The Beach Reads & Beyond
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, those three precious months of short Fridays and beating the traffic to locales outside the city. Once you get to those weekend destinations, a good book is a must. (And if second homes aren’t in the picture, you’ll probably need that book all the more.) What’s going to be the top read of the season? The New York Sun contacted publishers, agents, and booksellers to get their predictions (and, of course, hopes) about what will be the summer’s big books in several genres.
Debuts & International Writers
Several new authors are generating buzz with debut offerings. Marisha Pessl’s “Special Topics in Calamity Physics” (Viking, August) is a coming of age story with a murder mystery edge. The main character is a young woman who travels with her father to different college towns, spending only a semester at each school. Publisher’s Weekly compared the novel to two huge bestsellers: Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History” and Curtis Sittenfeld’s “Prep.”
Readers who want to dip into different countries and cultures will have plenty to choose from. Gautam Malkani’s “Londonstani” (Penguin Press, June) is chief among them.”It’s like ‘Entourage,’ but starring a group of young South Asian guys living in Hounslow, London, with a very surprising twist at the end,” Penguin Books editor-in-chief and associate publisher, Stephen Morrison, said.
The stories in Cristina Henriquez’s debut collection, “Come Together, Fall Apart,” take place in hot, humid Panama, making the book appropriate reading for steamy summer days. One of the stories in the book appeared in The New Yorker last summer.
For those who seek a challenge (and don’t mind carrying a doorstop of a book), Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s “Wizard of the Crow” (Pantheon, August), the magnum opus of one of Africa’s greatest writers, comes highly recommended. “It’s smart and ambitious, but also very funny and accessible, despite its nearly 800 pages,” a Spiegel & Grau executive editor, Chris Jackson, said.
Several popular female novelists have new books for their loyal readers. The known names are guaranteed to find a wide audience, from office and subway to beach and plane. Julia Glass, who won a National Book Award for her best-selling first novel, “Three Junes,” has a second offering: “The Whole World Over” (Pantheon). Set in the West Village in New York and Santa Fe, N.M., the book is poised to draw on Ms. Glass’s previous success.
Fans of Elinor Lipman will find an engaging read in the author’s eighth novel, “My Latest Grievance” (Houghton Mifflin). The story concerns a teenage girl and her academic parents, who are caught up in both personal and social politics on a college campus in the 1970s.
Anne Tyler’s “Digging to America” (Knopf) has received stellar reviews and is already a best seller. With a plot about two Baltimore families, one white and one Iranian-American, who each adopt baby girls from Korea, “Digging to America” has cultural timeliness.
Two female essayists have new books coming out. Anna Quindlen, whose novel “One True Thing” was made into a movie starring Meryl Streep, has a new book coming out in August, called “Rise and Shine” (Random House). It centers on a pair of sisters leading quite different lives – one as a morning talk-show host, one as a social worker in the Bronx.
If Nora Ephron’s 1975 book of humorous essays, “Crazy Salad,” left you hungry for more, you’re in luck: Ms. Ephron is coming out with a new collection: “I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman”(Knopf, August).
Thrillers & Terrorism
For those who like something a little more fast-paced, thrillers are in strong supply. Veterans James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell both have new titles out: Mr. Patterson’s “Summer Road” (Little, Brown) and Ms. Cornwell’s “At Risk” (Putnam). A relative newcomer to the thriller field, Lee Child is making his way with “The Hard Way (Delacorte). The writer received high praise from Barnes & Noble fiction buyer Sessalee Hensley, who described Mr. Child as an up-and-coming technothriller writer, with strong, characterdriven plots.
Alan Furst’s “The Foreign Correspondent” (Random House, May 30) is sure to attract attention. Ms. Hensley described Mr. Furst as “after Martin Cruz Smith, probably the best espionage writer we have,” then revised that opinion: “Actually, he’s better than Cruz.”
Readers with a liking for literary history and enigmas may enjoy Matthew Pearl’s “The Poe Shadow” (Random House), a follow-up to “The Dante Club” that explores the mystery surrounding Edgar Allen Poe’s 1849 death.
Several contemporary novels are set in the context of the Iraq war and the fight against terrorism. New York Times reporter Alex Berenson’s thriller, “The Faithful Spy” (Random House), draws on the three months he spent reporting in Iraq and has received strong reviews. Robert Baer, the former CIA agent whose memoir, “See No Evil,” was the basis for the movie “Syriana,” has now put his insider knowledge about intelligence and terrorism into a thriller, “Blow the House Down” (Crown, May 30). The novel presents an alternative theory about the September 11th, 2001 attacks.
And the talk of the tables at Book Expo America was John Updike’s new novel, “Terrorist” (Knopf, June), which centers on a New Jersey teenager who falls under the sway of a radical preacher at a local mosque.
“The Da Vinci Code” Redux
Several novels are billing themselves as the next version of “The Da Vinci Code.” Some do explore religious history in an original way: Kathleen Mc-Gowan’s thriller “The Expected One” (Touchstone, July) centers on a descendent of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. It will probably ride the current wave of Magdalene mania to big sales.
A more literary novel, Tucker Malarkey’s “Resurrection” (Riverhead, August) concerns the archeological discovery of the Gnostic Gospels in the wake of World War II. “It sheds a revelatory light on the role of women in the founding of Christianity,” the book’s original editor, Celina Spiegel, said. Ms. Spiegel worked on “Resurrection” before decamping to Random House to start a new imprint at Doubleday Broadway.
Boxers, Lawyers & More
Boxing trainer Teddy Atlas’s memoir, “Atlas: From the Streets to the Ring: A Son’s Struggle to Become a Man” (Ecco) is well-timed for Father’s Day. A surprise heart-tugger with father-son themes, the book describes Mr. Atlas’s relationship to his own hard-to-please dad, as well as to numerous surrogate sons. “It’s a book about inspiration, focus, hard work, doing the right things after doing the wrong things in life… about passion and love,” Ecco publisher, Daniel Halpern, said.
Jeremy Blachman’s “Anonymous Lawyer” (Henry Holt, July) is a novel about a lawyer-blogger by (who else?) a lawyer-blogger. Mr. Blachman was a law student at Harvard when he started the Anonymous Lawyer blog, which described the soulless life of a partner at a big New York firm.
If you think you’re tough enough to swim with the sharks, bring to the beach Susan Casey’s “The Devil’s Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America’s Great White Sharks” (Henry Holt), now in paperback. Ms. Casey investigates a set of islands off the coast of Northern California that is home to the world’s largest population of Great Whites. If you can still get in the water after you read this, good for you.
Would it be summer without a heartwarming animal tale? Random House editor in chief, Daniel Menaker, said that he can’t wait to read in full Sy Montgomery’s “The Good, Good Pig” (Ballantine, May 30), about a runt pig that “grows to enormous size and captures the heart of the town where he resides.” Could it be the next “Marley & Me”?