Booked up

Several shelves’ worth of summer reads
By BARBARA HOFFERT  |  June 9, 2008

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Joyce Carrol Oates

Summertime, and the reading is easy. But not every summer volume is a throwaway beach book, quickly skimmed and quickly forgotten. Herewith, promising, (mostly) substantive reads in all genres.

Fiction
Take PAUL AUSTER’s Man in the Dark (Holt, August 19), set in an alternate America where the Iraq War never happened and states are bloodily seceding after the disputed 2000 election. Meanwhile, retired book critic August Brill mourns the loss of his wife and the murder of his granddaughter’s boyfriend.

JOYCE CAROL OATES reconfigures the JonBenet Ramsay case in My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of Skyler Rampike (Ecco, July 1), which centers on a murdered nine year old whose figure-skating triumphs fed the ambitions of her social-climbing parents — and pushed her brother into the shadows. In Yale law professor STEPHEN L. CARTER’s third novel, Palace Council (Knopf, July 8), which plows politically murky waters from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s, African-American writer Eddie Wesley discovers a corpse in the park and follows up a conspiracy that leads straight to the White House.

Novels by veterans can be expected to make big noises, but a few debuts this summer will likely add to the din. Written over 30 years, SELDEN EDWARDS’s The Little Book (Dutton, August 14) dumps ’70s rock star Wheeler Burden in late 19th-century Vienna, where he tangles with Freud, Mahler, and growing anti-Semitism. The narrator of ANDREW DAVIDSON’s The Gargoyle (Doubleday, August 5), horribly burned in a car crash, finds the will to live (and not a little craziness) when a woman who sculpts gargoyles enters his hospital room and announces that they were lovers in medieval Germany.

In CATHERINE O’FLYNN’s What Was Lost (Holt, June 24), longlisted for several major British prizes, the disappearance of a solitary child at a mall is blamed on a young man who had befriended her. Dr. Leo Liebenstein hunts desperately for his wife — not the imposter who looks exactly like her — in RIVKA GALCHEN’s Atmospheric Disturbances (Farrar, June 3). And Pen Award–winning journalist KIRA SALAK will surely have something interesting to say about her profession in The White Mary (Holt, August 1), the story of a war correspondent knocked sideways by the death of a colleague she had worshipped.

This summer, some fiction readers will be revisiting American history. Ever wondered about The 19th Wife (Random, August 5) of Brigham Young? Random House editor at large DAVID EBERSHOFF makes the introduction in his third novel. HANNAH TINTI follows up a highly praised story collection, Animal Crackers, with The Good Thief (Dial, August 26), about a youngster rescued from a 19th-century New England orphanage by a shady character claiming to be his brother. BRET LOTT follows a teenager down that Ancient Highway (Random, July 15), all the way from 1920s Texas to Hollywood. And in ETHAN CANIN’s America America (Random, July 1), set in the 1970s, working-class Corey Sifter is given a hand by the wealthy Metareys — and falls for a Metarey daughter.

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