Tales from this world and others
From espionage thrills to erotic chills-you'll find the hottest adventures this summer beneath a book cover
Superstud, by Paul Feig (Three Rivers Press, $13.95, June). Freaks and Geeks creator Feig can't get enough of that teenage humiliation. This new memoir is all about his life as a 24-year-old virgin, complete with the sordid details of his exit from loserdom.
Sexual Metamorphosis, edited by Jonathan Ames (Vintage, $13.95, out now). Ames, who's often written about sex and sexual confusion, compiled this fascinating, often heartrending anthology of memoirs by transsexuals, written from 1886 to 2000, after a brief stay at the Kinsey Institute.
A Field Guide to Getting Lost, by Rebecca Solnit (Viking, $21.95, July). For her new book, historian and cultural critic Solnit has turned to her own life to explore issues of the unknown, the unguided and the unexplored. She staggers personal stories with a group of essays, all titled "The Blue of Distance," that range in subject from Renaissance paintings to endangered species.
Off-White, by Laurie Gunst (Soho Press, $25, August). Gunst is attuned to racial complexity—her 1996 Born Fi' Dead was an eye-opening look at Jamaican gangs, and she teaches race relations at the New School in New York. Her new memoir tells of her Southern upbringing—by a black nanny—in a family tainted by racial strife.
The world is going to hell
Machete Season, by John Hatzfeld (FSG, $24, June). It's not easy to think of genocidal murderers as people, but Hatzfeld is good at pulling off the impossible. He talks to ten Hutu men whose "job" was to help carry out the killing of almost one million Tutsis in Rwanda during the '90s.
Planet of Slums, by Mike Davis (Verso, $24, June). More than one billion people now live in the slums of the Southern Hemisphere. Davis examines the causes and the eventual effects, drawing conclusions about the war on terrorism as a war between empire and the poor.
The Long Emergency, by James Howard Kuntsler (Atlantic Monthly Press, $23, out now). The subtitle of this book—Surviving the End of the Oil Age, Climate Change and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century—tells you everything you need to know about it and gives you every reason to be frightened out of your wits. The authors predict economic disaster when we run out of fossil fuels—in about 20 years.
Spy's Fate, by Arnaldo Correa (Akashic Books, $14.95, June). A Cuban intelligence officer tries to do right by his family without giving up the revolutionary dream. This rapidly paced novel leaves more of an impression for its challenging perspective on recent history than for its noir adventure elements.
Death's Little Helpers, by Peter Spiegelman (Alfred A. Knopf, $22.95, June). Spiegelman's first detective novel, Black Maps, won him all sorts of praise for intelligence and wit. His P.I. John March returns to solve some white-collar crime and muck it up with the Russian mob.
The Manipulated, by Nathan Walpow (Uglytown, $24.95, July). Walpow has that ability to recapture the "dame" and "palooka" voice of noir without actually getting campy. His hapless television actor Joe Portugal has to solve another mystery after stumbling upon a crime scene.
Culture out of control
Crossworld: One Man's Journey Into America's Crossword Obsession, by Marc Romano (Broadway Books, $24.95, June). Propelled by his own puzzle addiction, Romano dives head-first into a yearlong exploration of the world of competitive puzzle solving. Along the way he reveals the history of puzzling, tips for improving your game, and the personality of the mysterious and legendary New York Times crossword editor, Will Shortz.
How to Rent a Negro, by damali ayo (Lawrence Hill Books, $14.95, July). Based on ayo's website rent-a-negro.com, this "guidebook" for those who want to rent and those who want to be rented is as disarming and unrelenting as its title suggests. The book never strays from its concept, but the commentaries on race, affirmative action and diversity are hardly inconspicuous.
Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story, by Chuck Klosterman (Scribner, $23, July). Klosterman's expansion of a Spin article about visiting sites of rock-related deaths is really just a chance for him to spend a lot of time alone in a car, wittily musing about rock, love and his own neuroses. It's compelling and fun, unless you're someone he's dated.
Divided by God, by Noah Feldman (FSG, $24, July). The NYU law professor takes a look at the history of our church-state problem, and offers a solution: The government should allow for public religious discourse, even in debate, but enforce a stricter ban on government money going to religious institutions.
Creatures of the imagination
Ice Haven, by Daniel Clowes (Pantheon, $18.95, June). Clowes weaves together Leopold and Loeb, Jon Benet, childhood depression, adolescent depression and adult depression into a novel about a town full of damaged people who don't know how to talk with each other. It has all that Clowes creepy humor we've come to expect.
Capote in Kansas, by Ande Parks (Oni Press, $11.95, July). Truman Capote pioneered the novelized true-crime genre when he wrote In Cold Blood, a meticulous study of the brutal murder of a Kansan family. Parks's graphic novel is a fictionalized version of how Capote researched the book, and how the town accepted and then rejected him.
Mome 1, by various (Fantagraphics, $14.95, July). Billed as the return of the serialized comic anthology, this collection features some of our favorite sequential artists, who contribute their first installments to this bright new idea. There's a fair number of local boys on the roster, including Anders Nilsen, Jeffrey Brown and Paul Hornschemeier.
Kinetic, by Kelley Puckett (DC Comics, $9.99, August). Part of DC's Focus line, which comes with the tag line, "super powers, not super heroes," Puckett's is a tale of a sickly, disabled high-school kid whose newfound powers can't erase his awkwardness. We're happy to see DC publish this odd, affecting little miniseries.
It came from underground
Fishnet, by Paul Toth (Bleak House Books, $12.95, July). A modern-day fable, Toth's novel follows Maurice, a painter who realizes he's spent all of his time running from his wife. Sheila, however, already feels abandoned and is visited by an apparition: Herself before she was married.
Godlike, by Richard Hell (Little House on the Bowery, $13.95, July). Punk legend Hell's second novel is told through the notebooks and autobiographical novel drafts of a middle-aged poet. The story that unfolds is of a heated affair the protagonist had with a teenage poet during his heyday in the '70s.
Freshwater Road, by Denise Nicholas (Agate, $23.95, August). Television actor Nicholas writes her first novel, about a 19-year-old woman who enters a whirlwind of political upheaval when she travels from Michigan to Mississippi to help register voters in 1964.
The Diminishing Attention-span
Magic for Beginners, by Kelly Link (Small Beer Press, $24, July). Link (Stranger Things Happen) is one of those unusual writers who is able to blend fantasy with traditional storytelling. This new anthology is no different, complete with a story titled, "Some Zombie Contingency Plans."
Willful Creatures, by Aimee Bender (Doubleday, $22.95, August). A woman finds a way to love her children even though they're potatoes and a boy with keys as fingers saves the day in another collection of oddball stories from the always inventive Bender (The Girl With the Flammable Skirt).
Bodies in Motion, by Mary Anne Mohanraj (HarperCollins, $22.95, July). Mohanraj's new book is a heavy-hitter. The stories here are linked as they trace the history of two Sri Lankan families over the course of the last half century.
Two Trains Running, by Andrew Vachss (Pantheon, $25, June). Capturing the paranoia of postwar America, Vachss's investigative-reporter protagonist tries to set things straight in an old mill town plagued by corrupt politicians, encroaching crime syndicates, neo-Nazi factions, the IRA and the FBI.
Novel, by George Singleton (Harcourt, $24, June). One of the great contemporary South's short-story writers debuts the story of a snake-handler named Novel—his brother is James and his sister is Joyce—who learns a lot about his past when he tries to write his autobiography.Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, by Lydia Millet (Soft Skull, $25, June). Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard return as ghosts to survey their nuclear legacy, freaking out the country as they go along. Few novelists could pull something like this off, but Millet has the chops.
No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy (Alfred A. Knopf, $24.95, July). It's difficult to resist the urge to apply McCarthy's title to himself, but we'll leave the old guy be. Seven years after his last novel was published, the author returns with a contemporary Western set along the Rio Grande.
Torrid affairs of the heart
When Love Calls, You Better Answer, by Bertice Berry (Doubleday, $19.95, June). After too many spoiled relationships, including a nasty divorce, an overwhelmed social worker gets a visit from her dead aunt, who dispenses advice on affairs of the heart. It's like Ghost, but thankfully Patrick Swayze is not involved.
The Almond, by Nedjma (Grove, $22, June). A Muslim woman named Badra moves from Morocco to France, where the countercultural feminist movement lifts her veil, and she discovers her erotic side. You see, that title is a euphemism for genitalia.
Maybe Baby, by Lani Diane Rich (Warner, $6.50, June). A straightforward summer page-turner, full of slapstick action, romantic romps and hunky ex-fiances. If there is a fun, mindless story best read from behind sunglasses at the beach, this is probably the one.
A Mouth Like Yours, by Daniel Duane (FSG, $24, August). Unfulfilled by a promising doctoral thesis, a rent-controlled beachside apartment and a new lover, a surfer dude is overwhelmed when he meets a girl named Joanie. Joanie takes over his world in this story about how love can shape a person's life.