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'Secret Man,' 'Moondust' And The Latest 'harry Potter'

Summer Reading

June 26, 2005|By Michael Ollove | Michael Ollove,Sun Book Editor

Chick lit, mysteries, literary narratives, voluminous biographies, classics -- different readers have as many versions of what constitutes the ideal summer read as there are genres of books. Lonesome Dove would do it for many, The Brothers Karamazov or A Civil Action for others, Good in Bed for some.

What all readers would agree on, though, is what the perfect beach book must accomplish. It has to engross them, transport them, excite them. It has to make the whole vista of the beach disappear altogether and replace it with the vibrancy and vision of the writer. And it should fill a reader with regret when arriving at the last page, the forlorn realization that momentarily, he or she will be thrust from this dazzling, captivating world and cast back into the humdrum of his or her own.

Maybe this summer's offerings will provide just such experiences. Your summer may not call for a trip to the beach, that doesn't mean it must be without a beach book, one that in itself is a vacation to somewhere else, somewhere enriching or dangerous or enlightening. What follows is a list of some of the notable destinations coming up this summer. Are any of them beach books? That will be for you to decide.

JUNE

Fire Sale

by Sara Paretsky (Putnam Adult, 416 pages)

P.I. V.I. Warshawski returns in her 12th outing, this time, not in the paradise of California but the menacing environs of Southside Chicago, where she returns to fill in for her old high school basketball coach. Trouble either follows or precedes her as the devout son of a possible wealthy team benefactor goes missing and the mother of one of her players hires Warshawski to investigate sabotage at a flag manufacturer that then blows up before her eyes.

The Historian

by Elizabeth Kostova. (Little Brown, 656 pages)

Here's the book that insiders predict will be the summer's surprise hit -- that is, if a book can be a surprise when a publisher has forked over $2 million to publish it and it rocketed to the top of best-seller lists even before its official release. Ten years in the writing by a first-time, 40-year-old novelist, it is a 600-page-plus literary vampire tale, as a young woman takes up her father's dangerous, cross- continental search to discover if the legendary Dracula is still out there satisfying his thirst.

A Long Way Down

by Nick Hornby. (Riverhead, 352 pages)

The author of the deeply satisfying, pop culture-savvy High Fidelity, Hornby returns with his fourth novel, which begins on New Year's Eve with four strangers running into each other on a London rooftop, all of them having separately planned to jump. How they got to that point and what they plan to do about it now that they have each decided to continue living (for the time being) is the seriocomic subject of this facile writer.

One Shot

by Lee Child. (Delacorte, 384 pages)

Child resurrects his resolutely loner hero, Jack Reacher, the taciturn, one-time military police investigator, in another thriller. A gulf war vet with a bloody history well known to Reacher is accused of killing six people in an unnamed Indiana town. Reacher has no reason to believe the ex-soldier's protests of innocence, but goes to work on his behalf, uncovering layers of intrigue and culminating in an explosive finish.

Specimen Days

by Michael Cunningham. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 320 pages)

As the doomed Virginia Woolf haunted Cunningham's tour de force The Hours, Walt Whitman is a pervasive presence in Cunningham's follow-up. The novel (also with three separate stories) about social decline in the face of technological advance is set in three different time periods (including the future).

The Survivor: President Clinton

and His Times

by John F. Harris. (Random House, 544 pages)

A year after Bill Clinton published his own autobiography comes the first major, nonpartisan consideration of his presidency. Written by a Washington Post reporter who covered the White House during the Clinton years, it is a dispassionate look at a politician of unsurpassed talents and irreparable flaws.

The Truth about Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She'll Go to Become President

by Edward Klein. (Penguin, 272 pages)

Already a favorite of the political right, this book by this once-respectable journalist skewers the former first lady, calling her a liar, a phony and quite possibly a lesbian to boot. If she decides to run for president, the gloves might really come off.

The Wonder Spot

by Melissa Bank. (Viking, 336 pages)

Here is the follow-up to Bank's best-selling 1999 debut, The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing. Her second novel returns to familiar ground, following an endearing young woman haplessly but gamely stumbling along the slippery terrain of romance, family and career.

JULY

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

by J.K. Rowling. (Scholastic, Inc., 672 pages)

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