Posted July 28, 2014 by in Book Lists

10 August Books Worth Anticipating

Through websites like Goodreads, NetGalley and Edelweiss, I get a bit of a sneak peek at some of the biggest titles set for release in upcoming months. Here are ten of the books being published this August that I’m most looking forward to:


end of absence

1. The End of Absence by Michael Harris (August 7th)

We think we’re more connected than ever, but what have we lost with the rise of Internet technology? Harris, a Toronto journalist, believes that with our constant connectedness we have resigned ourselves to constant distraction, meaning that we can never be wholly present in one activity at a time. This can limit our intellectual accomplishments and prevent us from experiencing peace and solitude. To try to reclaim his attention span and his free time, Harris challenged himself to complete an “Analog August,” disconnected from the phone and Internet. Anyone else up for that challenge?


Small Blessings

2. Small Blessings by Martha Woodroof (August 12th)

Woodroof has had quite the eventful life: born in the South, she was a college and grad school dropout and had a string of aborted careers, including radio DJ, TV news anchor, cook and restaurant co-owner, actor, occupational therapist aide – and now first-time novelist. (The author bio on her website is refreshingly honest reading!) I wouldn’t want to speculate on her age, but from photos I’d guess that she’s well into midlife, a relatively rare situation for a debut author. Small Blessings sounds like the sweet book-lover’s novel The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry should have been. English professor Tom Putnam cares for his ailing wife and browses the shelves at the campus bookstore, where he makes friends with new employee Rose. He also learns that he has a son he never knew about, and that the boy is on a train to meet him right now. Heartwarming but not predictable – I have high hopes.


violins of hope

3. Violins of Hope by James A. Grymes (August 12th)

Speaking of hope, musicologist Grymes’s latest book is about how playing the violin helped many Jews survive the Holocaust. I know the same has been true of the piano, as in the case of Władysław Szpilman (of The Pianist fame) and Alice Herz-Sommer (see my Bibliophile’s Miscellany of books on music). Famous musicians such as Yehudi Menuhin and Itzhak Perlman have contributed to the ongoing importance of the violin in Jewish culture. Grymes, along with Israeli violinmaker Amnon Weinstein, who inaugurated the “Violins of Hope” project in the 1990s, tracks down many of the violins that were lost in the Holocaust and helps return them to their rightful family homes.


Breakfast with the Borgias

4. Breakfast with the Borgias by DBC Pierre (August 14th)

Although he’s a Booker Prize winner (for his debut, Vernon God Little, in 2003), I’ve somehow never read anything by Australian novelist DBC Pierre. (Real name: Peter Finlay; his alias means “Dirty But Clean.”) Breakfast with the Borgias sounds like an unusual novella that perhaps veers closer to the horror genre than I’m used to. Young scholar Ariel Panek is stranded in a guesthouse on the English coast, after fog grounds his plane en route from the USA to Amsterdam. The family-run inn is playing host to some kind of event, and Ariel soon finds himself caught up in something he doesn’t understand. I reckon it’s no coincidence that his last name sounds like ‘panic’.


Burnt Toast Makes

5. Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn (August 14th)

I love the ‘memoir with recipes’ genre, even though I’m not much of a cook myself, and this one sounds like it’ll be perfect for fans of Ruth Reichl, Colette Rossant, and Molly Wizenberg. Flinn recalls her Midwestern childhood and the family’s move to San Francisco to take on her uncle’s pizza restaurant. From cinnamon rolls to fried chicken, food has always been a bearer of memories for her. Flinn is also the author of previous memoir The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry (2007), about studying at Paris’s Le Cordon Bleu institute.


lisette's list

6. Lisette’s List by Susan Vreeland (August 26th)

Vreeland writes memorable books based around artists and paintings; I enjoyed her Girl in Hyacinth Blue and The Passion of Artemisia. In her latest novel, Lisette Roux and her husband move from Paris to a hilltop town in Provence to care for his grandfather, Pascal. Pascal, who sold paints and frames, has memories of meeting many of the greats, such as Pissarro and Cézanne. Now, with the war approaching and her husband off to the front, Lisette is given the task of safeguarding Pascal’s art collection from the Nazis. Works by modern painters like Picasso and Chagall thread through a colorful multi-generational saga.


Mr Tall

7. Mr. Tall by Tony Earley (August 26th)

This short story collection caught my eye because it’s full of ‘tall tales’: of Jack the Giant Killer, the ghost of Jesse James, a Bigfoot-type creature down South, and a world full of talking dogs. But in addition to those larger-than-life characters, there are average people, too – people who are just trying to do heroic things with the time and resources they have. Earley was on the Granta Best of Young American Novelists list in 1996 and has published another story collection, Here We Are in Paradise (1994), a memoir, and two novels.


F a novel

8. F by Daniel Kehlmann (August 26th)

From the young German novelist, a story of three men whose father’s disappearance still haunts them well into adulthood. One day Arthur takes his boys to see the Great Lindemann, Master of Hypnosis, even though he proclaims he doesn’t believe in magic. Something major happens that night; whatever it is, it convinces Arthur to take all the family’s money and his passport and run off. He becomes a famous novelist, but his grown sons each lose their way to some extent: Martin becomes an atheist priest; Ivan a forger of paintings; and Erik a financial fraud. F is for fakes?


gin glorious gin

9. Gin Glorious Gin by Olivia Williams (August 28th)

Grab an ice-cold G&T or your other favorite cocktail and sink into the history of how gin has become London’s most popular drink over the last three centuries. It’s been a phenomenon since the days of Samuel Johnson, William Hogarth, and Charles Dickens, but gin has also had something of a resurgence in popularity in the twenty-first century; call it a “Ginnaissance,” if you will. An Oxford graduate, Williams trained as a journalist with a major UK newspaper before leaving to write this, her first book.


fair fight freeman

10. The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman (August 28th)

This one sounds like a real historical fiction treat, set among – of all things – the female boxers of late eighteenth-century Bristol, in southwest England. Ruth is born into a brothel and seems destined for a bleak life until a Mr. Dryer trains her up as a pugilist. Blurbs are comparing The Fair Fight to the Victorian pastiches of Sarah Waters and Michel Faber, with touches of Fight Club thrown in. Debut novelist Freeman lectures in creative writing at Bath Spa University and is also a successful performance poet. (Note: Unfortunately, this novel will not be released in the United States until April 14, 2015.)



Small Blessings: A Novel (Hardcover)

By (author): Martha Woodroof

From debut novelist Martha Woodroof comes an inspiring tale of a small-town college professor, a remarkable new woman at the bookshop, and the ten-year old son he never knew he had. 

Tom Putnam has resigned himself to a quiet and half-fulfilled life. An English professor in a sleepy college town, he spends his days browsing the Shakespeare shelves at the campus bookstore, managing the oddball faculty in his department and caring, alongside his formidable mother-in-law, for his wife Marjory, a fragile shut-in with unrelenting neuroses, a condition exacerbated by her discovery of Tom’s brief and misguided affair with a visiting poetess a decade earlier.

Then, one evening at the bookstore, Tom and Marjory meet Rose Callahan, the shop’s charming new hire, and Marjory invites Rose to their home for dinner, out of the blue, her first social interaction since her breakdown. Tom wonders if it’s a sign that change is on the horizon, a feeling confirmed upon his return home, where he opens a letter from his former paramour, informing him he’d fathered a son who is heading Tom’s way on a train.  His mind races at the possibility of having a family after so many years of loneliness. And it becomes clear change is coming whether Tom’s ready or not.

A heartwarming story with a charmingly imperfect cast of characters to cheer for, Small Blessings‘s wonderfully optimistic heart that reminds us that sometimes, when it feels like life has veered irrevocably off track, the track shifts in ways we never can have imagined.

List Price: $25.99 USD
New From: $15.87 USD In Stock
Used from: $12.99 USD In Stock
Release date August 12, 2014.

Rebecca Foster

American transplant to England. Former library assistant turned full-time freelance writer and book reviewer. Check out all my articles.