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My Favorite Reads of July 2021

I finally got my reading groove back, which is a huge relief! As a result I read 14 books in July, not including Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee which some of you have been reading with me. This month’s books were compelling, creative, and totally gripping. Here are the three that caught me the most:

Girly Drinks: A Women’s HIstory of Drinking

by Mallory O’Meara

Strawberry daiquiris. Skinny martinis. Vodka sodas with lime. These are the cocktails that come in sleek-stemmed glasses, bright colors and fruity flavors--these are the Girly Drinks.

From the earliest days of civilization, alcohol has been at the center of social rituals and cultures worldwide. But when exactly did drinking become a gendered act? And why have bars long been considered "places for men" when, without women, they might not even exist?

With whip-smart insight and boundless curiosity, Girly Drinks unveils an entire untold history of the female distillers, drinkers and brewers who have played a vital role in the creation and consumption of alcohol, from ancient Sumerian beer goddess Ninkasi to iconic 1920s bartender Ada Coleman. Filling a crucial gap in culinary history, O'Meara dismantles the long-standing patriarchal traditions at the heart of these very drinking cultures, in the hope that readers everywhere can look to each celebrated woman in this book--and proudly have what she's having.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge O’Meara fan. Her debut, The Lady From the Black Lagoon, was a brilliant combination of biography and memoir, a history of practical effects in Hollywood horror and an examination of misogyny in the film industry combined with a reflection on the life of Milicent Patrick. Where that book was narrower in scope, Girly Drinks is broad, examining the entire history of alcohol and society in different cultures throughout the world, and highlighting the roles of women in a world that often tries to deny they’ve ever had any role at all. Be prepared to have your perspective on booze totally upended by the time you get to the end of the last page. Sharp, funny, dazzling.

Jade Legacy

by Fonda Lee

Jade, the mysterious and magical substance once exclusive to the Green Bone warriors of Kekon, is now coveted throughout the world. Everyone wants access to the supernatural abilities it provides, from traditional forces such as governments, mercenaries, and criminal kingpins, to modern players, including doctors, athletes, and movie studios. As the struggle over the control of jade grows ever larger and more deadly, the Kaul family, and the ancient ways of the Kekonese Green Bones, will never be the same.

Battered by war and tragedy, the Kauls are plagued by resentments and old wounds as their adversaries are on the ascent and their country is riven by dangerous factions and foreign interference. The clan must discern allies from enemies, set aside bloody rivalries, and make terrible sacrifices... but even the unbreakable bonds of blood and loyalty may not be enough to ensure the survival of the Green Bone clans and the nation they are sworn to protect.

It’s also no secret that I’ll ravenously devour anything Fonda Lee writes. I’ve been on the Green Bone Saga train since the beginning, and I’ve written extensively about my love of the series for anyone who will give me column inches. Jade Legacy is the third book in the series, and it absolutely sticks the landing. While I’m normally hesitant to recommend a sequel this strongly, I can’t push this one hard enough: You’ve still got plenty of time to read Jade City and Jade War in time to prepare for Jade Legacy, and it’s well worth a pre-order. Bold, revelatory, stunning.

The Other Black Girl

by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she's thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They've only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust.

Then the notes begin to appear on Nella's desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.

It's hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there's a lot more at stake than just her career.

A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary that is perfect for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or overlooked in the workplace, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.

The Other Black Girl is a haunting thriller that brings a lingering sense of claustrophobia into the narrative. The walls of the story close in the longer you read it, so that by the final turn, there’s nowhere to go but the end. I read this one in a fervent rush, unable to put it down for more than a few seconds at a time. I don’t want to share any details beyond the synopsis, but I will say this: be prepared to spend a lot of time looking over your shoulder after you finish this one. Taut, cutting, ingenious.

Normally I limit these posts to three books, but this month was such an embarrassment of riches, I have no choice but to share a few more highlights:

  • The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig - a viscerally honest and devastating exploration of cycles of abuse and trauma, as framed in a horror narrative that includes coal mines, spooky owls, and profound empathy;
  • Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy - a terrifying nonfiction examination of how the fear of rabies has shaped human culture;
  • A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers - a tender and earnestly human tale of purpose and dissatisfaction, out this month wherever books are available.

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.

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.