Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Rowling's Harry, Noir McCarthy, Shadid's Iraq: July Paperbacks

Rowling's Harry, Noir McCarthy, Shadid's Iraq: July Paperbacks

July 5 (Bloomberg) -- J.K. Rowling's second-to-last Harry Potter, Cormac McCarthy's bloody road novel, and Anthony Shadid's superb look at the war in Iraq -- these are among the July paperback highlights.

``Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince'' by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic). Here's the penultimate installment of the boy wizard's boarding-school adventures -- and Rowling has forecast the demise of two main characters in the finale.

``No Country for Old Men'' by Cormac McCarthy (Vintage). The novelist's most accessible book yet is a bloody noir thriller about a Texas man who stumbles across a pickup full of heroin, cash and dead bodies and then tries to outrun a trio of relentless pursuers.

``Espresso Tales: The New 44 Scotland Street Novel'' by Alexander McCall Smith (Anchor). This is the second volume in the Scottish author's soap-operatic series about the residents of a Georgian townhouse in Edinburgh.

``No Direction Home'' by Marisa Silver (Norton). Much like the film ``Crash,'' this debut novel depicts the intersecting stories of families who converge on Los Angeles and struggle to stay emotionally and physically connected.

``Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War'' by Anthony Shadid (Picador). In one of the best books to come out of the war so far, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter offers an Iraqi man-on-the street perspective on the invasion and occupation.

``Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of America's Power'' by David Rothkopf (PublicAffairs). Drawing on interviews with notable insiders, including Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and Henry Kissinger, the former Clinton staffer delivers a history of one of the most powerful and enigmatic organizations in the U.S. government.

``Chatter: Uncovering the Echelon Surveillance Network and the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping'' by Patrick Radden Keefe. (Random House). A young journalist visits clandestine ``listening stations'' and talks with shadowy surveillance experts while trying to discover the methods used by governments to spy on their citizens.

``Happiness: Lessons from a New Science'' by Richard Layard (Penguin). An economist marshals insights from psychology, neuroscience, sociology and applied economics to offer a definition of happiness and advice on how we can achieve it.

``Confessions from the Velvet Ropes: The Glamorous, Grueling Life of Thomas Onorato, New York's Top Club Doorman'' by Glenn Belverio (St. Martin's Griffin). Gossip and anecdotes reflect a decade manning the door at some of Manhattan's hip nightclubs, fashion shows and celebrity parties.

``Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!'' by Mark Binelli (Dalkey Archive). This cerebral black comedy recasts the doomed anarchists as a comedy duo on the vaudeville circuit who work their way up to starring in slapstick movies and opening for Bob Hope on USO tours.

``Epileptic'' by David B. (Pantheon). The true story of a French boy, his epileptic brother and their parents' desperate efforts to find a cure is featured in this exceptional graphic- novel

``Istanbul: Memories and the City'' by Orhan Pamuk (Vintage). Turkey's best-known writer delivers a memoir of life in the city and an eloquent meditation on Istanbul's almost palpable air of melancholy.

(Edward Nawotka is a critic for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Monday, July 03, 2006

Minot's Yuppies, McGuane's Montana, Scary Cancun: July Fiction

Minot's Yuppies, McGuane's Montana, Scary Cancun: July Fiction

July 3 (Bloomberg) -- Eliza Minot's troubled yuppies, Thomas McGuane's first collection of stories in 20 years, and Scott Smith's terrifying tale about a Cancun vacation gone wrong -- these are some of the fiction highlights for July.

``The Brambles'' by Eliza Minot (Knopf). In Minot's touching portrayal of familial love, three yuppie siblings grapple with personal problems like bulimia and sudden unemployment while mourning their mother's death and caring for their father, who is dying from cancer and harboring a potentially destructive secret.

``Lost Hearts in Italy'' by Andrea Lee (Random House). Elegant, elegiac novel about the vagaries of passion, in which a married American couple living in Rome -- Mira, a black woman, and Nick, a blue-blooded banker -- are torn apart when Mira starts a globe-trotting affair with Zenin, a billionaire Italian playboy.

``The City Is a Rising Tide'' by Rebecca Lee (Simon & Schuster). More globe-trotting: Justine Laxness, an exec at a dubious Manhattan nonprofit called the Aquinas Foundation, is trying to raise money for a New Age center in China whose future is threatened by the building of the Three Gorges Dam, demanding celebrity donors and her desire to seduce the foundation's founder.

``The Ruins'' by Scott Smith (Knopf): The author of ``A Simple Plan'' returns with what may well be the summer's must- read beach book: a terrifying novel about a group of young vacationers in Cancun who find themselves lost in the Mexican jungle while searching for a friend who never returned from a trip to a Mayan ruin.

``Gallatin Canyon: Stories'' by Thomas McGuane (Knopf). This collection of stories -- the first in 20 years from the Montana writer -- revisits Big Sky country, Michigan and Florida, milieus also common to Hemingway and Richard Ford, two short-story masters with whom McGuane stands comparison.

``Errors and Omissions'' by Paul Goldstein (Doubleday). A whip-smart legal mystery from a Stanford law professor featuring Michael Seely, a lawyer on the verge of self-destruction who, when asked by a Hollywood studio to verify ownership of its ``Spykiller'' franchise, discovers a mystery linked to the Hollywood blacklisting scandal.

``Half Life'' by Shelley Jackson (HarperCollins). Jackson -- who achieved a small degree of fame by tattooing her short story ``Skin'' word by word on almost 3,000 willing participants -- offers up this edgy, provocative first novel about conjoined twins, one of whom is willing to kill the other to achieve her independence.

``54'' by Wu Ming (Harcourt). A wildly inventive epic in which Cary Grant, Lucky Luciano and a Bolognese bartender named Robespierre converge on Yugoslavia to produce a biopic of dictator Tito, thwart a KGB assassination and find the bartender's lost father -- from the pens of five anonymous Italian writers writing in collaboration as Wu Ming, the Chinese for ``no name.''

``The Worthy: A Ghost's Story'' by Will Clarke (Simon & Schuster). A black comedy about a Porsche-driving Louisiana State college student, Conrad Avery Sutton III, who dies during a fraternity hazing and returns to the scene to haunt his killer.

``Secret Society Girl: An Ivy League Novel'' by Diana Peterfreund (Delacorte). Amy Haskel is a studious junior at elite Eli University (read Yale) when she's tapped for Rose & Grave (read Skull & Bones) and finds herself anointed as one of the social elite -- a frothy summer read for anyone interested in the collegiate antics of the secret rulers of the world.

``The Burning'' by Thomas Legendre (Little, Brown). In this entertaining debut novel, a curious amalgam of an academic novel- of-ideas and a romance, a young economist impulsively weds a gorgeous Vegas croupier and settles with her in Arizona, where he soon finds his marriage wilting under the desert sun and his radical new economic theory being tested by an aggressive colleague.

``Turing's Delirium'' by Edmundo Paz Soldan (Houghton Mifflin). Bolivian Paz Soldan has been hailed as one of the best of the new South American novelists. His latest novel to be translated into English is a visionary cyberpunk thriller about a fictional Bolivian city, Rio Fugitivo, where the Black Chamber, a secret government cryptography agency, wages a digital war against a group of revolutionary hackers.

(Edward Nawotka is a critic for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)