Other than a brief respite from vampires and zombies, and the absence of Stieg Larsson, this year’s crop of summer books is going to feel an awful lot like last summer’s. Oh sure, there will be an increasing number of savvy consumers hunched over an iPad 2, Nook Color or a Kindle 3G, but even as technology changes, authors stay the same. From now until August, readers can enjoy a steady stream of new books and paperback reprints from best-selling authors such as David Baldacci, Danielle Steel, and Nelson DeMille. James Patterson has a staggering three new hardcovers that bear his byline, in addition to several new books for young readers.
Of course, summer isn’t all about fluff. I know a lot of well-intentioned people who plan on rereading Dostoevsky or tackling Finnegans Wake, and end up settling for Chuck Palahniuk. Happily, there’s new fiction from Geraldine Brooks (Caleb’s Crossing, Viking, $27) and Lisa See (Dreams of Joy, Random House, $26), a new story collection from Julian Barnes (Pulse, Knopf, $25), and a highly anticipated debut novel from the politically conscious, Grammy award-winning folk rocker Steve Earle (I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26).
If you’re leaving town sooner rather than later, Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Visit From the Goon Squad (Anchor Books, $15), is already available in paperback, while fans of David Foster Wallace will want to pick up The Pale King (Little, Brown & Co., $28), a just-published posthumous effort, assembled by his editor. If you’re looking for a guilty pleasure to throw in your suitcase, consider Steven Tyler’s Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? (Ecco Press, $28), a juicy memoir of rock ’n’ roll excess, or get some satisfaction from the paperback edition of Keith Richards’ Life (Back Bay Books, $17), co-written by James Fox. If you’re a wary traveler, look no further than Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void (W.W. Norton & Co., $16), where she investigates—with great humor—the nuts and bolts of space travel.
History enthusiasts will be intrigued by Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin (Crown Publishing Group, $26), a fascinating chronicle of William E. Dodd, the U.S. ambassador to Nazi Germany (1933-37). Also of interest is David McCullough’s The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris (Simon & Schuster, $37.50), a look at artists and scientists who studied in Paris from 1830–1900 and how their experiences led to spectacular achievements at home.
Sports fans will get a real kick out of Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN (Little, Brown & Co., $28) a behind-the-scenes history of the sports network by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller. There’s also Rick Reilly’s Sports From Hell: My Search for the World’s Most Outrageous Competition (Anchor Books, $15), an in-depth look at the mysteries of chess boxing, nude bicycling and the rock paper scissors championship.
Mystery lovers will welcome the return of Lucas Davenport in John Sandford’s Buried Prey (Putnam, $28), and Matthew Scudder in Lawrence Block’s A Drop of the Hard Stuff (Mulholland Books, $26). Looking for something different? Try The Snowman (Knopf, $26), a new thriller from best-selling Norwegian author Jo Nesbø.
June will finally bring the paperback edition of Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling Outliers: The Story of Success (Back Bay Books, $17), which examines overachievers and how they became successful. There’s no new James Bond movie this summer, but there is a new Bond novel, Carte Blanche (Simon & Schuster, $27), from Jeffery Deaver. David Baldacci fans are waiting for One Summer (Grand Central Publishing, $26), and reades of Janet Evanovich are looking forward to the new Stephanie Plum novel, Smokin’ Seventeen (Bantam, $28).
In literary fiction, Ann Patchett returns with State of Wonder (Harper, $27), set in the Amazon rainforest, and already garnering good buzz is Rebecca Makkai’s debut novel, The Borrower (Viking, $26), about a female librarian and her favorite patron, a 10-year-old boy. I’m especially curious about Patrick DeWitt’s The Sisters Brothers (Ecco Press, $25), a comic novel set against the California Gold Rush reminiscent of the Coen brothers, and Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24), a smartly written PI novel.
The Book of the Universes: Exploring the Limits of the Cosmos by John D. Barrow (W.W. Norton & Co., $27) will expand some minds this summer, as will Sam Kean’s The Disappearing Spoon (Back Bay Books, $15), an exhaustive and entertaining look at the periodic table.
I can’t wait for Ben Mezrich’s Sex On the Moon (Doubleday, $27), a real-life caper about stealing moon rocks from NASA or Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf (Knopf, $26), a contemporary spin on the werewolf legend. Is this the summer of werewolves? Only time will tell. But either way, when you’re lugging your new e-reader to the pool, remember to keep it from getting wet.