Even MORE Summer Book Picks

Just when you think the summer reading lists may have finally come to an end, here comes New York magazine, with their own quirky selections. They pick just 20 titles, but a surprising number are relatively unknown and owned in small quantities in libraries.

The list is divided into five pool-friendly categories. Each includes an older, “classic” title:

Guilt-Free Pulp

I’m not sure the title of the category is borne out by the selections. There’s George Pelecanos’s forthcoming The Turnaround (Little, Brown; Aug. 1) and the classic, Georges Simenon’s Red Lights. I wouldn’t refer to either as “pulp” and neither would they instill guilt, but it’s a catchy title.

The two other titles in the category are on order in small quantities for most libraries:

Alive in Necropolis
Doug Dorst

A first novel that New York describes as “playful.”

PW said, “This charming first novel maps the landscape and lives of a small town where ghosts and the living are sometimes indistinguishable… [it} strikes a perfect balance between humor and pathos…an author to watch.”

  • Hardcover: $25.95
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (July 17, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1594489874
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594489877

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The Legal Limit

Martin Clark

  • Hardcover: $24.95
  • Publisher: Knopf (July 8, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0307268357
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307268358
  • Unabridged Audio: $113.75
  • Publisher: Recorded Books
  • Narrator: Tom Stechschulte
  • CD: 9781436123631
  • Tape: 9781436123655

In 2004, The New York Times Magazine called Clark “not only the thinking man’s John Grisham, but, maybe better, the drinking man’s” We don’t know what that means, either, but it sounds good. They also called his first novel, The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living, “arguably the funniest legal thriller ever written” (maybe that has something to do with the drinking?). The book is on order in small quantities, but most libraries have not ordered the audio.

Armchair Tourism

Given the cost of travel, this may be a particularly strong category for the (local) poolside. New York selects an obvious title for this category, Paul Theroux’s new Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, (Houghton Mifflin, August 18), in which the author revisits the places he wrote about 30 years ago in The Great Railway Bazaar.

For the “classic”, New York chooses a reissue from last year that is not owned widely:

The Dud Avocado
Elaine Dundy

  • Paperback: $14.95
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (June 5, 2007)
  • ISBN-10: 1590172329
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590172322

The LA Times called the main character, who spends two years after college in Paris, “a cross between Carrie Bradshaw and Holden Caulfield.” the book was first published in 1958 (hey, I thought avocados had their heydey in the ’70’s).

The two other new titles, on order by libraries in small quantities, are:

First Stop in the New World
David Lida

  • Hardcover: $25.95
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (June 12, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1594489890
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594489891

If you’re ever been to Mexico City, you know how fascinating and ultimately unknowable it is. In trying to explain this city to an outsider, Lida has his work cut out for him. It looks like he’s succeeded. Francisco Goldman (The Divine Husband), who lives half -time in Mexico City and the other half in New York City says, “One of the world’s greatest and most misunderstood cities has found its great translator and chronicler.”

Author Lido is interviewed in today’s Wall Street Journal.

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The Anglo Files
Sarah Lyall

  • Hardcover: $24.95
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton (August 18, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0393058468
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393058468
  • Audio CD: Unabridged, $24.99
  • Publisher: Tantor Media; (September 1, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1400158354
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400158355

Lyall used to cover publishing for the NY Times. When she moved to London, she began writing about the Brits and their amusing ways for the paper. New York calls the book “mischievous.”

Respectable Flings

“Respectable Fling”? That doesn’t sound like fun (or even possible). The classic choice for this category is Peyton Place.

New York also chooses a title that has been getting a lot of attention, but mostly in the gossip columns (the author, Jules Asner, is a former model and host on E! and current wife of director Steven Soderbergh). It’s owned in small quantities in most libraries, with heavy holds building:

Whacked

Jules Asner

  • Hardcover: $23.95
  • Publisher: Weinstein Books (June 3, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1602860173
  • ISBN-13: 978-1602860179

The Houston Chronicle calls the book “a souffle of murder, chick-lit love angst and Hollywood dish.” Asner was recently interviewed in the L.A. Times.

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Train to Trieste
Domnica Radulescu

  • Hardcover: $23.95
  • Publisher: Knopf (August 5, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0307268233
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307268235

Knopf won this book in a fairly large auction last year. New York doesn’t make it clear why they recommend this first novel (“Mona Manoliu flees Eastern Bloc Romania and her shady love interest for Chicago, only to return decades later, in this geopolitical romance.”) and the prepub reviews were more respectful than enthusiastic.

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The Summer of Naked Swim Parties
Jessica Anya Blau

  • Paperback: $13.95
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (May 27, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0061452025
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061452024


This sounds more like poolside fare; “a witty account of the agonies and ecstasies of a girl coming of age in late-seventies California.”

The Smart Stuff

The classic in this category is Death in Venice; the obvious, the already much-heralded America America by Ethan Canin (Random House, 6/24) and the forthcoming final book by Doris Lessing, Alfred and Emily (Harper, 8/05)

The less predictable selection is a collection of short stories (why do short stories seldom appear on summer reading lists? They seem perfect for heat-induced attention spans):

The People on Privilege Hill
Jane Gardam

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Europa Editions (July 29, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1933372567
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933372563

New York describes the stories as “Flannery O’Connor without the menace.”

Political Primers

It says something about where we are today that books on politics would be considered for the beach bag.

New York‘s classic selection is Making of the President by Theodore White.

Two of the new titles have already received attention:

  • The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America,by Thurston Clarke, (Henry Holt, 5/27)
  • Nixonland, by Rick Perlstein, (Scribner, 5/13)

The forthcoming title, on order in respectable quantities for most libraries is:

Kafka Comes to America
Steven Wax

  • Hardcover: $25.95
  • Publisher: Other Press (June 3, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1590512952
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590512951


The Seattle Times calls this “a compelling story of two men wrongly imprisoned, and a legal system that makes it no easy thing to help them.” It’s starred in PW, which says it “reads like a thriller.”

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