10 Refreshing Books to Jump into This July

Welcome back to the Nerdist Reading List. Each month I curate book recommendations that delight, charm, and terrify me. Basically, this is the place to find the best fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and romance books and comics to add to your books-to-read pile. To make things easier, each month will include a selection of already released books you can grab instantly. We also have new books you’ll definitely want to pre-order or add to your library holds. This month we’ve got summer romances, sci-fi superheroes, groundbreaking manga, and much, much more! 

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun by Tọlá Okogwu – Available Now
The cover for Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun shows a darkskinned Black girl with psychokinetic hair spreading across the cover
Margaret K. McElderry Books

Black Panther meets the X-Men in this vibrant middle grade adventure. Onyeka is just a normal kid, or so she thinks. That all changes when she almost drowns and learns that her afro has psychokinetic powers. This delightful tale introduces readers to a wonderful British-Nigerian heroine, a brand new school for gifted youngsters, and tells a powerful story about self-acceptance and the wonder of embracing who you are. This is a must read for superhero fans, lovers of magical school stories, and those who just love a great adventure. 

Star Wars: Stories of Jedi and Sith by Various Authors – Available Now
A cover for Star Wars  Stories of Jedi and Sith shows Darth Vader half his face lit blue and half lit red
Disney Lucasfilm Press

What does it mean to be good? Who defines what is moral or immoral? These are the kinds of questions that Star Wars has long been encouraging audiences to ask. In an immersive new middle grade collection some of our favorite authors dig into those questions, exploring the world of the Jedi and the Sith. Talents including Roseanne A. Brown, Sarwat Chadda, Karen Strong, Sam Maggs, Michael Moreci, and Alex Segura each offer their takes on the dark side and the light, and how they impact those who live in a galaxy far, far away. 

Beasts of Ruin by Ayana Gray – Available July 26
The cover for Beasts of Ruin shows a Black girl looking at the reader through the shadows of a forest, behind her a Black boy looks on enigmatically
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

The highly anticipated sequel to Ayana Gray’s blockbuster fantasy Beasts of Prey is almost here. That striking novel introduced readers to Koffi and Ekon. From two different echelons of society, the pair is drawn together when Koffi’s strange powers are unleashed. After their journey through the fearsome Greater Jungle, Beasts of Ruin finds them separated and desperate to reunite even as Koffi finds herself in the service of a terrifying new master. If you haven’t already fallen for Beasts of Prey it’s the perfect time to catch up before this hits.


Zyla & Kai by Kristina Forest – Available Now
The cover for Zyla and Kai shows a young Black couple in front of carnival rides

This lovely YA romance will give you the kind of nostalgia for your teen years that leaves an ache. Zyla and Kai were dating, but they broke up… at least that’s what everyone else thinks. They never made sense anyway, so the break up doesn’t surprise anyone. But when, months later, the pair runs away during a school trip to the Poconos, suddenly everything comes into question. Told through dual timelines, the whimsical warmth of Zyla & Kai will charm your socks off while also keeping you guessing until the very last page. 

Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola – Available Now
The cover for Honey and Spice shows a Black woman with long braids looking towards the reader
William Morrow & Company

If you’ve yet to discover the joys of Bolu Babalola, then what have you been doing with your life? Go and read Love in Color, her delightful collection of romantic folklore reimaginings while you wait for her full length debut, Honey & Spice. If you’re already a fan then you’ll be on tenterhooks awaiting the story of Kiki Banjo, host of the popular student radio show Brown Sugar. The queen of relationship-evasion is put to the test when she kisses well known wasteman, Malakai Korede. Soon the pair are embroiled in a fake relationship in order to save face, but we all know where those lead. Babalola is in her element, cementing herself as the new Queen of romance.


Never Coming Home by Kate Williams – Available Now 
The cover for Never Coming Home shows a beautiful beach with a bloody body in the center behind the massive title letters
Delacorte Press

Agatha Christie’s influence has always had a long reach, but right now we’re seeing an appreciation and celebration of her work that feels even more vital than usual. The latest in this trend is Never Coming Home. A contemporary reimagining of And There Were None, this chilling tale invites 10 influencers to an island. But, of course, they are all guilty of something far worse than too many sponsored posts. A really fun twist on one of the ultimate murder mystery setups, this is just a killer summer read. Williams has a lot of fun playing with our expectations and keeping us in suspense about the whodunnit of it all until the very last page. 

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Available July 19
The cover of Daughter of Doctor Moreau shows a young Mexican woman standing under an overgrown archway
Del Rey Books

Quickly becoming one of our favorite authors, Silvia Moreno-Garcia blew us away with Mexican Gothic and Velvet Was the Night. That’s why we’re ecstatic about her next book heading to shelves this month. The Daughter of Doctor Moreau takes the classic H.G. Wells story The Island of Doctor Moreau and reimagines it against the backdrop of 19th century Mexico. Dreamy and dark, this looks to be an enchanting addition to Moreno-Garcia’s catalog. We can’t wait to see what the author does with one of the most haunting and strange fiction tales of all time. 

Comics/Manga/Graphic Novels

Wash Day Diaries by Robyn Smith and Jamila Rowser – Available Now
photo of four animated Black women hugging each other on wash day diaries cover
Chronicle Books/Robyn Smith/Bex Glendining/Kazimir Lee

We’re huge fans of the original Wash Day minicomic here at Nerdist. So it was with great excitement that we learned the original creative team was releasing a graphic novel version of their award-winning tale. Following Kim, Tanisha, Davene, and Cookie, four Black women in the Bronx, we follow the story through the lens of their day-to-day lives, friendship, and hair care routines. Wash Day Diaries is the kind of thoughtful and engaging slice of life comic we rarely get in US publishing, and it feels even more vital and unique for that reason. Rowser and Smith are an unbelievable creative force and this book proves that they’re one to be reckoned with.

Star Knights by Kay Davault – Available Now
The cover for Star Knights shows a Black prince and green haired white character on a cosmic adventure
Random House Graphic/Kay Davault

A cute frog who wants to save the day is at the heart of this gorgeously illustrated graphic novel. Determined to out-hop his mud-dweller fate and pursue his dream of being a knight, Tad finds himself on a quest with a surprise group of adventurers, including the Star King! Kay Davault delivers a rambunctious and ultra cute tale of friendship, hijinks, and being true to who you are. Perfect for readers of all ages who love fun and beautiful art.  

Talk to My Back by Murasaki Yamada – Available July 12
The cover of Talk to My Back shows aline drawing of a Japanese woman in a '50s dress with the title over her in cursive
Drawn & Quarterly

Drawn & Quarterly has been publishing some of our favorite books this year. Talk to My Back is a great example of the kind of radical and rare finds they’ve been releasing. Murasaki Yamada is a trailblazer of the alt-manga scene in Japan. This collection of comics from 1981-84 delve into the life of a housewife, Chiharu. This intimate examination of domestic life, loneliness, and the weight of being a mother feels just as unexpected and unique now as it did then. Yamada’s playful and often sparse linework make this an enjoyable and easy read, even as the topics and tone confront more uncomfortable and hard to swallow truths.

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