Thursday, July 30, 2009

New Book Roundup: March/April 2009

As I belatedly post this latest roundup of cool new books, the Fall season is shaping up to be something special. So get caught up on your reading. There's lots of good stuff coming.


Stone's Fall by Iain Pears
A new "vast historical mystery" from the acclaimed author of An Instance of the Fingerpost and Dream of Scipio. I must say I'm getting seriously interested in this author.

The Penguin Book of Gaslight Crime: Con Artists, Burglars, Rogues, and Scoundrels from the Time of Sherlock Holmes ed. by Michael Sims
The author of Adam's Navel compiles a juicy anthology of caper stories from the Victorian/Edwardian eras. Drool!

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain De Botton
De Botton turns his attention to work, and I for one am eager to see what he has to say.

Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage
The excellent Standage turns his attention to history with a focus on the relationship between food and human culture.


Sunnyside by Glen David Gold
Followup from the author of the acclaimed bestseller Carter Beats the Devil, this big novel centers on (though not exclusively) Charlie Chaplin beginning in 1916. Critical reaction has been great but online reader reactions have been more mixed so far - though it's early.

The Other City by Michal Ajvaz
The Czech writer's first novel to be translated into English is "a gorgeous matryoshka doll of unreason, enigma and nonsense - truly weird and compelling" (Publisher's Weekly).

Etta by Gerald Kolpan
Novel of Etta Place, lover of the Sundance Kid and member of the Wild Bunch.

Martyr by Rory Clements
Meet John Shakespeare, detective. Oh, and elder brother of William. An Elizabethan thriller - sounds fun.

Op Oloop by Juan Filloy
Not only is literature in translation being published less in the U.S., it's being reviewed less, so it's hard to say if there's a critical consensus on this work, but it certainly seems worth checking out.

When to Go into the Water by Lawrence Sutin
PW enjoyed this fictional biography - any other reviewers going to take it on?

I Am Not Sidney Poitier by
HipsterLit alert. Maybe. At least I suspect. But I was surprised to read: "the protagonist's name - literally, 'Not Sidney Poitier' - inspires all sorts of Abbott and Costello 'Who's on First?' riffing. ('Knot, with a k?'... 'Not with a k'... 'That's what I said'..."

Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson
A fun new twist on the Holmes phenomenon - playing off the legends that people used to write letters to Baker street asking for the help of the great detective, believing Watson's subject to be real.

Byron in Love: A Short Daring Life by Edna O'Brien
It does seem like Byron's life is a natural subject for a novel.

Alien Hearts by Guy de Maupassant
I recently saw Le Plaisir, Max Ophuls's setting of three Maupassant stories, which has reminded me how great a storyteller he was - and how little I've read by him.

Woodsburner by John Pipkin
Glowing reviews for this historical fiction centered on the forest fire started by Thoreau before his famous stay at Walden Pond.

My Father's Tears and Other Stories by John Updike
I agree with Julian Barnes, whose reaction to Updike's death partly consisted of the reaction, "But I thought we had him for another ten years." I've never read his novels, but I've always enjoyed the occasional Updike story - in fact, they played a role in turning me into a fan of short stories and literary fiction. So I'm looking forward to this final collection of new work.

The Maples Stories by John Updike
Meanwhile, this new collection of Updike's celebrated Maple stories sounds even more promising.

Do Not Deny Me by Jean Thompson
Another critical hit for Jean Thompson - an American Alice Munro?

Between the Assassinations by Aravind Adiga
New collection from the author of Booker-winner The White Tiger.

Drift: Stories from Newport Beach by Victoria Patterson
Not much coverage for this collection so far, but the one review I've seen was excellent. Nice cover.

Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America by Robert Charles Wilson
Postapocalyptic fiction from an acclaimed SF writer. The book's universe has been compared to steampunk for its 19th Century style technology, but the writing sounds fresh enough to break free from that subgenre.

The Strain by Guillermo del Toro
I read that this story was originally conceived of as a tv show - vampire mania continues in publishing.

Breathers: A Zombie's Lament by S. G. Browne
A Shaun of the Dead-style zombie novel that's been getting good reviews but hasn't yet reached the popular audience it seems destined for, as far as I can tell, though it seems just a matter of time.

More Noteworthy Fiction:
Normance by Louis-Ferdinand Celine
Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo
Pop Apocalypse: A Possible Satire by Lee Konstantinou
Enemies and Allies by Kevin J. Anderson
Pieces for the Left Hand by J. Robert Lennon
Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk
Far North by Marcel Theroux
Transit by Bernard Share
The Brothers Boswell by Philip Baruth
A Madness of Angels: Or the Resurrection of Matthew Swift by Kate Griffin
Wonderful World by Javier Calvo
Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea


Conquest of the Useless: Reflections from the Making of Fitzcarraldo by Werner Herzog
Herzog is such an interesting thinker as well as director, this is bound to be of interest.

Paul Newman: A Life by Shawn Levy
No quickie cash-in on Newman's death, this book was begun well before the death of one of Hollywood's biggest and noblest stars.

Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music by Greg Milner
Music lovers have been talking about this book since the moment it dropped, one of the key books of the year for its subject area.

Frankly, My Dear: Gone with the Wind Revisited by Molly Haskell
Sounds like a great match of critic and subject.

Being Hal Ashby: Life of a Hollywood Rebel by Nick Dawson
I've gotten interested in Ashby's films, after seeing Harold and Maude again and then the excellent The Last Detail, so this book comes along at the perfect time.

Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture by Kaya Oakes
The "indie" ideal has been a crucial part of my generation's culture, and I'd like to read a book that considers this problematic idea carefully.

Ad Nauseam: A Survivor's Guide to American Consumer Culture ed. by Carrie McLaren and Jason Torchinskyby
I'd never heard of Stay Free magazine before (say, their blog looks pretty cool), but this anthology of their writings sounds interesting.

In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build A Perfect Language by Arika Okrent
How could anyone resist a title or a topic like this?

Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry by Stephen Burt
It sometimes feels like poetry readers are an endangered species, and the culture of poetry seems remote enough that it's hard to know what to read even if you wanted to give it a try. Is that how you feel? This book's for you.

American Heroes: Profiles of Men and Women Who Shaped Early America by Edmund S. Morgan
Collection of essays on American history from a venerable Pulitzer-winning historian.

How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower by Adrian Goldsworthy
The End of Empire: Attila the Hun and the Fall of Rome by Christopher Kelly
The story of Rome never loses its appeal, as far as I can tell.

The Rise and Fall of Communism by Archie Brown
Top-notch reviews of this new history of communism.

Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone by Eduardo Galeano
Not sure how to classify this latest by the celebrated Uruguayan.

Why Socrates Died: Dispelling the Myths by Robin Waterfield
A historical investigation that promises to change discussions of Socrates forever.

Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution by Nick Lane
Evolution continues to be a hot topic of popular science writing. In fact, it seems you could pile your nightstand with great reads on the topic.

Animal Investigators: How the World's First Wildlife Forensics Lab Is Solving Crimes and Saving Endangered Species by Laurel A. Neme
A clever angle on popular science writing. I hope this book reaches a large audience.

Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness by Willard Spiegelman
The seven are apparently reading, walking, looking, dancing, listening, swimming and writing. Spiegelman and I could clearly be friends. (Well, okay, except for maybe the swimming part.)

How Sex Works: Why We Look, Smell, Taste, Feel, and Act the Way We Do by Sharon Moalem
Who could resist picking this up?

The Art of Making Money: The Story of a Master Counterfeiter by Jason Kersten
One of the more interesting true crime stories I've read about in a while, and it seems like a catchy time for these depressed economic times.

Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Crawford, Matthew B
A young coworker quit a few years ago to work in construction and I've often wondered if it would be a more satisfying job than working a deskjob. Clearly, I'm not the only one who considers the idea of working with your hands enticing.

Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation, and Hope are Reshaping the World by Dominique Moisi
An acclaimed new treatment of globalization that has been called an "astonishingly creative response to Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations."

Free: The Past and Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson
Anderson's well-managed plagiarism controversy seems to have hurt interest in this book, obviously meant to provoke conversations. And high profile attacks from the 'MSM' certainly haven't helped. Anderson's clearly touched a nerve in this stressful economy, and his critics have brought up plenty of fair points.

More Noteworthy Nonfiction:
Art of the Heist: Confessions of a Master Art Thief, Rock-and-Roller, and Prodigal Son by Myles J. Connor, Jenny Siler
The History of Italian Cinema: A Guide to Italian Film from Its Origins to the Twenty-First Century by Gian Piero Brunetta
Curiosities of Literature: A Feast for Book Lovers by John Sutherland
The Whole Five Feet: What the Great Books Taught Me About Life, Death, and Pretty Much Everything Else by Christopher R. Beha
The Lincoln Poems by Dan Guillory
God and the Editor: My Search for Meaning at the New York Times by Robert H. Phelps
Beowulf on the Beach: What to Love and What to Skip in Literature's 50 Greatest Hits by Jack Murnighan
See Jack: Poems by Russell Edson
Eiffel's Tower: And the World's Fair Where Buffalo Bill Beguiled Paris, the Artists Quarreled, and Thomas Edison Became a Count by Jill Jonnes
Dashiell Hammett Tour: Thirtieth Anniversary Guidebook by Don Herron
Dillinger's Wild Ride : The Year That Made America's Public Enemy Number One by Elliot J. Gorn
A Mathematician's Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form by Paul Lockhart
Imperial by William T. Vollmann
Blade Runners, Deer Hunters, & Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: My Life in Cult Movies by Michael Deeley

Of Gay Interest:

Selected Poems by Thom Gunn, ed. by August Kleinzahler
Someone recently wrote that Gunn's work improved over time, and this slim collection has garnered a fair amount of notice. One of the major events in poetry publishing this year.

C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems trans. by Daniel Mendelsohn
C. P. Cavafy: The Unfinished Poems trans. by Daniel Mendelsohn
These new translations comprise one of the bigger literary events of the year so far.

The Greeks and Greek Love: A Bold New Exploration of the Ancient World by James Davidson
A major new look at homosexuality in the ancient Greek world.

Show That Smells by Derek McCormack
The latest from Dennis Cooper's Little House on the Bowery series carries a blurb from filmmaker/fellow Canadian Guy Maddin.

Also Noteworthy:
Out at the Movies: A History of Gay Cinema by Steven Paul Davies

Of Chicago Interest:

Rosenfeld's Lives: Fame, Oblivion, and the Furies of Writing by Steven J. Zipperstein
Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill

Graphic Work:

Britten and Brülightly by Hannah Berry
Noirish murder mystery set in 1940s London, arrives with acclaim from the U.K.

Tijuana Bibles: America's Forgotten Comic Strips by Michael Dowers
Well, apparently not completely forgotten.

Also Noteworthy:
Studs Terkel's Working: A Graphic Adaptation by Harvey Pekar, Paul Buhle
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume 3: Century #1: 1910 by Alan Moore, Kevin O'Neill



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