Staff Picks

'PW' makes some suggestions for summer reading

Summer's here. Or there. Or on its way. And that means summer books, because there's always more time to read when the weather warms up. On the beach. On the lawn. In the park. The roof? Find your sweet spot and try some of our favorites.

AX: A Collection of Alternative Manga, Vol. 1
Edited by Sean Michael Wilson (Top Shelf)
This fascinating 400-page anthology collects work by more than 33 artists published in Japan's acclaimed bimonthly magazine of alternative manga and shows there's a lot more to manga than magical school girls and robots. More like American indie comics than mainstream manga, these works are edgy, wildly imaginative, and just plain weird, and open a whole new window on Japanese comics. —Calvin Reid

Dark Harbor: The War for the New York Waterfront
Nathan Ward (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
Following the footsteps of New York Sun reporter Mike Johnson, Ward beautifully evokes the glory days of newspapers as they covered the seedy and deadly mob-run New York City waterfront of the 1930s and '40s, where graft was the norm and dead bodies turned up monthly. -Mark Rotella

City Dog, Country Frog
Mo Willems, illus. by Jon J Muth (Disney-Hyperion)
In this pitch-perfect picture book collaboration, Willems and Muth follow two animal friends throughout an entire year, with the arc of their friendship paralleling the changing seasons. An understated yet wonderfully evocative rumination on friendship and loss, highlighted by Muth's glorious watercolors. —Diane Roback

Super Sad True Love Story
Gary Shteyngart (Random)
The latest whirlwind satire from Shteyngart is a grim, knockout vision of the near future, in which an aging New York hipster struggles to win love and eternal life, celebrates the small pleasures of living (like his smelly book collection and hip Staten Island friends), and learns just how far those in power will go to break the back of an unruly underclass. Enormously funny and frighteningly closeto-home. —Marc Schultz

Christoph Niemann (Greenwillow)
Niemann puts aside the agony of service cuts and track work to revel in the joys of the New York City subway system, territory he's also covered in his Abstract City blog for the New York Times. His exuberant picture book is full of details that will ring true for commuters of any age—the first breeze of an approaching train, the “world-class view” on a Q trip over the Manhattan Bridge, or the fact that rats on the tracks can be both disgusting and entertaining. —John A. Sellers

The King's Best Highway
Eric Jaffe (Scribner)
If you've ever lived near or driven on U.S. Route 1 (aka the Boston Post Road), you will be enthralled by Jaffe's (no relation) account of American history through the lens of this landmark highway. From its origins as a Native American trail through its near replacement by 19th-century railroads to the rise of the interstate system (I-95, anyone?), the Post Road has registered signal changes in American life, and its story is told engagingly. —Sonia Jaffe Robbins

Book By Our Staff
Cradle Book
Craig Morgan Teicher (BOA Editions)
The fables in Craig Teicher's svelte second book are wise, heartrending, sometimes funny, and always provocative. Craig also works here and is standing over my shoulder as I type this. —Jonathan Segura

Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity
Sam Miller (St. Martin's Press)
Enough with Mumbai, already. Miller walks the Indian capital as a seeker and an eccentric in a glorious portrait of a city where “so much of life is lived in the open.” Expect bangle vendors, chicken slaughterers, mendicants, herds of cows, cricket players, and cellphone menders—and that's only in one street. -Louisa Ermelino

Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India
William Dalrymple (Knopf)
Forget the Buddha's enlightening bodhi tree. Dalrymple's journalistic and anthropological guide to what's holy in India and why is based on acutely observed lives of real people, far from beaten tourist paths. —Marcia Z. Nelson

The Crowded Shadows

Celine Kiernan (Orbit)
Someone must have bet Kiernan that she couldn't write a really good epic fantasy featuring a redheaded 15-year-old cat-whisperer heroine named (no kidding) Wynter Moorehawke. Against all odds, Kiernan won. Manipulative ghosts, PTSD-shadowed romance, complex race relations, and appendectomies in the middle of the forest make the second installment of Wynter's trilogy a winner. -Rose Fox

Long for This World: The Strange Science of Immortality
Jonathan Weiner (Ecco)
What better time than summer to dream of immortality? Award-winning science writer Weiner explores the scientific possibility of living for 1,000 years, while elegantly pondering the meaning for us of life without end. -Sarah F. Gold

Anne Carson (New Directions)
The enigmatic and gifted Carson, Canadian poet and scholar of ancient Greek, plumbs a painful, elusive family mystery (the death of her brother, Michael) in a format that is ahistorical—a scroll, a folded map, a scrapbook, a photocopy, a hypertext—all in a big, beautiful gray-cloth box priced at $30 by its fearless publisher. Not to be read outdoors, but in the dark. -Michael Coffey

Our Tragic Universe
Scarlett Thomas (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Having enjoyed Thomas's Popco, a novel of higher mathematics and corporate culture, I'm looking forward to another quirky and intelligent read, this one involving the end of time and the Cottingley Fairies. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fans will recall that the creator of Sherlock Holmes pronounced photos of these fairies taken by two girl cousins in 1917 to be evidence of the psychic world. —Peter Cannon

A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Bomb
Amitava Kumar (Duke Univ. Press)
Kumar's study (think Jane Mayer's The Dark Side meets Coco Fusco's protest art) reveals how deeply the figure of the “terrorist” has seeped into our imaginations by brilliantly synthesizing straight reportage—on the Mumbai blasts and the trials of two putative terrorists in New York—and contemporary conceptual art's responses to “the war on terror.” —Parul Sehgal

It's a Book
Lane Smith (Roaring Brook Press)
A must read for every publisher concerned about the impact of electronic publishing issues and every child who wants to enjoy more of their childhood and Lane Smith's arch style. A devilish ending may scare a few... if it's you? Lighten up. —George Slowik Jr.

Books as Weapons: Propaganda, Publishing and the Battle for Global Markets in the Era of WWII
John B. Hench (Cornell Univ. Press)
Another must read for every publisher who enjoys the history of our business and some of the iconic players who shaped American book publishing into an international force during the postwar era. Even the less bellicose will appreciate the metaphor of books as “weapons in the war of ideas.” —George Slowik Jr.

The Passage
Justin Cronin (Ballantine)
Half biotech thriller and half postapocalyptic quest, Cronin's first foray into genre fiction has enough story to last an entire vacation. The endearingly wide-eyed treatment of a gloomy America laid waste by psychic vampires hits all the notes that longtime SF fans will be listening for and has plenty of polish for broad appeal. —Rose Fox

The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual
Frank Falcinelli, Frank Castronovo, and Peter Meehan (Artisan)
For anyone whose mom didn't show them how to make sauce and meatballs, the Franks are fine teachers. And their pork braciola marinara, and cavatelli with sausage and browned sage butter are no joke. —Lynn Andriani