10 books to obsess over in August

This is my first summer living in South Florida, and I am intensely soaked. Right now I’m sitting on my balcony, my chair slipped by a recent downpour that stopped as abruptly as it started. Everything is wet. Everything from my eyebrows to the walls of my apartment is sweating.

It might be less stuffy wherever you are in August. Either way, it’s a scorching time of year thanks to the combined powers of the Lion season and the final weeks of the girls hot summer. It’s a good time to obsess. It’s a good time to get completely lost in a book. Here are ten books – some new, some not – that, all in their own way, touch the burning embers of obsession. They are all worth obsessing about.

“Outside, the sky in all its fury released buckets of water that swayed with the palm trees. El cielo gray, dark. Talk about gothic. By midday the sky turned from orange light to big black clouds that didn’t give a damn about your beach plans or the three hours you spent ironing that hair, spreading all its sadness right in front of it. you.

This is the perfect starting point for this list. Aspiring and sweaty, this queer coming-of-age novel follows 15-year-old Francisca as she grapples with her family’s move from Bogotá to Miami. There, she falls in love with Carmen, the pastor’s daughter. The book deals with all kinds of fixations, including one born out of the deep grief of Francisca’s mother, Myriam, about a past tragedy. Francisca’s festering desires and her mother’s burning grief are so moving. The tongue is so visceral. Miami heat pulsates everywhere, and tragedy and humor dance dazzlingly together.

Hex by Rebecca Dinerstein Knight

“Imagine being a one-person cup of pudding and meeting a confident, elegant, and powerful scholar who knows what to do with his shoulders. Imagine meeting you.

Hex is easily one of my favorite books of 2020. It’s woefully underrated, and you should buy it right away. Once you get started, you won’t be able to stop. Set in the super-specific world of a doctorate in science program, the book is obsessed with poisons and antidotes, and the protagonist’s intense obsession with her mentor is a bit of both. It’s a strange, sexy, and uncomfortable book. Seriously, please read it.

Marlena by Julie Buntin

“Tell me what you can’t forget, and I’ll tell you who you are. “

Do you ever have a first line of a book stuck in your head like a sweet haunt? This is how I feel about the above sentence, which is the opening of Marlena, a coming-of-age novel not about its wild young character named Marlena but rather about Cat, the other young girl carried in Marlena’s wake. Cat and Marlena’s intense friendship one summer is passionate and dangerous at the same time, and that summer ends up shaping Cat’s life into adulthood. Simply put, this is a very good book, in which it is indeed very easy to get lost. Maybe it will haunt you just as gently.

“Remy closes her eyes and plays a movie in which Alicia has been replaced by Jen, with her freckled breasts, baby hairs and adult braces. He has talked to Alicia about these braces several times to adults. They discussed the spectacular and crazy recklessness of a beautiful person like Jen taking such a risk with her appearance. She could have done Invisalign. But no. She looks like a sexy shark.

In the first pages of touch of jen, Alicia and Remy, a couple, engage in a sexual role play. Alicia pretends to be Jen, a jewelry designer and a social media influence who obsesses them on each other. This obsession bleeds from the bedroom and into just about every part of their day-to-day life, Alicia and Remy’s relationship pretty much held together by the glue of their increasingly disturbing fixation on Jen, who is going well into the future. – beyond the limits of a fantasy or a crush. Understand from the start that there is no way to really anticipate what will unfold in the wild pages of this book. It’s a mad rush.

“When the coin stopped spinning, I looked at his mouth. I had watched him intently for the past few months, watched him suck the ends of cigarettes, lick ice cream, sip wine, kiss my cheeks, kiss my cheeks. I could feel his jerky heartbeat as I moved closer to his face, his breaths coming in small puffs.

A sexy queer DJ with a love addiction is the protagonist of this book, and if that doesn’t hook you immediately, I just can not understand !!!! The narrator has a penchant for desire and the complete explosion of her own life. Throughout her four-year relationship with Anna, she actively sought love and attention from others. She cheats, falls in love with her straight married teacher, spectacularly self-sabotages. The book unfolds in vignettes with flashes of the past, bouncing between New York, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Italy, DC. The chaos, flirtations, obsessions and achievements of the protagonist all come together brilliantly, sometimes sexy, sometimes sad.

“My dad wants FedEx to make me a pheasant.
“A pheasant? I say. “I doubt the Post delivers poultry.
“Pheasants are not poultry,” he corrects me. “English teachers should know such things. They are poultry, but they are not poultry. Poultry is domestic. I myself shot this bird near the pond at Lekander’s farm. ‘ “

“Talking Fowl With My Father” – one of the stories from Lori Ostlund’s 2009 debut collection – is available online here. My girlfriend read the story to me aloud in a very hot, barely air-conditioned Airbnb in Los Angeles a few summers ago, and I’ve thought about it often since. I love the story for its writing about the Midwest, for its funny dialogue, for the strained yet charming relationship between its weird narrator and his aging father, who is oddly obsessed with talking about various forms of cooked poultry. There isn’t much going on, and yet there is so much meat out there. Honestly though, I couldn’t disentangle this story as well as my girlfriend once did, which you can read here. If you like history, you will like the whole collection, which is very cheerful.

“I climb onto the sink. I look over my shoulder and stare at him in the mirror as he fucks me. I see Aaron and I could be twins. The simple beauty of it is exhilarating. He is already close and familiar.

Here we have another novel about a self-destructive protagonist (instead of a DJ, he’s a writer) and another novel partially set in Florida (instead of Miami, here it’s the Tampa-St. . Petersburg). Nina lies, cheats and manipulates, while obsessed with falling in love – or at least the idea.

Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier

“I remember shivering, wanting to wrap this woman in a blanket and make her hot chocolate, fuck up anyone who even looked at her funny.”

Pregnant 18-year-old Jane, our titular pizza chef, becomes obsessed with Jenny Hauser, an older mother of a 7-year-old who is in desperate need of a pizza with pepperoni and pickles to appease her son. This unexpected pizza order creates an unexpected bond between two women at very different times in their lives. Like a strange but urgent craving for food, Pizza Girl is easy to obsess over.

“Eula is a true believer. She doesn’t walk around with questions in her throat like I do. But that night she slipped my fingers through those white cotton panties and forgot all about Boaz. We stood until we were soaked in sweat. Later that morning, Eula eased her regrets with silence and coffee.

Sex, self-actualization and desire run through the veins of this collection of short stories, all of which center on black women. Here, the church is a central place of community, discovery, conflict, secrecy and more. In “Jael,” a great-grandmother reads her teenage great-granddaughter’s diary and finds erotic passages written about the pastor’s wife. Yet another Florida writer on this list, Philyaw is a magnificent talent. Read the very weird and beautiful “Snowfall” and “Eula” stories online (from which the above quote is taken).

“Our kisses looked like extra long tongues, like too many lips. It was like maybe not kissing at all but like something else, like maybe eating.

What a clever, quirky, and hilarious book nutcase! Each story in this collection is a gift in itself, and many obsessions emerge, but I would like to highlight “Exorcism, Or Eating My Twin,” which can be read online. The Sarah who tells this story meets her “twin” at a Buffy the vampire slayer convention. Mutually obsessed with Buffy, Sarah and her twin – whom she eventually begins to call “Tegan” (!!) – become hilariously and unsettlingly entangled. It’s a wonderfully bizarre take on codependency, sitting right on the brink of horror.

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