A weak reading month in June forced me to wait a bit longer once again, but patience pays off with this supersized monthly wrap-up!
As with March, I found very little inspiration in the books I finished in June, but I came back firing on all cylinders with my reads in July! There was a lot of fun to be found, with plenty of queer books, and even some light cannibalism and One Direction fangirling thrown in!
Check out my favorite reads from June and July, as well as notes on all of my completed books.
Best of the month
“I am a lot of things, many of them unflattering, but boring is not one.”From The Guncle by Steven Rowley
The Guncle / Steven Rowley
For over a year, I broke the cardinal rule of being a reader: I judged a book by its cover.
To be fair, I also judged it by its annoying title. “Guncle” – an amalgamation of gay uncle – just reeks of early 2010s internet speak and Instagram hashtags. But, defying its bad cover and worse title, Steven Rowley’s The Guncle snuck up on me to become my favorite read of the summer so far, and even coaxed out a tear or two.
The story follows a semi-retired sitcom actor who takes in his niece and nephew as temporary wards after the death of their mother (his close friend) and their father’s (his brother) trip to rehab. Rowley uses this to explore themes of grief and family, and every emotional beat feels completely earned. On top of all of that, Rowley’s dialogue is snappy and packed with jokes.
If you’re looking for a perfect read to close out the summer, take a trip to Palm Springs with The Guncle! Also, shoutout to the Tucson Tome Gnome for choosing this novel as their June title!
Like a Love Story / Abdi Nazemian
Contemporary young adult fiction has been in a tough spot for a few years now. While the market is saturated with queer stories, few of them feel genuinely representative of the queer experience, and even fewer grapple with its history. Abdi Nazemian’s Like a Love Story came out three years ago and has developed a small reputation of being one of the better gay YA stories in recent years. The story is set in New York City at the height of the AIDS epidemic in 1989, following two gay teenagers as they fight to create a world for themselves. Nazemian’s setting feels lived in and accurate, his references don’t just go for the obvious pulls, name-dropping Divine, Lana Turner, and Sal Mineo, while using gay cornerstones Madonna and Judy Garland as key figures in the story. It’s a novel that delivers both a compelling story AND a queer education for young readers.
Detransition, Baby / Torrey Peters
Continuing my journey of reading last year’s popular queer novels, Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters got a lot of buzz prior to its release for featuring one of the most taboo subjects in the trans community: detransitioning. Peters, a trans author, tackles this subject with panache, weaving together three different perspectives: Reese, a trans woman, her former partner Amy, who detransitioned to live as a man and becomes Ames, and Katrina, a cis woman and Ames’ boss and current lover. Katrina discovers she is pregnant with Ames’ baby, and this sets in motion a story about the modern family and all of the messiness that comes with it. Peters has crafted a compelling character study, avoiding the tendency in queer literature to paint trans characters as saints, instead allowing all of her characters to be full, complex individuals. It completely lives up to the hype.
Ghost Story / Peter Straub
At the end of my days, I hope that people will remember me as a spooky bitch. I love horror so much, and I really love when horror goes big and gets messy. I love big horror novels with lots of characters making bananas choices. Ghost Story by Peter Straub is one of those books baybeeeeeee! Straub, a friend of Stephen King, released this book in 1979 and it has since been regarded as a horror classic. Clocking in at north of 500 pages, Straub uses the same plot machinations that would eventually define King (small town setting, generational evil, a being that manifests in different ways) to create this utterly bonkers tale of four old men and a secret they’ve buried. The bodies pile up, the scares get wilder by the minute, and the plot meanders before finding its footing again. This is not a perfect novel, and the casual misogyny that pops up from time to time is certainly a turn off, but wow oh wow, what a ride.
Notes on other june + july reads
The Nickel Boys / Colson Whitehead
My second Colson Whitehead novel, and like The Underground Railroad I felt it was perfectly fine until it cohered in an inventive and surprising way towards the end.
Dead Voices / Katherine Arden
I really enjoyed Small Spaces when I read it awhile ago, and I was excited to check out the sequel. I honestly shouldn’t have.
Runaway / Alice Munro
This was my first time reading a complete collection from Alice Munro, and while my usual problems with maintaining reading momentum in a story collection persist, this featured some remarkable storytelling with deep pathos. I am excited to read more of her work!
A Certain Hunger / Chelsea G. Summers
This nasty little novel about a food critic/murderous cannibal should’ve worked for me better than it did overall, but there are a few sequences in this novel that are fabulous, violent fun.
Under a White Sky / Elizabeth Kolbert
A fascinating, but brief, look at the ways humans have transformed our environment over time (usually for the worse), and how these interventions are now seen as the only ways to save the planet. I wish it were longer!
Everything I Need I Get from You / Kaitlyn Tiffany
A look at how the One Direction fandom (and other music fandoms) impacted and remade the way we use the internet today. I love writing that takes a serious look at things that many people (mostly men) deem to be unimportant and superfluous, and this is a shining example of that and the ways pop culture influences the world around us.
Minor Feelings / Cathy Park Hong
This essay collection isn’t quite memoir, yet not quite cultural criticism, and it ended up lacking a direction. A few of the essays were standouts, but overall this was middling.
Girls Can Kiss Now / Jill Gutowitz
A better (though the level of difficulty is certainly lower) blend of cultural commentary and memoir, Jill Gutowitz’s essay collection was a silly delight (and a must read for those who subscribe to the Kaylor theory.)
A Prayer for the Crown-Shy / Becky Chambers
The most wholesome series about the technopocalypse continues with the adventures of a robot and a tea-slinging monk. This series is like a warm hug, with significant insight into humanity and philosophical discussions about what it means to live a purposeful life.
What Moves the Dead / T. Kingfisher
I loved this horror novella! An expansion of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher with incredibly creepy mushrooms. Pick it up this Halloween!
Lucky Girl / M. Rickert
This “Krampus story” comes in at sub-120 pages, and uses them to tell… a dull story. I’m not going to sugar-coat it, it’s a snooze.
Hell’s Half-Acre / Susan Jonusas
This true-crime chronicle of the Bloody Benders promises a definitive answer to their disappearance, but delivers something that, while fascinating, feels like fan-fiction…
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