Looking for a book or two to read this summer? Janet Maslin, a New York Times daily book critic and Sunday Morning contributor offers her picks.
"The Story of Edgar Sawtelle"
David Wroblewski (Ecco)
This is the summer's "Lovely Bones," an eloquent, plain-spoken, entrancing literary sleeper. Dogs, "Hamlet" and Wisconsin combine in indescribably alluring ways. The first-time author spent decades writing computer software before finding his true calling.
Credit: Ecco/Marion Ettlinger
Debra Winger (S&S)
The examined life, lived by one of Hollywood's great, mysterious luminaries, is obliquely captured in a string of haunting vignettes. Dylan's crypto-memoir "Chronicles" is the reflective little volume it most resembles.
Credit: S & S/Arthur Elgort
"The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage"
David Edward Epstein (Ballantine)
Each Lincoln book has its own turf; this one's is the well-known but misunderstood union of the Civil War President and his hard-shopping, hot-tempered bride. The author's new insights reveal a warm, intimate and fractious Lincoln union.
Credit: Ballantine/Jennifer Bishop
"Stuff White People Like"
"A Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions"
Christian Lander (Random House)
The best of a hilarious Web site: an uncannily accurate catalog of dead-on predilections. The Criterion Collection of classic films? Haircuts with bangs? Expensive fruit juice? "Blonde on Blonde" on the iPod? The author knows who reads The New Yorker and who wears plaid.
Credit: Random House/Jess Lander
"Bright Shiny Morning"
James Frey (Harper)
A kaleidescopic L.A. story with furious, unstoppable momentum and a bold array of memorable characters, tenderly evoked. Who knew that the notoriously bad fibber had such a gift for fiction?
Tana French (Viking)
The Edgar-winning Irish mystery writer follows "In the Woods" with something even spookier when a female detective is summoned to find out who killed a frightening target: the detective's double. Reality and impersonation, trickily interwoven.
Credit: Viking/Anthony Breatnach
"A Gentleman's Guide to Graceful Living"
Michael Dahlie (Norton)
he endearingly understated story of a New York aristocrat who, under better circumstances, might have wound up in a Louis Auchincloss book. But he is undone by haplessness and self-doubt, rendered with dry acuity of observation. There is no old-money playground where Arthur Camden, congenitally maladroit, is safe from his own ability to bumble.
Credit: Norton/Ellen W. Morton
"The Fruit Hunters"
Adam Leith Gollner (Scribner)
Colorful, oddball nonfiction about some of the weirdest stuff that ever grew on trees or bushes. Yes, there is a fruit that smells like skunk. Yes, there's a grape-flavored apple. The author describes bringing a mangosteen to a party and using it as a conversation piece. The factoids in his book will be used in the same way.
Credit: Scribner/Jason Sanchez
Galt Niederhoff (St. Martin's)
A nicely arch repackaging of the old story about old friends who reunite at a wedding, only to find all their old grievances given new life. Special feature: with what looks like an antique floral print torn in half and then messily pasted together, this book has the season's best-looking cover.
Credit: St. Martin's/Angela Wilcox
"The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted"
"(and Other Small Acts of Liberation)"
Elizabeth Berg (Random House)
Thirteen short stories to prove that this author, often relegated to the chick-lit category, doesn't belong there. But these are stories for and about girlfriends. And they are best read on a summer day on a porch in a wicker chair.
Credit: Random House/Joyce Ravid
Barbara Walters (Knopf)
Been there, done that, met them, interviewed them for posterity: Walters has 50 years' worth of memorable on-the-job experiences, and she shares them with authority and candor. There neither is nor will be anyone else like her in the world of television. She's more than happy to prove it.
Credit: Knopf/Yolanda Perez/ABC