Required Reading for June, 2016: From The Whale to White Trash

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. Whether you’re lounging on the beach or hiding from the blistering heat, this June’s crop of books has a little something for everyone: a searing and personal look inside America’s criminal justice system (Chancers), Emma Cline’s beautiful debut novel on girlhood in the 1960s (The Girls), a conversation-changing history on class in America (White Trash), and a fictionalized, highly-researched exploration of the friendship and love between Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Whale).

Love, Sex and Other Foreign Policy Goals by Jesse ArmstrongLove, Sex and Other Foreign Policy Goals by Jesse Armstrong (6/7)

Armstrong is the co-writer of the British comedy series “The Thick of It” and its overseas sibling “Veep,” so Love, Sex and Other Foreign Policy Goals naturally comes preset with dry humor and perfectly awkward social repartee. The setting? Andrew, an ordinary Welsh construction worker, has an extraordinary crush on an upper-class girl named Penny. So extraordinary, in fact, that he finds himself in the back of a van en route to war-torn Bosnia (it’s 1994), where he weasels his way in to Penny’s foolhardy band of wealthy pacifists by claiming he speaks Serbo-Croat. (He doesn’t.) Andrew offers a hilariously self-conscious lens through which to view their quixotic quest, and Armstrong smashes together class, privilege, and political realities with tongue firmly in cheek. You won’t regret jumping in the van with Andrew, even if he does.

Chancers by Susan Stellin and Graham MacIndoeChancers by Susan Stellin and Graham MacIndoe (6/7)

Chancers is the remarkable true story of Susan Stellin and Graham MacIndoe’s journey through addiction, the criminal justice system, the American immigration system, and their ultimate recovery. Co-written by Stellin and MacIndoe, it recounts the most trying years in both their lives—just as their relationship was beginning to blossom, Graham’s addiction relapsed. He tried and failed to keep it a secret from Susan, but their relationship was far from over. What follows is a searing look into the bowels of the American criminal justice and immigration system, and the lengths that we will go to protect those we love.

The Girls by Emma ClineThe Girls by Emma Cline (6/14)

Emma Cline’s debut novel The Girls is a bewitching look into the mind of a teenage girl in the late 1960s. Evie Boyd has yet to come into her own, and has always struggled to fit in. When she crosses paths with a group of enchanting girls and their charismatic leader, she doesn’t think twice about following them. She easily slips away from her neglectful mother and absentee father on a daily basis, and throws herself entirely into her new, mystical life at ‘the ranch’. She wants to believe that she belongs with these girls, but a cold truth is headed her way, and it’s in the shape of violence she could never imagine. The Girls speaks expertly to what it feels like to be a young girl on the outside looking in, and any reader who has experienced girlhood will recognize Evie in themselves.

The WhaleThe Whale by Mark Beauregard by Mark Beauregard (6/14)

We as readers may not always pay attention to book dedications, but they often indicate deeper, more complex relationships than can neatly be summed up in the length of a tweet. Herman Melville dedicated Moby-Dick to Nathaniel Hawthorne, and knowledge of the relationship between them has mostly been limited to academic circles — until now. Mark Beauregard’s novel The Whale fills in the shading in a fictionalized (yet deeply researched) examination of the friendship, estrangements, and love between the two men while telling a moving, engaging story.

Live Fast Die Hot by Jenny MollenLive Fast Die Hot by Jenny Mollen (6/14)

Jenny Mollen has been an actress since the early aughts, and embraced the lifestyle that came with the line of work. Two years ago she and her husband, actor Jason Biggs, had a child – and Jenny’s life took a solid turn. In Live Fast Die Hot, Mollen waxes comedic about coming to terms with her new life as she travels through Morocco, Peru, and beyond.

White Trash by Nancy IsenbergWhite Trash by Nancy Isenberg (6/21)

In the bloodstream of American myth-making runs the recurring belief that we are a classless society. You can almost hear the echos of your history teachers: George Washington chose to be a president, not a monarch! America affords even the penniless a latter to greatness! But Nancy Isenberg, author of Madison and Jefferson and Fallen Founder, upends our misunderstandings of class in America, and she sheds a fascinating light on the 400-year-old history of those deemed ‘white trash.’ It’s a segment of our population that is rarely talked about and yet is never far from society’s surface, from our ugly flirtation with eugenics in the early 1900s, to programs like the New Deal and the Great Society, to today’s reality TV exploitation of backwoods America.

Bukowski in a Sundress: Confessions from a Writing Life by Kim AddonizioBukowski in a Sundress: Confessions from a Writing Life by Kim Addonizio (6/21)

If the cover of Bukowski in a Sundress is any indication, any reader who picks up the memoir by Kim Addonizio – subtitled Confessions from a Writing Life – is in for a messy, inebriated, un-self-conscious, literary time. If you don’t know Addonizio, you should. She’s the Pushcart Prize-winning poet behind the National Book Award-nominated collection Tell Me. Through the essays in Bukowski, she bares even more of the soul we’ve come to know through her poems.

A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob ProehlA Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl (6/28)

A road-trip novel for the Comic-Con set. An actress on a cult sci-fi show is traveling cross-country to reunite her son with his estranged father (her former co-star), stopping at fan conventions along the way. A Hundred Thousand Worlds is very much the story of a mother and son, framed against the background of fandom and fan culture, which is represented with wit, love, and not a little bit of geekiness.