TBR 6.20

This is going to be a bit longer than usual, because I need to add a section of books I highly recommend and/or need to read, in honor of the Black Lives Matter protests happening in the US (and beyond) this week. I’m going to start with my regular 5-book TBR for June, then follow up with the new releases I’ve got my eye on this month, and end strong on the Black lit I’m challenging myself to read this summer.

To start off, my June TBR:

  1. My Dark Vanessa by Elizabeth Russell. I was hoping to hit the blogger-built alternate Women’s Prize list hard this month, which includes this book. It’s a 2020 release I was highly anticipating and bought soon after its publication. This is the story of a woman looking back on relationship she had as a minor with an older teacher at her high school, reevaluating whether she believes it to have been sexual abuse and why or why not.
  2. The Body Lies by Jo Baker. Another title from our alternate Women’s Prize list that I have on hand, have been eager to read, and would love to pick up as soon as possible. It follows a writer with a student who has written her into his book- and given her a “horrifying fate.”
  3. Supper Club by Lara Williams. An alternate Women’s Prize book that no one from the group has read yet! It’s about a secret society of women who seek to reclaim their physical space by feasting, unrestrained. I’ve had a physical copy sitting around for months and need to pick it up.
  4. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado. One of my 20 in ’20 books. I read Machado’s memoir In the Dream House back in March and really liked it. I’ve had her short story collection unread on my shelf for far too long, and having just finished another short story collection in May I think the time is ripe to work through another one. Thanks to In the Dream House I also know that Machado is an LGTBQ+ author, and with June being Pride month I am hoping this can be a sort of springboard to picking up more LGBTQ+ work/content throughout the month.
  5. Four Past Midnight by Stephen King. I know this is hardly the time to be reading from old straight white dudes with a lot of blatant prejudice in their writing, but I’ve had this one lined up as a buddy read for a while. It’s a collection of four novellas, and I expect I’ll be reading one per week throughout the month. I’m working on a slow read-through of all of King’s books, not becauase I particularly like him but as a sort of reading experiment, to eventually compare a prolific author’s work over the course of several decades. I’ve got a great post in mind to cover Stephen King, but I’ve got plenty of reading still to do before I get there, and this one’s next on my list.


To be honest, I set this list a couple of weeks ago already and in light of recent events my focus has shifted; I don’t at present expect to read all of these in June, but I’m hoping to catch up on all of my 5-book TBRs before the end of the year so I’ll keep this list and get to what I can when I can.

Next up:

Without my regular library visits, my new release reading has majorly suffered these past couple of months, but there are quite a few new books I’m looking forward to among June’s publications! I can’t guarantee I’ll get to any/all of these within the month, but I am looking forward to reading them eventually and want to acknowledge what I’ve got my eye on.

  • A Burning by Megha Majumdar. Literary fiction set in India, following three characters who become involved (intentionally or otherwise) in rising political extremism. Out May 2nd
  • Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan. Literary fiction in which a woman leaves Ireland for Hong Kong where she becomes entangled in two complicated relationships- one with a man, and one with a woman- that eventually force her to make a difficult choice. Out June 2nd
  • The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett. Historical fiction featuring twin sisters who grew up in a small southern black community but lead entirely different lives as adults- one returning to her hometown to raise her black daughter, the other passing as white and burying her past. Out June 2nd
  • My Calamity Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows. YA fantasy retelling of a historical girl trying to become a legend in the Wild West. 3rd in a series of companion novels. Out June 2nd
  • Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier. Literary fiction coming of age story about a pregnant teen pizza delivery girl obsessed with a single mother on her delivery roster. Out June 9th
  • Stranger Planet by Nathan W Pyle. Humorous/satirical comic collection in which alien “beings” narrate relatable experiences echoing the ironies and nuances of human life. 2nd volume in set, though these don’t need to be read in order. Out June 16th
  • The Lightness by Emily Temple. Literary fiction that takes place at a summer camp for troubled teens, where our young MC falls in with a trio of girls determined to achieve enlightenment and master levitation before the summer’s gone. Out June 16th
  • The Empire of Gold by S. A. Chakraborty. Adult fantasy honoring aspects of Middle East culture, in which a handful of young men and women each work with whatever powers they possess to bring their chaotic magical city into an era of peace. 3rd in a trilogy. Out June 30th
  • Blue Ticket by Sophie Mackintosh. Dystopian fiction in which young women receive a ticket to their adult lives- either into marriage and motherhood, or a career and personal freedom; the story follows a woman who questions the fate her ticket has dictated. Out June 30th
  • Home Before Dark by Riley Sager. Mystery/thriller featuring a woman who returns to the house featured in her father’s horror memoir, to discover whether the place is truly haunted and if so by what/whom. Out June 30th
  • Thin Girls by Diana Clarke. Literary fiction following twin sisters with a close bond that’s both supportive and destructive; through their relationship the novel examines body image, queerness, diet culture and more. Out June 30th


And now. I’m putting this at the end of the post not because it’s the least important to me, but because I’ve always been a big believer in the prospect that your ending is more important- and speaks louder- than your beginning. I am appalled at the blatant racism on display in the US right now and the treatment that protestors are receiving. So I’m taking this opportunity to do everything I can to support those in need, which includes furthering my own education on the subject of racism, celebrating and promoting Black voices (particularly through reading and reviewing here, as this is a book account), and encouraging others to do what they can as well. (Sign petitions! Donate! Amplify Black voices!) To this end, I’ve recently purchased some books by Black authors that I fully intend to read this summer:

I’m also aiming to pick up this summer some (or preferably all) of the Black-authored books that are already on my shelves:


And in case you also find yourself looking back at your reading year so far and finding Black voices lacking there, I want to recommend a few other books that I’ve already read and really liked. These are books I highly recommend checking out sooner rather than later, if you haven’t gotten to them yet! These are primarily fiction; non-fiction by Black authors is an area I still need to work on. Some of the titles I wanted to buy this week have been harder to get ahold of (which is great! It means this is a topic people are focused heavily on right now!) so I’m hoping to pick up more later on as well. But for now, here are a few suggestions that I’ve read and appreciated, and hope you have or will as well:


It’s vital (especially for those of us who are not Black) to read the non-fiction and racism-centered fiction first in order to understand as best we can the scope of what is wrong and what we can do to change the status quo. But I think there’s more to Black Lives Matter than recognizing that racism is happening, and celebrating Black authors who write “less serious” genres are also an important way of showing support because it helps show that we’re interested in Black stories for more than our own education on racism. We want Black authors to be free to create whatever art is in their hearts, and only reading non-fiction about racism fails to support that desire. Reading fiction is a necessary step in making sure non-white authors will get the same opportunities to write about whatever they want to write about, which is a freedom that’s been too limited to white writers for too long.

In sum, I’ll be making time to read, review, and recommend books by Black authors this month, alongside and in place of some of my other readings.  I’m postponing my May wrap-up and other scheduled reviews temporarily because I just don’t have the time and attention to spend on those posts at present.

Feel free to drop any Black author recommendations below!


The Literary Elephant

19 thoughts on “TBR 6.20”

  1. You have so many great book recs here!! We have a lot of overlap in our TBRs! I really like that you ended this post with a black-authored reading list – what a great way to use your platform. I hadn’t heard of Black Girl Unlimited or Riot Baby, but definitely interested in those now. I want to start How To Be an Antiracist soon, but also ran into the (honestly awesome) problem of it being sold out from my local bookstore! Things like that give me hope that people really do want to put in the work to unlearn/fight against racism 🙂 For the black-authored books already on your shelf, I want to vouch for Lot! The writing style was concise and understated, but very powerful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have high hopes for Riot Baby and Black Girl Unlimited! I’ve seen some praise for both and am eager to check out (and spread!) the hype. I hope you’ll enjoy them too if you pick them up! 🙂

      I actually had the same problem with How to Be an Antiracist, which I agree is great! I love that so many people are picking up great non-fiction to educate themselves right now. I ended up ordering a copy that’s supposed to ship when the store gets resupplied within the next two weeks, so I can’t pick it up immediately either, but hopefully it will be a short wait only.

      Thanks for vouching for Lot! I was so excited about it when it came out but sadly never got around to reading it. Now it seems like a good combo for blm and pride month, so with your extra vote in its favor I just may pick it up as my next read! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad Nathan W Pyle has a new book coming out. His way of looking at the world is charming.

    I have a background in Black history and Black lit, including teaching lit to college students, so my recommendations may be too many. There are a list of authors we hear commonly — Zora Neale Hurston, Lorraine Hansberry, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison. But I would include the following people who don’t get as much attention: D. Bryant Simmons, April Sinclair, Assata Shakur, Anne Moody, Danielle Evans, Elaine Richardson, and Leesa Cross-Smith.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the Strange Planet comics! They’re so light and funny but also leave you with something to think about as far as why humans do things the way we do.

      Ah, I’ve read a little from both Alice Walker and Toni Morrison, and should’ve added them to my list! As for the others though, thank you so much for the recommendations, especially the lesser-known authors! I’m not sure I’ve heard of any of them but am happy to look up each of them up and see what books I can find to pick up. Greatly appreciated!


      1. I saw you added these authors on Goodreads. I’m so glad! Cross-Smith may even be interested in sending you a review copy if you ask her on Goodreads. She’s very nice.

        For Alice Walker I always recommend The Color Purple.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. They look like really good books! And thanks for the tip! 🙂

        The Color Purple is the one I’ve read, and I loved it. I’ve seen some mixed thoughts on the book and on Walker in general because of potential antisemitism but I thought it was a great story regardless.


      3. Walker was married to a Jewish man, whom she later divorced. I looked and found this article, which talks about her antisemitic poem and statements and some research into why: https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/12/alice-walkers-anti-semitic-poem-was-personal.html

        I’m trying to find the name of the essay I read (and taught!) about her time living in the south during Jim Crow while married to a white Jewish man, and I can’t seem to find it. It’s in a collection of her essays, but she has so many at this point.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Thanks for linking the article, I hadn’t known how her antisemitism might have tied in with her fraught marriage. Seeing a rational argument about the source of Walker’s opinions from someone who appreciates the rest of Walker’s work was a lot more helpful in understanding what’s going on there than the comments I’ve seen that are dismissive of Walker and her work without interrogating her stance. It must have been so difficult for her trying to build a life with someone who wouldn’t defend her to his own family.


      5. AH HA! I finally found the Walker essay in which she writes about her pervasive fear about living in the south while married to a white Jewish man in the 1960s. It’s called “To My Young Husband” and is in the collection The Way Forward is with a Broken Heart.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I love what you say about the important of reading Black authors, in all genres. Just before I read this post, I was putting together a post of similar titles to recommend/that I want to read. I agree that it’s important to read the non-fiction one but that it’s also important to amplify the voices of black writers in fiction because this helps us as readers to better understand world views and experiences different from our own. I have some of these books on my own list but there are some here I’m glad to hear about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’m looking forward to digging into this reading list, and I’d love to see your recs/TBR/eventual reviews as well! I agree that fiction can be a very helpful tool in exploring and celebrating different perspectives, and it can tackle a lot of the same themes that non-fiction can. Though any route toward education is certainly worth taking!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Love the Black authors TBR! There are a lot there that I’d also love to read this month. 100% agree with supporting fiction as well as nonfiction authored by black individuals—fiction is a lot better at demonstrating the texture of experience, and pinpoints possible blind spots for us. Such a Fun Age was one such read for me. While it dealt with more subtle forms of racism, except for the opening scene, it was still a very enlightening read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, I’m excited for it! I’m highly interested in reviews for Black-authored books atm and would love to see your thoughts on any of these. 🙂 I fully agree that fiction can be a better way of building empathy and nuance. Non-fiction certainly has its merits but so does fiction! And I’m glad to hear Such a Fun Age was so helpful, I really need to read that one!

      Liked by 1 person

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