There’s a slew of good books out this summer. Here are our picks for
the best of the bunch with a little something for everyone, from political junkies to bookworms. Break out the hammocks.
When You Are Engulfed in Flames
by David Sedaris ($26, Little, Brown & Co.)
The master of hilarious self-deprecation does it again. In this new collection of essays Sedaris delves into the bizarre conundrums of daily life, taking us from the seemingly bucolic French countryside to a memory of buying drugs in a mobile home in South Carolina. If you weren’t already convinced, this sixth collection will convert you to the cult of Sedaris, the reigning master of contemporary American humor writing.
Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—and How It Can Renew America
by Thomas Friedman ($24, FSG)
Ok, so it’s not exactly a beach read, but the new book from the man who helped us understand globalization with The World Is Flat has focused his considerable intellect on global warming, and it’s worth paying attention. In this new book, Friedman shows that the much-touted “green revolution” has hardly begun and proposes that an ambitious national strategy, which he calls “Geo-Greenism,” is not only what we need to save the planet from overheating, but what we need to make America healthier, richer, more innovative, more productive and more secure.
by Ethan Canin ($27, Random House)
The new book by San Francisco native Canin is a truly American novel about the interplay of class, love, politics and fate in a young man’s life. Set both in the Nixon-era ’70s and the present, America America tells of a working-class boy who becomes employed by the wealthy and well-known Metarey family and finds himself on a path utterly foreign to his own family—boarding school, an internship with a powerful senator—and in a relationship with one of the Metarey daughters.
by Chuck Palahniuk ($25, Doubleday)
The San Francisco Chronicle called Palahniuk “the likeliest inheritor of Vonnegut’s place in American writing.” And it is true that the author of the novels Fight Club, Choke and Survivor does not shy away from the absurd, the violent and the provocative. His new novel features Cassie Wright, an aging porn star who wants to make her career go out with a bang (so to speak) by having sex with 600 men on the same day. Despite the premise, the book is not prurient. It reads more like a series of character studies drawn in Palahniuk’s signature careening style.
The Enchantress of Florence
by Salman Rushdie ($26, Random House)
A new novel from the author of Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verses is always cause for commotion. In The Enchantress of Florence, Rushdie, widely considered one of our greatest living writers, takes us to the hedonistic Mughal Empire capital and the equally sensual High Renaissance Florence in a tale that is at once bawdy, irreverent and deeply human. It’s the story of a mysterious and beguiling woman who’s forging her own path in a decidedly male world.
The Garden of Lost Days
by Andre Dubus III ($25, W. W. Norton)
Lovers of House of Sand and Fog, rejoice! Andre Dubus III delivers another gripping, painful and powerful novel that explores the margins of American society. The relentless page-turner story of sex, parenthood, honor and masculinity is set in motion when a young mother’s usual babysitter can’t make it and she decides to bring her three-year-old daughter to work with her at a strip club in southern Florida. As always, Dubus manages to be sympathetic to all his characters, rendering even the bad guys as humans deserving of our sympathy.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
by Haruki Murakami ($21, Knopf)
Who says the life of the mind and the life of the body are mutually exclusive? In this engaging, playful and philosophical memoir, Murakami examines the trajectory of his running life: taking it up as a hobby to stay fit, training for the New York city marathon, completing triathlons and watching as young women outpace him in Boston. The book is a reflection on aging, making life choices, and Murakami’s own decision to devote himself to writing.
Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters
by Nancy Pelosi ($24, Doubleday)
It’s not exactly a thriller, but it is a big book with a capital B. Speaker of the House and Marin resident Pelosi brings us a “you go girl” cry for women’s rights. As she said after being sworn in as speaker: “Never losing faith, we waited through the many years of struggle to achieve our rights. But women weren’t just waiting; women were working. Never losing faith, we worked to redeem the promise of America—that all men and women are created equal…For our daughters and our granddaughters now the sky is the limit.”
The Political Mind: Why You Can’t Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain
by George Lakoff ($26, Viking)
The UC Berkeley linguist and author of Don’t Think of an Elephant takes up where Thomas Frank left off in What’s the Matter with Kansas?, helping us understand why so many Americans vote against their own interests. In doing so, he explains why progressives lose elections and how they could start winning them. It’s a fascinating book for anyone interested in the workings of the mind, body and American politics.