Lockdown Reads: The Best New Books In June & July 2021
There really is no better way to pass the time during this lockdown than with a good book. So make yourself a cup of tea, curl up on the sofa, and start flipping the pages—who knows what amazing worlds you will encounter.
See also: 5 Books By Asian Authors
June 2021 Releases
Black Water Sister by Zen Cho
From 2019's Hugo Award Winner and Malaysian-born writer Zen Cho comes a brand new fantasy novel. It follows Jessamyn Teoh who has just moved back to Malaysia when she starts hearing a voice claiming to be the ghost of her estranged grandmother Ah Ma, the guardian of the Black Water Sister deity. A masterful page-turner, Black Water Sister is a comic but endearing story that perfectly embodies the way in which gods, ghosts and family secrets are seamlessly synthesised in Malaysian-Chinese culture.
Summer by Ali Smith
Summer provides a concluding flourish to Scotland’s Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet. The novel follows Sacha, a social activist railing against the culture of indifference, and her brother Robert, a genius-level anarchist whose art collective ‘Art in Nature’ attempts to return a sculpture fragment to its former owner. This novel alternates between politics and the artistic, the comical and the deeply profound, making for a truly insightful read.
See also: Lauren Ho, Author Of Last Tang Standing, On Transitioning From Law To Literature
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
A New York Time #1 bestseller, The Vanishing Half is the 20-year saga of a pair of twin sisters, Desiree and Stella, who break with tradition in search of new lives away from their hometown, a fictional black town called Mallard. Both sisters are light-skinned and could pass as white. The novel explores universal issues of identity, discrimination and authority.
See also: 5 Books By Asian Authors To Read
KL Noir: Magic
Highly recommended by Lit Books, KL Noir: Magic is the latest instalment of the KL Noir series after a seven year hiatus, with editor Deric Ee curating this stellar collection of short stories. The anthology contains a diverse physiognomy of genres—from a novel hardboiled crime piece, Midnight at Tulips by Collin Yeoh, to the high-concept vampire tale of Driving Ms Devi by Rizal Ramli. With Malaysian fiction growing in popularity during the pandemic, KL Noir: Magic is truly a breath of fresh air.
See also: How This Best-Selling Malaysian Author Brings History To Life Through A Collection Of Short Stories
How Do You Live? by Genzaburo Yoshino
Originally published in 1937, this beloved Japanese coming-of-age novel has been translated into English for the first time by Bruno Navasky. Soon to be an anime, the tale revolves around Junichi “Copper” Honda, a reflective and precocious 15-year old and his mentor-mentee relationship with his uncle. How Do You Live? is a meditation on what it means to live with honour and integrity.
Related: Why Is Japan Giving Away Abandoned Houses For Free?
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Set in Malibu in August 1983, this novel tells the story of four siblings born to the legendary singer, Mick Riva. There is Nina, a talented surfer-cum-supermodel who has just been publicly dumped by her professional tennis player husband; Jay, a championship surfer; Hud, a renowned photographer; and Kit, their youngest and adored baby sister.
On the outside, they are a glamorous, tight-knit family who live a blessed existence by the beach. But secrets are unearthed when the Riva mansion goes up in flames on the night of their annual end-of-summer party.
See also: 6 Stunning Beaches To Visit In Malaysia
With Teeth by Kristen Arnett
A tale that explores the limitations of marriage, parenthood and love, With Teeth opens with a mother in Florida whose son, Samson's behaviour is difficult—to say the least. Following Samson as a feral toddler to a surly and aggressive teenager, the protagonist grapples with her relationship with Samson and her long-term partner as well as societal expectations to be the 'perfect family'.
See also: Art Celebrating Mothers & Motherhood By Malaysian Artists
Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor
Brandon Taylor was one of the breakout literary stars of 2020 whose debut novel, Real Life, has garnered praise from critics and authors, including Roxane Gay. In this sophomore effort, he interlinks the storylines of young creatives in the American Midwest, each dealing with their own issues of loneliness, health, intimacy and more.
One of the most highly anticipated novels this year, Filthy Animals will leave you reeling from the devastating depths of raw emotion and human vulnerability that Taylor explores beautifully.
See also: The Lockdown Chronicles Is A Collection Of Malaysian Short Stories About Life Under MCO
Travelphiles, ache no longer! Explore places such as Japan, Greece, Brazil, Turkey and India through The Passenger series, where each book comprises essays and stories by award-winning writers from these destinations. Instead of typical travel tips, The Passenger provides insights into the lesser-known aspects of the country’s contemporary culture. Accompanied by sparkling photography, this is a must-read for world travellers with unbound imagination.
See also: Can't Travel? No Problem. These Scents Bring Luxury Destinations To You
July 2021 Releases
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
Set in 1345, this novel follows the Zhu family's two children destined for polar opposite fates: for the boy, greatness; for the girl, nothingness. However, nothingness becomes pure adventure when her brother dies and the girl takes on his identity, joining the monastery in rebelling against the Mongols. Making her mark in the historical fantasy genre, Parker-Chan's debut novel is a poetic and brave reimagining of the Ming Dynasty.
Related: History Meets Modernity In This Heritage Home In Penang
Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder
Yoder's debut book is based on the bizarre premise of a woman who is convinced that she is turning into a dog after discovering a dense patch of hair on the back of her neck. Her absent husband dismisses her worries, forcing her to turn to a mysterious academic tome, A Field Guide to Magical Women: A Mythical Ethnography, as well as a group of pyramid-scheming mothers.
The rights to this brilliantly satirical fairytale has already been bought by Annapurna Pictures, with six-time Oscar-nominated actress Amy Adams slated to play the protagonist.
See also: A Fendi Collection For Your Pet Dogs
The Stranger in the Mirror by Liv Constantine
Alumni of Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine Book Club, seasoned sister-authors Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine's new novel follows Addie, who is haunted by amnesia from a traumatic accident. Meanwhile, Julian has never given up the search for his wife who mysteriously vanished. As these two narratives converge, this psychological-thriller novel keeps readers at the edge of their seats.
Related: Bookshops We Love In Penang
The Comfort Book by Matt Haig
After the last year and a half, we all need a little comfort in our lives. Luckily, the award-winning author of The Radleys and The Midnight Library is here to help. Building on the wisdom he learned from philosophers, artists and influential historical figures, including Emily Dickinson, James Baldwin and Marcus Aurelis, Haig presents a hybrid of self-reflecting memoir and philosophical commentary.
Whether you are looking for a comforting read or some wisdom on how to re-frame the way you look at life's challenges, The Comfort Book is just the thing the world needs right now.
See also: 20 Instagrams To Follow For A Positivity Fix
For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing
This novel is a diabolical masterpiece starring a large cast of unique characters in a prestigious private school after the announcement of the death of a school parent. The most memorable of all is Teddy Crutcher, who has won Teacher of The Year despite being deeply disliked by students and staff alike. He doesn't seem fazed by the death that is looking more and more like murder, which prompts his students to do a little digging.
It's delightful page-turner that will bring readers back into that intensely competitive and rigorous world of academia—perfect for fans who enjoy a bit of murder, mystery and dark humour.
See also: 14 Boarding Schools Favoured By Members Of Royal Families
China Room by Sunjeev Sahota
Sunjeev Sahota's masterpiece weaves the tales of young Mehar, a bride in rural Punjab in 1929 who is trying to discover the identity of her new husband after a marriage ceremony, as well as her great-grandson who faces racism and violence as an immigrant in small-town England. The result is a deeply moving portrait of human resilience and courage.
Related: Meet The Asians Fighting Racism With Food & Art