Toppling Piles of Hot New Books: August

They’re piled so high now I’ve forgotten the ones that are underneath. Advance reader copies from publishers, the new titles about to be released, the new Jose Saramago, the new Marilynne Robinson, new Spanish novels and French novels and several from Argentina, well, and those are just some of the ones I remember. It’s high time I started looking through the galleys. After all, it’s very likely I’ll be choosing our next book club selections from these very books. Let me share with you a preview of the titles that sound most exciting. But first I’d better gather them up, armful by armful of new arrivals, and start sorting them by release date. Okay, the August ones over here, September in this pile…

Several hours later, after giggling in delight and talking to myself, I snap out of it to find I’ve got three big piles for August, September, and October, with a few advances trailing on beyond. Well, let’s just start with the August titles. I’ll weed out a few more, a couple familiar-looking memoirs and two exotic Middle Eastern romances I can skip. Which brings it down to six. Well then, here are the six titles coming up next month that look most promising to me:

Martin Caparros. ValfiernoValfierno  A novel about the man who stole the Mona Lisa in 1911. Looks quite entertaining, an imaginative recreation of the whole art-world-shaking event, written in a flashy European style.

Jean-Claude Izzo. A Sun for the DyingSun for the Dying  The last novel written by the brilliant French author from Marseilles, who reads like a combination of Joseph Conrad and Albert Camus. He can be a tad downbeat. The guy has a real sense of urban tragedy, like an old black-and-white noir, but he’s a superb stylist who can really tell a story.

Antonio Munoz Molina. A Manuscript of Ashes.  Manuscript of Ashes A Spanish novel translated by the top translator, Edith Grossman. Looks like a Saramago novel, big blocks of text, few paragraphs. I did spot some quotation marks. Elaborately written, but looks intriguing, it takes place in the late Sixties.

Xiaolu Guo: Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous YouthTwenty Fragments  Short 165-page novel. This young author got a lot of press for her novel, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, because it began in very faltering English and improved over the chapters. I found it gimmicky and unreadable, but this new one looks like something by Banana Yoshimoto, swift and simple and clean, quite appealing.

Samson Kambalu: The Jive TalkerJive Talker  Memoir. Engaging opening pages about a skinny African boy whose father is obsessed with Nietzsche.

Kira Salak. The White Mary. White Mary  A novel based on the author’s true-life solo trek through the jungles of Papua New Guinea. I adored her two non-fiction travel thrillers, Four Quarters, about that very jungle trek, and The Cruel Journey, about her 600-mile solo kayak trip up the Niger River to Timbuktu. I remember that she was called “the white mary” on one of those trips. The woman can write like an angel (I got so worked up I sent her a fan letter!) but I’m afraid to find out if it makes any difference when the plot is made up. We’ll see. She’s a good bet for a thrilling literary experience.

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About the Author:

Nick DiMartino is a university bookseller in Seattle, WA. He was a Booklist contributor from 2007 to 2009 and is the author of Seattle Ghost Story (1998) as well as numerous plays.

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