Barbara’s Picks, July 2012, Pt. 1: From Kurt Andersen to James Howard Kunstler

Andersen, Kurt. Trust Me. Random. Jul. 2012. 480p. ISBN 9781400067206. $27; eISBN 9781588366863. LITERARY
Cofounder of Spy, former editor in chief of New York magazine, and cocreator and host of the award-winning Public Radio program Studio 360, Andersen knows his way around the zeitgeist; just take a look at his two novels, Turn of the Century (which drew comparisons to Bonfire of the Vanities) and the New York Times best-selling Heyday. Here he returns with another cultural study, this one featuring an eminent sixtyish judge who withdraws from consideration for a Supreme Court seat because of events in her youth. Revelations about those events will tell us as much about the country as they do about Hollander. With a six-city tour (Boston, New York, Washington, DC, Omaha, San Francisco, and Los Angeles), an NPR campaign, a custom Facebook page, early pitches to Goodreads and LibraryThing, book club outreach, and even a thriller platform (that says something); this will be big.

Carter, Stephen L. The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln. Knopf. Jul. 2012. 528p. ISBN 9780307272638. $26.95. CD: Random House Audio. HISTORICAL FICTION
There’s trouble for President Abraham Lincoln in this imaginatively conceived alternate history. After he survives Booth’s assassination attempt, he’s accused of violating the Constitution in his conduct of the war and faces impeachment. His defense team includes a young black woman, just graduated from Oberlin, who’s enjoying the opportunity to flummox purse-lipped Washington society until one of Lincoln’s lead lawyers is murdered. History, mystery, and profound political questions from the author of the million-plus-copy best seller The Emperor of Ocean Park‚ who of course is also an esteemed professor at Yale Law School. With a five-city tour to Boston, elsewhere in New England, New York, Chicago, and Washington, DC, plus a reading group guide.

French, Tana, Broken Harbor. Viking. Jul. 2012. 464p. ISBN 9780670023653. $27.95. THRILLER
Remember Mick Scorcher Kennedy, top cop from multi-award-winner French’s Faithful Places? He’s back, puzzling over the murder of Patrick Spain and his two children, found at one of those half-built luxury developments riddling now-broke Ireland; Patrick’s wife Jenny languishes in intensive care. Weirdly, the baby cams are all turned to holes bludgeoned in the house’s walls, and Jenny recalls an intruder who got past every lock. Worse, the case upends Scorcher’s sister, Dina, recalling a trauma from their childhood. With Deborah Harkness’s Shadow of Night, among the publisher’s biggest fiction of the year; get multiples.

Harkness, Deborah. Shadow of Night. Viking. Jul. 2012. 592p. ISBN 9780670023486. $28.95; CD: Penguin Audio. PARANORMAL
A Discovery of Witches, Harkness’s phenomenal debut novel, was hatched when she asked herself what a vampire hanging about for all those centuries would do as a job. Vampire Matthew Clairmont is a geneticist who’s joined forces (in more ways than one) with scholar and witch-in-rebellion Diana Bishop. Here, to quell a battle of supernatural forces stemming from an enchanted manuscript that seems to have vanished, they’ve time-traveled back to Elizabethan London. Diana gets tutored in magic, Matthew confronts his past, and the School of Night (you know, Christopher Marlowe, Walter Raleigh‚Ķ) makes an appearance. With a 14-city tour; grab it.

Wilson, G. Willow. Alif the Unseen. Grove. Jul. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780802120205. $25; eISBN 9780802194626. LITERARY
Author of award-winning graphic novels and comics series, plus the memoir The Butterfly Mosque, about her conversion to Islam, Wilson offers a debut novel featuring an Arab-Indian hacker in an unspecified Middle East country. Alif, dedicated to protecting dissidents and others under surveillance, is forced underground when the woman he loves dumps him for a prince who turns out to be the dreaded Hand of God‚ head of the state’s electronic security forces. While in hiding, Alif discovers a secret book belonging to a jinn that could change the very concept of information technology. One of the publisher’s big books of the season, this intriguing-sounding blend of cyberfantasy and the Arabian Nights will be backed by a ten-city tour to Boston, New York, Washington, DC, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Boulder, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle.

Kunstler, James Howard. Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation. Atlantic Monthly. Jul. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9780802120304. $25; eISBN 9780802194381. CURRENT EVENTS
Back in 2005, Kunstler’s The Long Emergency highlighted the imminence of an oil-dry future as it moved through 150,000 copies and sold to nine territories. Since then, Kunstler has been asked to speak at TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences and annually welcomes 700,000 unique visitors to his website. Here he looks at the drawbacks of various alternate technologies, arguing that, pie-in-the-sky optimists to the contrary, technology doesn’t have easy solutions to the energy crisis. A big book for the publisher that’s poised to make waves.

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.