June 21, 2012

Beach reads, nonfiction on summer book list

What are your summer plans? Plenty of people prefer some quiet, idle time in a hammock somewhere or lounging beside the body of water of their choice, but don’t include readers in that group. For book lovers, the summer is always a busy, exciting season, and this year is no exception.

What are your summer plans? Plenty of people prefer some quiet, idle time in a hammock somewhere or lounging beside the body of water of their choice, but don’t include readers in that group. For book lovers, the summer is always a busy, exciting season, and this year is no exception.

Eager for some high-octane thrillers to fill the hours, or do you have more challenging reading plans? What about the kids? How are you going to keep them busy?

The Los Angeles Times book staff presents a summer reading guide to answer all of those questions. This selection of books, some already available and some available in the next few months, includes more than the familiar, usual categories — beach reads, for instance, and big nonfiction titles. Here you’ll find selections appealing to the armchair travelers out there, fitness and outdoors lovers and those with a taste for the quirky and unconventional too.

Beach reads

“The After Wife” by Gigi Levangie Grazer; Ballantine ($25)

A charming tale of a grieving 40-ish widow — and the wacky friends who love her — as she attempts to regain control of her life in the sometimes-surreal L.A. landscape. (July)

“The Age of Doubt” by Andrea Camilleri; Viking ($15)

In the latest in the author’s series, take another journey to Sicily with Inspector Montalbano, who seeks to penetrate the mystery surrounding two yachts and the discovery of a mutilated corpse. (Available now)

“Beach Season” by Lisa Jackson, Cathy Lamb and Holly Chamberlin; Kensington ($15)

Can’t a good girl ever get a break in life and love? The tales of forlorn heroines gathered here are like a chocolate sampler — romantic, brief, sweet. (Available now)

“The Book of Summers” by Emylia Hall; Harlequin Mira ($14.95)

The shuddering separation of her parents results in young Beth shuttling between two worlds — the U.S. and Hungary — and coping with family secrets as she reaches adulthood. (Already available)

Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Imperative” by Eric Van Lustbader; Grand Central ($27.99)

Jason Bourne’s rescue of a drowning man not only reminds him of himself (the man’s an amnesiac too), it raises plenty of questions. Why is he being stalked by the Mossad? Could he really be a legendary terrorist assassin, or is this a case of mistaken identity? (Available now)

“Broken Harbor” by Tana French; Viking ($27.95)

Detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy returns, in French’s latest, to investigate what appears to be a straightforward attack on a family in an Irish housing development — but nothing, Kennedy knows, is ever so simple. (July)

“Capital” by John Lanchester; W.W. Norton ($26.95)

In the shadow of terrorism and the 2008 global financial implosion, a cast of English characters are brought together via a strange message delivered on postcards in this latest by the author of “The Debt to Pleasure.” (June)

“Creole Belle” by James Lee Burke; Simon and Schuster ($27.99)

Dave Robicheaux can’t get the song “Creole Belle” out of his mind or the New Orleans girl who disappeared after giving the song to him on an iPod. This leads to a new search against the backdrop of an oil rig disaster in the Gulf — and the threat posed to life along the coast. (July)

“Criminal” by Karin Slaughter; Delacorte ($27)

The brutal crime that started investigator Amanda Wagner’s career entwines with the mysterious, heartbreaking past of her colleague, agent Will Trent, in a tale spanning 40 years. (July)

“Dead Stars” by Bruce Wagner; Blue Rider Press ($35, ages 14 and older)

The latest by the author of “The Chrysanthemum Palace” takes another biting, funny look at our obsessions with celebrity, this time in the young adult world. (August)

“The Demands” by Mark Billingham; Mulholland Books ($24.99)

A London convenience store is the site of a hostage drama when a grieving father takes customers as his prisoners. Does he want money in return? No, just an answer to the question of what really happened to his son, who died in prison. (Already available)

“The Family Corleone” by Ed Falco; Grand Central ($27.99)

Mario Puzo’s saga of a crime family continues with a look back to the early 1930s and Sonny Corleone’s desire to join his father, Vito, in the family business. (Already available)

“Growing Up Dead in Texas” by Stephen Graham Jones; MP Publishing ($14.95)

A novel of small-town lives in Texas and a young man’s return to find answers to unanswered questions about a disaster that affected the community many years ago. (Already available)

“Kingdom of Strangers” by Zoe Ferraris; Little, Brown ($25.99)

An inspector in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah pursues a serial killer after the discovery of a secret grave containing the bodies of 19 women. (Already available)

“The Kingmaker’s Daughter” by Philippa Gregory; Simon and Schuster ($26.99)

Conspiracy and a fight to the death for love and power at the court of King Edward IV of England. (August)

“The Kings of Cool: A Prequel to Savages” by Don Winslow; Simon and Schuster ($25)

The back story of Ben, Chon and O stretches from 1960s Southern California to the recent past. (Already available)

“A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar” by Suzanne Joinson; Bloomsbury ($26)

A tale of two journeys — two sisters embark on a bicycle trip on the Silk Road in 1923; a present-day Londoner befriends a homeless Yemeni man. (Already available)

“Last Summer” by Holly Chamberlin; Kensington ($15)

Chamberlin’s latest revolves around bullying and friendship in the lives of mothers and their adolescent daughters. (July)

“Little Night” Luanne Rice; Viking ($26.95)

Clare and her niece struggle to build a relationship that requires overcoming old family scars inflicted by Clare’s sister years ago. (Already available)

“Mission to Paris” by Alan Furst; Random House ($27)

In 1938 Europe, Hollywood star Frederic Stahl’s not only interesting to his French film crew — a Paris network of spies considers him a potentially valuable ally. (Already available)

“Monarch Beach” by Anita Hughes; St. Martin’s Griffin ($14.99)

Can a woman create a new life after her husband’s infidelity? The answer is yes for Amanda, who ditches that fellow (a French chef) and belongs to a fabulously wealthy San Francisco family. (Already available)

“The Nightmare” by Lars Kepler; Sarah Crichton Books ($27)

Detective Inspector Joona Linna is good at making connections, and if anyone can figure out the ties between two corpses in Stockholm, Linna can. (July)

“The Orphanmaster” by Jean Zimmerman; Viking ($27.95)

Why are orphan children vanishing in 17th-century New Amsterdam? A young lady and a dashing spy team up to find the answer. (Already available)

“The Sandcastle Girls” by Chris Bohjalian; Doubleday ($25.95)

A young nurse’s arrival in 1915 Aleppo to help refugees of the Armenian genocide forms the background of a modern-day woman’s quest for truth about her family’s past. (July)

“Serpent’s Kiss” by Melissa de la Cruz; Hyperion ($23.99)

Just because they have magical powers doesn’t mean that witches have it easier than mortals — ask Freya, whose fiance has caused mythological trouble for her and her clan. (Already available)

“Shadow of Night” by Deborah Harkness; Viking ($28.95)

The story of witch Diana Bishop and her vampire love Matthew Clairmont in “A Discovery of Witches” continues as the pair move through the world of Elizabethan England. (July)

“Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury” by Sam Weller and Mort Castle; William Morrow ($15.99)

A collection of 26 stories — including Neil Gaiman’s “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” — in honor of the maker of such classics as “Fahrenheit 451” and “The Martian Chronicles.” (July)

“The Sins of the Father” by Jeffrey Archer; St. Martin’s Press ($27.99)

The second installment in Archer’s Clifton Chronicles, which started with “Only Time Will Tell,” revolves around a fake identity and follows Harry Clifton in the early days of World War II. (Already available)

“Skinnydipping” by Bethenny Frankel; Simon and Schuster ($25)

The reality TV star offers a tale of — what else? — a frank-talking woman whose mouth gets her in trouble on a popular reality TV show. Her journey takes her — and readers — from NYC to L.A. to NYC again. (Already available)

“The Storm” by Clive Cussler and Graham Brown; G.P. Putnam ($27.95)

A spreading black substance in the Indian Ocean — is it oil or something far more deadly? — must be investigated by the NUMA Special Assignments Team … if it doesn’t kill them. (Already available)

“The St. Zita Society” by Ruth Rendell; Scribner ($26)

Tranquility reigns on an upscale London Street , but secrets lurk behind the elegance, including a disturbed gardener who thinks he hears the voice of God. (August)

“Summerland” by Elin Hilderbrand; Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown ($26.99)

A summer bonfire for the students of Nantucket High ends with a deadly accident and with painful mysteries that their parents will struggle to understand in the months that follow. (Tuesday)

“Summer Breeze” by Nancy Thayer; Ballantine ($26)

Summer offers a chance to deepen bonds, which three women discover at Dragonfly Lake in New England. (Already available)

Feed your brain

“American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama” by Rachel L. Swarns; Amistad ($27.99)

An intimate look at the first lady’s colorful family tree going back five generations, traversing through the Revolutionary and Civil wars, the great migration and on to the White House. (Already available)

“As Texas Goes … How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda” by Gail Collins; Norton/Liveright ($25.95)

How the conservative political agenda growing deep in the heart of Texas is creating social and economic consequences for the rest of the country. (Already available)

“Barack Obama: The Story” by David Maraniss; Simon and Schuster ($32.50)

This new biography of President Obama explores his early beginnings and his struggles with self-identity. Based on hundreds of documents, letters, journals and interviews, including with the president. (Already available)

“Bring Up the Bodies” by Hilary Mantel; Henry Holt ($28)

Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell’s vicious maneuverings continue in this sequel to “Wolf Hall.” (Already available)

“The Chinatown War: Chinese Los Angeles and the Massacre of 1871” by Scott Zesch; Oxford University Press ($29.95)

The big impact of a little-known, small-scale turf war that erupted between immigrant Chinese gangs and mobs of white Angelenos in Los Angeles. (Friday)

“Cronkite” by Douglas Brinkley; Harper ($34.99)

This biography of the journalist known to many as “the most trusted man in America” digs deep into his personal life through private papers and interviews with family and friends. (Already available)

“Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent” by E.J. Dionne Jr.; Bloomsbury ($27)

Dionne offers the notion that as people we can’t agree on our future because we can’t agree on our common history or what makes us Americans. (Already available)

The Dozens: A History of Rap’s Mama” by Elijah Wald; Oxford University Press ($24.95)

So where did rap come from? Wald suggests that its roots came from an outrageously inventive game played in urban neighborhoods called “The Dozens.” (Already available)

“Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam” by Fredrik Logevall; Random House ($40, tentative price)

Historian Logevall draws on material gleaned from previously untapped sources to trace three decades of political decisions and battles leading up to the Vietnam War. (August)

“A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver” by Mark K. Shriver; Henry Holt ($24)

A father-son portrait by the son of Sargent “Sarge” Shriver, founder of the Peace Corps, architect of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and social advocate. (Already available)

“Lionel Asbo, State of England” by Martin Amis; Alfred A. Knopf ($25.95)

Modern society and celebrity culture take a beating in this satire on an oddly principled thug raising his bookish nephew. (August)

“The Obamians: The Struggle Inside the White House to Redefine American Power” by James Mann; Viking ($26.95)

The story of the president’s inner circle of young advisers and their efforts to forge a new direction in U.S. foreign policy. (Already available)

“George Orwell: Diaries,” edited by Peter Davison; Liveright ($39.95)

The 11 extant diaries cover everything from his youthful travels behind “Down and Out in Paris and London” to his bouts with tuberculosis in the midst of completing “1984.” (August)

“James Joyce: A New Biography” by Gordon Bowker; Farrar, Straus and Giroux ($35)

This first major biography of the literary master in more than 50 years explores his complex attitudes to England, Ireland and Judaism and the correlation between his iconic fictional characters and their real-life models and inspirations. (Already available)

“American Empire: The Rise of a Global Power, the Democratic Revolution at Home, 1945-2000” by Joshua B. Freeman; Viking ($36)

A study of the post-WWII transformation of America to a global force and the domestic elements and events that threaten its future influence and role in world affairs. (August)

“Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution” by Doug Fine; Gotham ($27)

Can this burgeoning cash crop revitalize our nation’s economy? (August)

“The Rise of Rome: The Making of the World’s Greatest Empire” by Anthony Everitt; Random House ($30)

This history of a city’s remarkable ascent from an agrarian backwater includes portraits of its key citizens who became history’s leading lights. (August)

“Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock ’n’ Roll” by Marc Dolan; Norton ($29.95)

The cultural, political and personal forces that have shaped the career of the working-class “Boss” from New Jersey. (Already available)

“Van Halen: Exuberant California, Zen Rock ’n’ Roll” by John Scanlan; Reaktion ($25)

A look at the influences and events that shaped the band and its relationship to Southern California’s sense of cultural exuberance. (Already available)

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