Barbara’s Picks, August 2012, Pt. 1: Heller, Itani, Koontz, Logevall

Heller, Peter. The Dog Stars. Knopf. Aug. 2012. 272p. ISBN 9780307959942. $25.95; eISBN 9780307960931. CD: Random Audio. POP FICTION
Great expectations for this first novel by Heller, featuring a pilot lost in a world gutted by a flu pandemic. When he receives a random radio transmission, he realizes that he’s not alone. Heller comes naturally by the edgy adventure promised here. A contributing editor at Outside Magazine and National Geographic Adventure, he is also author of Hell or High Water, an account of a daring whitewater expedition through eastern Tibet’s Tsangpo Gorge‚ inspiration for Shangri-La and so remote and dangerous that it had never been fully navigated. Heller’s status as an NPR contributor will help move the book along; with a 60,000-copy first printing.

Itani, Frances. Requiem. Atlantic Monthly. Aug. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780802120229. $24; eISBN 9780802194602. LITERARY
During World War II, Canada interned citizens of Japanese descent, just as the United States did. Here, Itani recaptures history through fiction by imagining the story of young Bin Okuma and his family, who were transported from their British Columbia home to a desolate area 100 miles from the Protected Zone and only grudgingly given access to food, plumbing, and electricity. Fifty years later, after his wife dies, Bin returns to the area, hoping to find the father whose awful decision at the time nearly destroyed the family. Itani’s Deafening won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and was shortlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, so her new novel is one that I’m really anticipating.

Koontz, Dean. Odd Apocalypse. Bantam. Aug. 2012. 368p. ISBN 9780553807745. $28; eISBN 97803455335867. lrg. prnt. THRILLER
Lots of things happening for Odd Thomas this year, aside from this latest novel, featuring a showdown between our hero and the bad guys in a moody, tumble-down mansion. An enovella called Odd Interlude, taking place between the events in Odd Hours and Odd Apocalypse, will be released in weekly installments leading up to publication of the latter, the fifth book in the series. The first four books will be reissued in a shiny new trade paperback format in May, following publication of the graphic novel House of Odd. And Deeply Odd, the sixth novel in the series, is promised sometime after the projected fall release of a film based on the series. Time to get Odd again; these books are always No. 1 New York Times best sellers.

Logevall, Fredrik. Twilight War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam. Random. Aug. 2012. 880p. ISBN 9780375504426. $40; eISBN 9780679645191. HISTORY
Yes, many, many books have been written about Vietnam. But Cornell history professor Logevall is presented as leading a new generation of scholars now investigating the debacle. Over the course of 12 years, he did original research in diplomatic archives in Hanoi, Paris, and Washington, finally concluding that, like France, America failed to recognize the realities of Vietnam. Covering the four-decade buildup to the war, this book is called definitive. We’ll see, but it’s certainly important‚ and certainly scarily relevant today.

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.


  1. Karl Helicher says:

    Hi, Barbara,

    Glad to hear about the Logevall book, of which I was unaware. He is an exacting scholar whose books, including his well-regarded CHOOSING WAR, examine the Vietnam War in a global context and conclude that America was not blindly drawn into this morass but had plenty of information from the British and French experiences, which the US chose to ignore. Thanks for the tip! Karl