Book Review - A summer reading list for 2012
New books from Richard Ford, Padgett Powell, Jess Walter, and others round out these beach read picks
People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry
A British journalist recounts the life and disappearance of a young woman in Tokyo and leads us into a dizzying criminal underworld in Japan. Parry channels the novelistic nonfiction of Truman Capote while casting an uncomfortable shadow on his own role as a journalist. FSG Originals. $16. 464 pp. Available May 22.
Hot Pink by Adam Levin
This hyped short story collection overflows with the tricks that should please the McSweeney's-minded reader: precocious voices, precious incidents, philosophical puns, and just a pinch of magic. McSweeney's. $22. 256 pp.
The Red House by Mark Haddon
Former YA author Haddon made his mark on the literary world with the Asperger's narration of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night. Almost 10 years later, The Red House is being touted as his best work yet. Telling the story of a family reunion from eight different perspectives, the novel walks the line between excruciating and hilarious. Doubleday. $25.95. 272 pp. Available June 12.
HHhH by Laurent Binet
The title of Binet's debut novel derives from the German phrase "Himmlers Hirn heist Heydrich" or "Himmler's brain is called Heydrich." Indeed, on its face, HHhH is a historical novel about the WWII plot to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, a dangerous member of Hitler's cabinet. The story's narrator is obsessed with exposing the process of writing and researching historical fiction, thus creating a novel that is as much about the line between fact and fiction as it is about Heydrich. Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux. $26. 336 pp.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
A dying American starlet arrives at a coastal Italian inn in the late '60s, setting off a string of events that spans 50 years and half the world. Walter blends together a story of Hollywood, complete with fictionalized Richard Burton, et al, and a sleepy Italian village. The cultish Walter, who has been quietly popular for books such as The Zero and The Financial Lives of Poets, may finally break out with Beautiful Ruins. Harper. $25.99. 352 pp. Available June 12.
A True History of the Captivation, Transport to Strange Lands, & Deliverance of Hannah Guttentag by Josh Russell
Comically blending the sexualized campus novel with the captivity narrative, Russell creates a proudly, playfully Nabokovian work that's outright literary fun. Guttentag's journey through the landscape of liberal academia comes with a serving of farce and cynicism. Unlike his previous two novels, Yellow Jack and My Bright Midnight, this fresh novel shows Atlanta's Russell continuing to invent new territory. Dzanc Books. $15.95. 170 pp. Available Aug. 14.
Canada by Richard Ford
When the parents of a Montana teenager rob a bank, he finds his life irrevocably altered and a new home in rural Canadian territory. Ford's strengths at exploring the emotional crises of men have been on display since the Frank Bascombe novels The Sportswriter and Independence Day, which was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner award. Canada aims for a similarly emotional, epic arc. Ecco. $27.99. 432 pp. Available May 22.
You and Me by Padgett Powell
When Powell's The Interrogative Mood (a book — novel? — composed entirely of questions) arrived in 2009, it returned the writer to a level of prominence he hadn't seen in years. But how could he follow such a singular, high-wire example of style and American vernacular? By rewriting Waiting for Godot in the voices of two Southern codgers sitting on a porch, of course. This is the hilarious work of a master in a late-career renaissance. Ecco. $23.99. 208 pp. Available July 31.
Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
The author of the über-popular Thebloggess.com recounts her life story in whip-crack chapters whose titles should tell you everything you need to know: "I Was a Three-Year-Old Arsonist," "Draw Me a Fucking Dog," "If You Need an Arm Condom, It Might Be Time to Reevalute Some of Your Life Choices," "And Then I Snuck a Dead Cuban Alligator on an Airplane," etc. Prepare to laugh, cry, or (more likely) laugh-cry. Amy Einhorn Books. $25.95. 336 pp.