The best novels of the season! The editors of Book World point to some great summer reading, highly recommended by our reviewers. Articles of War, by Nick Arvin (Doubleday). This minimalist story about an 18-year-old Iowa boy sent to France during World War II is an unsettling exploration of cowardice during a crisis.
Bangkok Tattoo, by John Burdett (Knopf). This lurid, hurly-burly follow-up to Bangkok 8 tells the story of a detective for the Royal Thai police force and the gruesome murder of a foreigner, apparently carried out by a popular prostitute.
Collected Stories, by Carol Shields (Fourth Estate). Our reviewer called this assemblage a "career-long literary record of her preoccupation not just with the 'serious and interesting' lives of women, but with the subtleties and everyday miracles of human life."
The Earth and Sky of Jacques Dorme, by Andrei Makine (Arcade). The French narrator of this strikingly original novel returns to Russia as an adult to search for information about his father, whose plane crashed in Siberia during World War II.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer (Houghton Mifflin). In this alternately sweet, sad and witty novel, a precocious 9-year-old boy struggles to understand his father, who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
A Factory of Cunning, by Philippa Stockley (Harcourt). This deliciously wicked novel takes us back to London in the late 18th century via a collection of letters, notes and journal entries written by or swirling around an alluring, crafty French woman as she tries to marry -- or destroy -- England's most notorious aristocrat.
The Geographer's Library, by Jon Fasman (Penguin Press). This arcane thriller contains two narrators: The main one is a witty but ambitionless recent graduate working at a sleepy local paper. A routine obituary assignment leads him dangerously close to an ancient cult willing to murder to stay secret. The other narrator spins interlinked tales that span centuries, beginning in medieval Iran.
The Good Wife, by Stewart O'Nan (FSG). An ordinary woman's husband commits a crime while drunk and spends the next 28 years in jail. She endures single-parenthood and a string of menial jobs with quiet, sometimes unbearable patience.
The Ha-Ha, by Dave King (Little, Brown). Howard, the mute Vietnam vet at the center of King's touching debut novel, just wants to maintain the state of "bleak endurance" that keeps him from suicide. But then a friend dumps her 9-year-old boy on his doorstep.
The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss (Norton). This heartbreaking, hilarious novel weaves cases of plagiarism, mistaken identity and unlikely coincidences around a stolen manuscript also called "The History of Love." Our reviewer wrote, "In the final pages, the fractured stories fall together like a desperate embrace."
Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami (Knopf). In alternating chapters, America's favorite Japanese novelist tells parallel narratives: A bright but unhappy 15-year-old boy runs away from his home in Tokyo to avoid an Oedipal curse; an old man who lost his memory as a child in World War II can communicate with cats and control the weather.
Lost in the Forest, by Sue Miller (Knopf). Miller brilliantly examines the past and future of a family struggling to recover from a fatal automobile accident.
March, by Geraldine Brooks (Viking). Brooks's novel conflates Bronson Alcott, Louisa May's father, with the errant Yankee chaplain, Mr. March, who serves in the Civil War during most of Little Women. Not really a biography or a companion to Little Women, March is a wholly original and engrossing story about a man whose lofty principles are scorched by his failings.
Misfortune, by Wesley Stace (Little, Brown). In this ripping transsexual romp through Romantic-era England, an orphaned baby boy is raised as a girl by a mentally unbalanced aristocrat. The child, Rose, grows up to wrestle with the dilemma of who s/he is in a story that our reviewer said "makes you suspend disbelief . . . with great enthusiasm."
My Jim, by Nancy Rawles (Crown). In this very brief novel, Rawles pulls on the thread of a single reference to Jim's wife in Huckleberry Finn to spin the tale of her brutal life from plantation to freedom.
Pearl, by Mary Gordon (Pantheon). A dramatic and self-righteous old liberal finds her principles deeply tested when she gets a call on Christmas night from the American embassy in Ireland. Her quiet, responsible daughter has starved herself almost to death to make a protest no one can understand.
The Position, by Meg Wolitzer (Scribner). In what our reviewer called "a cosmology of matrimony and mating -- with a decidedly Freudian bent," Wolitzer traces the variously warped lives of four adult siblings whose parents wrote a bestselling sex manual in the '70s. Her "prose about things sexual is particularly vivid, and infused with too much comedy to ever turn purple."
Small Island, by Andrea Levy (Picador). Winner of the Orange Prize and the Whitbread Award, Small Island describes the interactions between two London couples, a pair of Jamaican newlyweds and a quintessentially English man and wife who disagree about boarding them in their house.
And Coming Soon . . .
The Big Over Easy, by Jasper Fforde (July)
Blinding Light, by Paul Theroux (June)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,
by J.K. Rowling (July)
The Interruption of Everything,
by Terry McMillan (July)
A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby (June)
Lord Byron's Novel, by John Crowley (June)
Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch, by Dai Sijie (June)
The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana,
by Umberto Eco (June)
No Country for Old Men,
by Cormac McCarthy (August)
72 Hour Hold, by Bebe Moore Campbell (July)
Specimen Days, by Michael Cunningham (June)
Until I Find You, by John Irving (July)