Issues of Identity and Award-Winning Novelists | Barbara’s Picks, Aug. 2018

Appiah, Kwame Anthony. The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity. Liveright: Norton. Aug. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9781631493836. $27.95. PHILOSOPHY
Whether based on nationality, class, culture, race, and/or religion, identity is seen today as a main source of various conflicts worldwide. But NYU philosophy and law professor Appiah, author of the prize-winning Cosmopolitanism and the “Ethicist” column for the New York Times, begs to differ. Pointing to discarded or ineffectual concepts of race, nation, and the West, he argues that identity isn’t the cause but the result of these conflicts. Appiah expands on his 2016 BBC Reith Lectures to deliver something timely; look for a five-city tour to New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and Washington, DC.

Berg, Laura van den. The Third Hotel. Farrar. Aug. 2018. 224p. ISBN 9780374168353. $25. ebk. ISBN 9780374714970. LITERARY FICTION
Berg’s first story collection was a finalist for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and her second winner of the Rosenthal Award for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her recent debut novel, Find Me, was highly recommended by LJ and long-listed for the 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize. So look out for this second novel, set in a magic realist Havana. Clare arrives there to attend a film festival her late film-professor husband, Richard, had eagerly anticipated, and finds him standing before the Museum of the Revolution, very much alive. As trains fly and animals trot from the zoo, Clare must consider how she’s implicated in her husband’s vanishing act and sudden reappearance.

Cantero, Edgar. This Body’s Not Big Enough for Both of Us. Aug. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9780385543965. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385543972. THRILLER
Off Fisherman’s Wharf, private eye twins A. Kimrean and Z. Kimrean share one office—and one androgynous body, which makes for considerable conflict, since she’s impulsively creative and he’s all icy logic. Now someone in San Carnal, CA, is murdering the sons of a nasty drug cartel boss known as the Lyon, and the twins must get close to him and his associates to rescue an undercover cop, deal with a kid who just shouldn’t be there, find out who’s knocking off the sons, and make sure a major gang war doesn’t erupt. Following the Barcelona-based writer/cartoonist’s New York Times best-selling Meddling Kids; you must admit it sounds original.

deWitt, Patrick. French Exit. Ecco. Aug. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9780062846921. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062846945. lrg. prnt. LITERARY FICTION
Blackly funny Booker short-listed deWitt here portrays acidulous widow Frances Price, whose ethics-challenged litigator husband caused scandal in death as in life, compelling her to escape the scorn of New York’s Upper West Side by heading to Paris with her laze-about, spoiled-rotten adult son and their enigmatic cat, Small Frank, believed by Frances to be inhabited by her dead husband’s spirit. Not surprisingly, personal and financial chaos awaits them. With a 100,000-copy first printing.

Joy, David. The Line That Held Us. Putnam. Aug. 2018. 272p. ISBN 9780399574221. $27;
ebk. ISBN 9780399574238. LITERARY FICTION
Having stunned us with The Weight of This World and Where All Light Tends To Go, an Edgar finalist for Best First Novel, Joy returns with another dark and gritty literary read. Darl Moody is out chasing the big buck he’s been pursuing forever when he inadvertently shoots and kills a man digging ginseng. He’s a Brewer, a family known to be particularly vindictive, and Darl desperately asks best friend Calvin Hooper to help him cover up the death. But as Dwayne Brewer looks for his missing brother, he has little trouble following the bloody trail they’ve left behind. Illuminating Appalachia.

Lacey, Catherine. Certain American States: Stories. Farrar. Aug. 2018. 208p. ISBN 9780374265892. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374714352. SHORT STORIES
A Granta Best of Young American Novelists and Whiting Award winner whose Nobody Is Ever Missing was a NYPL Young Lions finalist, Lacey here turns out a collection of short stories whose protagonists find their sense of security, of finally having found their place in the world, suddenly upended. A woman who’s left her dead husband’s clothes on the street sees another man wearing them, for instance, and a man keeps trying to find himself in a story written by his wife.

Sattouf, Riad. The Arab of the Future 3: The Circumcision Years; A Childhood in the Middle East, 1985–1987. Metropolitan: Holt. Aug. 2018. 160p. pap. ISBN 9781627793537. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781627793544. GRAPHIC NOVEL/MEMOIR
In the first two volumes of this series, French cartoonist/filmmaker Sattouf, raised partly in Libya and Syria, remade our understanding of memoir, graphic novels, and tensions between the West and the Middle East. Here, Sattouf’s mother is fed up with the relentless toil and trouble of Syrian village life and Hafez al-Assad’s oppressive regime and wants to returns to Paris, where Sattouf was born. His father is now torn: does he follow his wife’s wishes or cling to the family tradition he hopes to emulate?

Walbert, Kate. His Favorites. Scribner. Aug. 2018. 144p. ISBN 9781476799391. $22; ebk. ISBN 9781476799414. LITERARY FICTION
Driving around drunk on a golf cart in the dark of night is not a good idea, as three teenage girls are about to learn. The cart crashes, one of the girls is killed instantly, and the driver, Jo, must flee to an elite boarding school to escape her hometown’s scorn. Riven with guilt and trying to set her life right, Jo soon encounters a beyond-charming English teacher and discovers a whole new level of treachery and betrayal. From the author of A Short History of Women, a New York Times Book Review Best Book, and 2015’s wondrous The Sunken ­Cathedral.

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. Joseph Jones says:

    A new Patrick deWitt! His books are always a joy to read. I also can’t wait for the new Edgar Cantero book. His last book was a great take on updating Scooby Doo.

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