Heat waves

By JOHN FREEMAN  |  June 28, 2007

At the other end of the age spectrum is G.B. Edwards’s The Book of Ebenezer Le Page (July 10, New York Review of Books), the ornery recollections of an old man living on the isle of Guernsey. If you plan to go to an island and not come back, bring IMPAC winner David Malouf’s The Complete Stories (July 24, Pantheon); it’ll keep you busy till fall, and there’s hardly a dud in the book. If you want a smaller volume, you can’t go wrong with Tessa Hadley’s Sunstroke and Other Stories (July 24, Picador).

Finally, if all this takes you too far out on a limb, William Gibson will delight with Spook Country (August 7, Putnam), his follow-up to Pattern Recognition. Amy Bloom’s much-talked-about Away (August 21, Random House) will devastate. And Vermonter Jeffrey Lent has grown into his talent keenly with A Peculiar Grace (August 10, Atlantic Monthly), the story of a New England family of artists haunted by the past.

Summer nonfiction is always a bit of a relief, because the publishing gods stop expecting you to read thousand-page biographies on the life of minor English novelists, and start cranking up the shoot-em-up yarn- spinning we secretly crave. So we get books like Oliver August’s Inside the Red Mansion (July 18, Houghton), the story of the hunt for China’s most-wanted man — an illiterate billionaire gangster.

William Queen and Douglas Century mine similar territory — in America — with Armed and Dangerous (July 10, Random House), the tale of how Queen tracked down a survivalist Los Angles narco-trafficker known for his use of grenades. Harper’s writer Patrick Symmes puts on his investigative shoes for The Boys from Dolores (July 10, Pantheon), which opens up Cuba of the 1940s and ’50s through a portrait of Fidel Castro’s Jesuit-school classmates. In a similar vein, John Matteson’s Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father (August 20, W.W. Norton) sheds new life on the Concord clan.

If history is your thing, it’s going to be an Indian summer — as the world’s largest democracy celebrates its 60th birthday. You can track this journey with Alex von Tunzelmann’s Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire (August 7, Henry Holt). If that’s not enough, you can get all the details in Ramachandra Guha’s massive India After Gandhi (August 1, Ecco).

Summer’s always a great time for travel writing, and if you want to scratch that itch, pick up Colin Thubron’s magnificent Shadow of the Silk Road (July 3, HarperCollins), which follows ancient trade routes that connected China and the Mediterranean. If you’re feeling footloose, check into Wayne Koestenbaum’s Hotel Theory (July 25, Soft Skull), a meditation on hotels paired with a “dime novel” featuring Liberace and Lana Turner.

As the temperature rises, polemics will come out to play. In The Fire This Time (June 28, Melville House), Randall Kenan pens a terrific homage to James Baldwin’s great essay, while African-American lesbian essayist Audre Lorde keeps the flames burning in the reissue of her Sister Outsider (August 1, Crossing Press). In Interventions (July 1, City Lights), Noam Chomsky sounds off on US military interventions since 9/11.

If Michael Moore’s Sicko gets you riled up, stoke that rage pipe by checking out Loretta Schwartz-Nobel’s Poisoned Nation (August 21, St. Martin’s) and learn all about organizations whose products cause illness and how they then profit from the treatment of these conditions.

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