Barbara’s Picks, Jun. 2012, Pt. 2: From Mark Haddon to Zoobiquity

Haddon, Mark. The Red House. Doubleday. Jun. 2012. 272p. ISBN 9780385535779. $25.95; eISBN 9780385535854. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY
Newly remarried and stuck with a headstrong stepdaughter, wealthy doctor Richard tries to mend fences with sister Angela by inviting her and her family for a week’s stay at a vacation home in the English countryside. But Angela has a hopeless husband and three cranky kids of her own, and the week serves up secrets and misunderstandings, relentless grudges and dashed dreams. In lesser hands, this could be dreary, but I expect the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time to deliver an insightful, delicately tuned, bittersweet account of the contemporary family.

Quirk, Matthew. The 500. Reagan Arthur Bks: Little, Brown. Jun. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9780316198622. $25.99; . prnt. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. THRILLER
Having done time at the Atlantic, reporting on crime, private military contractors, international gangs, and other assorted evils, Quirk should be able to provide the right details for this debut thriller starring Harvard Law grad Mike Ford. Mike has joined an elite consulting firm in Washington, DC, where he associates with the 500‚ the powerful men and women who really run the government. Those folks are a world away from Mike’s shabby childhood among con men, and now the past has come to call. A ten-city tour to Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Boston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston, Chicago, and Kansas City, film rights sold to 20th Century Fox, foreign rights sold to 11 territories‚ here’s one debut that looks to be making it big. Focused but fluid writing, too, from what I have seen.

Walker, Karen Thompson. The Age of Miracles. Random. Jun. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9780812992977. $26; eISBN 9780679644385. CD: Random Audio. POP FICTION
What if the earth’s rotation started to slow? The consequences, as explored in this carefully researched debut novel by a former Simon & Schuster editor, would be devastating on a large scale. Here they are seen to be devastating on a small scale as well, particularly for a girl named Julia. When this book first appeared on the horizon, it caused a frenzy, selling immediately to 25 countries; a Wall Street Journal story highlighted its YA crossover appeal. At first glance, it does have the wide-eyed charm of its young protagonist; can a book be lightly ominous? This book has been talked up to me, and I will be talking it up at the AAP’s ALA Midwinter breakfast. With a 100,000-copy first printing and a seven-city author tour to Boston, New York, Minneapolis, Portland (OR), San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego; don’t get caught without it.

Finn, Adharanand. Running with the Kenyans: Passion, Adventure, and the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth. Ballantine. Jun. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9780345528797. $26; eISBN 9780345533524. CD: Random Audio. SPORTS
Kenyans routinely win the world’s big races, and (like a lot of folks) Runner’s World contributor Finn wanted to know why. So he moved his family to Iten, Kenya, home to hundreds of world-class runners, and trained in their camps, finally running his first marathon past lions, giraffes, and wildebeests across Kenya’s plains. The book offers a serious study of running, starting with the Kenyans’ low-tech approach (becoming hot in the running world), and taking in the observation of various styles at the author’s first New York Marathon. It’s also an interesting way to visit Africa, for those of us who keep dreaming. And it hits right before the Summer Olympics get America’s 25 million runners all psyched. Sounds fascinating, and I don’t even run (any more).

Natterson-Horowitz, Barbara & Kathryn Bowers. Zoobiquity. Knopf. Jun. 2012. 266p. ISBN 9780307593481. $25.95; eISBN 9780307958389. Downloadable: Random Audio. NATURAL HISTORY/HEALTH
Cardiology professor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, Natterson-Horowitz was called in as consultant when a monkey at the Los Angeles Zoo had heart failure. Subsequently, she launched a study of what animals and humans have in common in sickness and healing. The result is a new interdisciplinary field the authors here dub zoobiquity. A groundbreaker written for the lay reader; given the interest in health care and animal-human bonding, it’s bound to attract attention.

Parrish, John A., M.D. Autopsy of War: A Personal History. St. Martin’s. Jun. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780312654962. $25.99. MEMOIR
Distinguished Professor of Dermatology at the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as CEO of the Center for the Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology, Parrish would seem to have it made. Yet at times over the last four decades he has abandoned his family and was virtually homeless because of devastating flashbacks about his service as a navy physician in Vietnam. Here he talks about his long-term battle with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This would seem to be intense and important reading, as relevant today as when Parrish first arrived home from Vietnam. Pair with Mike Scotti’s forthcoming The Blue Cascade, about his battles with PTSD after returning from Iraq.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.