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The BR Summer Book Guide

Your beach reads sorted. Fourteen books we loved—and one to avoid at all costs.
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As summer publishing heats up, we at Boston Review thought we would offer some help in getting your beach reads in order.

We have scoured through our book reviews and excerpts from the first half of 2021 to find the new releases that our writers loved the most. From a transatlantic tour of gay bars to what marine mammals can teach us about Black feminism, and from Asian autofiction that rivals Knausgaard to a new economic history of the United States, this eclectic list includes biographies, novels, political theory, and more.

And don’t forget that in addition to our regular web content, Boston Review publishes four print books each year, with recent titles exploring artificial intelligencewomen’s suffrage, and climate action—as well as an annual literary issue, this year on the theme of ancestors. You can purchase them directly from our site with free domestic shipping, or become a member to receive our next books before anyone else.

Petra 
by Shaena Lambert

Reviewed by Stephen Milder, this novel is inspired by the original Green Party leader and political activist who fought for the planet in 1980s Germany.

 


Undrowned
by Alexis Pauline Gumbs

An excerpt that looks at how our global financial system that prioritizes above all else entangles marine mammals in its web.

 


Gay Bar: Why We Went Out
by Jeremy Atherton Lin

The pandemic may spell the end of many gay bars. Samuel Clowes Huneke asks whether we should mourn their passing.

 


Pure America
by Elizabeth Catte

The logic of eugenics still haunts Virginia – as seen in national parks and prisons. Reviewed by Ellen Wayland-Smith.

 



An I-Novel 
by Minae Mizumura

Reviewed by Houman Barekat, this novel is a vivid contemporary example of Japan’s autofiction tradition, which predates even Proust.

 


Machiavelli 
by Patrick Boucheron

Camila Vergara welcomes the English translation of this biography, deeming Machiavelli a good companion for these turbulent times.

 



The Education Trap
by Cristina Viviana Groeger

Marshall Steinbaum considers why the left’s turn from higher education has coincided with a newfound conservatives appreciation for it.

 



Places of Mind: A Life of Edward Said
by Timothy Brennan

Brennan breathes new life in a crowded field of Said studies, Esmat Elhalaby argues.

 



Privacy Is Power
by Carissa Véliz

The more someone knows about us, this excerpt contends, the more they can influence us. We can wield democratic power only if our privacy is protected.

 



Ages of American Capitalism
by Jonathan Levy

A sweeping new history of U.S. capitalism finds that economic gains have always been driven by the state. Reviewed by Justin H. Vassallo.

 



Black Marxism
by Cedric J. Robinson

“What did Robinson mean by the Black radical tradition, and why is it relevant now?” An excerpt from Robin D. G. Kelley’s foreword to the third edition.

 



The Machine Has a Soul
by Katy Hull

The history of American fascist sympathy reveals a legacy with which we must reckon. Reviewed by Justin H. Vassallo.

 



Caste
by Isabel Wilkerson

Roasted not once but twice in our pages – by Charisse Burden-Stelly and Panashe Chigumadzi – this is one to avoid.

Our weekly themed Reading Lists compile the best of Boston Review’s archive. Previews are delivered to members every Sunday. Become a member to receive them ahead of the crowd.

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