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Specimen Days: A Novel
Michael Cunningham (Farrar, Strauss, Giroux)
Did you see the movie where Nicole Kidman wore a fake nose? Well, that was The Hours, and it was based on Cunningham’s beautiful meditation on life, death, loss and Virginia Woolf. This new novel takes its title from the Walt Whitman book and is a meditation on life, death, loss and not Virginia Woolf.
The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
Umberto Eco (Harcourt)
The smarty pants Italian master of the goofily esoteric is back at it with the story of an antiquarian bookseller named Yambo who loses his “biographical” memory. But because this is an Eco book, he can remember everything he’s ever read.
A Slight Trick of the Mind
Mitch Cullin (Nan A. Talese)
The imagined life of Sherlock Holmes is an endlessly fascinating topic for enthusiasts and mystery nerds alike, but Cullin’s novelized look at the end of the great detective’s life transcends the genre and will definitely appeal to all tastes.
Freddy and Fredericka
Mark Helprin (Penguin, July)
Helprin has a modest but very devoted following among those who’ve discovered his combination of impeccable style and vibrant imagination. This, his first book in just about a decade, is a picaresque look at a pair of English monarchs (loosely based on Charles and Diana) trying to navigate the byways of a near-future America.
No Country for Old Men
Cormac McCarthy (Knopf, July 19)
What says super summer fun more than serial killing and necrophilia!? The dark Faulkner of the 21st century (seriously, he can actually make Faulkner look like Candace Bushnell on a good hair day) returns with a tale of backwoods depravity, set closer to the present day than anything he’s yet written.
Here Is Where We Meet
by John Berger (Pantheon, August 9)
One of the great prose stylists of the last 30 years, Berger aims his considerable talents at the tragedies of the first half of the 20th century. This far-reaching novel-cum-memoir-cum essay could be his best yet.
Mao: The Unknown Story
Jung Chang, Jon Halliday (Jonathan Cape)
Chairman Mao was one horrible human being. Chang and Halliday’s laboriously researched book exposes arguably the 20th century’s biggest sociopath.
Irresistible Empire: America’s Advance through 20th-Century Europe
Victoria de Grazia (Belknap Press)
Maybe this is the one book you should read for the summer — it’s only 600 pages on America’s consumerist victory over old European cultural conservatism and the subsequent birth of a transnational paradigm! Don’t get any cotton candy on it!
It’s a Free Country: Personal Freedom in America After September 11
Edited By Robert Greenwald, Danny Goldberg, and Victor Goldberg (Nation Books)
Ok, so this collection of responses to the Patriot Act and its consequences for personal liberty has been out for a while now… but in case you haven’t noticed, it’s still an issue. Arm yourselves. (Featuring work by Michael Moore, Maxine Waters and Matt Groening)
Thomas Jefferson: Author of America
Christopher Hitchens (HarperCollins)
In addition to Hitchens’s heroic journalistic output (he writes regular columns for Slate, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic Monthly, The Mirror) he also produces around a book per year. This latest, written for the Eminent Lives biography series, is sure to be stylishly written, forcefully argued, and worth a look — regardless of whether or not you agree with his thesis.