Jewish Journal


June 13, 2012

Bookmark These for Summer Reading


Summer is here, and the time is right for touring authors. Here are the highlights of the season for poolside and airplane reading, including some local appearances by the authors themselves.

The premise of Joel Stein’s “Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity” (Grand Central: $26.99) is familiar to every new father — for the sake of his little boy, he decides to become a “real man.”  For Stein, a cultural critic for Time magazine and longtime observer of modern American folkways, the learning curve is steep. “I owned no Matchbox cars, no dirt bikes, no nunchucks,” he confesses. “I never climbed a tree, built a fort, or broke a bone. I had an Easy-Bake Oven, a glass animal collection, sticker albums, a stack of LPs of nothing but show tunes, and a love for making stained-glass window ornaments. I’m not equipped to raise a boy. I’m equipped to raise a disappointed contestant on ‘Antiques Roadshow.’ ” To remake himself, Stein hangs out with firefighters and professional athletes, camps out, adopts a dog, throws back a drink at a macho bar and even confronts the ultimate challenge — a home repair. I don’t know about his little boy, but his readers will laugh out loud.

Our own Dora Levy Mossanen, a frequent contributor of book reviews to The Jewish Journal, is the author of sizzling historical novels, the latest of which is the best-selling “The Last Romanov” (Sourcebooks: $14.99). The featured players in Mossanen’s rich tapestry of intrigue and romance are a charming courtier to the last tsar and tsarina of Russia, whose name is Darya, and a Jewish artist who is Darya’s unlikely love interest. The deepest enigma, however, is the fate of the imperial family after the atrocities of the Bolshevik Revolution, a mystery that Darya solves only decades after the murders took place.

You can hear her barbed fashion commentary on E! You can buy her jewelry on QVC. And now you can be captivated once again by Joan Rivers, an authentic icon of American popular culture, in her own words. Her latest book is “I Hate Everyone ... Starting With Me” (Berkley: $25.95), a collection of her signature rants on topics ranging from dating to death, which have certain things in common, according to St. Joan. Rivers returns to her original role as stand-up comedian operating at machine-gun velocity, but now her jokes are in print.

Long and detailed explanatory subtitles are de rigueur in publishing nowadays, but here’s one that comes with a punchline: “A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The True Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She Is Today” by Kate Bornstein (Beacon Press: $24.95). The author has answered to a long list of labels — “husband and father, tranny, sailor, slave, playwright, dyke, gender outlaw” — and her memoir of a post-modern life is both shattering and redemptive, starting with a conventional Jewish boyhood in New Jersey and ending in a lesbian community in Seattle. The tattooed author lives up to the credo that was literally written into her flesh before she started writing: “I must not tell lies.”

Bornstein will discuss and sign copies of her remarkable life story at Book Soup, 8818 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, at 7 p.m. on June 17.

Science fiction may be regarded as pure entertainment, but there have always been traces of theology at work in the best examples. So it is with David Brin’s latest sci-fi novel, “Existence” (Tor Books: $27.99). Not unlike one of his earlier titles, “The Postman,” Brin’s latest book begins with a man on a mundane mission — the hero is a garbage collector whose job is to retrieve the junk that humankind has left in Earth’s orbit. One object, however, appears to be an alien artifact with a message from an extraterrestrial entity that wants to talk to us. The result is a maelstrom of both passion and panic.

Brin, who is both a scientist and a Hugo Award-winning novelist, will discuss and sign copies of his new book at Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, at 7 p.m. on June 29.

The Kellerman family business is writing best-selling thrillers, and now the second generation is at work. “Potboiler” (Putnam: $25.95) is the latest outing by Jesse Kellerman, whose previous novels include “The Executor,” “Trouble” and “Sunstroke.” He is the son of two other famous Kellermans, Jonathan and Faye. “What can I say,” quips Jesse on his Web site, “everybody wants to get in on it.” Appropriately enough, the new book is enriched with strains of psychology and literature — the protagonist is a professor with frustrated literary and romantic ambitions who seeks to reinvent himself when his best friend, a successful writer who married the girl he loves, is apparently lost at sea.

The publication party for “Potboiler” will take place at Diesel, A Bookstore, located in the Brentwood Country Mart, 225 26th St., Suite 33, Santa Monica, at 7 p.m. on July 12.

The literati are already buzzing about Joshua Henkin’s new novel, “The World Without You” (Pantheon: $25.95). Henkin first emerged as a promising new voice in “Best American Short Stories” and NPR’s “Selected Shorts,” and his previous novels, “Swimming Across the Hudson” and “Matrimony,” earned him an attentive and appreciative readership. His new book focuses on the scattered Frankel family, which gathers from California and Israel at a summer home in the Berkshires to commemorate one of the four siblings, a foreign correspondent who died while on assignment in Iraq. It’s an occasion for banter, grief, confrontation, rivalry and feuding — in other words, a typical Jewish family get-together. “Witty and wise, poignant and heartfelt,” says Gary Shteyngart. “The 4th of July will never be the same for me, nor for my fellow Americans.”

Henkin will speak and sign at Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, at 7:30 p.m. on July 16.

Jonathan Kirsch, author and publishing attorney, is the book editor of The Jewish Journal. He blogs at jewishjournal.com/twelvetwelve and can be reached at books@jewishjournal.com.

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