Editor’s Picks: 5 of July’s Best Books

July is an odd month for pulling books off the shelf; in some ways, you want your reads to channel the beachy air of your surroundings, but on the flip side, the landscape is charged with the possibility of exploring, so much of summer still ahead. This month’s picks reflect the split — a few consuming novels that open up entire worlds, and some story collections for when you need just a short burst, perfect for an evening languishing on a stoop.

Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano

Pick up Lotería for the aesthetic pleasures — its typesetting, the full-color Spanish tarot-esque cards on every few pages — but stay for the masterfully-woven narrative about an 11-year-old girl in a state institution, telling you her story of how she ended up there. Zambrano’s command of voice is effortless, as is the pace with which you’ll flip through each vignette. Lotería is a study of characterization and time — and it’s piercing. (Harper)

The Weight of a Human Heart by Ryan O’Neill

O’Neill’s story collection, originally published in his home country of Australia, can be summed up in two words: Experimental and substantial. Human Heart pushes the boundaries of what can be done with the format not only on the page — one story asks a reader to solve literal word puzzles, for instance — but with what it evokes. Its range is, simply, flawless. (St. Martin’s)

& SONS by David Gilbert

It’s sprawling, it’s affecting, and yes, it’s worth the 400-some pages you’ll spend in its many textures. Through the eyes of one very unreliable narrator, who will at times test both your patience and faith, & SONS paints the portrait of A.N. Dyer, an ailing author and literary kingpin in his New York nest. What plays out is a rumination on family, the city, and adolescence, all tinged with humor and bitterness that Gilbert makes human enough to taste. (Random House)

You Only Get Letters From Jail by Jodi Angel

The prose in Angel’s story collection, all about young men who can’t seem to grow up, has a distinct, dreamy sentimentalism to it; somehow, it seems to hold your hand as you turn each page. But it has teeth, too. She depicts vivid scenes of places you’d never choose to go, and yet, you’d never dare turn away. Nor would you dare forget them. It’s a feat. (Tin House)

The Night Gwen Stacy Died by Sarah Bruni

Sarah Bruni’s buoyant prose ferries you through this unexpected, lively novel, which is a pleasure in every way. The page-turning story about 17-year-old Sheila and her older partner-in-crime Peter Parker is part thriller, part love story, and all parts smart, which is what keeps it gripping from start to finish. Bruni’s expert hand keeps the book on the right side of the delicate line between quirky and weird. (Mariner)