Presidents, war, the Alaskan frontier, financial crises, and the American dream: our July Book Club picks run the gamut on “patriotism” and celebrating our country. Whether you’re looking for a meaty biography on Ulysses S. Grant, or a humorous novel about an American family amid the financial crisis, your July is sure to be chock-full of engaging and enlightening reads.
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue – Fiction, 416 Pages
This newest Oprah’s Book Club pick centers on Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, who has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. However, when the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.
Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers – Fiction, 448 pages
Is Alaska truly the American final frontier? In Eggers’ novel, Josie decides to flee her ever-mounting problems and pack up her children in an old rented RV. What first feels like part road trip, part vacation from their lives eventually takes a darker turn, leading Josie closer and closer to her breaking point.
American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant by Ronald C. White – Biography, 864 pages
At over eight hundred pages, White’s biography on Grant is not for the faint of heart. White shows Grant to be a generous, curious, introspective man and leader, and a willing delegator with a natural gift for managing the rampaging egos of his fellow officers. Ulysses’ wife, Julia Dent Grant, emerges in her own right in this history as a spirited and influential partner.
Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach – Social Science, 288 pages
How is a wedding gown like a bomb suit? Why are shrimp more dangerous to sailors than sharks? There is a science behind war and combat, and Mary Roach introduces us to the scientists who seek to conquer some of the most difficult challenges modern soldiers face. This book will forever change how you think about our nation’s soldiers.
The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs – Historical Fiction, 433 Pages
Cobbs’ novel depicts the love affair between Alexander Hamilton, one of the American Revolution’s most dashing — and improbable — heroes, and Elizabeth Schuyler, the wealthy and beautiful pioneering advocate for women. Together, the unlikely couple braved the dangers of war, the perils of seduction, the anguish of infidelity, and the scourge of partisanship that menaced their family and the country itself.
The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang – Fiction, 384 Pages
The American dream takes a different turn for Charles Wang. Wang, a brash, lovable businessman who built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune, has just lost everything in the financial crisis. So he rounds up two of his children from schools that he can no longer afford and packs them into the only car that wasn’t repossessed. Together with their wealth-addicted stepmother, Barbra, they head on a cross-country journey from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to upstate New York. The trip brings them together in a way money never could.
Staff Pick: 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente by Wilfred Santiago – Graphic Novel, 200 pages
Is there any more visceral depiction of the American dream than the story of an athlete? This graphic novel biography of Puerto Rico’s greatest baseball star is tale of Roberto Clemente. No other baseball player dominated the 1960s like him and no other Latin American player achieved his numbers. 21 chronicles his early days growing up in rural Puerto Rico, the highlights of his career (including the 1960s World Series), the prejudice he faced, his private life and his humanitarian mission.