If You Only Read One Book in June, Make it This One

published Jun 2, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Shutterstock/NAR studio

It’s officially the month that summer begins. You might be counting down the days until your postponed packing everything you might need for a sun-filled getaway. That includes swimsuits, flip flops, shorts, and, most importantly, your books. After all, what is a vacation without a beach read? 

If you’re ready to sink your teeth into a book that’s smart, suspenseful, and timely, you won’t be able to put down “The Other Black Girl” by Zakiya Dalila Harris, which has a seven-figure book contract and Hulu adaptation in the works. The novel follows Nella Rogers, an ambitious and dedicated editorial assistant at Wagner, a prestigious publishing house that prides itself on its exclusivity. And that’s precisely the problem: Nella is the only Black employee working in the publishing department, and when she pushes for diversity, she’s only been met with microaggressions and discomfort. But then, another Black woman named Hazel shows up, and Nella is elated by what their work friendship could be.

However, that hope is quickly shot down as Nella realizes Hazel may not be the friend and ally she was looking for. Hazel begins to purposely undermine and sabotage Nella, which turns into something a lot darker and deeper than workplace competition — especially when she receives an anonymous note telling her to leave Wagner.

Even though “The Other Black Girl” veers into nightmare sci-fi territory, the issues it presents are very real and were inspired by Harris’ own experiences working in the publishing industry. She tackles subjects like code-switching, the intimacy of Black hair, and the commodification of Blackness, among others.

As for how things turn out for Nella and Hazel? Harris says she was inspired by “Night of the Living Dead,” so let’s just say you won’t see that ending coming.

Here are a few other great books to pick up this month:

If you’re looking for a smart and poignant character book, this is it. “With Teeth” follows stay-at-home mom Sammie, whose wife is a successful businesswoman named Monika. To Sammie’s frustration, Monika rarely has time for her or their son, Samson, whose behavior grows increasingly more concerning. Sammie becomes resentful of her family, who she feels doesn’t support or understand her. While Sammie tries to be the perfect wife and mother — cleaning the house, cooking, helping with projects — there’s a bubbling anger inside her that begins to take over her life. Raw, realistic, and breathtakingly honest, “With Teeth” will leave you wanting to read it over and over again.

In 2019, Lisa Taddeo’s debut novel “Three Women” was on everyone’s to-read list, and The New York Times best-selling author is back with another note-worthy book that examines the many faces of rage and trauma. “Animal” focuses on Joan, a woman who has a complicated relationship with men and sex. The very first sentence of “Animal” has Joan witnessing her former boss and lover — who was married and had a family — shoot himself right in front of her, and the event is a horrifying catalyst to what is to come. As Joan travels from New York to California to find a yoga instructor named Alice (we can’t say much more), she looks back at her childhood traumas and how they impacted her adulthood

Suffice to say, Taddeo’s sophomore novel is shocking, smart, complex, and the definition of a page-turner. TW/CW: This book contains violence, rape, and suicide.

If you already follow Ashley C. Ford on Twitter, then you’re not surprised her debut memoir “Somebody’s Daughter” is on this list. The genius of Ford knows no bounds, and you’ll be endlessly captivated by her story that spans from her childhood years to the present. Without holding back, Ford writes about how she grew up idolizing her father, even though they had only met a handful of times. She feels like he’s the one person who truly understands her, and who she’s most like — but her father is in prison, and Ford doesn’t know why.

“Somebody’s Daughter” is an important read (TW for violence and rape) that examines family, love, and navigating young adulthood as a Black girl. Ford’s writing is breathtaking, and “Somebody’s Daughter” is a book that will stay with you for a long, long time.

If you’re in the mood for a romantic novel, “Seven Days in June” by Tia Williams is your book to pick up. Eva and Shane had a short-lived love affair that ended in heartbreak, but 15 years later, they bump into each other at a NYC literary event. Now reconnected, Eva isn’t totally sure she can move forward with the man who broke her heart after seven days. Will she give him a second chance? But this story is so much more than a rom-com: It grapples with motherhood, chronic pain, and familial bonds. Sharp, funny, and thoughtful, “Seven Days in June” is exactly what you’d want in a romance-focused novel, and then some.