Sure, every publication this side of Guns and Gerbils has a “Summertime Books Preview” around this time of year — but damn it, we still get excited about books, which is why some of our choices aren’t coming out until September. Honestly, though, reading on the beach sucks. Reading on the subway, however, is necessary. Enjoy.
(for the beach or the bedroom)
Burning Rainbow Farm: How a Stoner Utopia Went Up in Smoke
by Dean Kuipers
C’mon, what more do you want? This one has drugs, murder and possibly sex. Though given the drug in question, possibly not sex. June/Bloomsbury
Judge and Jury
by James Patterson
Fundamental to the success of American jurisprudence is the endless legal education of citizens through TV, movies and mystery novels. Because there’s nothing wrong with being entertained as you learn fancy terms like “sub rosa,” “habeas corpus” and “gezundheit!” July/Little, Brown
Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany
by Bill Buford
The former New Yorker fiction editor quit his job to immerse himself in the culinary arts, under the tutelage of (discomfortingly hirsute) superchef Mario Batali. Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, but not because it never hurts to have written a positive review of a former New Yorker fiction editor’s book, or anything. June/Knopf
Babylon and Other Stories
by Alix Ohlin
Every now and then, a man walks into a clothing store and very slowly realizes he has, in fact, walked into a woman’s boutique. He then looks quickly to the floor, and hurries out. The feeling he has experienced is identical to that felt by the reader who, around page 40 or so, realizes they have been reading “chick lit.” This book will not inspire feelings like that. July/Knopf
Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death
by Deborah Blum
So, are there really ghosts? Wouldn’t you like to know. And if anyone makes fun of you for dabbling in pseudo-science, just tell them the author won a Pulitzer and is a professor at the U of Wisconsin. August/Penguin
The Man Who Smiled
by Henning Mankell
Kurt Wallander is the rumpled anti-hero of this beloved Scandinavian mystery series. Somewhere between Columbo and D.I. Tennyson from the Prime Suspect series, once you start hanging out with Wallander you’ll be sad to say goodbye. September/New Press
by Alexander McCall Smith
People freak out about the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series like it’s a coke-laced Shack burger. Pull up a chaise longue, unbutton the seersucker, and feed the addiction. June/Anchor
(for the highbrow and the neophyte)
by Thomas McGuane
His first collection of stories in 20 years has a lot of people excited. McGuane writes about big sky country people (from his native Montana) as well as wistful types in Massachusetts, Key West and Michigan. His haunting tales evokes Carver’s emotional landscape… but are probably less depressing. July/Knopf
The Din in the Head
by Cynthia Ozick
That fantastic noise you hear, alternating between the rumbling judder of an elevated-train and a murder of sunrise crows is pomo queen Ozick’s brain going to work on topics like Sontag, highbrow literature, and Tolstoy. Listen in, become smarter.
by Gautam Malkani
Malkani’s first novel is set among London’s South Asian community and its verisimiltude-filled descriptions of disaffected young Londoners with an axe to grind has got the attention of westerners living in bewildered fear of their otherness.
Literature from the Axis of Evil
They’re soooo evil! EEEvil! Evil! Very bad… Which is to say, EVIL!!! Oh. They write short stories? About people just like us… struggling through an absurd and often difficult existence, yet somehow managing to find moments of joy amidst the pain? Huh. Go figure.
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman
by Haruki Murakami
A new collection of short stories from the Japanese jazz aficionado and whisky drinker, whose most recent work has felt like an experiment to see how quirky and unlikely a story can start out and still reach a piercing moment of human loneliness. Very quirky and unlikely, it turns out. And very piercing. He’s very, very good. Also, the requisite Chip Kidd cover is going to look so sexy on your coffee table.
The Stolen Child
by Keith Donohue
Touted as a fairy tale for adults, Donohue’s debut may be the unlikeliest buzz book of the summer. Young Henry Day is kidnapped and transported to a world of hobgoblins while an impostor hobgoblin version of Henry is installed in his human home. Hey, if Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel can fly off the shelves, far be it from us to doubt this one’s potential.
Moral Disorder and other Stories
by Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood is a difficult woman. As an interview subject she can be prickly, as a dinner guest she can be uncomfortably forthright, and as a writer of fiction she can occasionally be a little gimmicky — thankfully, the limitations of the short story preclude all such tendencies.
by Cormac McCarthy
McCarthy flosses his teeth with live rattlesnakes.
(for those who pretend not to care)
Collecting Contemporary Art
Of the dozens of glossy, full-color Taschen books coming out this summer, this is bound to be one of the best. A combination of beautifully photographed contemporary art and expository essays about each work’s merits in the modern art market, this is both a guide to collecting and a snapshot of current trends in mainstream contemporary art. Taschen/July
Comrade Rockstar: The Life and Mystery of Dean Reed, the All-American Boy Who Brought Rock ‘n’ Roll to the Soviet Union
by Reggie Nadelson
We were once in a smoky Moscow apartment, circa 1991, and everyone there was passing a guitar around singing songs from their respective homelands (Ireland, Poland, America, Mexico…). When it came to us (Canadian, actually) the only song we could think of was ‘House of the Rising Sun’. Foolishly, we tried to fob it off as early Neil Young. A roguish, unshaven fellow in the corner stopped us, and said in a thick KGB accent, shaking his head: ‘Animals, 1964’. For this, we blame ambassador of rock Dean Reed.
by Alessandro Baricco
The Illiad has it all: love, friendship, sacrifice, treachery, homoeroticism, tragedy, violence, vanity… Frankly, there’s enough in there for at least three epic poems, which makes this Italian writer’s slim prose retelling all the more impressive. Sadly, it would seem, the subject of war is eternally relevant.
Life on Planet Rock
by Lonn Friend
Rock journalist Lonn Friend’s memoir is replete with the sex, drugs, makeup and flannel that defined the tumultuous world of mainstream rock and roll between 1985 and 1995. Centered on the dramatic, swift and truly bizarre transition from hair metal to grunge rock, Friend’s work is sardonic, intimate and funny. In just about that order.
Return of the Player
by Michael Tolkin
The limousine-black, near-perfect Hollywood satire gets a sequel, in which unscrupulous, oleaginous movie exec Griffin Mill (sure, you’re picturing Tim Robbins, in the subsequent Robert Altman film) wades once more through the endless morass of soullessness and egotism that constitutes studio culture.
33 1/3: The Clash’s London Calling
by David L. Ulin
The latest entry in the compulsively readable series, in which music scribes and music makers of all stripes compose book-length odes, studies, and histories of seminal albums, finally gets around to considering the best album ever made. Yeah, we said it.
(for the dinner party or the diner)
A Commonwealth of Thieves: The Improbable Birth of Australia
by Thomas Keneally
It’s pretty common knowledge that Australians are larcenous by their very nature — but how in the hell did they get that way? Short answer: Their ancestors were all criminals shipped over from the British Isles. Long answer: This upcoming book by the staggeringly underrated author of Schindler’s List. August/Doubleday
Conservatives Without A Conscience
by John Dean
Conservatives without a conscience! No!? The man who famously betrayed his employers while serving his country during Watergate carries a lot of K-street cred as a former “conservative next door.” One can’t help wish he had written it before the 2004 presidential elections — but we’ll take it before the midterms.
The Humboldt Current: 19th Century Exploration and the Roots of American Environmentalism
by Aaron Sachs
It might not seem like American environmentalism is yet where it really needs to be (hello, planet dying, storms coming, fish with three eyes, people perishing all around us!) but at least some people seem to care. Find out when they started caring.
Pretensions to Empire
by Lewis Lapham
Ol’ Lew is kind of revered around The L offices (as he is, or should be, around any publication), not the least for his dedication to smoking where he’s not supposed to, and his tireless criticism of the Bush Administration, which remains, after all these years, strident, but never shrill. Mr. Lapham, we salute you.
Watchdogs of Democracy? The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public
by Helen Thomas
Presumably, it’s failed the public by not getting into drawn-out vituperative policy debates with the White House Press Secretary on a pretty much daily basis. (Unlike Thomas, who’s been covering the White House since Kennedy was President.)
The Architecture of Happiness
by Alain de Botton
Why bother getting your hands all dusty flipping through the great works of Western philosophy when you can enjoy the cheeky, summarizing prose of an erudite Englishman with a French name? Exactly.
by T. Christian Miller
Corporate greed? In the Middle East? People profiting from the war in Iraq? Not exactly breaking news, but still, someone actually had to sit down and write the book.
Imperial Life in the Emerald City
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
The Washington Post’s Baghdad bureau chief takes readers on a revealing tour of the city’s Green Zone, the central nervous system of the new Iraq. A revealing account of life on the other side of the wall, Chandrasekaran’s account is bound to be a challenging work for people of all political stripes.
SIZE ISN'T EVERYTHING
(small press offerings)
The Boy Detective Fails
by Joe Meno
You know that friend of yours who keeps trying to get you to read his half written novel about his quarter-life crisis? Do yourself a favor, say no, and read Joe Meno’s version of turning 30 instead. You’ll get less whining, and more mystery, surrealism, suicide, and mental derangement. September/Akashic
The Whistleblower Confessions of A Healthcare Hitman
Or hitwoman if you’re at all touchy about these things. In this Enron-esque exposé of the healthcare industry, an anonymous female executive reveals everything you should already be assuming about most multinational corporations. You know, greed, spying, million-dollar payouts, and sex in the corner office. August/Soft Skull
The Children’s Hospital
by Chris Adrian
How relevant, in the midst of our little ol’ “global warming crisis,” to imagine a post-apocalyptic Lower East Side flooded beneath seven miles of water. Adrian’s literary Waterworld focuses on a floating hospital that is assaulted by mysterious forces. As if 1) being in the hospital, and 2) floating seven miles above the earth’s surface, wasn’t bad enough. August/McSweeny’s
The Speed of Dreams: Selected Writings 2001-2006
by Subcomandante Marcos
A greatest hits collection from the self-described spokesperson of Mexico’s Zapatista Army of Liberation. Marcos is Latin America’s greatest living writer and rebel. He speaks out for exploited, marginalized and oppressed peoples all over the world. Care a little, and listen. September/City Lights Books