Required Reading for July, 2016: From Tong Wars to Siracusa

Every month, Signature combs through the upcoming releases across nonfiction and literary fiction to provide a look at the most exciting titles rounding the bend.

The dog days aren’t over just yet, so churn out that Vitamin D while you can and slip into one of the many stories coming out this July, including: A reprint of Norman Mailer’s enduringly-relevant 1968 look at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions (Miami & The Siege of Chicago), Heather Havrilesky’s profane and profound insight into what makes our lives tick (How to Be a Person in the World), Scott Seligman’s time-machine tales of old New York and the origins of Chinatown (Tong Wars), and Gerri Hershey’s look at the controversial legacy of former Cosmopolitan publisher Helen Gurley Brown (Not Pretty Enough).

Miami & The Siege of Chicago by Norman MailerMiami & The Siege of Chicago by Norman Mailer (7/5)

Name that guy: White populist. Doesn’t conform to party lines. Appeals to race-based fears.

You’d be forgiven, and not wrong, if you said Donald Trump. It’s actually an apt description of George Wallace, Trump’s spiritual forebear, and one of the many personalities that defined the tumultuous 1968 election. That year is one pundits point to today in searching for parallels to our 2016 race, and it’s one thoughtfully chronicled by Norman Mailer in this timely reprint of his 1968 look at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. As the country was coming undone by war abroad and civil strife back home, and as the public hungered for a new political order, Miami & The Siege of Chicago offers plenty of insights into the environmental factors that bubble in the cauldron of a dangerously split electorate.

How to Be a Person in the World by Heather HavrileskyHow to Be a Person in the World by Heather Havrilesky (7/12)

This is not your grandmother’s advice column. Heather Havrilesky’s Ask Polly, published weekly on New York Magazine‘s The Cut, is a revelation. Gone are the days of questions about decorum, nosy neighbors, and troublesome in-laws. Instead, Havrilesky fields questions about adulthood, love, purpose, death, and, generally, the meaning of life. Her responses are more like essays — drawing on her own experience, she offers a guiding hand in the form of profane, funny advice that, by some alchemy, manages to feel personal and specific to every individual reader. How to Be a Person in the World comprises a few already-published columns and a couple dozen entirely new ones, and offers us so much insight into the rich tapestry of life.

Jonathan Unleashed by Meg RosoffJonathan Unleashed by Meg Rosoff (7/5)

It’s only fitting that award-winning Young Adult novelist Meg Rosoff’s first work of adult fiction is about a young man struggling to enter adulthood. Jonathan has recently begun the practice of adulting in New York City when we first meet him, and he looks Dante and Sissy (his traveling brother’s dogs, to which he’s become pathologically attached) for advice. He suspects the dogs of gallivanting around the city while he’s at work writing soul-crushingly soulless ad agency copy, and of being responsible for the mysterious charges to his PayPal account. His life unravels just as it’s supposed to be coming together, and Jonathan goes to desperate, comical lengths to get himself back on track. The perfect coming of age story for adults.

Tong Wars by Scott D. SeligmanTong Wars by Scott D. Seligman (7/12)

New York City’s Chinatown, nestled among the Lower East Side, Little Italy, Tribeca, and the East River, today is home to approximately 100,000 Chinese Americans who live harmoniously among the fish mongers, tai chi practitioners, shop owners, parks, and schools. But how did this come to be? In his book Tong Wars, Scott D. Seligman takes us back to the 1890s, to the days of the Chinese Exclusion Act, a scramble for power, gang violence, opium dens and gambling halls and brothels. Over the following three decades, the stories play out like a turn-of-the-century thriller, offering a highly enlightening viewpoint on lower Manhattan.

Siracusa by Delia EphronSiracusa by Delia Ephron (7/12)

Siracusa is set under the bright and beautiful Sicilian sun, but sunny this book is not. When married couples Lizzie + Michael and Finn + Taylor (along with their ten year-old daughter Snow) travel to Italy together, they expect a relaxing, food-and-culture-filled vacation far from their troubles. Instead, infidelities old and painfully new simmer to the surface of their group getaway, and Snow is entangled in a marital battle no ten year old could ever be prepared for.

Pond by Claire-Louise BennettPond by Claire-Louise Bennett (7/12)

Claire-Louise Bennett’s slim debut novel, Pond, was met by immense acclaim when it was published in Ireland. Coming now to the U.S., this story of a solitary, strong woman living in a small village will delight in its stream-of-consciousness style. Our protagonist takes us through her day to day with quiet reserve, sharing all of her observations and thoughts – which can be described, only for starters, as provocative. Pond demands the reader’s full attention – and will hold it until the very last page.

Almighty by Dan ZakAlmighty by Dan Zak (7/12)

It’s time to stop (start?) worrying and hate (or love?) the bomb. Washington Post reporter Dan Zak’s Almighty looks at America’s hot-and-cold relationship with nuclear arms, taking readers on a ride from our early days hungry-hippoing our way to the top of the nuclear food chain to today’s modern military industrial complex. President Obama’s recent trip to Hiroshima and Donald Trump’s slippery statement about arming Japan with nukes suggests the issue isn’t going away anytime soon. That’s because there remains a tension in today’s world captured well by Zak: One defined by a genuine desire to rid the world of nuclear arms while simultaneously fearing what that world would look like if some nations (Read: North Korea and Iran) didn’t follow suit.

Not Pretty Enough by Gerri HersheyNot Pretty Enough by Gerri Hershey (7/12)

Helen Gurley Brown passed away four years ago at the age of ninety, but her legacy lives — and will continue to live – on, likely forever. Brown spent much of her early career as a copywriter before publishing her first book, Sex and the Single Girl, at the age of forty. She then took the helm at Cosmopolitan magazine, where she remained for more than thirty years. In her biography of the controversially feminist icon, Not Pretty Enough, Gerri Hershey shares the complicated rags-to-riches tale of Helen Gurley Brown.