My Favorite Reads of August 2021

• 5 min read

August has been a chaotic month for me, and as I’ve been navigating that chaos I’ve been so thankful for the grounding presence of good books. I’ve gotten to dive deep into a lot of newer titles this month, including a book that’s out this week!

I read nine books in August, not including Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots, which some of you have been reading with me! Here are the three that caught me the most:

The Husbands

by Chandler Baker

Nora Spangler is a successful attorney but when it comes to domestic life, she packs the lunches, schedules the doctor appointments, knows where the extra paper towel rolls are, and designs and orders the holiday cards. Her husband works hard, too... but why does it seem like she is always working so much harder?

When the Spanglers go house hunting in Dynasty Ranch, an exclusive suburban neighborhood, Nora meets a group of high-powered women -- a tech CEO, a neurosurgeon, an award-winning therapist, a bestselling author -- with enviably supportive husbands. When she agrees to help with a resident's wrongful death case, she is pulled into the lives of the women there. She finds the air is different in Dynasty Ranch. The women aren't hanging on by a thread.

But as the case unravels, Nora uncovers a plot that may explain the secret to having-it-all. One that's worth killing for.

This book picked me up by the scruff of the neck and shook me. As someone who constantly struggles with domestic burnout, I felt scalded by Nora’s internal narrative. She is doing more than any one person can manage on their own, and still constantly feels like a disaster. This book changed my life when it pointed out that being stretched so thin makes every little problem into a potential disaster. I’m not exaggerating: before reading this book, I habitually thought of myself as a mess, and after reading it, I reexamined my entire life and realized that I haven’t been a mess at all -- I’ve simply been carrying too much. The story is compelling, the narrative is breathtaking, and the final pages are masterful.

Bold, relevant, thrilling.

Revelator

by Daryl Gregory

In 1933, nine-year-old Stella is left in the care of her grandmother, Motty, in the backwoods of Tennessee. The mountains are home to dangerous secrets, and soon after she arrives, Stella wanders into a dark cavern where she encounters the family's personal god, an entity known as the Ghostdaddy.

Years later, after a tragic incident that caused her to flee, Stella -- now a professional bootlegger -- returns for Motty's funeral, and to check on the mysterious ten-year-old girl named Sunny that Motty adopted. Sunny appears innocent enough, but she is more powerful than Stella could imagine -- and she's a direct link to Stella's buried past and her family's destructive faith.

Haunting and wholly engrossing, summoning mesmerizing voices and giving shape to the dark, Revelator is a southern gothic tale for the ages.

I simply loved this book. Revelator is not for the fainthearted: it’s terrifying on several levels. Without spoiling anything, I can share that there was one scene during which I had to choose between my book and the sandwich I was eating. The narrative is grounded beautifully in the headspace of the main character, Stella, which means that there are sometimes perspectives on race and culture that might belong in the unexamined thoughts of a young white girl in Tennessee in the 1930’s; meanwhile, adult Stella’s perspectives on those matters reflect the way those perspectives can change with time. This is true of the entire book at large: through the story of young Stella and adult Stella, the reader gets to see the way thoughts, feelings, and beliefs can evolve as one gains different perspectives on the world. This is true of religion, love, family, and -- in one of the most staggering plot twists I’ve ever encountered -- the very nature of oneself.

Brassy, exhilarating, intricate.

Take Me With You When You Go

by David Levithan and Jennifer Niven

Subject: You. Missing.

Ezra Ahern wakes up one day to find his older sister, Bea, gone. No note, no sign, nothing but an email address hidden somewhere only he would find it. Ezra never expected to be left behind with their abusive stepfather and their neglectful mother--how is he supposed to navigate life without Bea?

Bea Ahern already knew she needed to get as far away from home as possible. But a message in her inbox changes everything, and she finds herself alone in a new city -- without Ez, without a real plan -- chasing someone who might not even want to be found.

As things unravel at home for Ezra, Bea will confront secrets about their past that will forever change the way they think about their family. Together and apart, broken by abuse but connected by love, this brother and sister must learn to trust themselves before they can find a way back to each other.

I listened to the audiobook of Take Me With You When You Go and I strongly recommend it. Read by a full cast, the audiobook narrators bring beautiful performances that are rich and dynamic. The narrative isn’t a simple one, and at every moment that the story could take an easy turn, it takes a hard one. Readers who prefer to avoid depictions and discussion of physical, verbal, and emotional abuse should proceed with caution; this book handles those issues with intense honesty and profound compassion.

Tender, powerful, confrontational.


If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll consider subscribing to this newsletter. The paid subscriber community is a wonderful and supportive one, and we’re spending 2021 finding new ways to stay connected and share experiences. You can also find a list of my favorite reads of the year so far here.

You can also buy my newest book! Purchase The Echo Wife wherever books are sold. Or find the first issue of my debut comic miniseries EAT THE RICH at your local comic book shop or at the BOOM! Studios webstore. If you prefer a digital copy, you can find one at comiXology, Google Play, Kindle, and Apple Books.

Tomorrow (that’s Thursday, September 2nd), you can join me and Mark Tiedemann in conversation with Daryl Gregory about his book Revelator! We’re being hosted by Left Bank Books on Facebook Live, simulcast on YouTube, at 7pm CT.

In the meantime, care for yourself and the people around you. Believe that the world can be better than it is now. Never give up.

—Gailey

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