10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in June 2022 

Great summer reads are arriving at the library every day! Here are ten books we're looking forward to this month.

NIGHTCRAWLING by Leila Mottley
Ultra-talented Mottley is the 2018 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate, and now she’s a novelist with a book arriving just days before she turns twenty. Nightcrawling is the story of Kiara, a 17-year-old who lives in East Oakland under the shadow of loss, mental illness, poverty, and struggle. Parentless, she has dropped out of school in order to support herself, her brother Marcus, and Trevor, the also parentless nine-year-old next door. Desperate to make the rent, an unsuccessful job hunt leads to sex work--just temporary she thinks—but it’s not long before her path crosses with corrupt and abusive cops, in a story that will be infuriatingly and devastatingly familiar to Oakland readers. A “fierce, lyrical debut novel... Light reading, it is not; essential to understanding how maddeningly elusive justice can be, absolutely. As a writer, Mottley channels the natural prose of everyday life, the way people and cities breathe and spit and shiver. It is unflinching writing, the kind that soothes even as it strikes; the darkest, most denigrating passages are reliably followed by the light.” (San Francisco Chronicle) 

Circa by Devi S. Laskar
In 1980’s North Carolina, Bengali-American teenager Heera shares a rebellious streak with her best friend Marie and Maries’s brother Marco, who is also her crush. A terrible accident changes their lives with permanent consequences. Laskar's second novel, following award-winning The Atlas of Reds and Blues (2019), is an exquisitely written, deeply felt jewel of a novel that made my heart pound in my chest. This deeply poignant book explores friendship and family, grief and joy, coming of age, womanhood, and the immigrant experience. It is a gripping and emotional page turner. (This book actually came out a few weeks ago but I forgot to include it on my list last month, one of the many mistakes I made in May.)  

NUCLEAR FAMILY by Joseph Han
Mr. and Mrs. Cho’s Hawaiian restaurant chain is doing well, their daughter Grace is succeeding in college and helping with the business, and son Jacob is in Seoul teaching English. Their bright futures are derailed when Jacob is detained for trying to cross the Demilitarized Zone, an act he was compelled to do by the ghost of his grandfather. “Han makes a smashing debut with this stunning take on identity and migration told through the multiple perspectives of a Korean American family... Each short chapter takes readers deep into the heart of each character's dilemmas, and while it's heartbreaking, it's also sharply hilarious… This is a master class from a brilliant new voice.” (Publishers Weekly) 

A DOWN HOME MEAL FOR THESE DIFFICULT TIMES by Meron Hadero
A debut collection from a Bay Area author and recipient of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing and the Caine Prize for African Writing. “Hadero addresses Ethiopian Americans' struggles for acceptance, the painful ties between present and past, and the elusive meaning of home… A full range of stylistic approaches is on display in these stories, from the satirical spin on the odd disappearance of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in 2012 to the magical realism of mysterious "floating houses"… Entertaining and affecting stories with a deft lightness of touch.” (Kirkus Reviews) 

EXALTED by Anna Dorn 
Despite the popularity of Exalted, her astrology Instagram account, Emily is just scraping by, but she is energized when she discovers her perfect astrological match. Dawn is 48, dumped by her latest girlfriend, back at her old waitressing job, and is no longer welcome at the local gay bar. The only things going for her are booze and Exalted, until Dawn hires Emily for a reading. “Both women are living the opposite of exalted lives: lonely, broke, and self-loathing, if for somewhat different reasons… Luckily, their sharp humor and self-awareness save them from being insufferable even as they say and do terrible things. Like the planets of the zodiac, the two women orbit each other, leading to a toe-curlingly awkward finale that’s as funny as it is cringeworthy. Ultimately, this is a story about seeking—money, fame, fate, and most importantly, human connection; with prose as delightfully moody as its heroines, it's cynical yet strangely uplifting. A caustic yet charming snapshot of contemporary digital life.” (Kirkus Reviews) 

GREENLAND by David Santos Donaldson
Kip is writing a historical novel about the true but secret relationship between E.M. Forster and his Egyptian lover Mohammed el Adl. Someone wants to publish it, but only if he completes his rewrites in the next six weeks. Kip locks himself in the basement and immerses himself in his work, but will he finish? And, more importantly, will he survive the trauma his work brings to the surface? “Besides being a talented fiction writer, Donaldson is a psychotherapist, and his debut novel is psychologically acute in its portrayal of a queer Black man crumbling under the weight of personal, historical, and racial trauma. Despite heavy subject material, Kip’s irreverent, grandiose narration provides moments of memorable levity.” (Booklist) 

LAST SUMMER ON STATE STREET by Toya Wolfe
It’s the summer of 1999 in Chicago’s Robert Taylor high-rises, where twelve-year-old Fe Fe lives with her doting mother and brother. As the housing authority threatens to demolish their home, many lives around them are about to change forever. “Children, cued to joy like flowers to the sun, learn to navigate the perils of South Side... forging friendships and having fun in spite of poverty, drugs, police brutality, and gang warfare... Wolfe's deeply compelling characters, sharply wrought settings, and tightly choreographed plot create a concentrated, significant, and unforgettable tale of family, home, racism, trauma, compassion, and transcendence.” (Booklist) 

THE KINGDOM OF SAND by Andrew Holleran
Holleran, best known for his novel Dancer From the Dance (1978), chronicles the quiet later years of two older gay men in a conservative town in Florida. A “majestic and wistful rumination on ageing, loneliness, and mortality... Though the novel is permeated by a mournful depression, Holleran brings stylistic flourishes and mordant nostalgia to the proceedings, and fully develops the narrator, who floats elegantly on his distilled memories and eventually lands on a beautiful resolution. This vital work shows Holleran at the top of his game.” (Publishers Weekly) 

COUNTERFEIT by Kirstin Chen
Ava Wong’s life has a veneer of perfection but in reality it’s falling apart. When she reconnects with Winnie Fang, her college roommate from two decades ago, Winnie’s counterfeit handbag hustle is too tempting to resist. “Clever, sharp, and slyly funny... Chen turns the stereotype of the docile Asian woman on its head... A delightfully different caper novel.” (Kirkus Reviews) Chen is also the author of Soy Sauce for Beginners (2014) and Bury What We Cannot Take (2018).

WOMAN OF LIGHT by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Fajardo-Anstine's debut collection Sabrina and Corina (2019) was a finalist for the National Book Award, PEN/Bingham, and Story Prize. Her new novel is an intergenerational story that launches in 1930s Denver and revolves around Luz Lopez, a tea leaf reader, seer and storyteller. After her brother is forced by a racist mob to flee town, Luz experiences a series of visions that illuminate the stories of her Mexican and Indigenous ancestors, their successes and their struggles. “Fajardo-Anstine’s compelling writing paints a convincing portrait of a city in flux, haunted by white violence, and portrays a complex female friendship, a vivid love story (or three), and a story of family and memory in the American West.” (Booklist) 

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