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Dazed July book column 2020

All the books to read in July while on staycation

Juan Felipe Herrera’s poetry paints a portrait of struggle and violence, while Jenny Kleeman reflects on the future of sex, and Eliza Clark’s debut is a dark and twisty comedy

It’s that time again where we choose our highlights from this month’s new batch of book releases. Whether you’re slowly returning back to work or about to embark on a much-needed staycation, we have a thrilling selection of reads to be enjoyed outside in the late evening sun, or simply, tucked away in bed on a sleepy morning.

There’s former US poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera’s profound reflection on being an immigrant in the US, to Jessica Hundley’s visual history of tarot cards. Go behind-the-scenes of some of the most futuristic creations out there with Jenny Kleeman’s Sex, Robots, and Vegan Meat, or submerge yourself in Eliza Clark’s hallucinogenic debut, a dark and twisty comedy.


In Tarot, A Visual History, author Jessica Hundley traces the fascinating history behind the occult tradition of tarot, which has served as a source of artistic expression and self-exploration for over 600 years. The first-ever visual compendium of its kind, the book explores the meaning of more than 500 cards, most of which have never been seen outside of the decks themselves, as well as highlighting its influence over artists like Salvador Dalí and Niki de Saint Phalle. Peppered throughout are excerpts from thinkers such as Éliphas Lévi, Carl Jung, and Joseph Campbell; a foreword by artist Penny Slinger; a guide to reading the cards by Johannes Fiebig; and an essay on oracle decks by Marcella Kroll. Tuck in. (GY)

Out now, Taschen


This brilliant book by former US poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera is part Bashō, part protest poem. Recounting his two years on the road, travelling through America, Herrera – the son of migrant farm workers – reflects on how hard it’s been to even be acknowledged by those in high culture, who see immigrants as nothing more than mere shadows. “Everyday we get more illegal”, the poet says in this book of incantations, of laborers working the earth, and migrants waiting crossing the border. Herrera offers a portrait of struggle and violence, but also hope and resolution. (GY)

July 14, City Lights


Deeply personal and boldly political, arts writer, curator, and activist Kimberly Drew writes about how art and protest are inextricably linked. A part of Pocket Change Collection, a series of “small books with big ideas”, Drew, drawing on her own personal experiences, reminds us that the art world isn’t only for the elite, but for everyone. In doing so, she encourages us to embrace what we’re afraid of and create space for the change we want to see in the world. (GY)

Out now, Random House


In this poignant story of race and colourism, Brit Bennett, The New York Times-bestselling author of The Mothers, offers a stunning portrait of twin sisters, Desiree and Stella, who grow up in a southern black community, before running away at age 16. Both sisters are white-passing, but while Desiree eventually returns home with her Black daughter, Stella crosses the colour line, renouncing her Blackness in favour of a white husband and, by extension, life. What follows is a provocative and compassionate page-turner that explores themes of guilt, the problem of ‘passing’, and the performative aspect of identity. (GY)

Out now, Random House


“What you are about to read is not science fiction,” warns Jenny Kleeman in the preface of Sex Robots & Vegan Meat, which examines the innovations that promise to change the way we will love, eat, reproduce, and die in the future. The result of five years research, Kleeman goes behind-the-scenes of some of the most futuristic creations out there: she interviews a sex robot, eats a priceless lab-grown chicken nugget, watches real foetuses growing in plastic bags, and attends members-only meetings where people learn how to kill themselves. Sex Robots & Vegan Meat is a fascinating look at what the future holds and what it means to be human. And you’ll never look at a chicken nugget in the same way ever again. (GY)

July 9, Picador


With the invention of the internet in the early 80s came a transformation of the way we both have and think about sex. Social media and the World Wide Web, arriving later, have invited new curiosities and opportunities when it comes to our sex lives, making porn accessible to all, and altering the way people meet and have sex with one another. This seismic shift is at the heart of Katrin Tiidenberg and Emily van der Nagel’s book, Sex and Social Media, which explores the discrepancy between the media’s portrayal of sex on/with social media as deviant, and the public’s desire for online sex. It also examines how social media has influenced sex, addresses misconceptions around it, and discusses how sex online can build meaningful relationships and communities. (BD)

July 10, Emerald


In his debut novel, Lee Connell astutely explores class tensions and privilege through his protagonist Ruby, as she navigates one fateful day in her post-college life. Born to a super in the basement of an Upper West Side co-op, Ruby has lived her life on the fringes of high society, benefitting from living in such an affluent area, but still needing to take out loans to attend a prestigious small liberal arts school. Post-graduation, Ruby has been forced to return to her parents’ basement, something she vowed she’d never do. Now, back at home, Ruby starts the day arguing with her father, though by the time the day ends, everything has changed. (BD)

July 7, Penguin


As we continue to navigate life amid the coronavirus pandemic, it’s unsurprising that many of us are feeling nostalgic for the near-past. In his book, On Nostalgia, David Berry goes deep on the phenomena of nostalgia, which seeps into our fashion choices, romantic ideals of advertising, and dominates conversations about ‘the quality’ of today’s culture. Exploring how a force that started as a psychological diagnosis of soldiers fighting far from home became a quintessentially modern condition, Berry explores what makes the impossibility of return to a “better” time so appealing, and considers a future where the past is simultaneously more readily available and harder to keep track of. (BD)

July 7, Coach House


The London arts scene has long deserved a proper skewering, and Eliza Clark is the woman to do it. In the hallucinogenic debut Boy Parts, a dark and twisty comedy, we meet Irina, who has been photographing men in explicit forms that she scouts around Newcastle while on a sabbatical from her dead-end bar job. When an offer of an exhibition of the work looks like it could revive a long-held dream of a full-time photography career, Irina begins to freefall through toxic friendships, a chaotic art world, and tightly knotted and subsequently unfurled taboos of sexuality and gender roles in an explosive story you’ll find yourself enraged, entranced, and frustrated by. It’s delightfully and deviously rooted in the now with its delectable internet and culture references (“Kim, there’s people that are dying”) and evocative and real-feeling portrait of women from the North. For anyone who loves a fiercely unlikable protagonist – the manipulative Irina’s head is a tough place to be – and fans of Alissa Nutting and Jessica Armfield. (BD)

July 23, Influx Press


Frances Cha’s If I Had Your Face takes place in contemporary Seoul, where the lives of four young women intertwine as they navigate the pressures of the city. It’s within this hyper-capitalist context that injecting your face with fillers or getting plastic surgery is as routine as a haircut, where women compete for spots in underground ‘room salons’ to entertain wealthy businessmen, and where K-Pop stars become the object of all-consuming obsession.

Shining a light on the impossible beauty standards, patriarchy, and classism entrenched within South Korean society, If I Had Your Face provides a multifaceted portrait of working women in Seoul, and reveals the importance of friendships amid inequality. (GY)

July 23, Ballantine Books


Struggling writer Nina will do anything for love. After moving to New York from Florida’s suburbs, Nina works her way through an incestuous cast of characters in search of it. These include, but are not limited to, her mother, a narcissistic lesbian, single mother Odessa, an artist called Seth, whose idea of art is Tupperware containers of rubbish, and aspiring filmmaker Aaron, with whom Nina begins to write her magnum opus. From Sunshine State author Sarah Gerard, True Love is a dark comedy that perfectly captures the twists and turns of modern society, and examines what it’s like to yearn for love in our increasingly detached world. (BD)

July 7, Harper Collins


From Charlie Kaufman, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, comes Antkind – a debut novel that explores art, time, memory, identity, comedy, and the very nature of existence itself. Antkind tells the story of B. Rosenberger Rosenberg, a film critic slash failed academic and shoe salesman, who discovers a film that he believes will alter the world of cinema forever (and help his career in the process). As the only witness to the now-destroyed film, B. Rosenberger Rosenberg sets out on a journey to re-create the lost masterpiece. (BD)

July 7, Penguin


From the author of the eerie Water Cure comes the taut, tense Blue Ticket. Margaret Atwood has long dominated the subgenre of dystopias that encroach on women’s bodily autonomy and reproductive rights, but Sophie Mackintosh’s visceral novel is an inventive, fresh, and altogether bone-chilling journey. In Blue Ticket, society decides the fate of women by a government lottery – a white square means children, a husband, and domestic life. A blue one sees her childless, and cast out into the world to make her own way. Both, we find, are freedom passes for some, constricting nightmares for others. Calla, a blue ticket girl, pursues her own choice in a twisty tale of survival, the complexity of motherhood, primal instinct, and female identity. (AC)

July 27, Penguin


Cult German novelist Rainald Goetz’s RAVE finally gets an English translation issue by the coolest publishing house going right now, Fitzcarraldo. The 1998 book focuses on the German techno scene – the euphoric, amphetamine-slicked highs, the buzz of intimate conversations in sweaty dancefloor enclaves, the dazzling bright lights that stab through the window slats of an outstretched afterparty. It’s both a debaucherous delight for nostalgic old school ravers and curious explorers of a fabled time in techno culture. A wonderful one to lose yourself in wherever you are.

July 1, Fitzcarraldo


Halle Butler’s wicked, acerbic debut The New Me was hailed for its subversive take on millennial culture and the burnout generation in 2019. Now, her follow-up, Jillian, takes us deep into the lives of two very different women – one millennial, resentful of her job as a gastroenterologist's receptionist and stuck in a mental rut, the other a chirpy 35-year-old single mum masking her insecurities and pitfalls with unfettered optimism – in the same suffocating workplace. They oscillate from self-delusion to self-sabotage from self-help books to bad boyfriends, in a sharp, funny portrait of female rage, angst, and identity. (AC)

July 9, Orion