Mixed book bag

Reads to thaw out with
By BARBARA HOFFERT  |  March 16, 2009

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FAMILY MATTERS Danzy Senna looks back at the fallout from her parents' bi-racial marriage — and divorce. 

It looks like a good season run-up to beach reads, with new fiction from Denis Johnson and Aleksandar Hemon, biographies of Gabriel García Márquez and Cornelius Vanderbilt, and John Updike's final collection of poetry.

FICTION
DENIS JOHNSON shouts Nobody Move (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, April 28), as a bunch of lowlifes in California scrabble over $2.3 million. In Love and Obstacles (Riverhead, May 14), ALEKSANDAR HEMON collects linked stories about a man stuck between Communist Yugoslavia and contemporary America. And in Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi (Pantheon, April 7), GEOFF DYER trots along with a fading journalist headed toward revelation. COLSON WHITEHEAD's Sag Harbor (Doubleday, April 28) does take place one summer on Long Island, but it's not all sunshine for preppie refugee Benji.

In FREDERICK BARTHELME's Waveland (Doubleday, April 7), a man returns to help his ex-wife — with girlfriend in tow. COLM TÓIBÍN brings Irish lass Eilis Lacey to post–World War II Brooklyn (Scribner, May 5); ARTHUR PHILLIPS visits the borough today with Irish singer Cait O'Dwyer in The Song Is You (Random House, April 7). JAY MCINERNEY wraps three decades into How It Ended: New and Collected Stories (Knopf, April 10).

Iranian novelist SHAHRIAR MANDANIPOUR's English debut, Censoring an Iranian Love Story (Knopf, May 8), features an author endangering himself and the two lovers whose story he tells. Meanwhile, the author in AMOS OZ's Rhyming Life and Death (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 14) safely dreams up lives for audience members at a reading.

Don't look just for the names you know. Two promising debuts: C. E. MORGAN's All the Living (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; March 31), about an at-odds young couple on a Kentucky tobacco farm, and REIF LARSEN's The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet (Penguin Press, May 5), whose star is a 12-year-old cartographer.

NON-FICTION
REZA ASLAN explains How To Win a Cosmic War: Confronting Radical Islam (Random House, April 21), and WANGARI MAATHAI addresses The Challenge for Africa (Pantheon, April 14), but otherwise this season shifts from current events. ADRIENNE RICH offers A Human Eye: Essays on Art and Society, 1996–2008 (Norton, April 14), GERALD MARTIN limns a giant in Gabriel García Márquez: A Life (Knopf, May 6), and JONATHAN BATE illuminates the Bard through As You Like It's "Seven Ages of Man" speech in Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare (Random House, April 7).

Notable history: EDMUND S. MORGAN's American Heroes: Profiles of Men and Women Who Shaped Early America (Norton, May 18) and PHILIPP FREIHERR VON BOESELAGER's Valkyrie: The Story of the Plot To Kill Hitler, by Its Last Member (Knopf, May 13). Notable biography: T. J. STILES's The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt (Knopf, April 21). Notable memoir: Where Did You Sleep Last Night? A Personal History (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, May 12), DANZY SENNA's account of her parents' bi-racial marriage.

POETRY
For National Poetry Month, you'll want JOHN UPDIKE's final collection, Endpoint and Other Poems (Knopf, April 5), and RITA DOVE's Sonata Mulattica (Norton, April 6), which is about a famed violinist — the son of an African prince — who befriended Beethoven. National Book Critics Circle award winner JACK GILBERT turns reflective in The Dance Most of All (Knopf, April 7); two-time NBCC award winner ALBERT GOLDBARTH looks ahead in To Be Read in 500 Years (Graywolf, April 28).

FREDERICK SEIDEL stays quirky with Poems 1959–2009 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; March 31). MARY OLIVER surveys even the "meanest flower" in Evidence (Beacon, April 10). And End of the West (Copper Canyon, April 1) showcases MICHAEL DICKMAN, who with twin Matthew is coming up big on the poetry scene.

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