Searching for something to read during the holiday weekend ahead? Here are our picks of the best new paperbacks on sale this week:
When the United States Spoke French
By François Furstenberg
Penguin • $20 • ISBN 9780143127451
While you're celebrating the U.S.A.'s 239th birthday, take a look back at the early years of the young republic, when five prominent Frenchmen settled in Philadelphia and became active participants in the life of the city and the new nation. Described by Booklist as "a fine combination of social and political history," Furstenberg's narrative was a finalist for the George Washington Book Prize.
How to Build a Girl
By Caitlin Moran
Harper Perennial • $15.95 • ISBN 9780062335982
The rowdy first novel from the author of the best-selling feminist memoir/manifesto How to Be a Woman borrows events from Moran's own improbable life story, including her experiences as a teen critic for a British music magazine. The novel was a #1 bestseller in the U.K. and is the first in a planned trilogy.
How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky
By Lydia Netzer
St. Martin’s Griffin • $15.99 • ISBN 9781250047465
Is our destiny written in the stars? Netzer, author of Shine Shine Shine, creatively explores this question and other conundrums in the touching story of George and Irene, two quirky astronomers in Toledo who were meant to be together.
By David Nicholls
Harper • $15.99 • ISBN 9780062365590
Chosen by BookPage editors as one of the Best Books of 2014, Nicholls' novel captures the plight of a mild-mannered British scientist trying to hold his marriage and his family together with a last-gasp European vacation.
The Book of Strange New Things
By Michel Faber
Hogarth • $17 • ISBN 9780553418866
The author of the best-selling Victorian novel The Crimson Petal and the White explores faith and commitment in this far-future story of a Christian missionary sent to evangelize the residents of a distant planet. Meanwhile, back on Earth, his marriage and his planet appear to be falling apart.
The Happiest People in the World
By Brock Clarke
Algonquin • $15.95 • ISBN 9781616204792
Hilarious but urgently topical, Clarke's fourth novel follows the adventures of a bumbling Danish cartoonist forced to assume a new identity as a high school guidance counselor in upstate New York after his drawing of the prophet Muhammad evokes a firestorm.
Remember the Jane Austen Project? (We're still waiting for Curtis Sittenfeld's take on P&P!) Well, Hogarth Books is launching a similar project this fall, and if you thought taking on Austen could be daunting for a writer, imagine how it must feel to try to reimagine Shakespeare.
Jeanette Winterson (Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit) is the first to take on this challenge in The Gap of Time, publishing on October 6. She's putting a spin on A Winter's Tale, one of the Bard's later and lesser-known plays, which tells the story of a king who banishes his baby daughter and is later reunited with her.
In Winterson's version, set in London after the 2008 financial crisis, the banished baby washes up on American shores before wending her way home. According to Hogarth, "Her story is one of childhood friendship, money, status, technology and the elliptical nature of time. Written with energy and wit, this is a story of the consuming power of jealousy on the one hand, and redemption and the enduring love of a lost child on the other."
Will you read it? Or will your Norton Shakespeare have to be pried out of your cold, dead hands first? (If the latter, definitely do not click here.)
RELATED CONTENT: Read more about this year's fall fiction releases.
This week's new paperback selections offer several summer-reading-worthy options:
By Nick Harkaway
Vintage • $15.95 • ISBN 9780804170666
In the latest smart science fiction from the author of The Gone-Away World and Angelmaker, Sergeant Lester Ferris is determined to serve out the remainder of his career quietly in the former British colony of Mancreu. But his plans change after he meets a boy obsessed with comic-book heroes.
North of Normal
By Cea Sunrise Person
Harper • $15.99 • ISBN 9780062289872
Person's success as an international model came despite a most unusual childhood. For more than a decade, she and members of her extended family lived way, way off the grid in the forests of Canada, combining a groovy, free-love lifestyle with sometimes bleak subsistence living. The paperback edition of this compelling memoir includes a list of discussion questions.
By Susan Vreeland
Random House • $16 • ISBN 9780812980196
Although she's unhappy about leaving Paris in 1937 for a remote village in the south of France to care for her husband's grandfather, Lisette learns more than she expected about both art and life. For book clubs that like to pair a themed dinner with a reading selection, Vreeland's luminous historical novel offers many delicious possibilities: The reading group guide includes a list of all the Provençal dishes mentioned in the book (the Cassoulet Béarnais sounds especially tempting).
By Rebecca Rasmussen
Vintage • $15.95 • ISBN 9780345806710
Coming in at #43 on the BookPage list of Best Books of 2014, Rasmussen's quietly powerful second novel opens in the wilds of Minnesota, where Eveline and her new husband Emil settle in a remote cabin. But when Emil is called away, their lives take a tragic turn that will echo through the next generation.
By Laura Lane McNeal
Penguin • $16 • ISBN 9780143127499
Set in the summer of 1964, McNeal's engaging debut brings Civil Rights-era New Orleans to life with the story of 11-year-old Ibby Bell, who is unceremoniously dumped at the rundown Garden District mansion of her eccentric grandmother. The novel, which drew critical praise for its convincing characters and evocative setting, has been compared to Southern dramas such as The Help and The Secret Life of Bees.
Dear Committee Members
By Julie Schumacher
Anchor • $14.95 • ISBN 9780345807335
Schumacher’s hilarious—and, at times, poignant—sendup of academia is presented in its entirety through letters of recommendation written by Jason T. Fitger, a stressed-out professor of English and creative writing at the aptly named “Payne University.” This clever satire was ranked as one of 2014's best books by NPR and the Boston Globe.
E L James surprised everyone by announcing on June 1 that she would be publishing a new Fifty Shades novel titled Grey within the month. The novel tells the story of Fifty Shades of Grey from the perspective of Christian Grey, and the pub day is here! The first reviews are in, and they are hilariously entertaining. I'm on page nine of this book, and I have been unable to stop laughing and reading the best lines aloud in the office (sorry, everyone in the office). In my opinion, and apparently many others, Christian Grey's inner monologue is kind of horrifying.
Here are links to some of the best early coverage of Grey:
And I'll leave you with my favorite non-explicit quote from the chapter I've read. Here is Christian answering Anastasia's fascinating question about why he invests in manufacturing:
"I have a love of ships. What can I say?" They transport food around the planet.
Indeed! What can you say. Ships: They transport food around the planet.
Are you planning on reading the latest from James?
The fall publishing season isn't confined to September and October anymore—big-name authors are spreading out into August and November as well. John Irving is one of them: Avenue of Mysteries (S&S) will go on sale November 3.
Described by S&S publisher Jonathan Karp as reminiscent of the classic A Prayer for Owen Meany, Avenue of Mysteries follows an older man, Juan Diego, who is on a trip to the Phillippines. But this late-in-life adventure inspires memories of his childhood and young adulthood in Mexico rather than sparking any new ones—until his past and present become intertwined in a surprising way.
Will you read it?
RELATED CONTENT: Read more about this year's fall fiction releases.
British author William Boyd returns this fall with his most sweeping, ambitious work since 2002's Any Human Heart. Sweet Caress, which Bloomsbury will publish in the USA on September 15, tells the story of the 20th century through the eyes of a remarkable female photographer, Amory Clay, born in 1908.
The novel is punctuated by authentic vintage photos, chosen by Boyd from thousands of images found in "junk shops, estate sales and the like," according to his publicist, Summer Smith. These images make the story feel even more real—blurring the line between fiction and reality.
Anyone else looking forward to this one?
RELATED CONTENT: Read more about this year's fall fiction releases.
From Harry Potter announcements that seem to roll out weekly (this week: American Hogwarts!) to new books, it seems J.K. Rowling never stops—and we're not complaining.
Rowling's mystery-writing alter ego, Robert Galbraith, returns October 20 with the third in the Cormoran Strike series, Career of Evil, published by Mulholland Books.
Following The Cuckoo's Calling and The Silkworm, Career of Evil finds Detective Cormoran Strike and his girl Friday, Robin Ellacott, once again tackling a clever and unexpected mystery. From the publisher:
When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.
Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible—and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.
With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them . . .
Readers: If you haven't yet checked out Rowling's traditional mysteries, now is the time. Are you looking forward to this one?
Mr. Grey will see you now. E L James has announced that Vintage will be publishing a new Fifty Shades of Grey novel on June 18, Christian Grey's birthday. The book will tell the love story of Anastasia and the billionaire tycoon from Christian's perspective. Titled Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian, the book is a 576-page paperback dedicated "to those readers who asked … and asked … and asked … and asked for this."
In a statement, James says, “Christian is a complex character, and readers have always been fascinated by his desires and motivations, and his troubled past. Also, as anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows, there are two sides to every story. It’s been a great pleasure to return to my happy place—writing, being with Christian and Ana in their universe, and working with the fantastic team at Vintage.”
The first print run is 1.25 million, with more expected to follow. The original Fifty Shades trilogy has sold more than 125 million copies worldwide. If you've been living under a rock and are unaware of what Fifty Shades is about—well, just Google it. Unless you're at work.
Want more romance news? Sign up for our romance newsletter, Smitten!
Are you ready to kick off the summer reading season? If so, you might want to start with one of these titles from the stellar lineup of new paperbacks out this week:
By Emily St. John Mandel
Vintage • $15.95 • ISBN 9780804172448
Mandel's beautifully wrought post-apocalyptic portrait of the value and persistence of art has drawn fans from all over, including the BookPage editorial staff, which named the novel the Best Book of 2014.
Elizabeth Is Missing
By Emma Healey
Harper Perennial • $15.99 • ISBN 9780062309686
Afflicted with dementia, Maud doesn't remember much, but she is certain of one thing: Her best friend, Elizabeth, is missing. So Maud is distressed that her family and the authorities won't take her concerns seriously. Healey was inspired by the experiences of her grandmother in crafting this suspenseful and impressive debut.
By Emma Straub
Riverhead • $16 • ISBN 9781594633881
A trip to Mallorca to celebrate the Posts' 35th wedding anniversary doesn't work out as planned in Straub's witty and engaging look at a two-week trip that will have transformative effects for everyone involved.
By Sarah Payne Stuart
Riverhead • $16 • ISBN 9781594633904
If you have a love-hate relationship with your own hometown, you'll have a special sense of appreciation for Stuart's smart and funny memoir about moving back to quaint Concord, Massachusetts, home of the Puritans, Louisa May Alcott and a present-day WASP culture obsessed with real estate.
I Am Malala
By Malala Yousafzai
Little, Brown • $16 • ISBN 9780316322423
The youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize tells the harrowing but inspiring story of refusing to be silenced after she was shot by the Taliban for her efforts to support education for girls.
The Map Thief
By Michael Blanding
Gotham • $17 • ISBN 9781592409402
True crime fans and collectors will appreciate this absorbing account of the criminal career of E. Forbes Smiley III, an antiquarian map dealer who was caught in the act of stealing rare maps from the Yale University Library in 2005 and eventually confessed to stealing dozens more. The paperback edition includes color photographs of several beautiful antique maps.
A celebrity-studded BookCon started out with a bang on Saturday morning: The very first panel featured Mindy Kaling in conversation with best friend (not to mention sometimes boyfriend, past co-writer on "The Office" and future co-author of an as-yet-to-be-titled project) B.J. Novak. From the moment the doors opened at 10am, crowds wound through the basement of Manhattan's Javits Center, hoping to snag a coveted entrance bracelet.
Whatever their current relationship status, Kaling and Novak had an easy chemistry throughout the 45-minute discussion, which kept the capacity crowd laughing. Though the two dodged any questions about their upcoming project, which reportedly sold for $7.5 million, Kaling dished plenty on her life, her career and of course, her new book, Why Not Me?, which comes out September 29.
On the differences between her first book and her second
“[For the first book] I was just excited to be writing a book and hope that anyone would read it. . . . I wanted people to like me. The thing with this book is that . . . I wanted people to really know who I was. So I’m incredibly honest and vulnerable in this book. And it’s a little scary, actually. But I think it makes the book funnier.”
Kaling dictates first so that she can strike the conversational tone she’s seeking. “The biggest compliment that I can get about my writing, particularly in essay form, is that it’s like you’re talking to your friend or listening to your friend talk to you.”
“I have found in the past four years that I want a friend, a female friend. It’s much harder to find someone you want to talk to than a man you want to sleep with.”
According to Kaling, her closest local female friends (Lizzy Caplan, Lena Dunham and Ellie Kemper were mentioned) are also busy and successful, so it’s hard to find time to get together. Her goal for the next five years is to “make a good female friend.” Judging by the applause at Javits to that statement and the almost unanimous prefacing of audience questions with “I love you, Mindy,” there’ll be plenty of applicants.
On being a boss
“Surprisingly, I like it a lot.” [laughter] “You get things done the way you want to get things done. But the sad thing is . . . there’s so much fun in a job about complaining about the job. It’s like, that’s 40% of what’s fun about the job. . . . My writing staff is largely comprised of people who were my friends before I hired them to come work on the show, but I do miss that aspect of it. I can’t really sit there and complain about the hours with them, because they’re like, you set the hours.”
To Novak’s question of “What do you say to someone who looks at you and thinks, why not me?” Kaling responded with “Back off, it’s not your time yet, I’m still trying to get this going.”
On a more serious note, she added that people should focus on listening to others and not merely expressing themselves. “I feel like we don’t talk about that a lot, because the only way to show that we’re empowered is by speaking it. . . .'I Feel This and I Should Say This' would be a really popular TV show. Not like, 'I Am Listening and I Understand What You’re Feeling.' Which I think is a little more important.”
On what she has learned from Mindy Lahiri
“Mindy Lahiri has dated more men than I’ve ever met in my life, and I think that it’s been interesting fake-dating so many great guys, because as an actor, when you’re dating someone on screen, a little bit of their actual courtship rituals come to life.”
She also talked about the two sides to the character—accomplished OB-GYN and celeb-stalking girly-girl—and how playing them has helped her accept some of the contrasting facets of her own personality. “It’s been very interesting being able to flip those in the character, and also in the way that it seems like realistic to people’s real lives.” To which Novak added that he has noticed the way that’s changed her: “You’ve become more comfortable being yourself, and being excellent, and not thinking of those two things being in conflict.”
On B.J. Novak
“You’re like the baddest of the good boys. Like at space camp, you’re the kid who goes, wanna smoke weed? And the other kids are like, that guy’s cool.”
“One of the things that makes you such a good best friend is whenever I want to steer into stuff that could get us into trouble . . . you definitely steer us back.” Novak: “It’s a full-time job.”
“My first crush that I can remember, the kind that keeps you up at night, when I was 11 years old, was Dana Carvey,” whom she described as “the Bill Hader of 1992 'SNL.' ” Her Carvey fantasies? “Living next door to my family with him in our house.” To which Novak responded, “Parents love Dana Carvey.”
On dream ‘Mindy Project’ guest stars
Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hanks and Dave Chapelle.