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One Thousand and One Nights

A retelling by Hanan al-Shaykh (Pantheon)

I’ve always been intrigued with Shahrazad’s storytelling, especially when I discovered that the real stories are not for children but instead are sexy, violent, unforgiving morality tales filled with intrigue, excitement, and wit, and beautifully rendered in this wonderful version. Who can resist a lewd demon’s lover whose mischief proves her declaration, “How great is the cunning of women!” —Louisa Ermelino, reviews director


Visitation Street

Ivy Pochoda (Ecco/Dennis Lehane)

For the past few weeks, I’ve been traipsing across the New York City of yesteryear with detective Matthew Scudder in Lawrence Block’s Eight Million Ways to Die and A Walk Among the Tombstones. I love the PI’s street-level approach to crime solving, whether he’s casing a Flatbush brownstone, cabbing it over the Williamsburg Bridge, or accompanying a pimp to a secret Greenpoint getaway. This summer, I’ll be pounding the pavement of my new neck of the woods—Red Hook, Brooklyn—with Ivy Pochoda’s Visitation Street. What better way to get to know the neighborhood and usher in the summer than to unravel a mystery set just beyond your own stoop? —Samuel R. Slaton, reviews editor


Ghost Moth

Michèle Forbes (Bellevue Literary Press)

This amazingly assured first novel is set in Northern Ireland from 1949 to 1986, and is about lost love and the limited consolations of family. After receiving rejections from 38 publishers in the U.K. and Ireland, Forbes (an actress) got a tip from Paul Harding of Tinkers fame at the Dublin Writers’ Festival, which led her to send the manuscript to Bellevue. —Michael Coffey, co-editorial director



Claire Donato (Tarpaulin Sky)

Donato’s hallucinatory meditation on grief seems like a strange summer read, but her poetic, trance-inducing language turns a reckoning with the confusion of mortality into readerly joy at the sensuality of living. Also, it’s small and fits in most pockets, so you can bring it pretty much everywhere, which I plan on doing and highly recommend. —Alex Crowley, assistant editor, reviews


Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers

Janet Malcolm (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

With all due respect to the author and publisher, I’ve been reading this exquisite collection out of order. Edward Weston’s models or Ingrid Sischy’s relaunch of Artforum? The Bloomsbury group or J.D. Salinger? I’ve loved visiting these homes and studios, letters, legacies, and romances, and most of all, experiencing art and literature filtered through Malcolm’s nimble mind and gorgeous prose. —Jessamine Chan, reviews editor


Red Sparrow

Jason Matthews (Scribner)

The freelancer who reviewed this debut spy thriller for PW thought it was the best in the genre he’d read in a long time. The author, a retired CIA officer, told some great stories about his 33 years in the agency at the lunch his publisher hosted for him recently in New York. Each chapter concludes with a recipe for a dish consumed in the text. I’m sold. —Peter Cannon, senior reviews editor


Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life

Ulli Lust (Fantagraphics)

In 1984, 17-year-old Ulli Lust and her accidental (and damn-near crazy) companion Edi (“Screwing’s my hobby!”) take off on a wild trip hitchhiking across Euro-punk Italy—with no money and no clues: a trip that is easily one of the greatest punker-chick road trips of all time. This emotive and vividly illustrated graphic memoir provides a hair-raising record of idiot pluck, aimless luck, and crazy girl power as the duo deals with cops, random men, and sexual degradation (there’s a reason for the book’s title). But it also offers the ad hoc introspection of Lust, a girl in the process of becoming quite a woman. —Calvin Reid, senior news editor


Doll Bones

Holly Black (S&S/McElderry)

What’s more scream-inducing than a malevolent china doll made from the bones of a murdered girl? How about your dad throwing away your cherished action figures because he says it’s time you “grew up”? As in many of the best children’s books, Black’s novel tells one story while unveiling another of more painful complexity. Three friends take a journey to bury a haunted object and along with it, perhaps, their shared make-believe world. But hopefully not. Because what’s scarier than a possessed china doll? Being a grownup. Shudder. —Matia Burnett, assistant editor, children’s books



Andrew Smith, illus. by Sam Bosma (Simon & Schuster)

Ugh, read about the school year during the summer? Entirely worth it in this case, as Smith’s YA boarding school novel swings between moments of gleefully bawdy humor, romantic and personal striving, and awful tragedy with characters who are hard to forget. It also has one of my favorite covers of the season. —John Sellers, children’s reviews editor


Mermaid in Chelsea Creek

Michelle Tea (McSweeney’s McMullens)

Michelle Tea is probably best known for her confessional adult work, like the Lambda Literary Award–winning Valencia. But in 2006 she published her first young adult novel, Rose of No Man’s Land, which chronicles a single, dizzyingly drug-fueled day in the life of a 14-year-old girl, depicting her inner life with a messy accuracy that anyone who’s actually been a teen girl should recognize. Now comes Mermaid in Chelsea Creek, whose plot description includes Kelly Link–esque fantastical elements—the main character, Sophie, sees visions of a mermaid and may be destined to save her beleaguered Massachusetts town. Of course, by chapter one Sophie is already playing the pass-out game with her chain-smoking best friend, so we’re squarely in Tea territory here. I’m looking forward to the rest of the wild ride. —Carolyn Juris, associate editor, children’s books



Ben Stroud (Graywolf)

Stroud follows in the footsteps of the Jim Shepards of the writing world—dexterous magicians who parkour from one time, setting, style, place, or tone to another, boldly ignoring the “link it!” command given to almost every writer of short stories hoping to build a collection. The title tale begins with “I was born a disappointment” and covers more than three decades in its first two pages. A boy with a crippled hand is sent by Heraclius to “geld” (ouch) a threatening monk. In the next story we meet Mike and Jimmy, two employees of a Texas lumber yard occupied with the “moon-pale skin between the buttons of the shirt Angela sometimes wore at the Hangout over in the strip mall where the Safeway used to be.” There’s nothing wrong with linked collections (Susan Steinberg’s superb Spectacle comes immediately to mind) but sometimes you want a little variety. —Mike Harvkey, deputy reviews editor


The Graphic Canon, Vol. 3: From “Heart of Darkness” to Hemingway to “Infinite Jest”

Russ Kick (Seven Stories)

My first glance through The Graphic Canon, Vol. 3—500 pages of classic 20th-century literature reimagined graphically by 70+ artists—caused a sharp spike of endorphins. Lolita? “Araby”? Brautigan? Woolf? A Metamorphosis–Charlie Brown mash-up? “The Emperor of Ice Cream”? How could you not get lost in this massive, beautiful book? —Gabe Habash, news and Tip Sheet editor


A Land Without Sin

Paula Huston (Wipf & Stock/Slant)

I see a lot of fiction that’s religiously obvious, and I hate that. So I’m ready for the next book from Slant, a new literary imprint from the academic publisher Wipf & Stock. I want to make Huston’s acquaintance through this novel about an American priest who goes missing amid political unrest in southern Mexico in 1993, and his photojournalist sister who goes to look for him. Religious fiction ought to explore the mysteries of the human heart, as imprint founder Gregory Wolfe (of the literary journal Image) said. Maybe more unreligious fiction should, too. —Marcia Z. Nelson, reviews editor


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