THE FAMILY SAGA
Fathers and Sons, By Alexander Waugh (Nan Talese/Doubleday)
Alexander’s account of four generations of embittered father-son relationships in the Waugh family brings depth (and scandalous detail) to the truism that pain is what feeds literary talent.
THE (LITERARY) THRILLERS
New England White, By Stephen L. Carter (Knopf); The Water’s Lovely, by Ruth Rendell (Crown, July 24)
Stephen Carter’s second legal-social thriller is Richard Price on steroids, and it’s a very good airplane read: 550 pages of societal drama and suspense should distract you from that little TV. As for Rendell, her writerly decorum masks a darkness and horror that Agatha Christie never touched.
THE BEACH NOVELS
Rules for Saying Goodbye, by Katherine Taylor (Farrar, Straus & Giroux); The Maytrees, by Annie Dillard (HarperCollins)
Taylor’s dishy coming-of-age read is for those who can’t quite leave the city, even on the Jitney. The ex–Manhattan bartender (who made news by naming stingy celebrities) makes her character a savvy opportunist, not a Devil Wears Prada naïf. Meanwhile, Dillard’s novel, about a torturous affair, captures the solitude of Provincetown in spare descriptions of character and landscape.
Shadow of the Silk Road, by Colin Thubron (HarperCollins)
A fantastically descriptive writer, Thubron digs through the history of Central Asia—when he isn’t being hassled by thugs and corrupt policemen— on a 7,000-mile trek along the ancient trade route from Turkey to China. Perfect for vicarious travelers.
THE CROSS-CULTURAL GETAWAY
The Opposite House, by Helen Oyeyemi (Nan Talese/Doubleday)
The young Oyeyemi’s novel is half gritty London realism and half magical realism—that second half tells the story of a Santería goddess inhabiting a house that opens onto England on one side and teeming Lagos, Nigeria, on the other.
THE SHORT-STORY COLLECTION
Cat O’ Nine Tales, by Jeffrey Archer (St. Martin’s Press)
Augmented with eye-catching drawings by Ronald Searle, this slim book of stories from the author turned Parliamentarian turned prisoner (he was convicted for perjury in a sex scandal) draws on his experiences in the clink.
THE LAST READS OF SUMMER
Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan (Ballantine, August 7); The Chicago Way, by Michael Harvey (Knopf, August 23)
Publishers have taken to debuting quality authors in August to beat the fall rush. For fans of historical fiction, there’s Nancy Horan’s lush account of Frank Lloyd Wright’s affair with a client’s wife. Michael Harvey’s tightly plotted evocation of the Chicago underworld is set in the present but brings to mind the voices of Chandler and Hammett.