A New Leaf: NYC’s Hottest Summer Book Events

Histories of Violence

Tahmima Anam received international acclaim for her novels A Golden Age and The Good Muslim, which together tell the story of one family’s experience of the Bangladeshi war for independence. In The Bones of Grace (June 28, Harper, 432 pages), Anam draws upon her home country again to tell the tale of Zubaida Haque, a young Bangladeshi woman who travels to America. There she meets and falls in love with the American-born Elijah Strong — but, instead of following her heart, she obeys custom by returning home to marry a childhood friend. Unhappy with her choice, Zubaida flees to the Chittagong district, where she considers the consequences of crossing boundaries — geographical, societal, personal — before deciding which course her life will take. Given the wit and lyricism of Anam’s previous work, The Bones of Grace is sure to be a highlight of the summer. Also coming this season is Yaa Gyasi‘s Homegoing (June 7, 320 pages, Knopf), which has already been called “an inspiration” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Rumored to have earned a seven-figure advance, the novel spans three hundred years of African family history. It opens in eighteenth-century Ghana, where two half-sisters meet different fates: Effia marries an Englishman and lives in contentment, while Esi is sold into slavery and shipped to America. As the novel unfolds, we witness the divergent family lines: Effia’s descendants struggle through the wars of the Ashanti Empire and the British colonization of the Gold Coast, while Esi’s survive slavery and the Civil War to experience the Great Migration and the Harlem Renaissance. Though it’s only Gyasi’s first novel, Homegoing has sparked raves for its authoritative — if provocative — account of history. — Amy Brady


Brooke Hauser

June 7

Like a real-life Peggy Olson, Helen Gurley Brown learned how to use the skills she possessed to secure power in the largely female-unfriendly early Sixties. Her controversial bestseller Sex and the Single Girl had a tremendous influence on the sexual revolution, transformed the state of women’s magazines, and paved the way for ambitious women to pursue men, money, pleasure, and a career. In Enter Helen: The Invention of Helen Gurley Brown and the Rise of the Single Woman, Hauser tells the story of how Brown went from a small-town girl in the Ozarks to a New York City power player. Hauser discusses the book here with Jezebel founder Anna Holmes. Powerhouse Arena, 37 Main Street, Brooklyn, powerhousearena.com — Heather Baysa

Chuck Klosterman

June 7

Guessing and second-guessing and occasionally even seventh-guessing every type of cultural phenomenon is kind of Klosterman’s m.o., so it’s no wonder he’d write a book about uncertainty itself. But What If We’re Wrong? Thinking About the Present as If It Were the Past is his newest collection of essays about society’s casual self-assurance, drawing on interviews with Neil deGrasse Tyson, Junot Díaz, Amanda Petrusich, George Saunders, David Byrne, Ryan Adams, and other thinkers. The validity of everything current in sports, rock music, television, time, and gravity is up for debate at this event. Barnes & Noble Union Square, 33 East 17th Street, stores.barnesandnoble.com — H.B. 

Ethan Hawke
Ethan Hawke

Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth

June 8

In his latest literary venture, Hawke teams up with illustrator Ruth for the graphic novel Indeh: A Story of the Apache Wars. Together, the two tell the tale of Goyahkla, a young warrior who unites the Apache nation and emerges as the legendary Geronimo. Told from a perspective rarely considered, the story is both universal in its meditation on war and specific in its depiction of the Apache people’s valiant fight to preserve land and culture. Hawke and Ruth will answer questions and sign copies here. BookCourt, 163 Court Street, Brooklyn, bookcourt.com — H.B. 

Annie Proulx

June 14

Though perhaps best known for her Nineties short story “Brokeback Mountain,” Proulx is at her finest when working in the novel form, which permits her generational approach to storytelling to truly breathe and blossom (e.g., The Shipping News, a Pulitzer Prize winner). With Barkskins, her longest novel yet at 736 pages, she traces the descendants of two seventeenth-century French woodcutters over a span of three hundred years, laying bare the ripple effects of their choices on both their family line and the landscape they mine for profit. Proulx sits down with Bill McKibben in this talk. 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue, 92y.org

Emma Cline

June 14

The female antihero is having something of a moment across all the fictional mediums. Cline’s poignantly titled debut, The Girls, set during the waning days of the Sixties, concerns a Manson Family–like fold in Northern California. Cline’s thoughtful fourteen-year-old protagonist, Evie, however, is lured into the cult’s embrace not by its male leader, but through a growing obsession with the charismatic Suzanne and a tight-knit circle of women followers. Attend this reading and Q&A with Cline to meet the author Lena Dunham has said “reminds us that behind so many of our culture’s fables exists a girl: unseen, unheard, angry.” BookCourt, 163 Court Street, Brooklyn, bookcourt.com — H.B. 

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

July 7

For so many of us, Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer informed our vision of New York City life long before we ever set foot on the island. But what Seinfeld did for this city pales in comparison to what it did for television sitcoms and comedy in general. In Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything, Armstrong outlines the juggernaut from its low-rent roots — Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld sitting down for coffee, hashing out a show they were sure network execs would reject — to the fanatic acolytes of its present-day fame, still obsessing over puffy shirts and soup lines. The TV and culture writer reads here. Word Brooklyn, 126 Franklin Street, Brooklyn, wordbookstores.com — H.B. 

Books Beneath the Bridge

July 11–August 15

Books Beneath the Bridge, located on the Granite Prospect steps in Brooklyn Bridge Park, boasts what is probably the best vista of any reading in town; attendees can enjoy a view of the East River at sunset as they listen to a roster of contemporary authors. Each Monday-evening program in the series is hosted by a different local independent bookstore: Freebird, Word, Greenlight, BookCourt, Powerhouse Arena, Community Bookstore. Past years have featured Colson Whitehead, Paul Auster, Colum McCann, and Patti Smith, so stay tuned for the reveal of another venerable author lineup. Brooklyn Bridge Park, Granite Prospect, brooklynbridgepark.org — H.B. 

Judith Stein

July 13

Writer and curator Stein traces the rise of contemporary design in Eye of the Sixties: Richard Bellamy and the Transformation of Modern Art. In this biography of the charismatic art advocate and founder of the Green Gallery on West 57th Street, she highlights Bellamy’s knack for discovering new talent — Mark di Suvero, Claes Oldenburg — and looks at his formative friendships with Yoko Ono, Norman Mailer, and Diane Arbus, among others. Stein speaks here about the decades of research and hundreds of interviews that contributed to the book. 192 Books, 192 Tenth Avenue, 192books.com — H.B. 

New York City Poetry Festival

July 30–31

It’s only fitting that the New York City Poetry Festival should take place in a location as idyllic as Governors Island. Use the opportunity to sail off to the tree-shaded oasis and lounge on a picnic blanket while you take in the verse. Several dozen publishers, troupes, and independent artists take part in this weekend-long marathon reading, spanning a wide range of poetic styles. Visit cult favorites the Poetry Brothel for an intimate, one-on-one reading, or grab a seat at one of the Typewriter Project’s many composition booths and create a work of your own. Governors Island, accessible via ferry (in Manhattan, at the Battery Maritime Building, 10 South Street; in Brooklyn, at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park), newyorkcitypoetryfestival.com — H.B. 

Bryant Park Reading Room

Through September

Bryant Park’s Reading Room dates back to 1935, when it was created as an open-air library for out-of-work intellectuals affected by the Depression. Today it functions as a daytime retreat for the bustling lunch-break crowd, with workday-conscious readings and discussions running on Wednesday afternoons all summer long. This year’s featured authors include Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, Walter Shapiro, Tom Foreman, Kerby Rosanes, and Nathaniel Rich, with more to be announced. Some panels to look out for: one on “Soho Crime,” on July 6, and another on “Historical Fiction,” on August 3. Bryant Park Reading Room, 42nd Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, bryantpark.org — H.B. 


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