EBONY’s Best ‘Before the Summer Ends’ Reads to Stir Your Imagination

Image: courtesy of Viking

So many tantalizing books, so little time. As we head to the end of the lazy days of summer, now is the perfect time to deep dive into some engaging volumes before you head into the daily hustle and bustle of work as offices slowly reopen.

These EBONY picks showcase both new and established authors, as well as a wide range of genres. From historical fiction to romance to memoir to thriller, there’s something for every taste. So take a break, find a comfy chair in a quiet corner and devour these oeuvres that are sure to stimulate your mind and stir your imagination.

The Other Black Girl
By Zakiya Dalila Harris
Atria Books; $13.95, Hardcover


Author Zakiya Dalila Harris’ debut novel explores the dynamic between two Black female professionals who land in the not-so-diverse world of a Big Apple publishing house. The highly-anticipated thriller was an instant New York Times bestseller that’s marked with evocative prose like the following, which comes after the cocoa butter fragrance of her favorite hair grease drifts over protagonist Nella’s cubicle:

This meant one of two things: One of her white colleagues had started using Brown Buttah. Or—more likely, since she was pretty sure none of them had accidentally stumbled into the natural hair care aisle—there was another Black girl on the thirteenth floor.

The Other Black Girl (Atria Books), Zakiya Dalila Harris,
$14, amazon.com

The Sweetness of Water
By Nathan Harris
Little, Brown and Company; $17, Hardcover


This first novel by 29-year-old Nathan Harris has been widely praised, and landed on former president Barack Obama’s summer reading list, as well as being selected for Oprah’s Book Club. The work of historical fiction is set in the American South in the days following the Civil War and depicts the intersecting lives of two freed slaves, an isolated landowner, his grieving wife, and other memorable characters—all struggling with their own unique challenges. Challenges, in fact, that bring to mind some of the pressing issues of today.

Here’s sample text from when landowner George first encounters newly emancipated Prentiss and Landry on his acreage:

‘We got lost, sir. Don’t mind us. We’ll be moving on.’
They came into clearer focus, and it was not the words that struck George, but that the young man was precisely the age of his Caleb. That he and his companion were trespassing was beside the point entirely. In the nervous chatter of his voice, the eyes that darted like those of an animal hiding from prey, the young man gained George’s sympathy, perhaps the only morsel of it left in an otherwise broken heart.

The Sweetness of Water (Little, Brown and Company),
Nathan Harris, $17,
amazon.com



The Man Who Lived Underground
By Richard Wright (Afterword by Malcolm Wright)
Library of America; $18.49, Hardcover


Richard Wright (1908-1960), the acclaimed author of seminal works Native Son and Black Boy penned this treatise on race and police violence in the early 1940s, but it wasn’t published until after he died—and even then in an extremely abbreviated form. This new release, authorized by Wright’s estate, is the author’s full, original vision and is accompanied by his essay, titled “Memories of My Grandmother,” as well as an afterword by his grandson, Malcolm Wright.

The story centers on Fred Daniels, a Black man police torture into confessing to two killings. He escapes and descends into the city’s sewer system for refuge. Here’s a preview of the rising sense of doom Fred feels as the cops press to get the confession they’ve scripted:

The room and the voices gradually receded. Though his eyes were wide open, he could see nothing. His breath came in heavy heaves and he could feel his body, like a huge pendulum, swaying in space with each throb of his heart. Fire traveled down from his ankles, to the calves of his legs, and then to his knees; fire finally enveloped his entire body and a great cloud of darkness entered his brain. The next thing he knew he was sitting on the floor and someone was slapping his face.

The Man Who Lived Underground (Library of America), Richard Wright (Afterword by Malcolm Wright, $19,
amazon.com


While Justice Sleeps
By Stacey Abrams
Doubleday; $16.92, Hardcover


Political powerhouse and attorney Abrams takes her case to the high court in this legal thriller and No. 1 New York Times bestseller. Her eighth work of fiction (though the other seven were published under her nom de plume) has her law-clerk protagonist Avery scrambling to unravel a conspiracy—a task thrust upon her when she becomes legal guardian for her comatose boss, a Supreme Court justice. All this while Avery struggles with a tumultuous family situation:

‘Momma.’ Avery bit off the word, her eyes desert dry. She’d grown accustomed to the balancing act, keeping her mother’s demons partitioned away from the world she lived in by day. Bail and rehab versus drafting memos and hunting for precedents. Fighting for patience, she swigged from a bottle of water that sat on her nightstand. The taste of sleep swished for seconds, then disappeared.

While Justice Sleeps (Doubleday)
Stacey Abrams, $17,
amazon.com

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While We Were Dating
By Jasmine Guillory
Berkley; $19.89, Hardcover


With a string of novels under her belt, New York Times bestselling author Guillory rolls out another romance that pairs perfectly with a Cosmo—preferably poolside. In her latest, ad honcho Ben takes on a big campaign that features glam Hollywood actress Anna, and their interaction leads to attraction. But, can it last after business wraps? Here’s the meet up:

Ben thought he knew what beautiful women were like, but he’d never seen anything like her before. He couldn’t stop looking at her. She was luminous, like there was a spotlight on her somehow. She had golden brown skin, big brown eyes, and lips that… okay, he had to stop staring.

‘Hi,’ she said. ‘I’m Anna Gardiner.’

While We Were Dating(Berkley), Jasmine Guillory, $20
amazon.com


The Ugly Cry
By Danielle Henderson
Viking; $19.97, Hardcover


Henderson’s memoir recounts her journey from childhood after having been left by her mom in the care of her grandfather and strong-willed grandmother. Described as poignant and witty, the book easily draws you in with deftly written passages like this one:

From the very beginning I was loved, even if I’m not sure I was ever wanted. Mom was welcomed home, but she was right back where she started, with more baggage than she had when she left. I was conceived on the run, the ballast that brought my mom back to everything she was trying to escape.

The Ugly Cry (Viking),
Danielle Henderson, $20,
amazon.com





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