Barbara’s Picks, Jun. 2013, Pt. 1: Caputo, Koppel, Mead, Meyer, Robinson

Caputo, Philip. The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America, from Key West to Deadhorse. Holt. Jun. 2013. 520p. ISBN 9780805094466. $28; eISBN 9780805096965. MEMOIR
What connects the mainly Inupiat children on snow-swept Barter Island off Alaska’s Arctic coast and the children of Cuban immigrants on Key West? As Caputo realized while visiting Barter Island in 1996, these children all pledge allegiance to the same flag. In 2011, with America still fighting off economic woes, Caputo decided to draw a line between those two points by loading himself, his wife, and his dogs in a truck pulling an Airstream camper and driving from Key West to Deadhorse, on Alaska’s North Slope. Here he gives us a view not only of the 17,000 miles he traveled but of the many people with whom he spoke. The novelist and multi-award-winning journalist, whose Rumor of War was one of the defining books of the Vietnam era, should get it just right.

Koppel, Lily. The Astronaut Wives Club. Grand Central. Jun. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9781455503254. $27.99. lrg prnt. CD/downloadable: Hachette Audio. HISTORY
No, not a potboiler novel, as the title might suggest, but previously unsung history. Even as America’s Mercury Seven astronauts were ready to launch into space, their wives became celebrities, smiling on the cover of LIFE and taking tea with Jackie Kennedy. Koppel individualizes these women—stunning blonde Rene Carpenter caught JFK’s eye, for instance, and Trudy Cooper was a licensed pilot guarding a secret—while also capturing their anxieties, the larger role they played in effectively advertising the space program, and the era itself. Having made best-selling magic from a diary she discovered in a Manhattan dumpster (The Red Leather Diary), Koppel is set to deliver something both fun and informative.

Mead, Richelle. Gameboard of the Gods. Dutton. Jun. 2013. 464p. ISBN 9780525953685. $26.95. CD/downloadable: Penguin Audio. PARANORMAL
Mead proved herself in the YA (and YA crossover) arena with her No. 1 New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal best-selling series, “Vampire Academy” and “Bloodlines.” And rightly so; these were juiced-up, imaginative books with edgily appealing characters. In this first in her adult “Age of X” series, Justin March is living on the margins, having blown his job as an investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims. But he’s given a reprieve and dragged back to the Republic of United North America (RUNA) by top-tier soldier Mae Koskinen, who wants his help in solving a spiraling number of ritualistic murders. Of course they immediately put themselves in the way of a great and dangerous power. Expecting that I’ll enjoy these as much as the “Vampire Academy” books I filched from my daughter. 

Meyer, Philipp. The Son. Ecco: HarperCollins. Jun. 2013. 592p. ISBN 9780062120397. $27.99; eISBN 9780062120410. lrg. prnt. LITERARY/HISTORICAL
What book was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize winner, an Economist Book of the Year, a Washington Post Top Ten Book, a New York Times Notable Book, an Amazon Top 100 Book, and one of Newsweek’s List of “Best. Books. Ever”? Meyer’s debut novel, American Rust, and I loved it, too. His new novel opens when Eli McCullough, the first male child born in the Republic of Texas, is captured by Comanches at age 13 and lives with them comfortably until their community is shredded by disease and white-settler encroachment. Eli becomes a brutally ambitious man who heads a huge ranching-and-oil concern, but his will to power quashes his son, Peter, even as great-granddaughter JA proves to be as tough as they come. Intense in-house raves; with a one-day laydown on May 28; a ten-city tour to Austin, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Oxford/Jackson, San Antonio, and San Francisco; and a 200,000-copy first printing.

Robinson, Roxana. Sparta. Sarah Crichton Bks: Farrar. Jun. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780374267704. $27. LITERARY
Inspired by his classics studies at Williams—the motto “Semper fidelis” comes to us via Sparta—Conrad Farrell joined the marines after graduating. Now he’s home after four years in Iraq, uninjured and free of psychological stress yet unable to adjust to the mundane realities of the civilian world. And he’s starting to get very, very angry. Robinson, an apt and elegant writer whose Cost, for instance, was unsettlingly real-life in its depiction of the fallout surrounding a son’s addiction, here addresses the currently urgent issue of returning veterans. I’m betting the result will be a knockout.



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.