Today is an unofficial holiday for the readers of the world. Book Lovers Day is the time of year that’s set aside to celebrate those who understand the importance of reading and respect and appreciate the written word. And while there are many ways to celebrate — from patronizing a local library to organizing the collection of literature you already have at home — books are the star of the show and we can’t think of a better way to mark this day than curling up with a new one.
Below, we’ve put together a short list of must-read titles that have caught our eye this season and we’re sure will capture your attention as well. From romantic escapist reads to somber tales of realism, there’s a mix of new books to explore. Once you’ve made your way through these works, check out our official summer book list here.
Inspired by the tale of a real-life haunted stop on the Underground Railroad in Massachusetts, Lisa Williamson Rosenberg’s Embers on the Wind (Little A, $24.95) casts the safe house as the fiery final resting place of two formerly enslaved women—and a modern-day beacon for Black women seeking their own brand of freedom. But liberation in the present is elusive until they find their connection to the home’s lingering souls.
How You Grow Wings (Algonquin Young Readers, $18.95), by Rimma Onoseta, might be labeled a YA title, but the themes it explores—abuse, colorism, mental illness, classism—make it a compelling read for all. When sisters Zam and Cheta leave their Nigerian home to follow divergent paths, they have no idea they will be dramatically reunited—each holding the key to the other’s redemption.
Photographer Cassie Harris is completely game when she unexpectedly finds herself the star of her bestie’s plus-size-lingerie campaign. After all, she’s in love with her body. The only problem? Her nemesis is behind the camera. In The Accidental Pinup (Berkley, $17), author Danielle Jackson drops us into a charming tale set in Chicago, where fierce competitors reluctantly find their way to love.
The eight short, interconnected tales in Sidik Fofana’s Stories From the Tenants Downstairs (Scribner, $26) give readers a peek into the lives of the dynamic residents of Banneker Homes. It’s impossible not to get sucked into this debut effort, in which folks struggle to preserve their security and forge bright futures—even as gentrification raises rents and swallows their Harlem neighborhood block by block.
Poet Rio Cortez’s first full-length collection, Golden Ax (Penguin Poets, $18), uses “Afropioneerism” as its theme. Cortez examines how her family came to the American West after Reconstruction—and reimagines the landscape through the lens of Black people who both embody and defy its realities. In the process, we are pushed to envision our own futures on the frontier, united by a collective aspiration to freedom.
Ring The Alarm
In Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and the Health of Our Nation (Doubleday, $30), former ESSENCE Executive Editor Linda Villarosa explores the impact of racism on the health of Black people in America. With real-life stories of discrimination, and featuring statistics de- tailing how the health care system fails us, she airs the nation’s dirty hospital linens and urges meaningful reform.
Kwana Jackson’s 2020 romance Real Men Knit introduced the world to the Strong brothers, who took over their adoptive mother’s Harlem knitting shop following her passing. We revisit the family in Knot Again (Berkley, $17), picking up the thread after an appearance in a firefighter charity calendar results in Lucas colliding with love in the form of his former high school crush, Sydney. Tangled feelings—and bodies—ensue.
Perish (Tiny Reparations Books, $27) by LaToya Watkins opens in an outhouse in Jerusalem, Texas, in 1955. What happens under the moonbeams that filter through an improvised wooden roof will reverberate through the Turner family for generations. The depth of that impact only becomes clear when family matriarch Helen Jean lies dying, and her children and grandchildren journey to her bedside laden with passed-down secrets, resentment and trauma.