Some other summer reading possibilities ...
Idiots: Five Fairy Tales and Other Stories
by Jakob Arjouni
Other, $19Hailed at 19 as Germany's own Chandler or Hammett comparisons that the author all but begged for with Happy Birthday, Turk! Arjouni switches gears 20 years later to craft a collection that owes more to the absurdity and sharp eye for hypocrisy of Bulgakov. Its high points are the title story and "A Friend," which begins, "It was all the weather's fault, or I can tell you I'd never have taken the job." The translation, by Anthea Bell, is nearly note-perfect.
Cast of Shadows
by Kevin Guilfoile
Knopf, $24.95TheMorningNews.org contributor's first novel is one that combines a shrewd sense of genre at its leanest level, it's a murder mystery with a politically inclined grip of the zeitgeist, as a father clones the DNA of his daughter's killer to find some kind of closure.
In the Shadows of the Sun
by Alexander Parsons
Talese, $23.95We don't often think of a novel that begins with the Bataan Death March and swings back to a New Mexico ranch family facing eviction by the War Department as a beach read, but former Austinite Parsons (Leaving Disneyland) has put forth such a fine effort after five years of intensive research that it's a pleasure no matter where you are or what you're doing.
Grove, $22Written under a pseudonym by someone "in her forties" who "lives in the Maghreb region," The Almond is breathtaking autobiographical erotica heightened by its sociopolitical implications. Powerful, sexy, lush, and important.
The Closed Circle
by Jonathan Coe
Knopf, $25The master satirist and storyteller homes in on Blair's Britain by bringing back his cast of characters from 2002's The Rotters' Club.
by Charlie Anders
Soft Skull, $16.95In order to remain a choir boy for as long possible, Berry staves off puberty by getting a clinic to administer him testosterone inhibitors. The drugs don't stop there, though, and gender confusion can now be officially added to the coming-of-age canon with Anders' funny, sharp, and fully engaging first novel.
The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank
by David Plotz
Random House, $24.95)The Repository for Germinal Choice gets a wider gaze from the Slate deputy editor, who started this story in 2001 by soliciting e-mails from anyone who "knew anything about the bank," which had shuttered in 1999. A fascinating finished product, still rife with impending questions, but admirably reported and expertly related.
The Quince Seed Potion
by Morteza Baharloo
Bridge Works, $23.95A plain-spoken miniepic of Iran, the Houston resident's debut climaxes with the 1979 revolution, when its protagonist, the servant Sarveali Jokar, loses almost everything in gaining a sense of an ancient world changing.