James Rebanks' Pastoral Song "is a full-throated ode to finding a balance by using the land and animals responsibly and sustainably and heeding long-term consequences. 'We can build a new English pastoral,' Rebanks writes. 'Not a utopia, but somewhere decent for us all.'"

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Petra Mayer died on November 13, 2021. She has been remembered by friends and colleagues, including all of us at NPR. The Petra Mayer Memorial Fund for Internships has been created in her honor.